The world has been stained with blood. The Islamic State (IS) has beheaded a number of hostages and shows no signs of stopping. Due to those brutal murders, global resentment and hostility towards IS are growing. Such resentment and hostility have, among other things, led to demonstrations against IS by various organizations.
The protests against IS have turned into an anti-Islamic movement. Especially in the West, there is a surge in negative attitudes towards Islamic religion. Such an attitude extends to Islamophobia, a term referring to anti-Islamic sentiment. In Germany, since last October, protests against Muslims have been led mainly by an anti-Muslim organization called Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA). PEGIDA calls for protection of Germany’s Judeo-Christian culture and differentiates itself from neo-Nazis. At the first protest, only a few hundred people showed up, but now the protests have spread to major cities in Germany with over 10 thousand people enraged by the radical terror activities of IS.
▲ PEGIDA demonstrates against Islam and immigration. Provided by Reuters.com.
Despite PEGIDA's stance, many people consider it nothing but a racist far right group. Another organization protesting against Islam in Germany is the web-based Hooligans Against Salafists (HoGeSa). Recently, it has tried to expand into the off-line world in order to spread its message. This organization includes ordinary citizens, including soccer fans who have a disposition towards violence, and right-wing extremists.
Why the Hostility Towards Muslims?
Unfortunately, anti-Muslim is not confined to a few far right-wing groups. The German magazine Stern reported that many German people are willing to participate in an anti-Muslim rally if one were to be held in their residential district. According to a poll in the German magazine Spiegel, 34 percent of Germans agreed with the PEGIDA protesters. One than being motivated by IS’s actions, such anti-Muslim sentiments are influenced by political, social and economic factors. For example, many Germans think that Muslim immigrants take their jobs and live on welfare benefits thanks to taxes German citizens pay.
Another reason for the anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe is Eurabia, a name for the Isamisation of Europe. About this, Kim Youngkyung (Office of General Education), who teaches “Islamic Culture and History” at Korea University (KU) said, “Actually, it is better to use the term Muslimisation rather than Islamisation. Muslimisation in Europe is a demographical phenomenon because the birth rate of Muslim is on the rise compared to the low birth rate of native Europeans.” Kim claimed that Muslims are gradually becoming secular, separating politics from religion and that many Muslims in Europe have assimilated into European culture. According to Kim, the increase of Muslims does not mean into the increase of Islam. Therefore, Europeans and people of different faiths do not have to ostracize Muslims, Kim states.
The Movement of Anti-Anti-Muslim
Some people believe that its anti-Muslim protests are motivated by discrimination and prejudice. PEGIDA had to cancel its protest march when thousands of people blocked the way. In addition, Germany’s Cologne Cathedral turned off all of its lights on the evening of January 5 to signify its rejection of PEGIDA and its anti-Islam rally. According to Cable News Network (CNN), Cologne Cathedral Provost Norbert Feldhoff said, PEGIDA's protest would "certainly not take place in the light of the cathedral." He said, "As a highly visible protest against xenophobia, racism and exclusion, the outdoor lighting of Cologne Cathedral will therefore be turned off on January 5 for the period of the demonstration."
▲ Cologne Cathedral turned off its lights. Provided by CNN.com.
Many institutions and companies in Germany are also involved in the lights-out movement. Volkswagen in Dresden also switched off all the lights in its car factory overnight declaring that “Volkswagen stands for cosmopolitanism and tolerance, values for which we are committed to defend and which are an integral part of our corporate culture.” Especially, Germany took time for self-examination of its history and declared that it would always beware of discrimination. However, due to the recent protest against Muslim, many people fear that Germany will see history repeat itself and that its international reputation will be harmed.
France Also Agitated
France, which is considered a nation of tolerance, was also convulsed by Islamophobia. In France, which has the highest Muslim population in Europe, there are many celebrities speaking, writing about and encouraging anti-Muslim. The popular French writer Michel Houeellebecq included controversial contents in his book, Submission, stating that the Islamic government will be established in France in the near future, and thus women will no longer be able to work and polygamy will be introduced. An anchor of French news channel I-Tele Eric Zemmour said in an interview that “Five million of the country’s Muslims should be expelled to prevent upheaval or civil war.”
The Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in Paris added fuel to the fire of the anti-Muslim movement. On January 7, two masked terrorists raided the headquarters of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. The terrorists went on a shooting rampage, killing 12 newspaper employees and injuring 10 others. At the same time, another terrorist took 15 hostages in a Jewish grocery store, killing four.
Some French have retaliated. The Central Council of Muslims in France (CCIF) reported that 54 hate crimes targeted at Muslims occurred after the Charlie Hebdo terror attack. Among the 54 anti-Muslim incidents, 21 were violence against Muslims, according to CCIF. Hate crimes targeted Muslims are occurring throughout the nation at the same time. In response, the French government mobilized military forces to keep public order and security.
Many across the world mourned the Charlie Hebdo victims by taking up the slogan “Je suis Charlie,” “I am Charlie.” On the other hand, there is a smaller “Je ne suis pas Charlie”, which means “I am not Charlie,” movement. Those involved oppose Islamic extremism and terrorism, but think that Charlie Hebdo’s style of satire, which can lead to hatred towards the religion, was immoral and unnecessarily disgraceful. The editor-in-chief of the British Financial Times, Tony Barber wrote that “Charlie Hebdo has a long record of mocking, baiting and needling French Muslims. This is not in the slightest to condone the murderers, who must be caught and punished, or to suggest that freedom of expression should not extent to satirical portrayals of religion.”
▲ Thousands of people stand against PEGIDA in Cologne. Provided by BBC.com.
▲ An Islamic group shout demonstrates against an anti-Islam. Provided by photo.sf.co.ua/ id36.
Anti-Muslim movements and anti-racism movements have spread to Sweden, Australia and the United States (U.S.) Instigation of anti-Muslim beliefs is dangerous, as it stirs up divisions in the religious world and disturbs world peace, leading to serious racial and religious discrimination. Discrimination cannot be justified by any reason. Especially, because the Muslimisation in Europe is really happening, the racial and religious conflicts are getting worse.
Relationship with Korea
The influence of Muslims in Korea is not very strong when compared with that in Europe because the number of Muslims in Korea is far fewer. With regards to terrorism, Korea is usually believed to be safe from attack. However, as terrorism evolves, Korea must be vigilant, especially since many businesses and immigrants are working and living abroad. This January an 18-yearold Korean known only as Mr. Kim disappeared into Syria with the supposed intention of joining IS.
After the incident, the perception of Muslims seems to have worsened in Korea. Sardor, a Muslim in Korea, said, “I think the anti-Muslim movement is unfortunate and it is very upsetting that people have misconceptions about Islam and Muslims. It is obvious discrimination that someone is excluded for the simple reason that he or she has a certain religion, Islam.” He also said, “We Muslims think that the Islamic terrorist group is not the real Islam. We do not agree with them. It has disgraced our religion.”
Which Way Should We Be Headed?
Terrorism is a serious global problem. Kim said, “I think that these problems are caused by the incapacity of international communities like the United Nations (UN). When the IS was planning terrorism and killing people, what were the international communities doing?” He also added that “Solving terrorism is not something one country can do alone. All the countries should cooperate with each other and people should believe and support the international community.”
With regard to the conflict between religions, he emphasized the importance of religious education. The education he talked about is not the education of a certain religion or the imposition of someone’s belief on certain religion, but the understanding of other cultures, religions and race. According to Kim, religious education is a core component of the solution.
It is true that people surely need to resist inhumane terrorism attacks, but anti-Muslim movements are seemed to be a topic to be reconsidered. All people think that respect and regard for others are righteous, and they want to be respected by others. Now, people only have to put their ideas into action. The division and conflict may serve as a test to prove the global cooperation or as a momentum that encourages the world to collaborate with each other. The vicious circle should soon stop.
▲ Kim Youngkyung said that solving terrorism is not something one country can do alone. Photographed by Jung Woo Jae.