We, the editors of the European Islamophobia Report, have observed a smear campaign by certain circles targeting the freedom of speech and academic freedom of the some of the EIR authors.
It is completely unacceptable that certain individuals are trying to intimidate and silence the authors of the EIR. We see these campaigns primarily as an attempt to discredit the value of the EIR in order to silence it.
As a consequence, we would like to make a series of points.
We acknowledge that the EIR tells an unpleasant story for some people and institutions by criticizing and exposing the very structural, institutional, and everyday forms of racism Muslims (and at times other minorities) face in Europe today.
It is very telling that certain newspapers for the last three years completely ignored the results published by the European Islamophobia Report. Now, since the EU became a funding partner, attacks on the EIR started and some of its authors have been personally defamed. The overall campaign, however, manages primarily not to speak about what the EIR published, and the information and analysis that the authors provided.
It is clearly stated in the report that the content of the EIR is the sole responsibility of the authors of the national reports, and that the reports do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs-Directorate for EU Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, SETA, or the Leopold Weiss Institute (LWI). At the same time, the EIR authors are independent scholars and are not employees of SETA or the Leopold Weiss Institute. They have absolute independence and freedom with regard to the content of their reports.
We reiterate that if there are any factual mistakes in the report, we are more than happy to correct them. Yet, instead of this we face a biased and politically motivated smear campaign that aims to defame the reputation of the report and its authors. It is quite telling that those behind the campaign could not find anything positive about the report which is more than 844 pages long and covers 34 countries.
It is a political decision to register and analyze – or not to register and analyze – data about Islamophobia and the situation of Muslims in Europe. So far, we are the only report on a European level and at times on a national level that stresses the danger of Islamophobia for European democracies, the strengthening of the right wing, and the impact of Islamophobia on its (potential) victims. The EIR, which is published annually since 2015, is the only European-wide annual coverage of the state and development of Islamophobia of its kind.
The authors of the EIR are courageous scholars and/or activists who in times of a rising far right undertook the task to challenge the normalization of anti-Muslim racism, which we all know will in time target all other minorities and eventually the very foundations of democracy in Europe. In the past years some of the EIR authors have received death threats by far-right extremists. Furthermore, in the wake of this smear campaign, certain EIR authors are being disinvited as speakers at public events, have been threatened in order to stop them from writing for us, or have been slandered by false accusations that have nothing to do with the report in an effort to silence them.
All that is happening in a Europe with a rising right wing and neoconservativist parties that challenge European democracies. The focus of these campaigns is to deliberately reroute political discussions until the actual problems and topics are not discussed anymore. As the EIR editors we see all those issues and strategies as related and vehemently clearly stand up for the EIR authors and their rights to research, publish, and publicly express their opinions.
The 39 authors who contributed to EIR 2018 are well respected and established scholars or activists in the field of racism studies and/or anti-racist work. Since 2015 the findings of the EIR have been cited more than 100 times in well-respected academic journals and books, while the EIR is also a regional contributor to the OSCE’s annual hate crime data. (http://hatecrime.osce.org/2017-contributors). It goes without saying that over the years the EIR has become a reference point for Islamophobia studies in Europe and beyond. We are proud of this achievement.
Consequently, after a careful examination by independent external reviewers, the EIR 2018 was awarded a grant by the Civil Society Dialogue Programme, co-financed by the European Union (EU) and the Republic of Turkey under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA). The EIR 2018 project was realized with the cooperation of the SETA Foundation, a global think tank with its headquarters in Turkey, and the Leopold Weiss Institute, an Austrian NGO.
Some alleged that the amount of the grant provided by the EU is not public, which is also false, since the information is available online. (http://civilsocietydialogue.org/wp-content/uploads/csd_files/csd_v_katalog_en.pdf).
While some newspapers argued that we used no definition of Islamophobia, this is clearly an ill-informed statement, at the very least. The definition of Islamophobia can be clearly found on the website of the EIR.
Also, a few politicians have repeated these allegations. Rather than critiquing the content presented in the 844-page strong report, they present a caricature of the extensive report for purely opportunistic political purposes. This shows very plainly that they are not interested in discussing the problem but rather in distracting from the ongoing institutionalization of racism against Muslims.
Newspapers came to the defense of self-proclaimed “liberal Muslims” who reproduce anti-Muslim stereotypes and justify Islamophobic narratives and legislation, and, thus, were mentioned in many country reports of the EIR.
This is of no surprise, given the level of Islamophobia in those countries and the fact that politicians and chief editors of large newspapers think that, for instance, the ban of the hijab is not Islamophobic. This only confirms that these voices are not of any help in the fight against anti-Muslim racism but are rather part of the problem.
Islamophobes often argue that “Islamophobia is a combat term to shut down criticism of Islam and Muslims.” Yet, with the current attacks we see that it is they, who want to silence a debate on structural racism. Also, as we stated in our definition of Islamophobia in 2015, “The criticism of Muslims or of the Islamic religion is not necessarily Islamophobic.” Islam and Muslims can be criticized. It is not about the criticism but how it is done and for what purpose. Essentialist approaches that demonize or denigrate Islam and Muslims are Islamophobic.
It is a shame that, given the rise of Islamophobia, especially the rise in violent attacks and organized anti-Muslim right-wing extremist groups, the report is presented in this light, which also shows the severity of the denial of this problem in today’s Europe.
We think an open and honest discussion about the everyday manifestations of racism Muslims face in Europe will lead to a better Europe for all its citizens. Therefore, we are determined in the coming years, to continue publishing this report.
Editors of European Islamophobia Report