EUROPE: ISLAMOPHOBIA vs. ISLAMISM

Author : Admin | Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Posted in category Special Analysis
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One of the most worrying trends generated by the economic crisis that broke in Europe several years ago – and that still shows little signs of ending – is the gradual radicalization of the traditional societies, in both directions (left and right), a process that matches the growing trend of radicalization at the level of the immigrant populations, especially of the Muslim faith.

Radicalization in Europe: Muslim and anti-Muslim

1. The radicalization of the European Muslim communities (that has been analyzed in a previous paper) is increasing, with the great “help” of the Islamic fundamentalist organizations that are pressing for more facilities in exchange of the developing immigrant vote power.

a) A worrying phenomenon on the rise is the Muslim enclavization process that began in the late ’70ies, mainly in Europe’s big cities such as London, Paris, Marseille, Brussels and Rotterdam. The first urban Islamic enclaves became the nuclei of no-go zones and Sharia enclaves that spread for the last three decades all across Western Europe.

Recently, in Denmark, a group of Salafists calling themselves “Call to Islam” (Kaldet til Islam) intended to introduce round the clock patrols in the so-called Sharia zones” in the Tingbjerg suburb of Copenhagen, to be followed in Nørrebro and eventually in other areas of Denmark. In the so-called Sharia zones, patrols will approach those who drink, gamble, go to discothèques or engage in other activities seen by the group as running contrary to Islam. Although most of the Muslim associations in Denmark condemned the plans, they acknowledged that “many young people are in a situation in which they are receptive to these views”.

The Danish action followed an “example” from London where – several months before – bright yellow posters were put up in some boroughs saying: “You are entering a Shariah Controlled Zone: Islamic Rules Enforced”. The posters went on to suggest that in the zone, alcohol, gambling, music and concerts, pornography and prostitution, drugs and smoking were prohibited. The campaign was initiated by the extremist Islamist preacher and former lawyer Anjem Choudary, whose “Islam4UK” group has been banned in Britain. London local councils removed the sticker posters.

The consequences of the enclavization process was mentioned in the context of the recent elections for London‘s City Hall, when the leaders of the extreme-right British National Party (BNP) said that their election chances were diminished by the “demographics” since “the real indigenous people in London are being driven out”. They mentioned that there had been “big changes” in the ethnic composition of parts of the city in the last four years and that “there’s lots more African names on the electoral roll in Barking and Dagenham. It’s happened very quickly and it’s very worrying” said a BNP representative.

b) Another worrying consequence is the rising trend of non-Muslim population reverting to Islam: in Britain, the number of Muslim converts recently passed the 100000 mark, according to a survey conducted by an inter-faith group called Faith Matters. The survey revealed that nearly two thirds of the converts were women, more than 70% were white and the average age at conversion was just 27. In Italy, according to the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy (a country with 150000 Muslims with Italian citizenship and one million resident Muslims), about 70000 Italians converted to Islam, a real boom of conversions heightened by the crisis of values but also by the economic crisis in Italy, with a high number of Italians contacting Mosques to study Islam. In France, an estimated 70000 French citizens have converted to Islam in recent years. As in Britain, the majority of converts to Islam in France are young women who say they are disenchanted with materialism. Conversions to Islam are also rife in Austria, the Czech Republic[1], Denmark, Finland, Holland, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal and Spain, according to the Stonegate Institute. In Sweden, there are now at least 5,000 converts to Islam and in Germany, at least 20000 people have converted to Islam in recent years.

c) The process has become more and more difficult to manage by the authorities, since the Muslim groups are more insistent on imposing Sharia to the other groups of population. In Belgium, a Muslim organization called “Sharia4Belgium” has become increasing belligerent in its appeals to fellow Muslims to overthrow the democratic order in the country. In the UK, the Sharia courts were allowed based on the premise that adopting parts of Islamic Sharia law into the British system would help maintain social cohesion.  In fact, this has not happened, and Britain is faced with an intransigent population at odds with the values of a Western nation.

Further complicating the picture is the new wave of anti-Semitism generated by the radical Muslims in Europe. For example, the large numbers of Muslim immigrants into France variously calculated at between 5 and 8 million – over 10% of the French population, the largest number in any European country – have introduced a new strain of anti-Semitism coupled with “anti-Zionism,” or hostility against Israel.

Since 2000, the year of the second Palestinian intifada, synagogues, and Jewish schools have been attacked, and Jewish graves have been desecrated. Unemployed Arab youths, those living in economically depressed areas around cities, the banlieues, intellectuals, and imams have all participated in anti-Semitic behavior and discourse. In 2011, France made clear the perpetrators of anti-Semitic violence: of the 67 arrested for serious attacks on Jews, 45 were of North African descent. As a result of Islamic violence, more than 11,000 Jews left France.

d) Some analysts tend to group such actions and phenomena under the term “islamofascism” – an ideology term – like fascism and communism – designed to appeal to idealistic young people with a utopian future where the world will be “cleansed”. The term “Islamofascism” is meant to draw an analogy between the ideological characteristics of specific Islamist movements and a broad range of European and Arab Nationalist fascist movements of the early 20th century, neofascist movements, or totalitarianism. In particular, this term renders a widely accepted pathogenic feature of fascist belief systems to radical Islam belief systems.

