Comparing Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: The State of the Field

An article by Farid Hafez, University of Salzburg, published in ISLAMOPHOBIA STUDIES JOURNAL VOLUME 3, NO. 2, Spring 2016, PP. 16-34.

ABSTRACT
In the European public discourse on Islamophobia, comparisons of antiSemitism and Islamophobia have provoked heated debates. The academic discourse has also touched on this issue, an example being the works of Edward Said, where he alludes to connections between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Following the 2003 publication of the Islamophobia report produced by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), which discusses the similarities between Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, scholars in various fields began a debate that compares and contrasts anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Participants in this debate include Matti Bunzl, Brian Klug, Sabine Schiffer, Nasar Meer, Wolfgang Benz, and many others. To some degree, the academias of the German- and English-speaking worlds have conducted this discourse separately. This paper surveys, to a degree, the state of the field of the comparative approach to studying Islamophobia and anti-Semitism as a pair, and also presents some central topoi and associated questions. It aims to highlight primary insights that have been gained from such a comparison, including how this comparison has been discussed and criticized, and what similarities and differences have been identified on which levels. It questions which epistemological assumptions were made in taking such a comparative approach, and which political discourses—especially regarding the Holocaust and the conflict in Israel/Palestine (which are not part of this discussion)—have shaped this debate in many forums, including academia. Furthermore, this paper discusses which possible aspects of comparative research on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia have not yet been explored, and where there could perhaps lay more possibilities for further investigation.

Read more
Hafez, Farid. “Comparing Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: The State of the Field.” Islamophobia Studies Journal, Volume 3, No. 2 (Spring 2016): 16-34.

 

Channel 4 documentary Islam: The Untold Story receives harsh reaction from British Muslims

28 August 2012

In a historical documentary, aired on Channel 4, British writer Tom Holland investigated the origins of Islam and raised doubts about the Muslim version of the history.

The program, shown on the 28th of August, infuriated many Muslim viewers as the documentary entitled Islam: The Untold Story concluded that Islam was not a distinctive religion in the early periods (as Muslims claim) but rather was formed 200 hundred years after the Prophet Muhammad, under the influence of Judaic and Christian heritage.

Many Muslims found the documentary biased and misleading, as Tom Holland did not discuss the topic with Muslim historians as well as non-Muslim scholars who are critical about his theory.

Tom Holland’s documentary sums up the marginal Western scholarship’s view on the origin of Islam and the Qur’an. However, those views have been harshly criticized from within Western academia for their methodological flaws and arbitrary usage of evidence, and sometimes only relying on evidence that was hostile to Islam.

As a result, Ofcom received hundreds of complaints about the documentary and Channel 4 has been called on to apologize to Muslims.

Shelby Condray

Shelby Condray is the current webmaster for Euro-Islam.info

His work history in technology includes Harvard University Center for Government and International Studies, Boston University School of Management, Yale School of Music, and numerous other organizations both inside and outside of academia.

He has an MDIV from Boston University School of Theology, a MM from Yale University School of Music, and two undergraduate degrees from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

His current interests are the Corporatization of the Media, Human Rights (especially GLBT rights), and late 20th century developments in American Protestantism.

German Interior Minister De Maizière pushes for Islamic degree programmes at university

Interior Minister De Maizière has called for establishing Islamic degree programmes at German universities. Politics, academia and Muslim associations should aim for progress and compromises. In the long run, the minister would like to see an institutionalised cooperation with Muslims on the basis of the constitutional law on religion. The science council had proposed to incorporate Islamic associations into the advisory board for new Islamic degree programmes, which has been controversially discussed. Critics put forward that the associations do not represent all Muslims, while others feared too big an influence by the associations on the freedom of academia.

Call for intellectual critique of the function of religion in society

In this article, political scientist Stephan Grigat of the University of Vienna calls for a revisited and intellectual critique of religion. He claims it essential to look at the differences of religions and their respective function in society, and also to criticize them wherever a practice counters rational and free thought.

Grigat regrets that the established left leaves the criticism of Islam to racists of the right instead of phrasing a critique in line with emancipation, enlightenment and humanism.

Obama makes a positive impact for Muslims in America

Because of the Obama Administration’s bridge-building approach to relations with the Muslim world, Muslims in America are more engaged in society and politics to share in shaping the country and its foreign policies.

“Contrary to perception outside, Muslims in the US are completely free to express their views. They are interacting with academia. Islamic Studies is being made a subject of research in universities. They are also holding interfaith dialogues. This all is helping in removing misconception about Muslims and Islam in the US,” says Dr. Omar Khalidi, writer and staff member of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT in Cambridge, MA.

