Celebrating Eid in the shadow of a new cartoon crisis - ÖZLEM ALBAYRAK

Celebrating Eid in the shadow of a new cartoon crisis

We have left behind a spiritual and peaceful Ramadan, despite it being full of politics, debates and arguments. It is Eid today, one of Muslims’ two sources of social joy, Eid al-Fitr. May it be happy and blessed; may it bring peace and well-being to Muslim regions, but mostly to the world.

There really is a need for peace and well-being. Considering the Islamophobic politics of Western countries that carry racism to another level, this need becomes even more apparent on this Eid day. The racist policies of ruling governments in Europe, which become increasingly augmented, widespread, and normalize by the year, do not offer peace to the world – if anything, they offer sorrow and tears.

In other words, we are celebrating Eid, while Islamophobia simultaneously grows. We think of spending these few days in peace and joy, but almost every day, somewhere in the world Muslims encounter discrimination and injustice, whether collectively or individually; ceremonies are planned to attack Islam and our sacred values using the Prophet. I am talking about the reports that appeared in agencies stating that the Prophet Muhammad-themed cartoon competition, which the Netherlands’ renowned racist Geert Wilders wants to organize at the parliament building, was approved – all while we were reacting to the decision about the closure of seven mosques and the deportation of some 60 imams in Austria a few days ago.

I don’t know how it is going to be possible to celebrate the bliss of having worshipped God for an entire month to the fullest in the shadow of these and other similar reports that are signs that a new cartoon crisis, new insults aimed at the Islamic prophet are in store. What I do know is that racism is a boomerang and that it increases the anger in those who face racism – whether we like it or not – and turns back and hits the owner. The person who approved Wilders’ “competition” idea, which will only mean provocation, which will only be a new excuse for fundamentalists who want to attack Europe for this or that reason, is the Netherlands’ coordinator for National Security and Counter-Terrorism. Interesting, don’t you think?

Of course, the answers to questions such as, is this how you fight terrorism, where do the boundaries of hate speech and freedom of expression separate are obvious, but it seems that European politicians who encourage rightist voters and expand the ground of racism with policies that breed Islamophobia, who turn this into a political lever, cannot tolerate hearing this answer. Because, breeding and spreading the anger, animosity, evil and enmity that is currently existent in certain segments of the society is the easiest way to do politics.

Meanwhile, there are things that need to be remembered by those who produce policies that normalize Islamophobia. It is true, there are things that lead to the rise of Islamophobia and that have become an ideological phenomenon for the West – such as the September 11 attacks in the U.S., the activities of terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaida, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and Daesh. These organizations associated themselves with Islam and killed thousands of innocent people and first caused the fear of Islam to grow in the West, which was followed by increase of anti-Islam sentiment.

But part of the factors breeding all these appeared in Western countries. The Muslim masses that flowed to the West from the Middle East’s manipulated, destroyed and divided countries due to war, famine or other reasons, were turned into the object of far-right politics and placed on the target board during election periods in their new countries, as the most unprotected and weakest link in society.

Muslims, having started to face escalating racist attacks, big and small, on a daily basis, were increasingly turned into the “other” of the Christian Western countries, where they live as minorities. Just as every nationalism creates its opposite, Islamophobic discourses and hate crimes also strengthened anti-West sentiment/anger among Muslims. This anger gave new justifications to Islamophobes. Eventually, this circle of hate that breeds on one another grew on a continuous basis.

At the current point reached, the problem is that the one who hates the other can never feel safe. As Islamophobia grows, it will not reduce the need for security, on the contrary, it will increasingly escalate. This means a surge in Islamophobia. The result of far-right populists closing down mosques or organizing competitions to insult the Prophet of Islam will not guarantee their own society’s security or ensure freedom of expression. On the contrary, it would be like rolling the snowball and turning it into an avalanche or adding fuel to the fire.

As I mentioned earlier, hatred is a boomerang. It would be good if Europe’s right-wing politicians, who make short-term plans, knew that the medium-term results of breeding Islamophobia are more marginalism, more extremism and more hatred.

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