The Charlie Hebdo Attacks In Paris: Defining Islamophobia And Its Socio-Political Applications

Ills.: UK Human Rights Blog

This article assesses how contemporary definitions of Islamophobia, especially the influential Runnymede report’s definition, met difficulties and challenges after the January 2015 attacks in Paris. It analyses the reactions of European government officials, and oppositional political parties to these attacks through Political Discourse Analysis (PDA). The results show the ambiguous criteria defining Islamophobia in these speeches. The main implication is that more effort is needed to produce a refined and operational definition of Islamophobia.

Key words: Islamophobia, Runnymede Report, Charlie Hebdo attacks, European Union, populism

The phenomenon of Islamophobia, considered as fear, dislike or prejudice against Islam and its followers, is arguably as long as Islam itself. In the contemporary world, a pivotal moment in the study of Islamophobia as a phenomenon and its definition was the publication of a report titled: Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All (Runnymede Trust, 1997, hereafter: The RT Report) by the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia, established by the Runnymede Trust. In a pioneering study the independent race, ethnic and religious equality think-tank attempted at the identification of causes and reasons for the phenomenon of Islamophobia as well as defining it. According to the Runnymede Trust, Islamophobia is: ‘… a shorthand way of referring to dread or hatred of Islam – and, therefore to fear or dislike of all or most Muslims’ (The RT Report, 1). And further: ‘the term Islamophobia refers to unfounded hostility towards Islam. It refers also to the practical consequences of such hostility in unfair discrimination against Muslim individuals and communities, and to the exclusion of Muslims from mainstream political and social affairs’ (ibid.; 4). The report reached much further than a mere identification of the terminology and consequently the definition along with its characteristics (outlined below) remain the most quoted and influential study on Islamophobia as a phenomenon and from an etymological perspective. In an attempt at breaking down the causes and reasons for the ‘hatred’, ‘hostility’ and ‘discrimination’ towards Islam the authors made an essential distinction between ‘legitimate criticism’ and ‘unfounded prejudice and hostility’ towards Muslims (The RT Report; 4). Consequently, the commission proposed closed and open views towards Islam and its believers, illustrating two essentialised approaches a non-Muslim can have towards the Islamic religion and its worshippers. ‘Phobic dread of Islam is the recurring characteristic of closed views. [While] legitimate disagreement and criticism, as also appreciation and respect, are aspects of open views’ (The RT Report; 4). Identification of the two contrastive views was based on acknowledging eight main features of each of them. The eight features of the closed/open views were recognized as: monolithic/diverse; separate/interacting; inferior/different; enemy/partner; manipulative/sincere; criticism of West rejected/considered; discrimination defended/criticized; Islamophobia seen as natural/problematic (The RT Report, p. 5).

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Solutions For An Unfair World ~ Contents & Introduction: Consternation

1. The world in which we live is too complex
2. We have to bring trade under democratic control
3. Curb globalisation: a dialogue between the veritable left and the simplifying right
4. Peace in our time?
5. A president with messy moral standards

Bitter tears, bon courage
About the author & Acknowledgement & Literature


After November 8, 2016, I have occasionally thought that the governments of civilised nations should recall their ambassadors from the United States, for consultation as it is called; I’d rather say for consideration. Thus far that recall did of course not happen, but consideration is more than ever necessary. After one year it is abundantly clear that Donald Trump’s government has not left relations within the us and the rest of the world untouched.

Obviously, us citizens must set their own course, but as residents of all corners of the world we have to consider what this Trump is doing. Let me mention in this essay a few points that we have to think about. What can we still expect, what have we already seen, how did that affect us, and how can we respond appropriately?

A warning is called for, and it comes from Luigi Zingales – as his name suggests an Italian, who is a professor in the United States. Make the comparison with Berlusconi, he suggests, and deduce lessons from that. ‘Mr. Berlusconi was able to govern Italy for as long as he did mostly thanks to the incompetence of his opposition. It was so rabidly obsessed with his personality that any substantive political debate disappeared; it focused only on personal attacks, the effect of which was to increase Mr. Berlusconi’s popularity.’ (New York Times, 22.11.16)

The purpose of this essay is not to fall into that trap. The election of Trump forces us, more than anything else, to consider some fundamental issues. At the same time we should not be afraid to formulate ambitious solutions. It is still possible to build a civilised, human, just and ecologically sustainable world. We need radical proposals for that, which I would like to present here in five – in principle separately readable – chapters. Read more

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Migration And Its Discontents: Israelis In Berlin And Homeland Politics

Yael Almog Ills.: Joseph Sassoon Semah

Recent history has established Germany’s reputation as a new immigration country, facilitated by its economic boom and a relatively accommodating migration policy. An attractive destination for newcomers, Germany has surpassed many lands such as England and Canada which have long been recognized as immigration countries. Berlin in particular has drawn diverse populations of immigrants, including a considerable number of authors and artists whose works negotiate this relocation to the city. The gap between Germany’s notorious historical reputation for being hostile toward minority groups—embodied in the memories of World War II—and its attractiveness for expatriates has grown increasingly wider.

It is under these conditions that the growing community of Israelis living in Berlin has drawn attention from the German, Israeli, and global media. Israeli media and the publicist polemic have been preoccupied in recent years with the role of Israel’s living costs as a motivation for migration to Europe. In recent years, public protests in Israel have opted to shift public discussion away from its longtime focus on state security and onto the country’s increasingly high cost of living: Daily life necessities have “surpassed” the outside threat of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli violence. In Israel, the perception of Germany as an attractive destination for emigrants elicits protests against the so-called opportunism of Israeli emigrants accused of “forgetting” the crimes committed by Germany during the Holocaust in favor of the satisfaction of mundane needs.[1] Former Israeli Minister of Finance, Yair Lapid, for example, has condemned the diffidence of Israelis who leave Israel because life is “easier in Berlin.”[2] According to Lapid, relocating in Berlin, the city which embodies historic insecurity for Jews, exemplifies the renouncement of national solidarity for the sake of economic comfort.

Berlin is characterized, often dismissively, as a “bubble” by Germans and foreigners alike—a desirable location for individuals belonging to minority groups or adhering to subaltern politics. My contention is that this cultural and imaginary construct functions as a microcosm allowing for the transmission of political identities to a new, foreign realm.
By examining recent literary representations which describe Berlin as a place of residence for Israelis, this essay argues that the description of Israeli migrants “escaping” their home country misses a crucial point: During their time in Berlin, Israelis do not simply abandon, but rather relocate Israeli politics to a new setting. This displacement dispels seminal expectations of Jewish diasporic life in Germany—both the Zionist discourse on European Jewish diaspora and Germany’s hegemonic memory culture. For one, the identification of the Israeli newcomers as “oriental” is at odds with an Israeli narrative of European Jews
returning to the continent after the trauma of the Holocaust. In the following readings of contemporary literary texts, I trace how sociopolitical conflicts salient to contemporary Israeli society—in particular, tensions between ethnic groups of Jewish Israelis—are negotiated through the act of travelling to Berlin or residing in the city. I follow how these conflicts are reformulated in a vocabulary pertaining to German memory culture and to German-Jewish encounters. Read more

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Being Human: Relationships And You ~ A Social Psychological Analysis – Preface & Contents

This book represents a new look at social psychology and relationships for the discerning reader and university student. The title of the book argues forcefully that the very nature of being human is defined by our relationships with others, our lovers, family, and our functional or dysfunctional interactions.

Written in easy to follow logical progression the volume covers all major topical areas of social psychology, with results of empirical research of the most recent years included. A common project between American and European social psychologists the book seeks to build a bridge between research findings in both regions of the world. In doing so the interpretations of the research takes a critical stand toward dysfunction in modern societies, and in particular the consequences of endless war and repression.

Including topics as varied as an overview of the theoretical domains of social psychology and recent research on morality, justice and the law, the book promises a stimulating introduction to contemporary views of what it means to be human.
A major emphasis of the book is the effect of culture in all major topical areas of social psychology including conceptions of the self, attraction, relationships and love, social cognition, attitude formation and behavior, influences of group membership, social influence, persuasion, hostile images, aggression and altruism, and moral behavior.