Proponents of the term argue that there are similarities between historical fascism and Islamofascism. Christopher Hitchens[2] made the following comparison: The most obvious points of comparison would be these: Both movements are based on a cult of murderous violence that exalts death and destruction and despises the life of the mind. Both are hostile to modernity (except when it comes to the pursuit of weapons), and both are bitterly nostalgic for past empires and lost glories. Both are obsessed with real and imagined “humiliations” and thirsty for revenge. Both are chronically infected with the toxin of anti-Jewish paranoia (interestingly, also, with its milder cousin, anti-Freemason paranoia). Both are inclined to leader worship and to the exclusive stress on the power of one great book. Both have a strong commitment to sexual repression—especially to the repression of any sexual “deviance”— and to its counterparts the subordination of the female and contempt for the feminine. Both despise art and literature as symptoms of degeneracy and decadence; both burn books and destroy museums and treasures”.

American author and Richard Nixon speechwriter William Safire wrote that the term fulfills a need for a term to distinguish traditional Islam from terrorists: “Islamofascism may have legs: the compound defines those terrorists who profess a religious mission while embracing totalitarian methods and helps separate them from devout Muslims who want no part of terrorist means”.

The term has been repeatedly criticized by many historians and scholars as being simplistic and coined for propaganda, but it is inherently meaningless, since as there is no sense in which jihadists embrace fascist ideology as it was developed by Mussolini or anyone else who was associated with the term. One of the world’s leading authorities on fascism, Walter Laqueur, after reviewing this and related terms, concluded that “Islamic fascism, Islamophobia and antisemitism, each in its way, are imprecise terms we could well do without but it is doubtful whether they can be removed from our political lexicon”.

2. This process is matched by a growing Islamophobia that is one of the main factors that generate an accelerated process of radicalization of the Western European population. As it was clearly seen in the electoral processes in France and Greece, but also elsewhere in Europe, the society is gradually shifting towards the extreme right and becoming more xenophobic since the onset of the economic crisis.

a) In France, the defeat of the right-wing supported François Sarkozy at the 6 May presidential elections was partly due to his own personal mistakes, but, according to the local analysts, also to the fact that he was “sacrificed” by the extreme-right National Front in its strategy aiming to win as many seats as possible in the coming legislative elections. The National Front is taking advantage of a new electoral balance: if their core support is confirmed in the first round of the coming legislative elections, scheduled for June 10, the National Front votes might be present in more than 350 of the over 500 election constituencies for the second round of these elections a week later. Thus, the National Front has a historical window to fulfill its ambition to get at least 15 deputies, the minimum number required to have a parliamentary group at the National Assembly.

For the legislative elections, the National Front has decided to change its name to “Rassemblement Bleu Marine” (the Navy Blue Union), despite the opposition of the father of the movement, Jean-Marie le Pen. But his daughter, current National Front leader Marine Le Pen wants to get the most out of the dynamics of the presidential elections and to “de-Frontize” her candidates, since the name National Front is seen as unpopular. The aim is a future reconstruction of the French right-wing around a more radical position. Her message is significant: “If the left wins, there will be immigration with no control, a furious and crazy recession in the economy; it is suicide for the country and shame in face of Europe with the planned revision to the Treaty of Europe”.

b) The extreme right’s rising process is also to be seen in the current electoral process in Greece, with the sudden appearance of “Hryssi Avgi” (“Golden Dawn”), which won 21 seats in the Parliament in the 6 May general election. It is an extreme right fringe party that uses an ancient Greek symbol resembling the swastika as its logo and has books on Aryan supremacy line shelves at its offices, although it denies the neo-Nazi label. Its leader, Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, is an admirer of Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas who ruled from 1936 to 1941, and he served in the army special forces after being jailed for possessing explosives in the 1970s.

The “Golden Dawn” gains were achieved with the traditional techniques employed by the far right. It stood “ordinary” candidates – members of the public who had been drawn to the party in recent months – for election, and it won some support by imposing vigilante patrols in urban neighborhoods. According to its platform, all illegal migrants should leave the country, as immigrants were stealing Greeks’ jobs and are responsible for a wave of crime, since the country is the first point of entry for many illegal migrants into the European Union (Greece’s immigrants are estimated to be approx. 1.8 million immigrants – legal and illegal – for a population of approx. 10.5 million).

According to the analysts, the success of “Golden Dawn” is a tragedy for migrants and a dead end for their voters who will soon find that they are not a cause of their country’s ills. Left-wing parties are now struggling to find enough common ground to form a government and fresh elections may have to be held.

c) In the Netherlands, early elections were announced for next 12 September, after the extreme-right anti-Islamic Freedom Party, led by Geert Wilders, walked out of the budget negotiations intended to save about 14 billion Euros, mainly by spending curbs and tax increases.

Although it was not a formal part of the coalition government, the Dutch government depended on Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (extreme-right) support on most of the major issues after the 2010 elections, when the party managed to have a significant number of seats in both chambers of the Parliament, and after its leader was cleared, in 2011, of inciting hatred against Muslims over his campaign against Islam in public life[3]. In the current European context, the Freedom Party is already seen as one of the major players in the upcoming elections. The fact that, at the same time, the “Party for Muslim Netherlands” intends to take part at the polls, with real chances of making it to the Parliament[4] – a historic “first” in Europe – is seen as a possible source of more votes for Geert Wilders’ group.

