People well-versed with history know well that racism is a blot on the history of Europe. Like many other negatives of now democratized and liberalized regions, racism had so far been confined to history books until recently. The resurgence of racist tendencies accompanied with acts of violence — which the United States and Europe had started to think as a thing of the past — indicates that the disease had never been completely cured.
The US has its own homegrown version of this problem while Europe has raised the issue of racism with a tinge of hostility toward Islam. Anti-Islam protests and attacks on mosques in various parts of Europe and intensification of discriminatory policies against Muslim Turks, particularly in Germany, have reached unprecedented levels in recent days.
A movement led by the PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West) in Germany is attracting media attention on a daily basis. By raising slogans such as, “We don’t want to see Muslims in our country” in a city like Dresden, where very few Muslims live, this group is inciting violence and terror. This group also wishes to rid Europe of mosques. Increasing attacks on mosques in parts of Europe are common knowledge. However, it is heartening to note that German leaders minced no words in criticizing such elements.
In his Christmas address, the German president, without naming PEGIDA, criticized it in these words: “Do not heed the calls of those who are isolating Germany.” Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the protests, saying, “There is no room here for efforts to arouse hatred and the lies about those people who have come to us from other countries.”
The justice minister described the protests as “a disgrace on Europe” and several politicians have described PEGIDA as “Nazis in suits.”
While PEGIDA’s protests are continuing, churches, political parties and artists have called on people to boycott them. Thousands of people have staged countermarches in various cities.
These statements and actions are commendable, of course, but it is not enough. Merely paying a lip service or making symbolic gestures will not deter these racist elements from promoting their diabolical agenda. There is a great need to counter the situation with effective measures and strong policies. The manner in which the main opposition Die Linke party blamed Merkel for the rise in racist protests last week should also not be overlooked. According to Die Linke, the government has prepared this climate with its policies and messages over the years. A great many people agree with this opinion.
Let me state that racism is a kind of psychological disorder. It results from a flawed psyche that drives an individual to crush the weak. From a religious point of view, when a person or group in sheer arrogance forgets that all human beings are descendants of Prophet Adam or adamantly refuses to accept the truth, and if he is fed on hatred of course, then such a person or group easily falls prey to this sick-mindedness. Overwhelmed with feelings of pride and power, such a person tends to forget that all human beings share the same genes and there is nothing special about his genetic makeup that gives him/her superiority over others. It is very hard to believe in such nonsense, but the idea always provides fuel for demagogues.
Although racists are psychologically ill, other factors that provoke the sickness should not be ignored. If there is such a scourge as Islamophobia in the world, and if it is becoming increasingly deep-rooted, then we need to understand the other factors that are triggering fear and hatred. Sadly, when the word Islam is mentioned, images that pop up in the minds of Europeans are: Beheadings in the Middle East, a poor quality of life and women being treated as second-class citizens. All they get to hear about Islam is filled with hatred. It would not be an exaggeration to claim that the radical elements wreaking havoc in the name of Islam are to be blamed for the growing Islamophobia.
Due to a lack of knowledge, many Europeans equate radicalism with Islam. On the contrary, Islam is a religion of peace that elevates the status of women and has nothing against a pluralistic society. That is because, strangely enough, the great majority of Muslims live far removed from the true teachings of Qur’an.
This profound ignorance is therefore a huge problem. Yet we also need to state here that those in Europe reacting to the skewed interpretation of Islam are also following the wrong path. They are wrong in declaring war on Islam in the name of opposing radicalism. They are seeking to eradicate with their own hands the only solution to their problems. They fail to understand that the only cure for radicalism is the pristine teachings of Islam. They fail to see that their pitiful protests will just further radicalize the radicals.
It is unrealistic to expect the solution to this problem in Europe to come from Europe alone. We as Muslims have a responsibility. We must first approach with love. We must promote interfaith and communal peace and harmony among us.
We should show the true face of Islam, which promotes love and friendship. It would be foolish to offer hatred and expect friendship.
As far as the ongoing protests in Europe are concerned, the following point is important:
Racist protests are being staged by sick minds for the sake of a better Europe, and some politicians may adopt hostility to foreigners for the sake of winning more votes. But if this continues, they should realize that ultimately Europe would suffer. Racism sparks violence. It is the starting point for categorizing people and communities. It is the main vehicle for class discrimination and moral collapse. It eradicates love and makes communities intolerant toward one another. Children raised in such communities become people of hate. Neither country nor society nor family will mean anything to a child who is imbued with such a way of thinking. It is not hard to predict how such a generation will tear Europe apart.
We don’t want to see Europe ruined. The education that Europe needs is not the nonsense of Hitler’s era, but true Islam and a belief in love. Indeed, Europe must even export that education to the Middle East. Then they will see that the system works the other way round, and that love promotes love.