Islamophobia on the Internet: The growth of online hate targeting Muslims

December 9, 2013

 

On International Human Rights Day, December 10th 2013, the Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI) have released a major new report into the growing problem of online hate targeting the Muslim community.

The report examines anti-Muslim hate on Facebook and was produced by the Online Hate Prevention Institute, Australia’s only charity entirely dedicated to the growing problem of online hate.

This major work examines 50 anti-Muslim Facebook pages. The Facebook pages range from “The Islamic threat” which today passed the 113,000 supporter mark and continues to rapidly grow, to “Mohammad the PIG” which vanished after reaching 2000 supporters. From these 50 pages the report documents 349 images of anti-Muslim hate. These images represent 191 unique images and many repetitions as messages of hate move between the different pages. The message of hate in this report are divided into seven themes which the report discusses.

 

Full report at ohpi.org.au – http://ohpi.org.au/islamophobia-on-the-internet-the-growth-of-online-hate-targeting-muslims/

Dutch Politician Cancels Speech in Australia

19 February 2013

 

Dutch politician Geert Wilders, known for his anti-Islam platform, has cancelled a speech planned during his visit to Australia. Wilders’ speech was cancelled when no venue in Perth was willing to host the event. During a press conference Wilders reiterated his view that Islam cannot be integrated into western societies. Although some 40 people appeared to protest Wilders’ speech in Melbourne last week, none were present at the press conference. Muslim and other organizations had encouraged individuals not to protest the event but rather to ignore Wilders’ presence.

Anti-Islam Politician to Step Up International Campaign

27 December 2013

 

In an interview with NOS television anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders announced that he will step up his campaign on an international level in 2013. The PVV leader claims he will “fight” Islam “from Australia to America, from Switzerland to wherever.”

 

Update: Dutch MP to Receive Australian Visa

2 October 2012

 

Following speculation that anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders would not be permitted to visit Australia, immigration minister Chris Bouwen has announced that a visa will be issued. Bouwen told ABC radio that the visa procedure had taken an extended time period because “we had to find a balance between our freedom of expression and his rather extreme views.”

Wilders to Speak in Australia, Visa Pending

20 September 2012

 

An anti-Islam group in Australia has invited Dutch politician Geert Wilders to speak next month, however authorities have not yet approved his visa application. The Q Society is suggesting that Australia is attempting to prevent Wilders from speaking in the country, while Australian immigration minister Chris Bouwen defends the time taken to process the application. While one member of the Australian Green Party is quoted as saying Wilders is not welcome in the country, he adds that denying the politician a visa would simply bring more attention to Wilders.

Sarkozy claims multiculturalism “clearly a failure”

News Agencies – February 10, 2011

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has declared that multiculturalism had failed, joining a growing number of world leaders or former leaders who have condemned it. He responded to the policy which advocates that host societies welcome and foster distinct cultural and religious immigrant groups.“The French national community cannot accept a change in its lifestyle, equality between men and women … freedom for little girls to go to school,” he said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Australia’s ex-prime minister John Howard and Spanish ex-premier Jose Maria Aznar have also recently said multicultural policies have not successfully integrated immigrants.
Mr. Sarkozy added that “our Muslim compatriots must be able to practise their religion, as any citizen can,” but he noted “we in France do not want people to pray in an ostentatious way in the street.” French far-right leader Marine Le Pen late last year came under fire for comparing Muslims praying in the streets outside overcrowded mosques in France to the Nazi occupation.

New Book: Nahid Afrose Kabir, “Young British Muslims: Identity, Culture, Politics and the Media”, Edinburgh University Press

In Britain’s highly politicized social climate in the aftermath of the 7/7 London bombings, this book provides an in-depth understanding of British Muslim identity. The author conducted ethnographic fieldwork in the form of in-depth, semi-structured interviews of over 200 young Muslims in five British cities: London, Leicester, Bradford, Leeds and Cardiff.

Kabir’s careful analysis of interview responses offers insights into the hopes and aspirations of British Muslims from remarkably diverse ethnicities. By emphasizing the importance of biculturalism, the author conveys a realistic and hopeful vision for their successful integration into British society.

