Stop this drip feed of hatred in Europe

  • A little belatedly, one of my ‘Her Say‘ columns for The National newspaper

    Europe is once again in confusion over how to deal with European Muslims.

    In Germany, a small Muslim group, identified as extreme Salafi by the government, wants to distribute 25 million free copies of the Quran in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The authorities believe the Quran campaign is a cover for jihadist recruitment. The leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s parliamentary group “strongly condemns” the campaign.

    Equating free Qurans with recruitment for terrorism is a rather surprising leap. The campaign and the Quran’s contents are hardly covert. Billions of Muslims around the world read the Quran and lead unexciting, peaceful and boldly un-jihadist lifestyles, and giving out free Qurans is an entirely legal activity in Germany.

    Politicians have conflated those whom they believe are engaging in extremist activities with the core platform of Islam. Rightly, there are no governments in Europe that “strongly condemn” the millions of Bibles that are given away, or the organisations that leave them in hotel rooms. Condemning free Qurans is just another manifestation of the misguided and downright dangerous idea that absolutely anything to do with Islam is a step on the road to terrorism. Such incidents add up to a wider, corrosive atmosphere of hatred.

    We can see this in the case of Anders Behring Breivik, on trial in Norway this week, who claims that his actions, which resulted in the deaths of 77 people, were “self-defence”.

    It’s hard not to see a man who is filled with hatred built up of these seemingly tiny and innocuous negative conflations. His ocean of hatred is being painted as belonging to just one loon, rather than built from the drip drip drip of deep-seated anti-Muslim sentiment that is being allowed to percolate through Europe.

    Yet Breivik’s thinking shows clear evidence of influence from European and American writers and anti-Muslim movements. Breivik also connects himself to Europe’s dark chapter of Nazism by stating: “I have done the most spectacular and sophisticated attack on Europe since the Second World War.”

    Breivik claims he was in touch with English Defence League members in the UK and provided them with “ideological material”. If he is telling the truth, it is further evidence of the fact that he is not a one-off, but instead is part of an alarming wave of hatred building up in the continent.

    The EDL is also a concoction of these ignorant tiny conflations that fuel hatred. The EDL’s co-founder, Tommy Robinson, this week found a photograph of cricket being played outside a mosque on Twitter’s home page and tweeted: “Welcome to Twitter home page has a picture of a mosque. What a joke #creepingsharia”. His attempt at stoking hatred against Muslims was derailed by other more humorous tweets: something that gives us hope against the perfidious drip of hatred.

    Mocking tweets include examples such as “I skipped breakfast this morning. Clearly fasting subconsciously. #CreepingSharia” and “If you look really carefully, a packet of iced gems looks like lots & lots of little Mosques. #creepingsharia”.

    Let’s hope that whether facing tiny drops of hatred, or utter venom, that humour and common sense will prevail. Europe has already once suffered by listening to the drip feed of hatred. It’s time to stop this new tide of hatred right now.

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