Switzerland banned the construction of minarets, Spain and Italy have placed heavy restrictions on permits for building new mosques, and Austria adopted a law to redefine the status of Islam and Muslims in the country.
France has layered bans on the hijab, niqab and now the burkini, and the continent-widemassive surveillance of Muslims raises an important question: Will Europe for ever have an inquisition problem when dealing with its Muslim subjects?
The current stream of policies targeting Muslims across Europe harks back to an earlier and darker period in the continent’s long history, the Spanish Inquisition.
Certainly the Inquisition involved forced conversion to Christianity for Muslims, Jews and some Christians whom the Catholic Church saw as heretics, and expulsion for those who either refused or secretly continued to practise.
The Inquisition was a repressive regulatory structure that governed Muslim and Jewish bodies and spaces, with limits imposed on clothing, food, hygiene and movement.
Regulation included forced public consumption of pork to demonstrate a breakaway from keeping Kosher and Halal requirements.
Requirement to keep windows and doors to homes open on Fridays and Saturdays so Inquisition monitors could ascertain that no religious activities or ritual washing for prayers were taking place.
At the height of the it, both Jews and Muslims were subject to state-organised violence, torture and a reign of terror, which concluded with mass expulsions in 1492 from Spain.
The Moriscos, the Muslims who went through forceful Catholic conversion but remained in Spain, were expelled in 1609 and ended up in North Africa.
The Islamophobia industry’s expected response to drawing similarities between the Inquisition and what is occurring today would be rejection, and possibly to consider it faulty because Europe is facing Muslim terrorist and security threats.
While I concur that Europe is facing terrorist attacks, focusing solely on Muslims when other terrorists are an equal threat is problematic. It shows a clear selective bias on the basis of supposed European identity.
Repressive policies and regulatory structures adopted by European countries were also enforced during the long colonial period (PDF).
How a Muslim man or woman should dress, act, eat and “be civilised” has been written down in the blood of many Muslim subjects in North Africa, the Indian sub-continent, Sub-Saharan Africa and the contemporary heartland of the Arab world.
Regulating the Muslim subject’s body and space is epistemically woven into past and present European discourses.
Europe’s assertion that regulating and governing their bodies and spaces is being undertaken in defence of secularism and democracy is faulty when measured against the principle of individual freedom and choice.
Here, historical stereotypes of Muslims surface once again, allowing Europeans to legitimise regulation in defence of a Muslim woman’s right to choose, and freeing her from the oppression of the evil and uncivilised Muslim man (abridged).
The author founded the Islamophobia Studies Journal.
Source: Al Jazeera