Table of contents

1. The Theoretical Domain and Methods of Social Psychology
2. Cultural and Social Dimensions of the Self
3. Attraction and Relationships: The Journey from Initial Attachments to Romantic Love
4. Social Cognition: How We Think about the Social World
5. Attitude Formation and Behavior
6. The Influences of Group Membership
7. Processes of Social Influence: Conformity, Compliance and Obedience
8. Persuasion
9. Hostile Inter-group Behavior: Prejudice, Stereotypes, and Discrimination
10. Aggression: The Common Thread of Humanity
11. Altruism and Prosocial Behavior
12. Morality: Competition, Justice and Cooperation

ISBN 978 90 5170 994 0 – NUR 770 – Rozenberg Publishers – 2008

“Therefore this reading has a rare and valuable feature, that of making a link between American and European social psychology: “Being human: Relationships and you” is an excellent example of how the two lines of thought are actually articulated…it is clearly written, using a professional yet assessable language and therefore easy to read by even the non-specialist public…always pointing to the fact that social psychology is not “just a science” but it deals with issues that constitute the substance of our existence as humans”.

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Mati Shemoelof ~ …reisst die Mauern ein zwischen ‘uns’ und ‘ihnen’

Ills. Joseph Sassoon Semah

Onlangs verscheen van dichter, auteur, uitgever, en bekende stem in de Arabisch-joodse Mizrahi-Beweging Mati Shemoelof …reisst die Mauern ein zwischen ‘uns’ und ‘ihnen’. Tekst en gedichten wisselen elkaar af.

Het heeft Mati Shemolof enige tijd gekost om te begrijpen dat de geschiedenis van zijn familie uit de geschiedenisboeken is verwijderd en in de Israëlische samenleving is gemarginaliseerd. Je komt in een soort van diaspora terecht als je van Arabische afkomst bent, terwijl Israël een thuis zou moeten zijn voor joden die naar een joodse staat emigreerden, aldus Shemoelof. Hij nam in 2007 dan ook het initiatief om Echoing Identies: Young Mizrahi Anthology uit te geven met teksten van de derde generatie Mizrachi. Door al zijn ervaringen is Mati Shemoelof zich bewust geworden van de diaspora van anderen, of het nu Syriërs zijn in Berlijn, Afghanen, Libiërs of Oost-Europeanen; maar vooral de diaspora van de Palestijnen uit de periode 1948 en 1967 raakt hem.

Shemoelof’s Perzische grootvader werd in het begin van de 20e eeuw gedwongen uit Mashhad (Iran) naar Haifa te emigreren, dat toen nog bij Palestina hoorde. Haifa van voor 1948 was een moderne stad, waar verschillende culturen vreedzaam naast elkaar leefden, waar zijn opa goed zaken kon doen en vrij was. Maar deze Palestijnse geschiedenis van Haifa is niet meer bekend.

De geschiedenis van zijn moeder is kenmerkend voor een familie van Mizrachim, voor joden met een Arabische cultuur en taal. Ze waren goed geïntegreerd in Irak en over het algemeen seculier. Zij werden echter in 1951 gedwongen van Bagdad naar Israël te emigreren, net als zo’n 120.000 andere Iraakse-joodse burgers, met achterlating van al hun bezit. Dat was onderdeel van de deal tussen Irak en Israël: de zionistische beweging kreeg arbeidskrachten en Irak bezit. Maar eerder had al de Farhud in Irak plaatsgevonden: op 1 en 2 juni 1941 vond een Pogrom plaats tegen joden in Bagdad, waarbij tussen de 150 en 200 doden vielen en van velen hun bezit werd afgenomen.

Nu zijn in Israël muren rondom Palestijnen, maar ook om de Arabische joden is een muur geplaatst. En toch zijn vele Mizrachi, die in armoede leven, niet solidair met de Palestijnen.
Om je te verhouden tot al die muren in Israël, in – en extern, is moeilijk en maakte Mati Shemoelof tot activist van de Mizrachi-Beweging, die strijdt voor sociale rechtvaardigheid en erkenning van identiteit. De Mizrachi-Beweging onderzoekt met name de verwantschap tussen hun identiteit en die van de Palestijnen en de Arabische wereld. Read more

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Lammert de Jong ~ Barrières van de Nederlandse nationaliteit

Eerder gepubliceerd in: Constitutioneel balanceren tussen Europa en nationale identiteit. Liber Amicorum voor Willem Pedroli. Symposium op 14 februari 2017, Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties.

