I have written about racism, xenophobia, and islamophobia in Poland on these pages and elswhere previously. Sadly, I have to reurn to this topic again...
Wolf-Ram-23 excercises .... preparing for a terrorist attack
On April 17-19, 2023 the Polish anti-terrorist police (in collaboration with the FBI) held a series of exerces aimed at preparing law enforcement to react to a possible terorist attack. Some 2,600 law enforcement representatives took part in the exercises. On April 18, the anti-terrorist attacks took place in Poznań, where I am currently conducting research ....
Outrage in the Muslim community
The police published photos from the exercises that sparked a lot of controversy. One photo shows a woman wearing a hijab. Holding an imitation detonator in her hand, she played the role of a terrorist.
The local Muslim community was outraged. The message was clear: a Muslim woman in a headscarf is a potential terrorist. It's Islamophobia. In a civilized country, police heads would roll, said a prominent Muslim who has lived in Poland for 34 years.
A storm in a teacup
Andrzej Borowiak from the Wielkopolska police downplayed these allegations. "It's a storm in a teacup." In the same scenario, a man in a wheelchair had an explosive device, but no one accuses us of stigmatizing people with disabilities, he said. In turn, the spokesman for the police, Mariusz Ciarka, explained that the exercise scenario was developed in consultation with the FBI, among others and was based on world events. – The situation in Poznań faithfully recreated the attack carried out in Turkey. Searching for any other subtext is unjustified, he assured.
Migrant advocates responded
Migrant Info Poin (MIP) issued a statement condemning the portrayal of a terrorist as a Muslim woman. The post on their Facebook page said in part: "Such practices contribute to perpetuating stereotypes and further stigmatizing people from other cultural circles in our city and country. This is not accidental - the actress playing the terrorist was intentionally dressed and characterized in a specific way, and the Wielkopolska Police also shared photos on social media.
❗️ Fighting against these types of stereotypes should be one of the main tasks of government and local authorities, but in this case, the police instrumentally used a harmful stereotype to carry out their tasks. Instead of promoting integration, we see the generation of further divisions.
❌ We do not agree with such actions. We continue to support the Muslim community, as well as all people with migration and refugee experiences living in our city and country."
Several other organizations joined MIP in condemning this incident, including
Poznań Wolny Od Nienawiści, Ośrodek Monitorowania Zachowań Rasistowskich i Ksenofobicznych, Miasto Poznań, Poznańska Garażówka, Muzułmańskie Centrum Kulturalno Oświatowe, and Lepszy Świat.
I happened to pass by as the exercises were unfolding ... There were lots of people outside the cordoned off area waiting for the trams that were obviously not coming. It struck me that everybody was upset about the stopped traffick, but nobody batted an eye seeing the supposed terrorist... Lack of sensitivity? or islamophobia?