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Trump’s Islamophobia & the ‘Europeanization’ of US Politics

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Trump’s Islamophobia & the ‘Europeanization’ of US Politics

A Fundamental Critique?

Many commentators as well as politicians in the past few weeks have easily criticized one of the first decrees of the new president of the USA, the ‘Muslim-Ban’, with clear words. This includes not only journalists, but also high-ranking politicians. But looking at Europe’s way of dealing with its Muslims more in detail reveals striking similarities in many ways.

No New Strategies

Both the content and political marketing of Donald Trump’s policies show. Finally, the European critics have been right about breaking innumerable multilateral treaties concluded under international law. Accordingly, the Trump Administration’s strategy focused on emphasizing that there are seven particularly dangerous countries, but not religion as a selection criterion. It was also argued that this list had already been created under Obama. Donald Trump, like every President of a Western democratic political system, was anxious to call the ‘Muslim Ban’ in a different way. With the exception of Switzerland where minarets were openly banned, restrictions of Muslim’s rights to equal treatment are not directly named. Take the ban of the veil for teachers in Germany and for pupils in France. In both countries, no government agency would speak about forbidding Muslim’s rights to work or educate themselves. Rather law makers attempted to frame it within their respective political culture of hard secularism (France) and legal non-recognition of Islam as a religion (Germany).

Hiding Islamophobia with Newspeak

Likewise, the Austrian government made it clear that the new law of integration, which is currently under review, does not include a headscarf ban. Rather, the Federal Government had agreed on a “neutrality requirement”. A New-Speak similar to Trump’s, who asked Rudy Guliani to formulate a law-enforced version for the Muslim Ban. In fact, in Austria there is a ban on the wearing of religious symbols, as it was called in public discourse. As such, the headscarf in particular will fall under it, even though the Islamic religious community in Austria has made it clear that the headscarf is not a symbol, but is part of the religious practice and its doctrine. Apart from the legal delicacies and the many problems that could result from this, it became clear that the federal government was aiming to introduce or reinforce such a ban in the professional fields of police, judges and public prosecutors.

No Protest in Europe

While in the US, Donald Trump is confronted with a wide-ranging criticism of opposition, bureaucracy, media, civil society, and even high ranking members of his own Republican Party, European government’s rarely face resistance besides small anti-racist groups. European governments sow themselves in well-being, smile away their discriminatory politics, and rather defend it as necessary means to defend their identities.

The American Hope

Contrary to the small scale of protest in Europe, vital parts of the US population give hope to an alternative to Islamophobia. While Europe largely sees itself as a post-racial continent after 1945 and excluding anti-Semitism from the history of racism, there seem to be vital parts of the US American society that challenges discriminatory policies by Donald Trump out of a critical consciousness of racism. Contrary to the protest of wider parts of the US population against the Muslim-Ban, it appears in Europe that only Muslims feel affected when being discriminated against. While the Million Women’s March was co-organized by Muslim civil society leader Linda Sarsour, in Austria, a Muslim woman was excluded from speaking at the Vienna Women March. We can see how weak the sense of equality, anti-discrimination and anti-racism in Europe is. On the contrary, far more awareness and criticism are needed for those who introduce assimilating and marginal policies without naming them.

Farid Hafez
Farid Hafez, PhD (Political Science, University of Vienna), is a political scientist and non-resident senior researcher at Georgetown University’s “The Bridge Initiative” at the School of Foreign Service. He defended his habilitation thesis on “Islam-Politics in the Second Republic of Austria” at the University of Salzburg in 2019. In 2017, he was a Fulbright visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley and in 2014, he was a visiting scholar at Columbia University, New York. Since 2010 he has been the editor of Islamophobia Studies Yearbook, and since 2016 the co-editor of European Islamophobia Report. Hafez has received the Bruno Kreisky Award for the “Political Book of the Year” for his anthology Islamophobia in Austria (co-edited with John Bunzl). He has more than 100 publications in leading journals such as Politics and Religion, Patterns of Prejudice, and German Politics and Society. His latest publications are ‘Islamophobia in Muslim Majority Societies’ (Routledge, co-edited with Enes Bayrakli, 2019) and ‘Feindbild Islam. Über die Salonfähigkeit von Rassismus’ (Böhlau, 2019). Email: farid.hafez@sbg.ac.at
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Farid Hafez
Farid Hafez, PhD (Political Science, University of Vienna), is a political scientist and non-resident senior researcher at Georgetown University’s “The Bridge Initiative” at the School of Foreign Service. He defended his habilitation thesis on “Islam-Politics in the Second Republic of Austria” at the University of Salzburg in 2019. In 2017, he was a Fulbright visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley and in 2014, he was a visiting scholar at Columbia University, New York. Since 2010 he has been the editor of Islamophobia Studies Yearbook, and since 2016 the co-editor of European Islamophobia Report. Hafez has received the Bruno Kreisky Award for the “Political Book of the Year” for his anthology Islamophobia in Austria (co-edited with John Bunzl). He has more than 100 publications in leading journals such as Politics and Religion, Patterns of Prejudice, and German Politics and Society. His latest publications are ‘Islamophobia in Muslim Majority Societies’ (Routledge, co-edited with Enes Bayrakli, 2019) and ‘Feindbild Islam. Über die Salonfähigkeit von Rassismus’ (Böhlau, 2019). Email: farid.hafez@sbg.ac.at