On March 21, 2016, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the European Islamophobia Report Panel was held in order to present the “2015 European Islamophobia Report” at SETA Ankara with the participation of Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin.
In the panel where Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin gave the keynote speech, SETA General Coordinator Burhanettin Duran made the introductions. Yrd. Doc. Dr. Enes Bayrakli was the moderator of the panel; he is also one of the editors of the report and Director of SETA European Research. Farid Hafez was among the panelists; Hafez is the co-editor of the report as well as the author of the Austria Islamophobia Report, based in Salzburg University. The other speakers on the panel were Anna-Esther Younes from Berlin Humboldt University, author of the Germany Islamophobia Report and Olivier Esteves from Lille University, author of the France Islamophobia Report.
IBRAHIM KALIN: “WHILE DAESH CREATES MATERIALS FOR ISLAMOPHOBIA, ISLAMOPHOBIC DISCOURSES FEED INTO DAESH.”
From the time it began to be used at the beginning of 1997 in literature, emphasizing that the term Islamophobia has gone beyond being a topic of criticism by simply bringing together Islam and fear, Kalin identified Islamophobia as a type of racism. He emphasized that there are three fundamental types of relationships that can be built between ‘I’ and the ‘other’ and that Islamophobic discourses are based on establishing a relationship of absolute conflict between ‘I’ and the ‘other’ and that for this reason, Islamophobic discourses create malicious conceptions of the other. He expressed that the most harmful result of this conception was the elimination of nuances in society and the common points between humans. Giving space to Professor Norton’s statement of “Just as Europe had a Jew problem in the 19th century, it now has a Muslim problem”, Kalin stated that the borders of the culture of pluralism in Europe are being drawn over the relations with Muslim migrant groups. Pointing out that Islamophobia and radicalism are factors that feed each other and which call forth a vicious cycle, Kalin underlined that the present legal system is extremely opaque, causing difficulties in finding within which legal rule and institutional framework Muslim individuals who had been subjected to Islamophobic crimes could bring forth their rights. He expressed that Islamophobia, as a poison to relations between Islam and the West, needs to be accepted as a problem and that comprehensive studies need to be done about, and pointed to SETA’s work on this point to be very important.
ANNA-ESTHER YOUNES: “2015 IS THE YEAR WHEREIN ISLAMOPHOBIA TRANSFORMED INTO AN UNDENIABLE FORCE.”
Beginning her speech by emphasizing that Islamophobia is not just Turkey’s but also Europe’s problem, Younes spoke about the lack of qualitative and quantitative data in general for Europe and in particular for Germany and the difficulties this caused for the government to shape its policies. Evaluating Islamophobia as one of the fundamental forms of racism, Younes emphasized that when the societal analysis of Islamophobia is being done, it should also be considered from a perspective of gender and identity as well. Regarding Islamophobia as the new form of anti-Semitism, Younes emphasized that the negative debates among the public are influencing the people’s views negatively, that migration is deepening Islamophobia, that there needs to be a secular system established away from practices that create separatism, that 2015 became the year where Islamophobia turned into an undeniable force, and that in the years to come, the struggle against Islamophobia has to continue with increasing force.
OLIVIER ESTEVES: “ISLAMOPHOBIA HAS ADVANCED HORRENDOUSLY AFTER THE CHARLIE HEBDO ATTACK.”
After the terrorist attacks in France, there began a development of enmity against Islam throughout the country, where Islamophobic works became best sellers and the situation began to degenerate to what it was like during the bad days of 2005 after the 2015-2016 terrorist attacks. Sharing that there was a 50% increase in the number of Islamophobic publications made in the first half of 2015, Esteves expressed that a third of Islamophobic attacks are made against women and that because there is no statistical system based on religion in France, it is difficult to make evaluations about Islamophobia. Alongside this, while many funds are available for the study of Islamophobia, Esteves added that in the current situation, the rampant discrimination in the employment sector has meant that Muslims needs to bring in 20, Jews 7, and Christians 2 reference letters in order to be hired. Evaluating the CFCM as beginning to play a mediating role due to it being authorized to study imams and thus keep tabs on social groups from afar and help with integration, Esteves stated that the appropriate formulation of discourses determined by the institution and the provision of public services about the imams could help prevent people’s gravitation towards jihadist organizations.
FARID HAFEZ: “THERE ARE PEOPLE IN EUROPE WHO DO NOT ACCEPT THAT THERE IS A PROBLEM OF ANTI-MUSLIM DISCRIMINATION.”
Hafez expressed that anti-Muslim discrimination is not accepted as a hate crime in Europe, that there are no trust-worthy information about Islamophobia in Europe, and that in a situation where only 3 of 57 countries actually share data on Islamophobia, SETA’s report is an attempted contribution. Emphasizing that the public atmosphere has become more aggressive towards Muslims after the Paris attacks and that political language has hardened as the days have gone by, Hafez stated that this situation has serious effects in various countries. Giving concrete examples from Croatia, Ireland, and the UK, Hafez stated that people are marked in the name of struggling against religious extremism and that the media’ approach to the issue is sabotaging the understanding of a multi-cultural Europe. At the end of his speech, Hafez made the proposals that hate crime legislations should be accepted, that credible statistics be ensured throughout Europe, that a consultative network and civil society consciousness be developed for Muslims who have been subjected to racism in European states, that better legislations need to be brought, and that awareness of Islamophobia be increased.