Young British Muslims is available for purchase from Edinburgh University Press.

Nahid Afrose Kabir is a visiting fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, USA. She is the author of Muslims in Australia: Immigration, Race Relations and Cultural History (London: Routledge 2005).

Muslim businesswoman launches halal certified make-up in the UK

Halal meat has become a common part of life in the UK, but now a company has launched a range of halal make-up, which is free from alcohol and animal products. But there has been a warning from some Muslim leaders who claim some other businesses are cashing in on halal products.

Samina Akhter set up Samina Pure Make-up from her home in Birmingham after questioning what she was putting on her skin.  She said: “I was shocked to find that some products contained alcohol and even pig placenta. Many Muslim women like me have been frustrated by wanting to look good and follow their faith.”

The cosmetics are shipped in from Australia and certified by the independent Halal Certification Authority Australia.

Do not confuse Islam with terrorism, says book

A guidebook for politicians, police and public servants on how to talk about Muslims and terrorism without implicating the religion of Islam should be released by the end of the year. The book, A Lexicon on Terror, was conceived by Victoria Police and the Australian Multicultural Foundation, but was so popular it became a national project, an international conference on Islamophobia at Monash University heard yesterday.

Stephen Fontana, the assistant commissioner for counter-terrorism co-ordination, told the conference the aim was to reduce alienation and radicalism among young Muslims. “A comment we think is harmless, some communities read as an attack,” he said.

Multicultural Foundation head Hass Dellal said many Muslims interpreted “war on terror” as a war on Islam. Other terms to be avoided included “Islamic terrorism”, “Islamo-fascists”, “Middle Eastern appearance”, and “moderate Muslim”, which suggested to Muslims they were inadequate in their faith.

Understanding Muslim Identities: From Perceived Relative Exclusion to Inclusion

In an age dominated by discussion of counter-terrorism, an understanding of Muslim identities needs to be developed within the context of issues of inclusion and exclusion, and an acceptance of diversity of views and practices among Muslims…Social exclusion may be perceived to be absolute or relative by the individuals and communities concerned. The perceptions of exclusion could be at variance with the reality of exclusion […]

In an age dominated by discussion of counter-terrorism, an understanding of Muslim identities needs to be developed within the context of issues of inclusion and exclusion, and an acceptance of diversity of views and practices among Muslims. Drawing upon multiple definitions, particularly the one developed by Julian Le Grand, social exclusion could be defined as:

‘a condition where individuals or communities are geographically part of a society but feel that they cannot participate in the normal activities of citizens because, in their perception, a) conditions and institutions exist that actively limit or deny such participation, and b) where societal and/or governmental agencies portray them as ‘outsiders’.

Social exclusion may be perceived to be absolute or relative by the individuals and communities concerned. The perceptions of exclusion could be at variance with the reality of exclusion. Such a variance does not render the perception of being excluded meaningless: the feeling of being excluded remains significant as it contributes to how an individual and a community may relate to the wide society. Also,exclusion is not a unidirectional and uni-dimensional phenomenon. The ‘excluded’ minority are not immune to the phenomenon of excluding others: they may also relatively or absolutely exclude the majority or other members of the minority community.

The project team conducted qualitative interviews with 221 Muslims (111 males and 110 females). Of these, 99 are between 15 and 29 years of age. We also interviewed 108 non- Muslims (54 males and 54 females) to assess their views on Muslims in Australia. Primarily relying on ‘snowballing’, the respondents were selected from different ethnicities, age groups, economic background, professions and religious outlook, and educational backgrounds.

1. The interviews reveal a perception of relative exclusion among Muslims. The series of events since the terrorist attacks on the United States in September 2001 including the bombings in Bali (2002), Madrid (2004) and London (2005) have been the main contributors to this perception. The exclusion is apparent in increased incidents of harassment and the discourse on Australian values. Muslims feel that they can be both Muslim and Australian but perceive the wider community to be less accepting of this compatibility.

