Through the recent laws enacted in France, bans on certain clothing in Belgium, and overall discrimination targeted towards Muslims in parts of Europe, Islamophobia is on the rise.
Most recently, NYT has reported that the French government announced an investigation into academic research that “feeds ‘Islamo-leftist’ tendencies that ‘corrupt society.’” This follows a draft law that the French National Assembly adopted with the intent of reinforcing Republican principles; thus with the underlying attempt to defeat what is called “Islamist separatism” and to reunify the principles of French secularism.
The legislation extends the parameters of strict religious neutrality. Where before, private contractors of public services, like bus drivers, were not under this neutrality necessarily, the law extends to beyond civil servants.
The government in France increased surveillance to 50 Muslims associations and 75 mosque. The legislation in place would increase surveillance of mosques.
Many professionals have argued that this new bill, meant to curb radicalization, will actually further radicalize people. Muslims in France are highly stigmatized, with the government constantly opposing Muslims in public spaces – insofar as to even ban headscarves by Muslim women at school and in public workspaces; similar to many other European countries.
Farhad Khosrokhavar tells Deutsche Welle that the “government is cracking down on groups that have nothing to do with radicalization.” The conflation of Muslims with extremism is a conflation that Muslims have been oft fighting, and yet are still scapegoated by officials.
The reasoning behind Islamophobia in Europe can often be tied to many European countries’ emphasis on secularism. However, many Muslims argue that many Christian symbols are left in public places, but Muslims are heavily policed on their clothing and practice. which can specifically target visible Muslims, such as women who wear a headscarf. In Belgium in 2018, 76% of victims of Islamophobia incidents were female. European leaders and governments have been complicit in stoking Islamophobia by arguing that Islam is in clash with Western civilization. These themes are prevalent in Islamophobic discourse.
As the French government starts regulating Muslims more strictly, there will only be an increase in Islamophobic rhetoric that will ultimately increase discrimination against Muslims, not only case by case, but systemically.