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How big of an issue is Islamophobia in Poland?

How big of an issue is Islamophobia in Poland?
From Al Jazeera - November 13, 2017

Like hundreds of thousands of her compatriots, Anna Lachowska left her native Poland shortly after its accession to the EU in the hope of finding opportunity elsewhere in the bloc.

The journey firsttook her to Ireland, then the Czech Republic, and later to the UK where she spent a decade living in the capital London.

It was there that she underwent a spiritual transformation leaving the Christianity of her upbringing behind for a faith few in her native land knew much about.

"Islam showed me God like I had always felt I seen," she told Al Jazeera, describing how the decision prompted a reaction of disappointment from her mother.

Initially heated conversations about Islam, however, turned more conciliatory and eventually Lachowska's mother came to defend her daughter's decision.

"Whenever she is on the phone with some relatives from Poland, if they say something 'anti-Islamic', she bravely argues with them, defends Islam, defends my choice, alhamdulillah (thank God)."

Refugee crisis

Lachowska's relatives are not alone in their negative opinion of Islam and the scale of anti-Muslim feeling in the country was on display at Saturday's Polish independence day march, which drew around 60,000 people, many of them from far-right groups.

One banner carried by protesters showed a trojan horse labeled 'Islam' attempting to enter a fortress marked 'Europe'.

Inside the trojan horse was a stereotyped caricature of Middle Eastern man with a long nose wearing a suicide vest and carrying a banner, which read "I am a refugee".

Chants included a call to "pray for an Islamic Holocaust".

Fears of Islam and an influx of refugees to Poland, similar to what neighbouring EU countries experienced, have been amplified by politicians and sections of the media, according to Konrad Pedziwiatr of the Cracow University of Economics.

"Most of the information people get about Islam and Muslims come from the media and what has been happening over the last few years especially is this tendency to lump together the issues of terrorism, the refugee crisis, and Islam," he said.

"You always had politicians who had strong opinions against Islam, but the refugee crisis helped jack the cause and helped the Law and Justice party come to power."

Poland's largest party came to power in 2015 on a platform of restoring Polish pride and keeping refugees out of the country.

Whenever the issue of Islam and Muslims is there, its always (represented) in a super negative way

KonradPedziwiatr,Cracow University of Economics

Pedziwiatr explained that the rise of Islamophobia in political life had been in tandem with increasingly unfavourable coverage of Muslims in the media, especially state media outlets.

"Whenever the issue of Islam and Muslims is there, it's always (represented) in a super negative way," he said.

The combined effect of villified political and media discourse on Islam, he argued, has brought about a "banalisation" of Islamophobia and led to many Poles holding inaccurate perceptions about the Muslim community.

Muslims make up just 0.1 percent of the Polish population or around 35,000 people, including indigenous Polish Muslims, such as the Tatars, converts, and immigrants from all over the world.

Historic ties

Muslims in Poland have practiced their religion freely for hundreds of years without any issues ... many Poles who are now worried about a Muslim invasion are completely unaware of [this history]

Perspective

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