Responses to terror attacks helping to fuel Islamophobia in society

The recent string of terrorist attacks across Europe has led to a spike in Islamophobic acts, from daily harassment to the horrific event this week in Finsbury Park. Yet while extreme acts of Islamophobia are generally denounced by political actors and the media, a new study suggests that more insidious forms of Islamophobia, couched in liberal terms, are helping normalise such forms of racism in society.

Published in the journal Ethnic and Racial Studies, the study by Dr Aurelien Mondon at the University's Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies and Dr Aaron Winter at the University of East London, explores the relationship between liberal and illiberal articulations of Islamophobia which it suggests is fundamental to understanding the roots and prevalence of this particular type of racism and its full impact.

Definitions of Islamophobia

Comparing the situation in France with the USA, their paper argues that Illiberal Islamophobia is akin to traditional racism and far-right hate and typically denounced by liberal norms as unacceptable, 'alien in to our post-racial societies". "Liberal Islamophobia", by contrast, has developed as a perceived defence of liberal values – democracy, freedom of speech, gender, sexuality and equality.

The authors suggest there are links between the two, with more extreme groups borrowing the arguments put forward in defence of liberty and equality on gender or sexuality to legitimate their standpoint. However, underlying both Islamophobias, they suggest, is a targeting of Muslims in a racist manner.

The authors argue that Islamophobia is a racist construct within which the "Muslim' signifier does not come from the individual Muslim in a subjective manner, but is defined by the onlooker in a position of power and imposed onto people through various types of generalisation, misperception and stigmatisation.

This can be witnessed through the so-called secular and anti-terrorist laws, but also through media coverage of events related to Islam, where commentators often generalise and homogenise extremely diverse communities.

Whilst there is widespread acceptance that Islamophobia is a serious and growing issue in society among mainstream politicians, social movements and the media, the authors argue that the fight against racism cannot stop at illiberal acts, but must target its more liberal articulations as well.

A focus on elite discourse

In addition to the more bottom-up approaches implemented in local communities to tackle extremism, the authors suggest that a focus on elite discourse (the media and politicians predominantly) and its impact on the mainstream is essential to get to the roots of the problem. In order to challenge hate and improve policy responses, their research proposes a more complex and multifaceted definition to capture these multiple articulations, how they develop, function and are deployed.

The authors stress that: "Overall, the debate between Islamophobia being about religion or race is not solely about what Islam is, but what one wants to say about it and how they do it. Religion does provide a convenient cover for those wishing to argue that they are attacking a belief and not people, and in a context where is allegedly unacceptable, wriggle out of or deflect such charges."

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More information: Aurelien Mondon et al. Articulations of Islamophobia: from the extreme to the mainstream?, Ethnic and Racial Studies (2017). DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2017.1312008
Journal information: Ethnic and Racial Studies

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Citation: Responses to terror attacks helping to fuel Islamophobia in society (2017, June 21) retrieved 23 August 2019 from
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Jun 21, 2017
Is it also Islamaphobia when Israel defends itself against attacks by Muslims? Or is a little distrust and a little fear a heathy response to an actual threat from an actual self described mortal enemy that has publicly declared its intent to destroy you?

Jun 21, 2017
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Jun 21, 2017
Christians and Jews have denounced the parts of the bible that condone the killing of people who do not worship God and follow his rules.

When the Muslims do the same for the Koran we can then begin to trust them. Meanwhile the killings continue and the Muslim leadership is proud of the fact that they can use western laws and values as part of their weaponry.

Jun 21, 2017
As far as progressive articles like this go, in a progressive's eyes, if one disagrees with one of their beliefs one automatically becomes a denier or some sort of "Phobe".

Jun 21, 2017
Every time a progressive liberal apologises for Islamist atrocities or draws moral equivalencies between them and "far right" responses to them (there's currently no evidence the Finsbury Park attacker had any political affiliations or previously harboured any extreme or racist sympathies).. another thousand people are driven, in desperation, another step towards the right.

The rise of the right is an inevitable response to the platitudes and wilful ignorance of the left and liberal elites, and i predicted it over 20 years ago. After every terror attack, our leaders would come out and insist that "Islam means peace". Almost every media outlet still mis-translates "Allahu akbar" as "God is great". These universally recognised examples barely scratch the surface of the pathological ineptitudes of the virtue-signaling great and good whose creed is far and away the single most potent driver of rising "far-right" tensions.

Jun 21, 2017
As far as progressive articles like this go, in a progressive's eyes, if one disagrees with one of their beliefs one automatically becomes a denier or some sort of "Phobe".

Exactly - these self-proclaimed "anti-racist" pundits are essentially the principal recruiters and motivators of the people they condemn as "racists".

Obama insisted that naming the terror ideology wasn't going to stop it - which of course is true, but more disingenuous than helpful, since it arguably drove thousands more people towards the right, and someone who WOULD call a spade a spade (even if he wouldn't know which end of one to dig with).

Jun 21, 2017
The biggest most high-profile sponsors and recruiters for the far right in British media right now aren't Tommy Robinson or Paul Golding and Jada Fransen, but rather the BBC, The Guardian, Piers Morgan and James O'Brien on LBC, et al.. The popularity of the former are merely the direct, inevitable response to the vacuous pusillanimity of the latter.

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