by Meike Lenzner / GICJ
Discrimination in the form of Xenophobia, Islamophobia, antisemitism and racism continues to be a growing issue in central Europe. The following report presents some of the key issues on three case studies (Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands) of countries with a dark past in which hatred and discrimination against certain ethnic and religious groups has once again become a crude reality.
The rise of far-right movements across Europe have strengthened and have been strengthened by all these forms of discrimination. The findings of the report show that these manifestations of discrimination have not just been perpetrated by radical lone wolves through mindless acts of terror. Discrimination runs deep in the institutions of these three prosper European states. This has allowed for these discriminatory sentiments to blossom into political movements which have to different degrees reached governmental institutions and impacted policy making.
We also note that different forms of discrimination entail very different manifestations of such hatred and that no country is equal to another. Antisemitism is displayed normally in these three countries through extremist attacks of violent terror that take the lives of those they are targeted against. In general terms, we have seen that even far-right movements have largely shied away from overtly displaying anti-Semitism. Conversely, Islamophobia takes a very different shape of discrimination and has usually been institutionalized through several political initiatives made in the name of religious neutrality and/or national security. All of the countries studied in the report have enacted or sought to enact laws forbidding headscarves in public places or in schools alleging security concerns. This has occurred even though some of these policies were drafted directly addressing those specific symbols and openly target Muslims. Closely related to Islamophobia stands xenophobia and racism which has been reinvigorated following the flows of migrants and refugees coming from the MENA region and the Middle East.
Far-right movements have resorted to old tropes and antics to awaken a sentiment of national identity and supremacy among the population. All this has been done as part of a nation-building effort in which foreigners or even those considered as such play no part.
Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) is concerned about increasing xenophobia and Islamophobia in European countries. As current incidents show, these sentiments can lead to serious hate crimes and human rights violations. We urge the German government to detect xenophobic and Islamophobic voices and not let them take the lead in the political discourse. Furthermore, the Austrian government must better document hate crimes and their institutional systems to coordinate with police, prosecution, and victims and change its legislation to ensure that no minority group is discriminated against. Moreover, GICJ considers the anti-face disguise law discriminatory and a violation of human rights. Muslim women must be able to execute their religious freedom. We also call on the Dutch government to take active measures to combat institutional racism and protect minorities.
GICJ remains concerned about the increasing influence of xenophobic and Islamophobic voices in the political discourse. Although extreme Islamophobic parties do not participate in government, they still gain a high percentage of votes and pressure conservative governing parties to embrace xenophobic and radical views.
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