“Counter-Jihad”: giving a new face of the political right

The raising trend of the extremist European political forces is seen as a result of their embracing a strong anti-Islam, indeed an anti-Muslim position, inspired in the so-called “Counter-jihad” philosophy and movement.

The “Counter-jihad” began as an anti-Islamic, islamophobic, far-right intellectual and political current in the 1980s, beginning to rise and spread after the 9/11 attacks. According to one of the main “Counter-jihad” blogs, “the roots of the movement can be traced back to antiquity, since the first violent razzia against Christian civilization in the 7th century, under Mohammed and the early Caliphs”. As to the modern phase, the Counter-jihadists appeal to the writer V.S. Naipaul, who is considered, by them, as the first prominent observer to understand what was at stake, and what lay ahead, as he noticed  the Sunni-Shi’a divide, jihad, the subjugation of women, barbaric Islamic punishments, Sharia-compliant finance, and Islam’s theological indifference to the material well-being of its adherents.

The doctrine’s discourse mixes the concerns about jihad-inspired terrorism with the political issues about immigration to Europe from predominantly Muslim countries. It suggests that there is a threat not just from terrorism carried out by Islamic extremists but from Islam itself.

a) The “Counter-jihad” ideology sustains mainly that Islam is above all a totalitarian political ideology, sugar-coated with the trappings of a primitive desert religion to help veil its true nature. The publicly stated goal of Islamic theology and political ideology is to impose the rule of Islam over the entire world, and make it part of Dar al-Islam, (the “House of Submission”). They also sustain that European leaders allow a Muslim dominance of Europe, whether by intention or not, through multicultural policies and lax immigration laws (one of the best-known theories in this field is Bat Ye’Or’s “Eurabia” [5]). The ideas of the ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement are largely based around the belief that Islam poses a serious threat to Western civilization. Many of its adherents fail to distinguish between the hard-line radical Islamists and the overwhelming majority of Muslims. Immigration and multiculturalism are seen by many as the Trojan Horses through which Islam is gaining a foothold in the West.

According to its activists, the paramount goal of the “Counter-jihad” is “to reverse the encroachment of Sharia in the Western democracies. Sharia contradicts all Western constitutions and is fundamentally incompatible with the rule of law as is commonly understood in Europe, the United States, Canada, and Australia. Because Islam is a unified system embracing religion, political ideology, and jurisprudence, preventing the establishment of Sharia also serves to prevent the Islamization of countries with a substantial Muslim minority.

Thus the goal of the Counter-jihad groups is to stop the spread of Sharia within their own societies. Activists realize that initiatives against Sharia must be mounted on two distinct fronts: at the national level (in the legislatures and judicial systems of individual democratic countries) and in international bodies (the European Union, the United Nations, etc.)[6]”.

Several aspects of the movement’s ideology were identified that may be linked to fascism-like conspiracy theories: Firstly, the establishment of an allegedly continuous and coherent connection between the present-day and the traditional conflict between the Christian West and Muslims; secondly, a claim that mainstream politicians and media in Western countries have become internal enemies or “traitors”, by respectively allowing the creation of multicultural societies and advocating “political correctness”, thus allowing Muslims to settle in Western lands, and enabling them to attack from within. And, lastly, a Nietzcheian, post-Christian worldview where the distinction between good and evil is given little attention to and Christianity is reduced to an identity marker. Consequently, a political mythology is built that draws heavily on the crusades themes.

Some analysts noted a difference between the European and American wings of the movement. The American wing emphasizes an external threat, essentially terrorist in nature. The European wing sees a cultural threat to European traditions stemming from immigrant Muslim populations. While the perceived failure of multiculturalism is shared across much of the political spectrum, the “Counter-jihad” movement is a particular conservative manifestation of this trend. However, a significant development is seen in the growing relationships between European counter-jihadists and some US Christian activist groups (see, for example, the “LaMission221” blog).

b) Among the “Counter-jihad” promoters and ideologists one may find intellectuals as Edward S. May, who is writing under the pseudonym Baron Bodissey, and Bat Ye’Or, whose book on Eurabia and subsequent writings are important to the movement.

“Counter-jihad” begun mainly as an Internet-based movement, centering around blogs such as “Jihad Watch”, “Atlas Shrugs”, Gates of Vienna” and “The Brussels Journal”. Notable figures include the blogs’ editors, respectively Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, Edward S. May and Paul Beliën, as well as writers such as David Horowitz and “Fjordman” (Peder Are Nøstvold Jensen), who was mentioned as a source of inspiration for Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Breivik.

Currently, a “Counter-jihad report”[7] issued by “HOPE not Hate” anti-racism group mentioned, for Europe and the USA,  190 groups identified as promoting an Islamophobic agenda, as well as an “umbrella” organization” called “Stop Islamisation of Nations (SION)”, established in 2012.

Earlier, “Stop Islamisation of Europe” was founded, with affiliate organizations in several European countries, including Denmark, Hungary, Russia, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Poland, Romania, and Sweden.

