In September 2019, a series of violent anti-immigrant riots broke out in South Africa. Dozens of shops were burned or looted, at least eleven people died, and hundreds more were injured. These attacks were prompted by xenophobic and racist posts on social media, which claimed that immigrant shopowners cheated customers, stole jobs from locals, and defrauded the country.
Other causes of the riots included high rates of poverty, soaring unemployment, extreme inequality, and unfair policing. In fact, “the police are part and parcel of [the riots]. They have been harassing migrants for months, using bad language, beating, taking goods,” said Amir Sheikh, an immigrant who lost his business. Many shop owners had to flee from men with crowbars, sticks, knives, and sometimes guns. After the president of South Africa gave a speech asking for the violence to stop, the number of attacks dwindled. However, South African businesses in other countries like Zambia and Namibia began to be looted in retaliation.
In 2004, a Dutch filmmaker was murdered after producing a film that criticized Islam’s treatment of women. The idea of a burqa ban in the Netherlands was proposed soon after the incident. In July 2019, the Partial Ban on Face-Covering Clothing Act went into effect. It included helmets and such but prominently featured burqas, clothes that cover everything except the eyes. However, around 150-400 conservative Islamic women in the Netherlands wear burqas. They will be unable to continue this practice in government buildings, schools, hospitals, and on public transportation.
Many prominent people in the Netherlands oppose this law, though, such as the mayor of Amsterdam and officials in Rotterdam and Utrecht. Police officers have also stated that enforcing the law is not a major priority. If they receive reports of a burqa on a bus, they won’t arrive on the scene for at least half an hour, they won’t force the bus to wait, and they won’t chase it. Public transportation officers themselves say that they have an obligation to transport people. Hospitals and emergency services add that it is their responsibility to help those in need, regardless of their clothes.
On August 25, 2018, a young German-Cuban man identified only as Daniel H. was found dead in Chemnitz, Germany with multiple stab wounds. Two men in their twenties, a Syrian and an Iraqi, were arrested. In response, crowds 5,000-strong marched down the central street, raising their arms in Nazi salutes and chanting “Close the borders!” and “This is our city!” They demanded that immigrants leave Germany. About 1,000 counter-protesters mobilized and shouted, “Nazis out!”
Acts of violence began occurring. Bottles were thrown at riot police, and neo-Nazis attacked people on the street who looked like they might be of foreign origin. However, friends of Daniel H. said they were shocked that his death had been turned into a political weapon, and they pointed out that he was of Cuban descent. “It’s sad that in the media they’re just saying that a German has died, and that’s why all the neo-Nazis and hooligans are out,” said a woman who described herself as Daniel H.’s best friend. “The media should describe who died, and what skin color he had, because I don’t think they’d be doing all this if they knew.”
Roma, sometimes referred to as gypsies, are a large ethnic group in Europe. However, medieval stereotypes claim that Roma are thieves and child-stealers, which has led to discrimination. In March 2019, rumors spread on French social media about a white van used by Roma in attempted kidnappings. Though they were false, they sparked violence in a suburb of Paris, France. On March 25, fifty people armed with sticks and knives attacked a Roma camp. In a separate incident, some Roma were chased and had to hide in a supermarket to escape beatings. In another Paris suburb, twenty people attacked a couple in a white van.
Police continually stated that there were no kidnapping attempts involving a white van or Roma people. They arrested twenty people in connection to the attacks. The French government also condemned the fake news spreaders on social media and reminded everyone that instigators could be fined hundreds of dollars. A Roma spokesperson told reporters that they were “constantly scared.” They were “not sleeping because [they were] keeping guard all night.”