Xenophobia Spreading Across Europe Since Paris AttacksJanuary 8, 2016 in Europe
Xenophobic tendencies have been growing for a long time across Europe with race-hatred related crimes being reported frequently and an increased support for anti-immigration parties, especially since the influx of migrants increased to extreme numbers and it became an issue. An upswing of these tendencies in everyday life, incidents of discrimination and general behaviour towards strangers of different cultures has been noticeable after the terrorist attacks in Paris in November. It appears Muslims are taking the hardest blow because there is a tendency to link terrorism to Islam. Tell Mama, a project recording anti-Muslim crimes in the UK, published reports in November revealing a 300% increase of hate crimes directed at Muslims since the Paris attacks. Perhaps this, if anything, confirms the theory that people tend to fear what they don’t know. The question is where does it stop? How much discrimination can be accepted because people are afraid after 13th of November? Early in December a Moroccan man who was praying and watching a religious movie prior to the take-off on a Paris-bound Air France flight from Copenhagen’s airport was forced to leave the aircraft due to a complaint by another passenger. The man had to take another flight to his country after having his luggage search by airport police, upon which nothing suspicious was found. In Northern Ireland, journalist Angela Rainey conducted a social experiment after having noticed the high number of hate-crimes aimed at Muslim women. A mother in Antrim, reportedly told her child that nightmares would follow if looking at women wearing burqa, and referring to them as “mental”. Rainey has described incidents where she was called a “terrorist” and told she was “not in [her] own country now”. She also noted how security guards and policemen were suspicious towards her, while others accused her of trying to break into cars and told her to take her veil off. In early December, in southern England, a Muslim man was asked to leave National Express coach following a complaint from a fellow passenger, who said she would feel “uncomfortable” travelling with him because of his religion. A staff member is then said to have stepped in to ask the man to get off the coach service. A spokesperson for the National Express said: “We categorically deny an incident in which a passenger was asked to leave one of our coaches was in any way Islamophobic”, claiming that the man was asked to leave because of a dispute over his luggage. However, fellow passengers who witnessed the incident claim to have overheard the conversation between the woman and the driver, and insist that the man was asked to leave because of his religion and not because of his luggage. The xenophobia doesn’t just show in incidents of discrimination, but also in crimes. A man in Leeds allegedly tried to buy pigs’ heads and feet from a butcher because he wanted to desecrate mosques. According to the Armley butcher, a smartly-dressed man walked in saying he wanted to buy all the pigs’ heads and feet that he could, and when asked why, he said: ‘Because I want to desecrate as many mosques as possible’. In other European countries anti-immigration marches have been taking place in protest against the influx of refugees. In Finland demonstrators have even been seen wearing Ku Klux Klan masks while marching in the area of Kempele, a small town that was shook by the rape of a teenager, allegedly carried out by man from a migrant centre. Locals in the area have said that they have changed their behaviour since the incident, and out of fear have started escorting their children to school even though they never did in the past, while others say they are avoiding unknown areas after dark. In some, the fear has clearly turned into rage, and refugees have been compared to the Finnish deserters during wartime, whom normally ended up getting shot. Others have said young men should be swapped for refugees who need the help more, like families, women and children.
Hate crimes and acts of discrimination signal a growing popular discontent with the influx of migrants and it is equally clear from the political opinion as the support for anti-immigration- and far right wing parties across Europe have increased steadily. In October Poland elected one of Europe’s most right-wing parliaments, kicking out the long ruling centrists. Earlier on last year the anti-EU, anti-immigration People’s Party in Denmark gained huge support, while in neighbouring Sweden the Sweden Democrats, a party started in the late 1980s as a white supremacist group, has steadily risen in polls, and become one of the country’s most popular parties. In Austria the far-right Freedom Party came second during regional elections in the summer. These political parties have had a tendency to speak of the consequences the influx of refugees will have on their countries, fuelling the already lit spark of fear. In Poland Law and Justice party figure and former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski warned that Muslim refugees would bring parasites and diseases, while in the Sweden Democrats’ leader Jimmie Åkesson stated last year that “Islamism is the Nazism and Communism of our time.” Hungary’s Viktor Orban has said that the refugees entering Europe “look like an army.” These are just some examples. The long-term discontent with the influx of migrants has been fuelled by the fear of terrorism since the Paris attacks and it is to a larger extent considered a realistic threat that hiding among refugees is a way for terrorists to enter Europe. This has led countries to oppose the quota system, some have altered it and suggested only Christian refugees are welcome, while others have built walls and closed borders. Some are convinced the far-right parties are here to stay, that this is their time.