An inaugural SION summit is planned in New York this year to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11. Speakers are set to include Paul Weston, chairman of the anti-Islamic British Freedom Party (BFP).

The report counted 300 “Counter-jihad” organizations and key individuals, with the UK mentioned as one of Europe’s most active countries, with 22 anti-Islamic groups currently operating. The report also mentioned seven groups in Norway, and another 47 in the US, where a network of neo-conservative, evangelical and conservative organizations attempts to spread “negative perceptions of Islam, Muslim minorities and Islamic culture”.

Among the counter-jihad network’s most influential figures in Europe, the report mentioned Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (known as “Tommy Robinson”), the leader of the English Defense League, but also the more discreet London property tycoon Ann Marchini, whose details surfaced on a leaked list of EDL donors and who is understood to have attended counter-jihad conferences in Scandinavia, Brussels, Zurich and London. She attended a recent meeting where the EDL agreed its electoral pact with the BFP and is also understood to be involved with the UK wing of the Centre for Vigilant Freedom (CVF), and a well-funded US group renamed the International Civil Liberties Alliance (ICLA), which is based in Fairfax, Virginia, and co-ordinates individuals and groups in 20 countries. The ICLA also runs the “Counter-Jihad Europa” website, which acts as a “clearing house for national initiatives to oppose the Islamisation of Europe”.

New anti-Islamic groups continue to emerge. Recently, in Denmark, Yaxley-Lennon held the inaugural meeting of a Europe-wide network of defense leagues. Another new group, founded in Belgium last month, is “Women against Islamisation”, a pan-European network whose launch was addressed by Jackie Cook, the wife of Nick Griffin, chairman of the extreme right British National Party (BNP).

Another development concerns the hardening of links between European and US anti-Islamic organizations, with US blogger Pamela Geller, president of SION, being a key figure driving closer transatlantic relations. The co-founder of SION is Denmark’s Anders Gravers, organizer of “Stop Islamisation of Europe”. US neo-conservative and evangelical groups appear to begin sharing resources with the leagues. Images of EDL demonstrations are already used at fundraising events. Other US and UK links include the Virginia-based anti-Islamic blog, the “Gates of Vienna”.

c) The “Counter-jihad” ideology and the risks it represents were and continue to be highlighted by the mass murder committed in 2011 by the Norwegian right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik and the subsequent trial.

Even if the Counter-jihad representatives were quick to blame and distance themselves from the killing[8], analysts revealed the “Counter-jihad” inspiration of Breivik, who published a manifesto explaining his views. According to “HOPE not Hate”, a quarter of his 1500 page Manifesto includes quotes from other people, the overwhelming majority from “counter-jihadist” people such as the blogger “Fjordman”.  They also revealed the fact that such ideologies may lead not only to violence against the “visible” target (namely the Muslims), but also – as in the case of Breivik, who  bombed Government buildings and shot young members of the ruling Labor Party – against the local establishment that is blamed for encouraging and promoting immigration and multiculturalism.

Some analysts even accused the Norwegian court of allowing Breivik to mount a “political” defense that his atrocities were necessary to protect his society from multiculturalism, socialism and an Islamic takeover. Since this has no bearing on the question of Breivik’s guilt or innocence, allowing such a “defense” serves only Breivik’s twisted purposes – and perhaps those of others who seek to exploit his atrocities, and the horror they have inspired, to advance their own political agendas.

Other risks that were stressed are linked to the way the media are making use of the case to direct their own message to the audience. The “mainstream media” (MSM) journalists were accused that by attempting to link the nonviolent “Counter-jihad” movement to the Norwegian lone killer, they “are helping to legitimate the much larger, better-funded and extremely violent international jihadist movement”.

Such analyses point out to the asymmetry between the “macro political” jihadist movement and its supposed Western, anti-Islamist counterpart, since the jihadist phenomena includes hundreds of terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, thousands of terrorists, millions of people who support the terrorists financially or politically, and several governments – such as Iran, Syria, Pakistan – who support them as well, but Breivik is the only case in the postulated Western, anti-Islamist violence.

Another lesson to be drawn from the Breivik case was seen to be that avoiding social conflict at all costs through politeness, tact, forbearance, conciliation, compromise, and the “co-opting” of malcontents into cooperation with established institutions may succeed instead in exacerbating conflict and permitting it to escalate into extreme violence. Such violent gestures were recently seen at the Breivik trial, when one of the victims’ relatives threw a shoe to the defendant, and another tried to burn himself, thus expressing all the afflicted persons’ anger and frustration about the procedures.

d) As in the case of other recent social phenomena (including the spreading of Islamic fundamentalism), the “Counter-jihad” movement makes intensive use of the power of the Internet and social media that encourages and helps co-ordinate the activities of the groups, an aspect that the authorities, especially the EU ones, find very hard to deal with.

Currently, the “Counter-jihad” movement is seen as becoming a broad spectrum of people and ideas embracing neo-Conservatives, Christian evangelicals, hard-line racists, football hooligans, nationalists, right wing populists and some former leftists. It appears like a loose network of foundations, bloggers, political activists and street gangs. Sometimes they act alone, sometimes they join together. The individuals sit on each other’s boards and the organizations share platforms and co-host events. Many of the key players and organizations have never actually met. Some operate under pseudonyms and others do not exist beyond the internet or a blog site.

