AROUND the world, From China and India to the UK and US, reports of hate crimes against Muslims are increasing. In the case of Uighurs and Rohingya Muslims, there is evidence of ethnic cleansing.
Nearly half of adults in the U.K. believe that Islam is incompatible with British values and in the U.S, a survey found that two in five Americans believe the same when it comes to American values.*
Donald Trump signed an executive order dubbed a “Muslim ban” by critics, banning residents of six Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2018 compared Muslim women who wear the burka to letterboxes and bank robbers. What’s driving the rise in anti-Muslim sentiment? Why is prejudice against Muslims so widespread and so socially acceptable and what role, if any, have social media companies played in the normalization of Islamophobia?
“Islamophobia is one of the last standing bastions of acceptable bigotry,” Khaled Beydoun, associate professor of law at the University of Arkansas and author of “American Islamophobia: The Roots and Rise of Fear” tells Newsweek. “In the political context, it actually is advantageous to be bigoted towards Muslims especially on the right and even on the left because there’s political incentive, there’s a willing demographic among the electorate who want to hear anti-Muslim rhetoric.”
Around the world, crimes against Muslims have increased. In the U.K., hate crimes against Muslims increased by 593 percent in the week following a terror attack at two New Zealand mosques by a white supremacist in 2019. Between 2018-2019, there was a 10 percent rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes recorded by police in England and Wales.
The India Spend Initiative has found that 90 percent of religious hate crimes since 2009 have occurred after India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014. In April, A BJP leader accused Muslim vendors of “infecting vegetables with saliva”. In Canada, hate crimes against Muslims grew 253 percent from 2012 to 2015. In 2017 they increased by 50 percent. In Germany, there 813 incidents involving attacks on Muslims or mosques in 2018, a drop from the previous year’s 950 incidents. However, the number of people being injured in the attacks increased from 32 to 54.*
Beydoun believes that the rise of populism and populist politicians, who boil down complex issues into simplistic solutions and blame minorities, has played a major role in increasing anti-Muslim hatred in recent years. He cites France, Britain, the U.S., India and China as examples, with the U.N. expressing alarm over the detention of Uighurs, a Muslim minority, a million of whom it says are in Chinese detention camps. Chinese authorities deny these claims.
Social media has contributed to the normalization of anti-Muslim hatred online, Beydoun believes.
A U.N. official looking into the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, where it found the minority group has suffered beatings, torture, rape and death in detention at the hands of the Burmese military, accused Facebook of playing a “determining role” in the violence.
Beydoun worries that companies like Facebook are reluctant to rock the boat with powerful governments such as India, where it has a huge market and where the company has once more been accused of being too slow to act. It recently emerged that a top Facebook official in India, Ankhi Das, was reluctant to remove anti-Muslim posts as she did not want to upset the Modi government.*