2. A large majority of Muslim respondents predominantly blame the media for its negative and sensational coverage of issues dealing with Islam and Muslims. But the Australian Government is also viewed as having contributed to the relative exclusion by design or inadvertently. The lack of knowledge about Islam held by non-Muslims, and the insular or negative attitudes adopted by some Muslims are also identified as factors contributing to the phenomenon of relative exclusion.

3. A mixed picture exists with respect to non-Muslim views on Muslims. With a very low level of knowledge about the religion of Islam, the respondents rely on a combination of sources to inform themselves of developments pertaining to Muslims. While they display scepticism of the information provided by the media, the media does shape their views on Islam and Muslims. Images of oppression of women as depicted through the wearing of hijab, and violence in Islam remain the main descriptors for a number of the respondents. However, these negative images coexist with either positive or nuanced views on Islam and Muslims. Hence not all of the respondents adopt exclusionary attitude towards Muslims in Australia.

4. The difference between the perception and the reality, however, does not alter the fact that Muslims are increasingly feeling relatively excluded. The sense of exclusion needs to be addressed as well as strategies devised that promote social inclusion of Muslims.

5. At the symbolic level, it is essential for the Australian Government, particularly its leaders, need to adopt a new language of communal harmony without ignoring the reality of countering militancy. This could be achieved by categorically stating that the Australian Government favours the notion of ‘Building a Safe Australia for All’ and that its participation in the War on Terror is not directed against Muslims. While a symbolic gesture, this could help reassures some Muslims that the federal and state governments are not contributing to their relative exclusion.

6. At the practical level, goal-oriented interaction among Muslims and non-Muslims needs to be supported and encouraged by federal, state and local governments.

7. In the process of devising strategies and engaging Muslims, it is important to take into account the diversity of views and practices among Muslims in Australia. Our research indicates that a variety of nodes of information are shaping the way Muslims understand and practice their religion. These range between orthodox ideas and related practices to modern/progressive interpretations of Islam and variants of these along the spectrum. While the process does include suggestions of de-territorialised Islam among some Muslims, cultural-specific ideas of Islam and Muslim practices continue to exist and be reaffirmed by many.

The spectrum of religious interpretations and their links with culture does not provide an adequate picture of social engagement by Muslims. It depends upon how texts are read and understood with the help of available nodes of religious knowledge on a continuous basis. The process is a dynamic one with individuals shifting along the spectrum and modifying their views on what it means to be a Muslim as their access to information changes or they feel the need to reassess their views on religion. In other words, while identifiable at a certain point in time, the frameworks used by Muslims do change as they come in contact with new information.

Within this continuously shifting context, some Muslims belonging to different ‘in-groups’ do adopt behaviour patterns that could be equated with excluding others (both Muslims and non-Muslims). Other Muslims continue to engage the wider community at different levels and in different spaces.

The strategies devised to promote social inclusion of Muslims need to be broad-based and engage representatives from communities who are feeling excluded and who do want to be included.

8. Research on experiences and views of Muslim men needs to be conducted. Our research indicates that the tendency to focus on subsets of Muslims (Muslim women, youth, Imams etc) ignores the interconnectedness of the lives of Muslims living in Australia. It particularly hides the sense of marginalisation and exclusion that educated (but unemployed or under-employed) men may experience. This, in turn, appears to shape the experiences and views of other members of their respective families. It also contributes to the oral understandings being transmitted by Muslims who feel excluded.

9. The perceptual context in which Muslims interact with other Australians is not completely negative. Nonetheless, the sense of Muslims being the ‘other’ has increased in recent years. The excessive emphasis on the War on Terror and Muslim extremism has created some fear among the wider society of Muslims. This fear contributes to mutual exclusion. This phenomenon needs to be addressed by enhancing an understanding of diversity of Islam. Education will play an important role in this process: our curriculum needs to reflect an acceptance of diversity within Australia. Exposure to these ideas at an early stage will contribute to harmony at a later stage. It carries the promise of new generations of Australians who share a vision of a country where they are all equal, accepted and included.