By replacing the old racial nationalist politics of neo-Nazi and traditional far right parties, with the language of cultural and identity wars, the “Counter-jihad” movement presents itself as more mainstream and respectable. In countries such as Switzerland, Netherlands and Denmark these new right-wing populist parties, with an anti-Muslim and anti-immigration message, can win support from far broader swathes of the population than the old-style racist parties. Thus, the “Counter-jihad” movement is seen as the new face of the political right in Europe. The old racial nationalism of fascists and racists is replaced by right wing populist parties and movements which make Islam the issue and Muslims the target. It manifests itself in different ways, in different countries, but its underlying message is the same. Sometimes it is focused around the single issue of Islam, but in other situations it becomes interwoven with wider politics of immigration, culture, loss and identity. The fear of Islam is playing an increasingly important role in the political discourse in many countries.

But the ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement is more than just right-wing populist political parties. The bloggers, radio hosts and journalists are increasingly shaping the wider political and media discourse. Their numbers are numerically small but their influence is much bigger. Over the next few years, as economic hardship bites and insecurity breeds fear, the strength and impact of the ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement will only grow.

In fact, it is seen as one of the main factors that fuelled the ascension of the extreme right in Europe, where radical right-wing parties can no longer be ignored in France, Finland, Hungary, Austria, and recently in Greece.

EU response: not matching the risks

The far right political gains seen in some parts of Europe seem to be cashing in on economic hardship and austerity measures, and in that same atmosphere of rising nationalism, Islam continues to spread over the continent.

In fact, the so-called Islamisation of Europe may be seen as a byproduct of the need to import foreign labor to the continent in the decades after the Second World War. The process fed on itself, as liberal immigration laws and “family reunification” policies brought ever-increasing numbers of inassimilable foreigners, most of them Muslims, into Western Europe. The official state policy of multiculturalism allowed newcomers to disappear into ever-growing enclaves, where they could live and function as if they were in their native countries, without any requirement that they integrate into the host population. These new urban ghettos put Muslims into direct conflict with native working-class and lower-middle-class people, who were their immediate neighbors. As immigrants and their descendants became more and more dependent on state benefits — which they drew far in excess of their proportion of the population — their seeming parasitism exacerbated the hostility between the indigenes and the newcomers. To make matters worse, Muslim immigrants were far more likely than the natives to commit violent crimes, and an overwhelming number of their victims were indigenous Europeans. The wealthier and more privileged social groups have been mostly insulated from the worst of these phenomena through residential isolation in well-protected neighborhoods, and by their access to private schooling for their children. Given these ominous trends, the resistance to immigration and Islamisation originated mainly with the working class.

This issue has thrown ordinary citizens of modest means into serious conflict with the elite governing class. The latter do not experience Islamisation in the same way as their less fortunate neighbors, and they continue to place their faith in multiculturalism, “tolerance”, and the ever-elusive process of “integration”. The class disparity is deepened by the political establishment’s dependence on and commitment to mass immigration and multiculturalism. Immigrants now form an all but unified bloc of voters which national and local politicians must assiduously court. There is no going back: any attempt to put the brakes on Muslim expansion would threaten the political, social, and economic order. Thus the only option for the establishment is to “double down”: more immigration, renewed multiculturalism, and increased “tolerance”. This places the political class on a collision course with their own people.

The resistance by the working-class native population — along with parts of the literate middle class — prompted repeated attempts on the part of Western governments, the EU, and the UN to suppress what is variously known as “racism”, “xenophobia”, and “Islamophobia”.

In trying to manage the phenomena, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, posted in October 2010 a blog about how European Muslims are stigmatized by populist rhetoric. “European countries appear to face another crisis beyond budget deficits – the disintegration of human value. One symptom is the increasing expression of intolerance towards Muslims. Opinion polls in several European countries reflect fear, suspicion and negative opinions of Muslims and Islamic culture”, he wrote.

Amnesty International has also shared this concern. In its April 2012 report “Choice and prejudice: discrimination against Muslims in Europe”, Amnesty exposes the impact of discrimination on Muslims. Marco Perolini, Amnesty’s expert on discrimination, says: “Muslim women are being denied jobs and girls prevented from attending regular classes just because they wear traditional forms of dress, such as the headscarf. Men can be dismissed for wearing beards associated with Islam… Rather than countering these prejudices, political parties and public officials are all too often pandering to them in their quest for votes”. Amnesty International has accused France, Belgium and the Netherlands of failing to implement proper laws banning discrimination in employment.

The European Commission has already admitted that EU countries and institutions failed to stem far-right threats. “Let’s face it: neither the EU member states nor the European Commission have taken enough action to face the growing problem of radicalization”, EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmström said at the inauguration of the EU Radicalization Awareness Network last year.

The recent terrorist incident in France, when a 23-year-old Islamic jihadist named Mohamed Merah, a French citizen of Algerian origin inspired by Al Qaeda, killed three French paratroopers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi, are significant for the difficulties of the authorities to cope with the radicalization phenomenon.

