When there is an ongoing process of change or a crisis looming at large, a community is something that most turn to in order to find solace, protection and safety. A recurrent theme for the COVID-19 pandemic is communities coming together and standing tall in the face of adversity. Unfortunately, the widespread circulation of ambiguous conspiracy theories during these tumultuous times has escalated the discrimination and intolerance against the Muslim community.
There has been a broad range of false news and misinformation scattered all over social media where users have used unverified and unsubstantiated information to put the onus on Muslims as the ‘super spreaders of the disease’.
A study carried out by Imran Awan, Professor of Criminology at Birmingham City University and Roxana Khan-Williams, found that Islamophobic online ‘Cyber Hubs’ were being formed which linked Muslims to the spread of COVID-19, spread anti-Muslim memes and shared fake news stories. The findings have been published in a report titled, ‘Coronavirus, fear and how Islamophobia spreads on social media’.
In response to recent xenophobic violence, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged states to “act now to strengthen the immunity of our societies against the virus of hate.” However, the fight against COVID-19 and fighting racism should not be viewed as parallel struggles. The policies that are being formulated to tackle this public health crisis should be inextricably linked to suppress the rise of hatred.
Mobashra Tazamal, Senior Research Fellow at the Bridge Initiative and Kristin Garrity Şekerci, Senior Research Fellow at the Bridge explicitly mentions in Islamophobia Has No Place in the Fight Against COVID-19, April 14, 2020 that
“Dangerous rhetoric that fans the flames of Islamophobia and further dehumanizes Muslims will only add to the ever-increasing global death count.”
Islamophobia adversely affects the efforts by the global community to subvert this pandemic. The dehumanization of Muslims and the fake news of spreading the virus leads to fear amongst them making it an uphill task for early detection and leads to a concealment of cases. Being petrified of stigmatization, they would be more likely to suffer from the serious ramifications of their ailments and consequently unknowingly contribute in the spread of the disease.
Eeshita Chib, Research Intern at the Observer Research Foundation elaborates on the above phenomenon in Islamophobia and the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK, May 29, 2020
‘The far-right activists stand united in their view that Islam and Muslims are the spreaders of the virus, as this would fit well within the broader known far-right ideology depicting Muslims as ‘parasitical’ to the society — foreign, alien and ‘disease-like.’
The following organizations
ENAR, ENORB, Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en Belgique (CCIB), Euro-Mediterranean Centre for Migration & Development (EMCEMO), Asociación Musulmana por los Derechos Humanos (AMDEH), European Forum of Muslim Women (EFOMW), Fundación Al Fanar para el Conocimiento Árabe, Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en France (CCIF), Lallab, Association Il Razzismo è una brutta storia, Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organisations (FEMYSO), Asociación Marroquí para la Integración de los Inmigrantes, Dokumentations- und Beratungsstelle rassistischer Angriffe e.V, Verein ZARA, Comunidad Islámica Mezquita Ishbilia, Organización Nacional para el Diálogo y la Participación (ONDA), Centre for Peace Studies
Have called for
11 public policies/actions to address Islamophobia and protect Muslim communities in Europe
Crises are opportunities for policymakers to adjust their policies and meaningfully address racial issues, including islamophobia. The following recommendations for actions are key to adequately respond to the crisis and tackle the structural manifestations of Islamophobia by mainstreaming it in key policy areas. As civil society organisations, we call on:
European Institutions to
1. Ensure that funding programmes have specific allocation criteria to benefit Muslim people (or those perceived as such) and civil society organisations supporting them, so that they can develop long term projects for victims’ support, capacity building, strategic litigation, educational programmes, etc. This should be included in the current EU budget negotiations.
2. Ensure that the new recovery instrument Next Generation EU include measures that address the specific situation of Muslim communities, especially in the REACT-EU targeting the socio-economic impacts of the crisis, in line with the objectives of an inclusive and fair recovery for all. The process for disbursement of funds should involve Muslim communities in consultative mechanisms with the governments.
3. Explore the possibility to initiate infringement proceedings based on the Employment Directive (2000/78/EC) to address the systemic discrimination faced by Muslim women wearing the headscarf in some EU Member States.
4. Assess the restrictions of Freedom of Religion and Belief in the upcoming revised Strategy on the Charter of Fundamental Rights and adopt recommendations for Member States. Civil society should be more involved in making it more accessible.
5. Assess and acknowledge the discriminatory impact of counter-radicalisation and counterterrorism measures and ensure that counter-terrorism measures comply with fundamental rights safeguards, especially when implementing the recently adopted EU counter-terrorism Directive.
Member States to
6. Support the adoption or improvement of national policies against racism, such as National Action Plans against Racism, with specific measures or strategies to recognize and counter Islamophobia as a form of racism
7. Develop and promote harmonization of data collection in areas of hate crime and equality, including and systematically recognizing anti-Muslim bias as a category. These data should be disaggregated by multiple grounds of discrimination (including gender, race, ethnicity and religion) while respecting self-identification and full anonymity. This is central to assess the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 on Muslims and design tailored responses and policies, particularly in the forthcoming recovery phase.
8. Adopt and implement guidelines/measures to combat racism in law enforcement (including prohibiting racial profiling, adopting more severe sanctions against police violence, increasing racial diversity and trainings, etc.).
9. Grant resident permits to undocumented migrants, to lift the barriers that prevent them from being protected and included in society.
10. Establish firewalling protocols to prevent the expulsion of undocumented migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, as well as facilitating their integration and access to health and other services.
The Fundamental Rights Agency and OSCE-ODIHR to
11. Support civil society in collecting data and carrying out research specifically on the impact of COVID-19 on Muslim communities.