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Amid IS group attacks in Europe, will governments turn against Muslims?

With the ongoing terrorist attacks and the rising anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe, will governments shift towards a tougher approach on immigration?

Ghada Atef , Saturday 30 Jul 2016
Migrants
File Photo: Migrants walk through a field after crossing the border from Macedonia, near the village of Miratovac, Serbia, January 19, 2016 (Photo: Reuters)
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In September 2014, the Islamic State (IS) militant group revealed its willingness to take revenge on the countries that joined the US-led coalition carrying out military operations against the so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq. 

A wave of bloody militant attacks has been seen in several Western states. These attacks, mostly claimed by IS, have killed dozens and injured hundreds of civilians. 

But what about the Muslims in Europe? 

Large numbers of Muslim refugees have fled their war-torn countries in the Middle East for Europe. Meanwhile, IS continues its attempts to persuade potential supporters in Europe to either join them in Syria and Iraq or execute attacks at home. 

However, according to analysts, the rising negative sentiment towards Muslims in Europe has not been translated into actual state policies, at least not so far. 

IS
An infographic published by IS-affiliated news website Amaq news agency of the attacks that IS group claimed responsibility for it.

France

In October 2014, the IS group spokesman Abu Mohamed Al-Adnani posted an audio recording calling on Muslims in Western countries to kill the "nonbelievers," particularly in countries that have taken military action against the group, "especially the spiteful and filthy French."

"Kill them in any manner, whatever it may be," he told potential recruits.

Since December 2014, around 240 people have been killed in France, and hundreds more were injured in multiple terrorist attacks.

The latest attack occurred in a church in northeast France, as two gunmen took hostages and slaughtered a priest before they were shot dead. The attack came one week after another attack in Nice, one of the worst terror attacks targeting France. The attacks resulted in the death of 85 people and the injury of hundreds when a man allegedly inspired by IS drove his cargo truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day.

"Growing Islamophobia in Europe is now the concern," Mia Bloom, professor of communications at Georgia State University, told Ahram Online.

“The vast majority of attacks are perpetrated by people with citizenship, not refugees, but when it's a refugee it excites the far right-wing parties against migrants,'' Bloom said.

After these rising attacks, "there will be a backlash against Muslim communities and refugees in the West that only feeds IS, [which aims to foster the idea] that the only place where Muslims are truly welcome is the [group’s] caliphate," Bloom expects.

In an earlier interview with Bloom on CNN, conducted shortly after the Nice attack, the professor noted that, "the majority of IS group victims are Muslim. Not us. Not the West."

Bloom concluded to Ahram Online that a short-term solution to avoid letting terrorists into Europe is to interview asylum seekers or give priority to women and children, which Bloom suggests would decrease security risks.

Germany

An unprecedented wave of terrorist attacks in Germany recently has galvanised far right-wing parties against Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door refugee policy.

On Thursday, Merkel cut short her summer holiday at her cottage north of Berlin after a week of brutal assaults, returning to the capital to face anger against the government's policy of admitting refugees, stating that such attacks are "shocking, oppressive and depressing," but not a sign that authorities have lost control.

She also firmly refused to overturn her stance on refugees in reaction to the attacks.

The anti-Muslim Alternative for Germany Party (AfD) has been blaming Merkel and her supporters for the current situation in Germany.

"Merkel's welcoming policies have brought too many young, uneducated and radical Muslim men to Germany," an AfD leader told Reuters after a 17-year-old Afghan refugee committed a lone wolf axe attack on a train, injuring 5 people.

Marwan Al-Ghafory, a Yemeni doctor in Germany, told Ahram Online via email that although “no actual violence is committed against Muslims and foreigners in Germany, the German people's outrage is obvious on social media and from their comments on news websites.”

Al-Ghafory, who moved to Germany six years ago, said that “this outrage could be reflected in a political choice in the coming election, with the anti-immigrant AfD Party seeing growing opportunity."

Sara Yassin, a Palestinian student living with her family in Germany, says that "German authorities have not changed their policies regarding Muslims and especially Muslim refugees, at least officially, but on the ground the situation differs from one state to another."

According to Yassin, Germany's eastern states take a hostile approach against foreigners in general, and Arabs and Muslims in particular. She added that the AfD Party won 25 percent of parliament seats in Baden-Wurttemberg state last March after terrorist violence escalated in Germany.

"We fear the impact of such terrorist attacks, as I've been noticing that waves of hatred are escalating after every terrorist attack; especially on social media websites," she added.

Nearly 90 mosques in Germany – many of them with Arabic-speaking worshippers – are under surveillance, the president of Germany's domestic intelligence agency (BfV) Hans-Georg Maassen said in an interview published last May on the news site Deutsche Welle (DW).

He added that Germany is in need of a coalition of moderate Muslims to fight terrorism and extremism.

Belgium

"Regardless of the terror attacks in Brussels, Europe's civilised and peaceful communities have not [displayed vitriol against Muslims overall]," Maged Shalaby, a 22-year-old Egyptian Masters student in Leuven, Belgium, told Ahram Online.

Last March, three attacks targeted Belgium: two bombs went off in a Brussels airport and one exploded in the Maalbeek metro station. The three bombs killed 32 people and injured hundreds.

Following the attack, far right-wing parties and their supporters pressed the government to change its policies on the influx of refugees.

"There will be pressure on the government from parties across the political spectrum to heavily restrict the flow of immigrants, depending on the outcome of political struggles," Shalaby said.

With the rise in attacks, there are worries of government-imposed restrictions on Muslim communities, "like tightening the measures on building mosques, finding jobs or education. There will probably be heightened action against the so-called "terrorist neighbourhoods," Shalaby said.

"The important effect of these attacks on Muslim communities is that [Muslims] will work harder than ever to fight extremism from within," he predicted.

Muslims should portray to the global community the positive teachings of Islam, Shalaby said.

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