In an effort to downplay the incident, Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s “Foreign Minister” (member of the British Labor Party), declared that what happened in Toulouse was “morally equivalent to the accidental war deaths of Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip. The official transcript of her speech had to be later amended, in an effort to blunt the general outrage.

During the campaign, the French ex-president Sarkozy, in an effort aimed at not alienating the Muslim and immigrant vote, tried to “explain” the killing of one of the paratroopers by the fact that “he looked as a Muslim”, which only made things worse. Sarkozy was accused of deliberately presented the victim as a Muslim victim of so-called Islamist violence to lend credibility to the claim that Islamism differs from Islam and is even inimical to Islam. This attitude dates since 2008, when the British government decided to rename Islamic terrorism “anti-Islamic activity” to create the impression that Islamic jihadists are behaving contrary to Islam, rather than acting in the name of it, and many European politicians have adopted this policy.

The extreme-left response

In addition to official state opposition to the criticism of Islamisation and Sharia, a wide range of parties and private organizations arrayed against those who resist Islamisation. A broad coalition of Islamic groups and radical left-wing organizations, especially from the anarchist and anti-globalist Left, is frequently brought to bear against groups that publicly declare their differences with Islam.

In Europe the left-wing side of the coalition often includes rank-and-file members of the Socialists, the Social Democrats, the Communists, Labor, and other parties of the traditional socialist Left. Members of Labor parties have been observed marching arm-in-arm with Islamic groups while some of their fellow demonstrators could be heard in the background chanting “Hamas! Hamas! Jews to the gas!” The Labor Party in Norway strongly backs Hamas, and has suggested that the terrorist group should be supported with Norwegian taxpayers’ money.

Opposition to the Israeli “occupation” and strong support for Hamas and Hezbollah go hand-in-hand with widespread anti-Semitism on the European Left. Opponents of Sharia and mass immigration are generally labeled “neo-Nazis” and “fascists”, but the uncomfortable truth is that anti-Semites are overwhelmingly found on the Socialist Left and efforts to silence the opponents of Sharia and Islamisation often turn violent. In Britain the group “Unite against Fascism” deploys its members in carefully coordinated violence against the English Defence League during EDL demonstrations. On the Continent, a widespread movement known as “Anti-Fascist Action” (AFA, or Antifa) performs much the same function. When anti-Sharia organizations stage rallies and demonstrations, the Antifas come from all over Western Europe to throw rocks, bottles, and fireworks at the demonstrators, and beat up those unfortunates who can be isolated from their respective groups.

According to the Counter-jihad militants, the current atmosphere in much of Western Europe resembles that of the 1930s, when various forms of fascism were on the rise in most European countries. The Antifas serve the same function as the brownshirts in Nazi Germany: they act as an organized mob tasked with quelling all forms of political dissent through targeted violence. Although their violent behavior has no official approval from the state, they may generally act with impunity.

Islam quietly (?) coming from the South East

The radicalization of the Muslim communities in Western Europe and the corresponding process of the extreme-right’s “Islamophobia” rising popularity might be matched by an equally disturbing process in the South-Eastern part of the continent, where analysts observe a surging trend of the Wahhabi-inspired ethnic Albanian Islamist groups.

The recent riots in Skopje (Macedonia), where about 3000 radical Islamists protested on May 4th, demanding the release of the suspected killers of five Macedonians[9], brought to the surface the regional spread of Wahhabism. The rioters’ slogans betrayed the goal to misuse Islam to create an ethnically pure state, and they displayed not only the Albanian but also the Jihad black flag.

The Islamists in the region are increasingly organized, using social networks like Facebook in many cities throughout Macedonia, and their leaders are swiftly moving in the neighboring Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania.

Security experts estimate that there are some 5000 battle hardened radical Islamists from the wars in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Kosovo and Macedoniа, but the number of Wahabbis followers is far greater, estimated at approx 100000 Wahhabis only in BiH.

According to local analysts, the Islamic surge might be intended to destabilize Macedonia prior to the NATO summit in Chicago later this month, since the country is trying to obtain the NATO membership, notwithstanding Greece’s veto.

The West Balkan countries with Muslim populations (Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro) are strongly supported in their effort by Turkey’s AKP[10] government that decided to strongly urge the allies, at the Chicago summit, not to slow the process down, but make commitments that the invitations to join the alliance would be offered at the next summit. The recent visit of the Turkish foreign minister in Sarajevo also had the topic on the agenda.

Turkey’s diplomatic offensive is seen as continuously seeking to impose itself as a “protector” of the Muslims in the Balkans, Eastern Europe and around the Black Sea (“Karadeniz”), as the analysts noted the recent visits of Ahmet Davutoğlu to Ukraine and Moldova, where he made special “stops” to talk to the Crimean Tatar and, respectively Moldovan Gagauz minorities’ organizations.

The observers also noted the fact that most of the visits of the AKP government representatives’ in the area included in the agenda mosque-building projects. Such a project was recently discussed in Romania by the mayors of Ankara (Melih Gorcek) and Bucharest. In Bulgaria, Turkey’s government directorate on religion announced a donation of approx. 6 Mln Euros and the design for the construction of what is to become the largest mosque in the country. The mosque will be located in the southern Bulgarian city of Kardzhali, which hosts a large ethnic Turkish population. It will be the most expensive public building in the entire district, and will be able to fit 1500 people. It is already called a “super-mosque”, since it will be visible from any point in the city of Kardzhali.

