In the just-concluded first round of presidential elections in France, President Macron and a far-right candidate, Marie Le Pen, emerged as the top two contenders and will face each other in a run-off. These candidates have employed Islamophobic rhetoric and do not hide their anti-Muslim sentiments. How did Islamophobia emerge as a central feature of European politics? Why is there little to distinguish between center and far-right candidates when it comes to Islam and Muslims?
Welcome to Episode 6 of Islam on the Edges channel of the Maydan Podcast, a project by the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University in Virginia.
In this outstanding episode, I host Dr. Farid Hafez, Class of 1955 Visiting Professor of International Studies at Williams College in Massachusetts.
In this episode, Dr. Hafez and I discuss the mainstreaming of Islamophobia in European politics. We talk about the neo-Nazis and their relationship with Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments in Europe. Dr. Hafez traces the European governments’ attempts to create officially sanctioned versions of Islam, be they French, German, or Austrian. The control over Muslim discourse in Europe often leads to the securitization of Muslims. They are viewed through a security lens, either as a security threat or as potential allies in the fight against terrorism. This approach necessarily leads to a good vs. bad Muslim dichotomy in the European mind.
Another dimension is the racialization of Muslims. In Austria, for instance, there are long-standing Muslim communities dating back to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, primarily from Bosnia and Herzegovina, which the Austro-Hungarians occupied in 1878. As a result of the Muslim presence, the Austrian state adopted the so-called Islam Law in 1912, recognizing Muslims as a religious community within the Empire. The goal was to domesticate the Bosniaks/Bosnian Muslims primarily and distance them from the Ottoman state and traditions. This 1912 law was replaced by a new Islam Law in 2015 under the pretext of finding terrorism. Dr. Hafez and I discuss this and many other issues in this episode.
Dr. Farid Hafez is Class of 1955 Visiting Professor of International Studies at Williams College in Williamstown, MA. He is also a Center Associate at the Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Dr. Hafez has a PhD in political science from the University of Vienna, Austria. He is affiliated with several prestigious research centers and universities in the United States and abroad. He is the author of several books in English and German, including Islam-related politics in Europe (forthcoming with Rutgers University Press). Dr. Hafez has edited several books and collected volumes and serves as one of the editors of European Islamophobia Reports and Islamophobia Studies Yearbook. A prolific author, he has published close to 100 articles and chapters in various peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes.