Analysis, Europe, Featured

Do the Muslims of Europe face the fate of 20th Century Jews or 15th Century Spanish Inquisitors?

“Are Muslims being set up as the New Jews of Europe? It appears so. Muslims are the primary enemies of modern European states, the archetypal “Other,” and the scapegoats for Europe’s social, political, and economic ills…In light of the links between European Jews of the 20th century and European Muslims of the 21st century, we should wonder if history is about to repeat itself once again.” — Dr. Craig Considine

Something terrifying is brewing in the bastion of freedom and democracy. Europe, which once a welcomed Muslim migration has become alarmingly unhospitable to Muslims. It does not matter whether Muslims are citizens of European countries or seeking to migrate to Europe— the treatment meted out to them is despicable.

Two recent examples come to epitomize the Islamophobia pervading European capitals. In France, Muslim schoolgirls are not punished for wearing the hijab or jalbab, but for wearing long skirts. How a long skirt—a piece of cloth widely warn by many non-Muslims in France—is a symbol for Islamic religiosity is beyond the bounds of rational sanity. The other incident is the awful treatment of migrant Muslims. Recently, in Hanover, a German police officer was filmed force-feeding rotten pork to an Afghan migrant—eerily reminiscent of eat pork or starve mantra made by some politicians in France last year.

Over the past decade or so, European attitudes towards Islam and Muslims have undergone a monumental shift. In a report commissioned by Gallop and entitled ‘Islamophobia: Understanding Anti-Muslim Sentiment in the West’ the authors stated: ‘Islamophobia existed in premise before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but it increased in frequency and notoriety during the past decade…Within key Western societies, there are genuine negative perceptions, prejudices, and discriminations targeted against Muslims. Seeing Muslims as not loyal, voicing prejudice against Muslims, and avoiding Muslims as neighbors are all symptoms of Islamophobia that exist in the West…The very existence of Islamophobia is something to be addressed. The degree to which individuals expressing Islamophobia have particular views of Muslims in their communities, Muslims globally, and Islam as a religion is genuine and quantifiable with measurable outcomes’.

Given the level of European hatred towards Islam, it is not surprising to find the banning of minarets and mosques, prohibition of hijab in public places, targeted spying on Muslims and their incineration without due process, muzzling of criticism and revoking of citizenship etc. are implemented as routine measures in many European cities. But for some European governments the draconian measures instigated fall short of how they would like to see Muslim communities treated. Some governments like Cameron’s government want to establish legislation to not only test for radicalization of Muslim children, but to seize such children and place them under social care.

Against this backdrop of vitriol and hysteria, it is not uncommon to find extremist views percolating amongst Europe’s indigenous populations. For instance, politicians like Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen regularly compare Muslims to Nazis. Marine Le Pen, Jean Marie’s daughter, has compared French Muslims praying outside overcrowded mosques to the Nazi occupation of France. Speaking at a 2010 gathering in Lyon, she said, “For those who speak a lot about World War II, if that was occupation, then we could also talk about [Muslims praying in the streets], because it’s occupation of territory.” Geert Wilders, the far right leader of the Dutch Freedom Party has frequently criticized Islam and has made disparaging remarks against the Messenger of Allah (saw). But, aside from European politicians, the European media has also played a pivotal role in shaping the attitudes of the indigenous population against Islam. The daily diet of Islamaphobia often punctuated by bouts of intense vitriol directed against the prophet of Islam such as the Danish cartoon affair and the Charlie Hebdo episode earlier this year typifies this in the most dramatic way possible. It is almost as if Europe wants to intentionally demonize Islam. This has led several commentators to interpret such events as a repeat of the 1930s, when Jews—prior to the holocaust— were persecuted in several European countries for being Jews.

When it comes to dealing with Europe’s Muslims, there is another era of European history that perhaps more accurately describes the direction in which Europe is heading towards. Under the rule of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile in the 15th century, the notorious Spanish inquisitions were instituted after Ferdinand violated the 1492 Alhambra Decree peace treaty in 1502 by dismissing the clearly guaranteed religious rights for Mudéjar Muslims. Ferdinand forced all Muslims in Castile and Aragon to convert, converso Moriscos, to Catholicism, or else be expelled. To verify whether these conversions really had changed the person’s faith, inquisitors would roam around their homes to ensure pork was used in the meals. Aromas were vetted and even rubbish was inspected to police pork consumption. (Source: The National)

Europe has a long history of annihilating civilizations and carrying out massacres on a massive scale. The Spanish Inquisition, wiping out of Incas, American Indians, Aztecs, and Aborigines to name a few in the sordid history of European colonialism. For the indigenous people of Africa, India, Asia, Middle East and others, the promises of freedom quickly evaporated and replaced by colonial rule. Rather than show remorse towards such atrocities, Europe could only gloat at its achievements.

The Islamic Khilafah in the past never treated mankind in such a barbaric fashion. Sultan Bayazid II, extended an immediate welcome to the expelled Jews of Spain—the Sephardim. He said, “You venture to call Ferdinand a wise ruler…he who has impoverished his own country and enriched mine!” It is reported that under Bayezid’s reign, Jews enjoyed a period of cultural flourishing, with the presence of such scholars as the Talmudist and scientist Mordecai Comtino; astronomer and poet Solomon ben Elijah Sharbiṭ ha-Zahab; and the liturgical poet Menahem Tamar. Neither did the Khilafah spread Islam by force, nor destroy civilizations. When Islam spread to Egypt, many Coptic Christians did not embrace Islam, and today they still number approximately 7 million. Likewise, when India was opened up to Islam, the inhabitants were not coerced into accepting Islam. India today has a population of more than 750 million Hindus.

The Muslims of Europe face an uncertain future. However, rather than remain as spectators or fearful of the European assimilation debate, Muslims must work hard to expose the injustices of previous European attempts to assimilate non-European citizens into their European way of life.

Written for the central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir by

Abdul Majeed Bhatti