German University Takes Step Toward Integrating Islamic Education

The northern German state of Lower Saxony announced recently that it was establishing the country’s first academic department of Islamic theology. The department, to be based at the University of Osnabrueck, will provide a place for theological research and will offer training for future imams. The move reflects fresh efforts across Germany to address concerns about Islam that threaten to overshadow decades-old achievements in integrating Muslims into German society. Those fears have mounted since the events of 9/11 and their aftermath stirred anxiety among many Germans over a perceived rise in radical Islam. A perception has persisted that some immigrant-based population groups have already developed “parallel societies” that are inaccessible to the German mainstream but particularly susceptible to outside influence — in this case, international Islamist groups. Resulting demands for stronger efforts to integrate Germany’s Muslim communities have grown louder and more frequent. Nowhere have they been more acute than in the debate about whether and how to integrate the Islamic religion into the German educational system. Osnabrueck’s new department of Islamic theology looks like one step, then, on what could be a very long road. Germany is home to about 4 million Muslims, or about one in 20 people. Many are immigrants who’ve been in the country for decades and have watched the debate over integration rage the entire time. A teacher of Islamic religion at the Johann-Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt upon Main since 2006, Oemer Oezsoy, says the notion of opening German academia to Islamic theology is an idea whose time has come. Bernd Volkert reports.

British Universities Spy On Students: Report

LONDON, March 21 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – British universities are helping intelligence agencies listen to Muslim and foreign students’ phone calls and intercept e-mails, another proof that the world has become a different place for Muslims after September 11 attacks, a British newspaper report uncovered on Sunday, March 21. The report revealed by the Sunday Telegraph said that most of the country’s universities co-operate with the Special Branch, Britain’s police unit concerned with national security, and the domestic counter-intelligence agency MI5 in the surveillance, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on Sunday, March 21. Unnamed security sources and university officials admitted that the scheme was set up after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. “Since September 11, we are co-operating with the security services in a much deeper way than before. We take it very seriously,” one senior university official said. Red Flag An official connected to British and American security declared that details of students’ telephone numbers, email and home addresses are being passed by universities to the police, MI5 and the Foreign Office, the AFP said. A particularly close eye is kept on students from so-called “red flag” countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, Libya and Syria. “They are helping the security services look at students from the red flag countries. It’s pretty well known that it’s happening,” said the official who also has links to a leading university. “With all the forms students fill in it is not difficult to get their mobile phone numbers or emails, or find out what kind of activities they are doing or where they hang out.” The paper added that MI5 and MI6 have also used academics to recruit British students. Criticism The declaration interrogated criticism for the British policies as considered a violation of the students’ human rights. Ian Gibson, the Labour chairman of the Commons science and technology committee, said that his committee had heard evidence that foreign students were being spied on, something he considered against the principle of freedom in academia, the Telegraph said. “I think there will be a number of universities that are doing this,” Gibson said. “It goes absolutely against the principle of freedom in academia and allowing people to associate with whom they like or think what they like,” he added. Chris Weavers, a vice-president of the National Union of Students, criticized the security assumption that individuals from certain countries might form risk. “I think there needs to be very strong justification for any such surveillance. Just assuming that any individual from a certain country might be a risk is utterly unrealistic,” Weavers said. However, he admitted: “We’ve seen many people from the United Kingdom who have been involved in terrorists attacks.” Meanwhile, the paper clarified that it is illegal for the police or security service to intercept directly e-mails or telephone calls without a warrant or permission from the Home Secretary. Both, however, are exempt from the Data Protection Act. On the other hand, Robert Key, the MP for Salisbury and a Conservative member of the select committee, welcomed the surveillance. “Given the current security situation I wouldn’t be against it as long as the Government was in complete control of the situation,” Key said. Now, Scotland Yard Special Branch officers monitor e-mails and mobile telephones and universities are expected to pass on suspicious meetings, activities or absences. Several students are believed to have been ordered to leave Britain as a result of such monitoring under the pretext they had links to extremist groups. Since September 11, the international student community in both the U.S. and Britain has greatly changed. On a press release on 22 February, 2002 obtained by IslamOnline.net, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) denounced the HR 3077 bill which is currently awaiting a vote by the U.S. Senate which would endanger freedom in academia. The bill proposes amendments to parts of the Higher Education Act of 1965 dealing with international studies programs at universities nationwide. One of the prime changes to the legislation includes establishing a federal advisory board, which would oversee all of these international studies programs.