Research & Documentationproject for Anti-Muslim Racism

What is AMR?

What Anti-Muslim racism?

What exactly is Anti-Muslim racism, and when is something racist?

Many people experience a general lack of clarity and a great deal of uncertainty regarding these questions. This is understandable since the answers are not always straightforward.
It can be helpful to inform yourself about racism’s background and functions as well as how it impacts those affected.

Here are some brief FAQs on the background of AMR.

Anti-Muslim racism (AMR) is defined as discrimination based on negative and derogatory attitudes towards Islam and Muslims. It is directed against Muslims as well as people who are mistakenly perceived as Muslims because of their appearance, name or other characteristics. People affected by AMR are discriminated against in many ways in their everyday lives. From the housing market and job market to cases of verbal insults and assaults on the street, examples exist everywhere.

Anti-Muslim racism increased drastically in the wake of September 11. Media coverage of the events fuelled Islamophobic attitudes in society. In truth, however, the rejection of Muslims has a long tradition. Even in the Middle Ages and during 19th-century colonialism, the devaluation of Muslims served to justify Christian and European domination. Islam was portrayed as "backward" and "violent" and countries deemed as "Muslim nations" were declared to pose a direct contradiction to "progressive", "civilised" and "Christian" Europe. Art, literature and science helped perpetuate these stereotypes over the centuries that followed. As a result, they are still prevalent to this very day.

We intentionally categorise discrimination against Muslims and persons who are perceived as such as racism, not Islamophobia. This is because, as is true for other forms of racism, social groups are differentiated and degraded on the basis of certain characteristics. In AMR, the persons concerned are declared to be a uniform ("foreign" or "other") group, namely "the Muslims". As such, biological, religious and cultural characteristics are blended, which is why one also speaks of a form of cultural racism.

Moreover, racism is always about power. Some members of society are considered "different" and "foreign" while others are considered "normal" and "belonging" — who belongs to which category is defined by the group that is in the more powerful position. Privileges go hand-in-hand with this position of power. The group deemed as "the others", on the other hand, faces disadvantages. This manifests itself not only in individual negative attitudes and prejudices but also through discrimination in different areas of society as well as racially motivated crimes.

Yes, that’s true. Just like any other religion, Islam is native to many different countries and practised in a wide range of ways. As such, when we talk about anti-Muslim racism, we are not playing into the belief that a single group, i.e. "the Muslims", exists. Rather, the term refers to a phenomenon that causes people to think that all Muslims are the same, share one specific culture and can be recognised by their appearance, name or nationality. In truth, this is completely removed from reality. Just as there is no such thing as "Islam" or "the Muslims”, there is no such thing as "Christianity" or "the Christians”.

Hence, anti-Muslim racism is not only directed at people who consider themselves to be Muslim or practice the Muslim faith. Those affected by AMR are attributed to certain countries of origin or cultures (e.g. from the Middle East) and thus considered to have Muslim background based on their appearance or name. This again demonstrates how much "being Muslim" is linked to a certain place of origin and culture.

Racism in Germany is closely linked to the history of National Socialism. Therefore, many people, especially those belonging to the majority of society, think that racism is a thing of the past or believe that it is only expressed by right-wing extremists. However, scientists who study racism regularly emphasise that racism is not synonymous with right-wing extremism or National Socialism.
The truth is that not only racists or Nazis behave in racist ways. Rather, racism remains a reality that is well-hidden and embedded in all our actions and speech. A prime example of this is when a distinction is made between "being German" and "being Muslim" as if it were a natural differentiation.

Taking the topic one step further, racism is not only expressed by individuals but can also be propagated by implementing legislation or practices in institutions, such as in schools or on the job market. One example of this is when people with a "Muslim"-sounding name is not invited to a job interview or not permitted to work in a specific field because of a headscarf. Thus, racism is effectively a phenomenon that persists on an individual level and a structural level.

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