The rise of far right populism in the West has turned into a dangerous trend that is taking a heavy toll on minorities especially Muslims.
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Narration: Western democracies have long portrayed themselves as the paragons of tolerance and peaceful coexistence. Western leaders keep lecturing the rest of the world on democratic values and how people of different communities within one society should live in harmony. But religious and ethnic intolerance is now proving to be a pressing problem in the West. Such divisions have been fueled by the rise of far right and ultranationalist groups and politicians who are taking advantage of the situation to gain more popular support. The dangerous trend is adversely affecting the lives of minorities in the United States and Europe. The sharp increase in hate attacks against minority groups in America and Europe is an instance of the destructive impact of far right mentality.
SOUNDBITE [English] Muslim Woman: “As a Muslim woman of color, in a time of overwhelming stigma, I fear being profiled and killed.”
Narration: Here is a school in West Yorkshire county, England. This video shows the moment fifteen-year-old Syrian refugee Jamal was attacked by a bully who reportedly comes from a family with a racist background. The attacker wrestles Jamal to the ground, grabs him by the neck, empties a bottle of water over his face and threatens to drown him. This video went viral in late November triggering widespread outrage. Jamal became another victim of a growing number of attacks against refugees and ethnic and religious minorities. The incident has reignited a debate on hate crime in the West. Figures show a dangerous rise in such attacks in the United States and Europe. For instance, British police said in October that hate crimes in England and Wales against people because of their religious beliefs rose 40 percent compared with the previous year. Over 50 percent of all the assaults were aimed at Muslims.
SOUNDBITE [English] Nazim Ali, Political Commentator: “Obviously this is quite alarming and shocking. I mean this is the first time they have actually published these figures based on the new criteria they have set up. Because there was a backlog of reporting of hate crime which they hadn't categorized as they have done.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Arzu Merali, Researcher and Human Rights Campaigner: “Something is gonna happen to you at some point within the month, or week or the day depending on where you live. And that's the really terrifying part. We have been doing surveys on this issue for years. And there was a time when people would say ok you know something happened to me once in a year, some would say nothing happened to me at all. This has changed now, it is just a case of frequency.”
Narration: Just last months, the FBI revealed that religion-based hate crimes in the U-S jumped nearly 23 percent in 2017. It marked a significant rise for the third year in a row.
SOUNDBITE [English] Suzanne Barakat, Sister of Hate Crime Victim: “I cannot let my family's death be diminished to a stigma that is barely discussed on local news. They were murdered by their neighbor because of their faith. Because of a piece of cloth they chose to done on their heads. Because they were visibly Muslim.”
Narration: Terrorist attacks and mass immigration from conflict zones in the Middle East have been partly blamed for this trend. This is perhaps because some in the West stereotypically associate all refugees and minorities with crime and blame them for economic problems.
SOUNDBITE [English] Noam Chomsky, Philosopher: “It seems to make intuitive sense, They are taking our jobs. In fact they are not. They are taking jobs that nobody wants to take. And they increase the economic level of the society where they are. But that is subtle, what you see is they are working and I AM NOT. Ok it must be their fault. And it's pretty easy for political figures, racists, demagogues, Trump types to turn this into something that looks plausible.”
Narration: Some high profile politicians are taking advantage of the sentiments, fueling xenophobia and Islamophobia through inflammatory remarks. U-S President Donald Trump is seen as the most divisive president America has ever had and is widely blamed for unprecedented political and social divisions. Trump has had an undeniable role in fueling political, racial and religious divisions in America. He indiscriminately banned people from several Muslim countries from traveling to the U-S. Trump has openly insulted minority groups and immigrants coming to the United States.
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SOUNDBITE [English] Donald Trump, U.S. President: “When Mexico sends its people, they are not sending their best. They are not sending you, they are not sending you. They are sending people that have lots of problems. and they are bringing those problems to us. They are bringing drugs, they are bringing crimes, they are rapists.”
Narration: An FBI analysis reveals that reported hate crimes with racial or ethnic bias rose following Trump’s 2016 election victory. The U-S president caused outrage in November last year by retweeting videos posted by a British anti-Muslim group. A recent study found that Trump’s tweets against Muslims are connected with the number of anti-Muslim hate crime attacks.
SOUNDBITE [English] Muslim Woman: “I was like what's happening and he said that they blew up the mosque. Why? for what reason. we are peaceful people. You know we don't terrorize people, we don't bomb people.”
Narration: Meanwhile, although the architect of Trump’s America First doctrine Steve Bannon is out of the administration, he has now set his sights on igniting the same type of extreme nationalism in the rest of the world.
SOUNDBITE [English] Steve Bannon,Former Top Aid to US President: “Let them call you racists, let them call you xenophobes, let them call you nativists, wear it as a badge of honor.”
Narration: Bannon has found sympathizers in Europe. Bannon has founded an organization dubbed the Movement to promote Trump-style populism in Europe. He says he is in contact with like-minded politicians across the world especially in Europe to help them come to power. Such efforts by those like Bannon are expected to worsen Europe’s already problematic intolerance.
SOUNDBITE [English] Jayda Fransen, Deputy Leader, Britain First: “This is a Christian country, and we will do everything, everything in our power will be done to drive Islam out of this country.”
Narration: Instances of European officials fanning the flames of Islamophobia are many. Just a few months ago, former British foreign Secretary triggered controversy when he compared Muslim women wearing Burkas or the niqab to Quote letterboxes and bank robbers. The UK's equalities watchdog warns that Johnson's remarks were inflammatory and divisive. Muslim leaders warn that the former foreign secretary’s comparison vilifies Muslim women.
SOUNDBITE [English] Nozmul Hussain, CEO of East London Mosque Trust: “Whenever we see comments being made, such as the ones we just heard the other day from Boris Johnson, attacks against Muslims increase by many, many fold. And these are something that's not something that I'm just making up, these are official figures from police stats, across the country, from London, from Midlands and from Manchester and elsewhere.”
Narration: Some senior politicians even called for Johnson’s removal from the conservative party. Although senior Conservatives including Prime Minister Theresa May condemned Johnson’s language, the party is under fire for having failed to address increasing cases of anti-Muslim rhetoric among its members. Some critics said the Johnson controversy was a reminder of an endemic problem in the UK’s ruling conservative party.
SOUNDBITE [English] Nozmul Hussain, CEO of East London Mosque Trust: “I think they need to look at it more closely given the fact that only recently, in May, the Muslim Council of Britain have asked the Conservative Party to look into Islamophobia within the party.”
Narration: In France, the problem is deep-rooted too. The country has a Muslim population of several million. French far right politicians have been capitalizing on terror attacks in France in recent years to impose stringent restrictions on the Muslim community. They are now pushing for a French version of Islam which could prove highly unpopular with the Muslim community. This is Julien Aubert. the deputy secretary general of the right-wing Les Républicains party. He has set forth 18 radical proposals including one that requires anyone who wants to become a citizen in France to take a French first name. His controversial proposals are part of a plan to integrate Muslims into the French society. Western leaders and politicians say they are worried about the rise of hate crimes in their societies and insist measures must be taken to tackle this. They say Muslims living in their countries should learn to integrate better. But many of these officials, through inflammatory remarks and divisive decisions, have been undermining what’s left of peaceful coexistence and tolerance in their countries.