Another interesting development is the joint meeting announced for 18 May, in Bulgaria, of the Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Qatari PM Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani and the coust country PM Boyko Borisov, to discuss “trade, energy and transport issues, as well as specific projects and investments”.

In this context, there was no surprise that Turkish President Abdullah Gül’s recent visit to the Netherlands (to mark 400 years of bilateral relations) was strongly opposed and criticized by Party of Freedom’s leader Geert Wilders. In his turn, Abdullah Gül took the opportunity of the visit to launch a warning against the use of extremist views in politics. “Some anti-Semitic and xenophobic ideas in Europe had results that could never have been imagined before World War II. So, if these ideas are misused for political purposes, they can be dangerous, they can spread quickly and cannot be brought under control…We see such instances in countries where Islamophobia is seen. So, everyone has to be careful”.

The Schengen project: a possible victim of the radicalism

Since the increasing radicalization of the growing Muslim communities in Europe, as well as the surge of the extreme-right groups are seen as being strongly influenced by the migration (legal as well as illegal), analysts noted in the recent months increasing mentions of the European political leaders about the necessity of updating, if not altogether renouncing to the Schengen agreement.

The 1985 Schengen Agreement, named after the Franco-German-Luxembourgian border town where it was signed, created a European area, currently consisting of 26 countries, where people can travel freely with no internal border controls. It is considered the most tangible realization of the European Union’s unification process.

Recently, former French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé declared publicly that France considers pulling out of the Schengen zone in order to reclaim control over its own borders. Juppé said this was “an intellectual revolution” which had to be made. Hans-Peter Friedrich, the German Interior Minister, also spoke about amending the Schengen Treaty to be able to reinstall border controls between EU member states.

A meeting of the EU Interior Ministries that has on its agenda partial cancellation of the Schengen Agreement started in Luxembourg on April 26. It is especially interesting that the initiative comes from the pillars of the EU – Germany and France. Before the negotiations in Luxembourg, Interior Ministers of France and Germany, Hans-Peter Friedrich and Claude Gean, put the radical proposal on the agenda. They suggested amending the text of the Schengen agreement, granting the right to any individual country to introduce border controls for up to 30 days. The Ministers referred to the “inability of some members of the European Union to protect their borders due to the influx of illegal immigrants”.

More or less, such an agreement was working even before: the authorities of Latvia and Estonia periodically closed the border to prevent the Russian-speaking activists from taking part in the anti-fascist actions in the neighboring state. The German state of Bavaria has kept the passport control at the border with the Czech Republic, due to the special status of the Bavarians in Germany and historically tense relations with the Czechs.

The “Arab Spring” has made thousands of people from Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt to head for Europe in search of better life. The name of the Italian island of Lampedusa that sheltered refugees has become infamous. Europe also sees refugees from Africa and ​​ Asia. They enter the EU through Greece, and through the Spanish-owned Canary Islands. Greece undertook to even build a wall along the border with Turkey to stop the flow of illegals.

In 2011, during the “Arab spring”, another crisis struck the Schengen Agreement, since France did not allow in the Lampedusa refugees, considering them “economic migrants”. Taking advantage of the moment, Denmark regained permanent border controls with its neighbors. Exhortations from the EU had no effect on the Danes. Bavarian authorities have threatened to regain control of the border with Austria. Switzerland had the same thoughts around the perimeter of its borders.

At a meeting of the European Central Bank in Barcelona on May 2-4, Spain temporarily closed the border to the country to keep the anti-globalists out. Poland will do the same during the European Soccer Championship. The principle of the “Europe without borders” seems to be a thing of the past and more and more European politicians are speaking about the “Schengen crisis”.

According to some analysts, this should be food for thought for Romania and Bulgaria, since one of the reasons for which the EU continues to matter in the two countries is that they still feel distant from the euro-zone crisis and might not be aware of the fact that they are learning to follow rules just as other countries have begun to mistrust them.

This is partly because of the euro crisis: countries such as the Netherlands and Finland that have been the most skeptical about bail-outs have taken the toughest line on Schengen. In many cases, populist parties have emerged to exploit anxiety over both issues. The new mood in the core also reflects an increasing unhappiness with the EU’s variation in political cultures.

On the other hand, the whole process is marked by the European Union facing economic crisis, fear of more immigration from Africa and growing nationalistic fervor among member countries. According to Heather Grabbe, director of the Open Society Institute in Brussels, “it is a moment of extreme conservatism, and Romania and Bulgaria are suffering from that”.

Geography is yet another factor in the lack of enthusiasm for letting Bulgaria and Romania into the free-travel zone. There is the fear that letting Bulgaria and Romania into Schengen would provide the many illegal immigrants in troubled Greece with a passport-free land crossing to the rest of the EU. Greece has done a poor job of controlling the flow of immigrants and illicit goods. In recent years, officials have estimated the influx of immigrants to Greece to be around 80,000 a year.

Towards a “clash of cultures” ?

