Now the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights organization, is debating countering hate speech, threats, and physical attacks often experienced by Muslims across Europe.
Anti-Muslim sentiment and antisemitism are happening almost every day in Germany. The country’s Interior Ministry noted 1,026 anti-Muslim attacks occur throughout 2020, and even many more attacks are suspected not reported.
Imam A, who asked not to be named for fear of attacks, recalled that someone sprayed the mosque walls with a huge swastika several years ago. This incident decreased the number of Friday prayer attendees from 100 to 10, and most young Muslims stayed away because they were afraid. The Police investigation did not found anything useful.
The Council of Europe’s Special Representative on Antisemitic and Anti-Muslim Hatred, Daniel Höltgen, has been following reports from Muslim associations in eight European countries. Unfortunately, the results are not comprehensive, but it will be useful for further research and have to be followed up by the authorities in the respective countries.
Höltgen said that the online hatred and threats just as real as everyday discrimination and verbal attacks on the streets. Höltgen said that increasingly coarse and brutal language, unveiled threats to life and limb, calls for racist violence has become daily life for Muslims, and these are criminal actions and not related to the right of free speech at all.
Imam A. often received messages like “Go home” or “there is no place for you here,” and they even include cartoons portraying Prophet Muhamad once.
Höltgen found out that most hate speech is no reported. Either the victims don’t know who to report it to or even think reporting is pointless. Höltgen added that the posts were made anonymously, allowing users to post racist and dangerous comments without getting real repercussions. There is too much of a legal vacuum on the internet, he says.
Höltgen mentions that the EU legislation made late last year will be the first step to better controls since it holds online platforms responsible for its content.
The Chairman of the Council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman Mazyek, said that attacks on Muslims are an attack on freedom and democracy in their country and hoping the Council of Europe’s survey will give fresh momentum to fight this kind of aggression.
The European Commission on Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) want to publish political recommendations to guide politicians to combat antisemitism and anti-Muslim sentiment.
Imam A. hopes that the recommendations could lead more politicians and journalists to come and stop by his mosques in person.