Graag buig ik mij kritisch over de stelling, zoals verwoord in de uitnodiging voor het vriendenboek Willem Pedroli [1]: De grondwet zorgt ervoor dat de waarden die gekoppeld zijn aan de nationale identiteit beschermd worden. Wat zijn ‘de waarden van de nationale identiteit’ wanneer ‘de nationale identiteit per definitie meervoudig is, per moment en door de tijd heen (WRR 2007)?’[2] Inderdaad, de nationale identiteit heeft geen vaste inhoud; menigeen heeft daaromtrent een eigen opvatting en gedraagt zich daarnaar; vandaag zó en wellicht morgen anders. Dat geldt ook voor de sterk uiteenlopende impact van ‘Europa’ op de nationale identiteit, de een verlangt ‘meer,’ een ander wil een ‘exit.’ In de uitnodiging wordt de Grondwet gezien als beschermer van waarden die gekoppeld zijn aan de nationale identiteit. Mag dit zo worden opgevat dat de Grondwet een strong box is van welomschreven rechten en vrijheden van Nederlandse burgers, dus van de nationaliteit? Het begrip nationale identiteit is niet eenduidig te vatten. Haalt het daarmee de vaste grond onder de Nederlandse nationaliteit, de grondwettelijke zekerheden, overhoop? Het hedendaagse populisme daagt uit deze grondwettelijke zekerheden met woord en daad te borgen, met andere woorden, gestand te doen, ongeacht de culturele zingeving die en vogue opgeld doet voor de hedendaagse ‘nationale identiteit,’ welke dan ook!

Nationaliteit en nationale identiteit
Het onderscheid tussen de Nederlandse nationaliteit (citizenship) en nationale identiteit wordt gecompliceerd door het begrip ‘burgerschap.’ Daarin wordt zowel de Nederlandse nationaliteit in juridische termen gevat, maar óók wat het betekent een Nederlandse burger te zijn, een duiding van de Nederlandschen volksaard. Daaronder wordt van allerlei begrepen, zoals belangstelling voor de publieke zaak, zorg voor de ander, politieke participatie, maatschappelijke verantwoordelijkheid. Wat betreft het Europese burgerschap gaat het met name om rechten, dus om ‘burgerschap’ in een juridisch formaat. Het Europese volk, oftewel de Europese Demos, wordt tegenwoordig vooral als een problematisch fenomeen gezien, met name vanwege nationale identificaties die ‘minder’ Europa willen, of lidstaten die de grenzen voor moslimvluchtelingen sluiten. Huizinga benoemt in zijn Nederland’s Geestesmerk in wel gedragen taal de Nederlandschen volksaard. Het is verhelderend dit nog eens na te lezen. Hier kan ik niet nalaten Huizinga’s bevrijdende multiculturalisme te belichten: Wij kunnen het vreemde niet weren, en wij willen het niet weren [… ] De internationale penetratie der volkeren gaat, ondanks de ijlende koortsen die het lichaam der wereld schokken, haar gang. Laat haar op dezen onzen bodem vrij doorwerken, en houdt Uw Nederlandsche hoofd koel (Huizinga, 17, 1935).Dit was in mei 1935!

Drie jaar later wordt in de Memorie van Antwoord bij de Nederlandse Rijksbegroting 1938 gesteld: Vermeden moet worden alles wat de strekking heeft duurzame vestiging in ons reeds zo dicht bevolkt land te bevorderen, daar een verder binnendringen van vreemde elementen schadelijk zou zijn voor de handhaving van het karakter van den Nederlandschen stam. De Regeering is van oordeel dat in beginsel ons beperkt territoir voor de eigen bevolking moet blijven gereserveerd.[3] Kort daarna werd de Nederlandse grens voor Joodse vluchtelingen uit Duitsland gesloten.

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