While the Schengen agreement is indeed in a crisis and needs adapting to the new phenomena, focusing the whole debate on restricting the free movement of people and goods between European states – which would mean rolling back the whole process of European integration – is seen by many analysts as an attempt to avoid confronting the problems of the social difficulties generated by the Islamic immigration process and the risks of further promoting “diversity”.

With an estimated 44 million Muslims in Europe – about six percent of the continent’s total population – and the figure is expected to grow to 58 million by 2030 – a mix of immigration, economic woes and the threat of Islamist extremism has swirled into a perfect storm of problems in Europe.

The reverberations of radical Islam have been felt widely with security services thwarting many terrorist plots on the continent. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and controversy over Muhammad cartoons have made some Muslims feel the West is at war with Islam.

Far-right parties in Austria, Britain, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland have all made significant gains in recent years. Some have pushed for caps on immigration. Other measures – such as France’s ban on face veils and Switzerland’s moratorium on minaret construction – have directly affected Muslims.

Islam is regarded as the biggest threat to Europe by many Europeans, especially since people feel that the minority is dangerously growing. This generated a backlash taking the form of growing support for the far-right.

In France, during the recent electoral campaign, both the socialist candidate and the former president have been wooing the supporters of Marine le Pen. In Britain the recent news that the extreme right English Defense League has joined hands with the British Freedom Party (BFP) is going to have political implications, since the BFP’s main target is the Muslim community. It wants to ban the niqab, stop the building of new mosques and Islamic schools and outlaw Sharia, including Islamic finance. In focusing on Islam and the threat of “Islamist extremists” they can have a bigger appeal than the simple racist agenda of the BNP. With political trust at an all-time low, this far right alliance may take advantage of voter apathy in national and local politics to advance their cause.

Analysts already are warning about “an incipient clash of cultures” and about profound consequences of an eventual terrorist action in Europe, that may even lead to the risk of “Balkanizing” Western Europe.

On one hand, Bat Ye’or[11] sustains that such a clash might be favored by the fact that “rivalries for power, ambitions, ideology, oppose Eurocrats to those they disdainfully call «racist, populist, xenophobic» opponents to their globalist Islamophile ideology… Europe, while claiming to defend human rights has, in effect, adopted these principles and obeys a fundamental law of “dhimmitude”: dhimmis are forbidden on pain of death to propagate ideas considered hostile to Islam. The dhimmi attitude that has developed among European intellectuals, politicians, and the clergy requires the Western public to conform to one of the basic rules of dhimmitude: the express prohibition on Christians and Jews to criticize Islamic history and doctrine. This means that Sharia law has been imposed on Europeans by their own dhimmi leaders in their outreach to Islam”.

On another hand, a similar fear is to be seen from the Muslim side, where moderate leaders warned about the continuation of the ideological conflict, and one of them admitted that “we are on the brink of many more operations in the West. This is going to be very, very nasty … The Muslims engaged in jihad are not going to stop. People will declare jihad in Britain and America”.

***

The risks for the near future need to carefully assessed, since both the Islamist and the extreme-right groups have common features that make the compromise almost impossible.

Each ideology is seen by its followers as the absolute truth and no doubts and no differentiations are allowed. Both ideologies are rooted in an extreme simplification of reality, allowing them to easily decide who is right and who is wrong. Nuance would only endanger their simple truths. In both, totalitarian thought is rooted in the willingness to promote one’s own opinion with violence if necessary.

Both groups are united in their desire to create a pure world, and each group is convinced that it represents the only correct worldview and seeks to exclude those who don’t share it. The world as it currently exists is bad and must be changed. Both “extremes” are united by a yearning for purity, a desire to establish homogeneous societies – united either by religious beliefs or ideological convictions. Any discrepancies between their view of the world and reality tend to be explained by way of conspiracy theories which are also useful for explaining their own failures.

In the final analysis, both extremists groups are united in their aspiration to do away with democracy and the freedoms it guarantees.


[1] In the Czech Republic, according to the national police´s security report for 2011, the number of Czech repeat offenders converting to Islam in prison increased the previous year, and it was necessary to monitor their possible radicalization.

[2] Quoted from Wikipedia.org

[3] Geert Wilders antagonized the Muslim world by calling for a ban on the Koran, which he likened to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and he is the author of a controversial film called Fitna (Arabic for “strife”), which juxtaposes the Koran with 9/11 and other atrocities.

[4] The number of adherents of Islam in the Netherlands is approximately one million people (out of 16), or over six percent, and the Parliament threshold is 5 percent.

[5] An analysis of Bat Ye’Or’s ideas was done in a previous paper (“Europe vs. Eurabia”)

[6] As mentioned on the “Gates of Vienna” blog

[7]The Counter-jihad Movement – Anti-Muslim hatred and the ideas that inspired Anders Behring Breivik

[8] It was said, among other things, that a “close reading of his manifesto suggests” that Breivik wanted to discredit and undermine the counterjihad movement’s dedication to democratic change to further Breivik’s “dreamed-for revolution” as the only alternative. (Daniel Pipes, quoted in www.wikipedia.org )

[9] On 1 May, police arrested 20 people, including radical Islamists who reportedly fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan, as suspects in the murders

[10] The connections between AKP and Islamist groups in Europe, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Milli Gorus have been analyzed in another paper

[11] Quoted from www.geertwilders.nl

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