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Islamophobia is on the rise in Spain

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Islamophobia is on the rise in Spain
Men pray at a mosque in Madrid. Photo: AFP
15:59 CET+01:00
There were 546 reported incidents of Islamophobia in Spain in 2017, according to a report released Friday by the Citizens’ Platform Against Islamophobia (PCI).

The Local breaks down the most important information from the annual report here:

What types of incidents were reported?

The most frequent type of incident cited were those of “defamation, slander, and libel,” in which Muslim men were accused of being “violent, sexist, chauvinists, pedophiles, backwards, intolerant, or terrorists,” while Muslim women were characterized as being “submissive, oppressed, ignorant, or backwards.”

The second leading category of incidents was those of discrimination or negation of rights. The report used the European Union’s definition of discrimination, citing it as the “conduct, action, or omission by which a person is treated less favorably than another in a comparable situation and when an apparently neutral provision, criterion, or practice places people at a particular disadvantage with respect to others.”

Other types of attack include harassment, organized campaigns, fake news, verbal and written threats, and property damage.

Where are attacks occurring?

The rising trends in incidents occurred both online and “on the streets.” Of the 546 cases, 160 of them occurred offline and 386 of them occurred online on social media platforms and various news sites.

According to the report, Catalonia leads in the latter category with the most number of Islamophobic incidents reported in the last year. Of the 160 total incidents that occurred “offline,” 31.88 percent of them occurred in Catalonia.

According to the report, a rise in Islamophobic incidents occurs immediately following terror attacks, citing the 2017 attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils as a possible explanation for why Catalonia leads in the number of incidents by a considerable margin.

In August of last year 14 people were killed and 130 injured when a van drove into one of Barcelona’s most popular streets, Las Ramblas. A second attack followed eight hours later in Cambrils, a small town on the coast of Catalonia, where several civilians were injured when a car drove into pedestrian walkways. Police confirmed both as terrorist attacks.

Following Catalonia’s lead, Andalucía and Valencia topped the chart of incidents with 13.75 percent and 12.50 percent of cases, respectively. Spain’s capital came in fourth with 17 reported incidents (10.63%).

CPI's Annual Report on Islamophobia in Spain, 2017; Number of Incidents per Autonomous Community

CPI was not the only organization to report a spike in xenophobic hate crimes in Spain following the Barcelona terror attack.

Two days after the attack, vandals and protesters in Seville targeted local mosques with graffiti, hate speech, and violent threats. In Granada, a mosque was attacked with flares and surrounded by people chanting racial slurs and accusing Muslims of terrorism.

What is the role of the Internet in Islamophobic incidents?

The overwhelming number of incidents, 386 total, reported to the CPI took place online, with Facebook and Twitter being the leaders among various social media and news platforms where cases had been reported.

The report cited several examples of discrimination, harassment, and discrimination on the Internet, including what CPI refers to as “coordinated hate crimes,” in which one person receives anywhere between a dozen to hundreds of hate comments and messages on social media.

Muslim women rally against terrorism in the wake of the Barcelona attack last summer. Photo: AFP

Who is threatening whom?

Aside from Islam and Muslims in general, women constitute the group most targeted by the different incidents, followed by men, and then Mosques.  Women are the victims of 21 percent of the reported cases.

Other victims include minors, immigrants, refugees, Muslim advocacy or prayer organizations.

Of the online and offline perpetrators that could be identified by CPI, 29 percent of them, including individuals and organized groups, were affiliated with the Spain's Extreme Right.

According to CPI, the more than 500 incidents are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the actual number of Islamophobic incidents taking place across Spain. The report only includes cases reported to CPI and related agencies by victims or their families, as well as verified cases reported on the news.

CPI noted that the report does not include incidents that are difficult to report including “insults, honks, and vexatious comments,” which tend to spike following terror attacks and crimes.

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