The HOMEAFFAIRS Briefing is a regular specialised digest of the wider discussion on internal security policy. 

This time, we delve into the recurring debate about the counter-productive term ‘Islamophobia’ and why the term ‘anti-Muslim extremism’ should be used instead.

Do Not Use the Intentionally Misleading Term ‚Islamophobia‘

  • Large parts of the regressive Left went ballistic this week after Melanie Phillips of the Times of London said that there was no equivalence between anti-Semitism and ‚Islamophobia‘.
  • Phillips is absolutely correct in her assertion that while anti-Semitism is a “deranged demonisation of a people”‚ ‘Islamophobia‘ is a term popularised by nefarious actors with the sole intent of shutting down a legitimate discussion about Islam.
  • The distinction between legitimate criticism of ideas and illegitimate dissemination of hatred against groups of people is vitally important – not only morally, but also legally.
  • Of course, there are those who benefit from proscribing any criticism of Islam to silence opposition voices. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation tried for years to restrict “defamation of Islam” through the UN (thus twisting the meaning of defamation, which is applicable against people, not entire religions). Just last month, the Turkish Foreign Minister called for ‘Islamophobia’ to be proscribed in the EU.
  • A while back we wrote a detailed report on just how dangerous such attempts to introduce blasphemy laws are, why the term ‘Islamophobia’ is counter-productive and why equating it to anti-Semitism is non-sensical. The report’s findings remain relevant and should be taken into account.
  • Policy makers and political representatives would do well to avoid using the term ‘Islamophobia’, which intentionally blurs the legal distinction between people and ideas.
  • Instead, they should refer to ‘anti-Muslim hatred’ where Muslims are targeted for their beliefs, while recognising the legitimacy of engaging in a criticism of Islam.

Every two weeks, our team crafts internal security policy recommendations that incorporate handpicked publications from respected research organisations and experts in Europe and elsewhere. Today, we examine the need to significantly speed up the asylum application process and help prepare refugees for eventually returning home. We also look at the persistent issue of Islamic State propaganda.

EU States Must Speed Up the Asylum Process

  • The German FAZ interviewed Chairman of the European Stability Initiative Gerald Knaus about the importance of fast asylum decisions, what he refers to as deportation realism.
  • The danger of long asylum processes lies in enabling asylum seekers to benefit from the host country’s welfare system for months, or even years. This makes irregular migration a rational choice for many third country nationals, even when there is no chance of receiving asylum at the end of the procedure.
  • Fast asylum decisions (not exceeding two months) are the strongest possible disincentive to exploit the asylum system. Migration from the Balkans to Switzerland stopped completely once a regulation was put in place, requiring asylum requests to be processed within 48 hours.
  • The Netherlands also took steps to speed up the asylum process at the first instance, as well as in the subsequent judiciary appeal proceedings. First, relevant institutions received financial and personnel boosts. Second, each asylum seeker is provided with independent lawyers, allowing for open questions to be solved faster and receiving better overall information. Third, the asylum seekers’ mobile phones are checked for information about their true country of origin. As a result, almost all asylum requests in the Netherlands are dealt with under two months, and often less.
  • Other governments should take heed and implement similar policies to discourage illegal migration. These should be complemented with enhanced re-admission agreements with third countries to ensure swift returns of illegal migrants not eligible for asylum.

Counter-Narrative Practitioners Should Exploit IS Propaganda

  • The Islamic State managed to recruit a considerable number of European Muslims thanks to elaborate propaganda strategies. Despite the group’s territorial demise, radicalisation towards Islamic extremism remains a real and potent problem in the EU.
  • A useful insight into IS propaganda was recently published in a research paperby the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism and in an article by the VOX-Pol Network of Excellence. The authors highlight the necessity to improve our counter-terrorism and counter-extremism strategic communication by undermining the strengths and exploiting the weaknesses of Islamic State propaganda.
  • Counter-narrative practitioners must not do violent extremists any favours. It is advised to avoid spreading messages that might reinforce aims of their propaganda.
  • Instead of focusing on a limited spectrum of themes, counter-narratives should deliver a simple, overarching narrative. For example, that Islamic extremists cause and deepen crises while the government and civil society seek to solve them.
  • Effective counter-narratives are built using the KISMI principle (Keep It Simple, Maximise Impact). Short, simple messages with persuasive intent tend to have greater impact than walls of text.

Syrian Refugees Should be Prepared for Eventually Returning Home

  • In a study of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, the Carnegie Middle East Center came to a clear conclusion: governments hosting refugees should help them prepare for an eventual return home.
  • In the long-run, there is an obvious need to work towards a solution of the Syrian conflict. Most Syrian refugees are only willing to return under the guarantee of safety and security in their areas of origin.
  • However, efforts to enable Syrian refugees to return home can and must be implemented before such a situation arises. EU states hosting Syrian refugees must provide them with legal help to inform them about their rights and opportunities for return.
  • National migration and asylum offices should play a role in enabling voluntary returns of refugees, instead of merely trying to integrate those who only seek a temporary refuge. Some Syrians have now enjoyed protection in the EU for years, and those wishing to eventually return to their homeland should be assisted with the process.