Terror attacks in France and Austria have put Europe’s 25 million Muslims back in the spotlight. The unwanted attention is familiar. Discussing Muslims as a security risk invariably reaches fever pitch after an Islamist-inspired terrorist act. This time the attackers came from Chechnya, Tunisia and one had roots in North Macedonia. But never mind: anxiety over the Muslim “enemy within” goes deep.
Anxious debates on the place of Islam in Europe and claims that European Muslims are footsoldiers in an existential confrontation between Europe and Islam and represent an impossible-to-integrate “other” have dogged Muslims across the continent for decades.
There is a dangerous new shrillness to the conversation this time, however.
The rhetoric over the alleged “Islamisation” of Europe is fired up by xenophobic and populist parties including such figures as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, but it has been embraced by too many mainstream European politicians.
EU home affairs ministers are this week discussing measures to block online Islamist propaganda, provide imams with training in “European” values and pay more attention to the integration of Muslims. And given the fears of increased Islamist-related terrorism, some of these steps are justified. But governments must ensure such actions do not fuel an increase in violence, discrimination and hate against their own Muslim citizens.