The Online Intersection among Islamophobia, Populism, and Hate Speech: An Italian Perspective

In: Journal of Religion, Media and Digital Culture
Alessandra Vitullo Research Fellow, Dept. Social Science, Universita degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca, Milan, Italy,

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Online radical Islam is a topic widely studied by scholars and notoriously discussed among non- experts as well (; ; ). Because of its intrinsic characteristics (i.e. accessibility, anonymity, or users’ identity dissimulation), the internet has always been a useful tool for propagandists of Islamic fundamentalism (; ; ). However, in the last decade, studies have questioned the real importance and magnitude of Islamic radicalization online (). In fact, while scholars were focused on observing digital Islamic radicalization, a galaxy of new forms of extremism was growing online (; ) that no longer made Islam an exceptional case study. Today, Muslim people are one of the groups most aggressively targeted by extremist, intolerant, violent, and radical discourses (; Amnesty International, ). Anti-Muslim hate speech has spread online throughout Europe and the United States, reinforced by the propaganda and political discourse of populist right-wing parties (; ). This paper introduces some large-scale action-research projects developed in Europe and Italy in the last three years (2016–2019) and aims to reconstruct the most updated Islamophobia state of the art in terms of numbers, characteristics, and phenomenology from the offline to the online context.

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