Aim of Quran burnings in Europe is to provoke response from Muslims: Expert

Aim of Quran burnings in Europe is to provoke response from Muslims: Expert

What was said about Muslims 20 years ago, has slowly come into mainstream both in media, political space, says expert on hate studies

By Burak Bir

LONDON (AA) – The wave of attacks on the Quran in some European countries are being carried out by individuals who want to provoke Muslims into a response and use that to justify their negative tropes about the community, according to a British expert.

Recent months have seen repeated incidents of copies of the Quran being desecrated and burnt by Islamophobic figures and far-right groups, especially in northern European and Nordic countries.

A majority of the incidents have taken place in Sweden and Denmark, with most of them outside mosques and embassies of Muslim countries such as Türkiye, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and Egypt.

The provocative acts were allowed by relevant authorities and carried out under police protection, drawing outrage from Muslim countries around the world.

Although some European politicians have condemned the incidents and apologized, the attacks on the Quran have once again raised the question of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments across Europe.

In an interview with Anadolu, Chris Allen, an expert in hate studies at the University of Leicester, recalled Terry Jones, the evangelical preacher in the US who attempted one of the first public burnings of the Quran in 2010 “to deliberately incite Muslim communities.”

“They do it (burning of Quran) in the hope that those who are much more on the fringe will actually respond, at which point this reinforces their argument that all Muslims, by default, are exactly the same as those responding in a particular way,” said Allen.

Since around that time, the focus on Muslims and Islam has become much more prominent in the far-right and extreme right-wing, pretty much across the whole Western world, he said.

On European governments’ stance on the incidents, Allen said he does not believe they would go beyond condemnations.

“The elite political level of all these countries (Denmark, Sweden, Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Greece) they are already very damning and very negative, at times discriminatory towards Muslims and Muslim communities in their countries,” he said.

Instead of wondering why they are not taking any action, the question should be are they going to act, he emphasized.

“I don’t think national governments really care that much about these things ... because I don’t think that they are actually defending minority communities, whether that’s Muslims, refugees, or migrants,” he asserted.

Allen said these incidents, as well as condemnations of Muslim communities or migrant and Black communities in different cases, actually reinforce right-wing parties’ message and bring them more votes.

- ‘Far-right views become mainstream’

Touching on the UK case about the stance on Muslims, Allen said there was a gap between policies and far-right 10 years ago, which is “becoming very close.”

“What the British National Party and English Defense League was saying about Muslims 10 years ago, the Conservative Party, which is now our party of government, and by a big majority in the UK, is actually saying very similar things,” he noted.

Mentioning a report that said Islamophobia and hate crimes against Muslims have been at record highs for five years in the UK, and increasing every year, he said the country now has a government that “doesn’t care and respond to this.”

Although it takes different forms, the situation is similar across Europe, as the views of what the far-right was saying 10 or 20 years ago are now coming to the mainstream, both in the media and political space, he added.

“What was said about Muslims 20 years ago has slowly and slowly come into the mainstream, where now, it is a mainstream view, to believe that Muslims are a problem ... Muslims are trying to take over; all of these things are part of the mainstream political viewpoints,” said Allen.

He cited the examples of PEGIDA in Germany, Northern League in Italy, Golden Dawn in Greece, and the Swedish Democrats, pointing out that all are “doing exactly the same.”

“Violence breeds violence in the same way extremism breeds extremism,” he said about a possible worst-case scenario if the attacks on the Quran continue.

“If somebody was to respond using violence, see that as a legitimate response, then I think we can see things deteriorate further,” he warned.

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