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The Rise of the Far Right and Islam

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The Far Right is spreading throughout Europe and becoming an influential force within politics and wider society.[2] 2014 was the first time that three Far Right parties came first in the EU nation-wide elections, namely the Danish Freedom Party (DFP), the French National Front (FN) and UK Independence Party (UKIP).[3] Other European countries are also seeing a rise in their Far Right movements, such as the Jobbik in Hungary, which became the country’s third largest party in 2010. Another example is the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), Switzerland’s largest political party since 1999 which peaked in 2007, which successfully launched a campaign in 2009 to ban building any new mosque minarets.[4]

Poster, with the slogan "To Create Security," derived from the SVP's 2007 proposal of a new law, which would authorize the deportation of criminal foreigners.[5]

Poster, with the slogan “To Create Security,” derived from the SVP’s 2007 proposal of a new law, which would authorize the deportation of criminal foreigners.[5]

However, it is important not to be sensationalist when discussing these issues. As Mudde argues, provocative headlines – such as the far right are “sweeping” Europe and causing an “earthquake” in politics – need to be carefully assessed.[6] It is true the Far Right is gaining ground but its success is varied across the EU. For example, the increase in Far Right members in the European elections will make little difference unless they unite – a rare possibility.[7] Far Right parties have not enjoyed the same level of success in Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Portugal, and Greece. Even in Switzerland, the popular SVP lost a few seats in the 2011 election.[8] On a social level, Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) formed in Dresden initially drew crowds of 25,000, but the movement has now dwindled; recent marches now only gathered 2,000 people. Their first march in the UK was dwarfed by a counter-protest four times larger.[9]

Far Right Discourse

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There are variations within Far Right parties,[10] however, broadly speaking, they have three distinct features:

  • Populism (plain-speaking, anti-elite, anti-establishment)
  • Authoritarianism
  • “Nativism” – combination of nationalism and xenophobia based on national superiority.[11]

Far Right parties portray themselves as representing the ‘man on the street’ against the elite, who have ‘betrayed the purity of the nation’ by opening its borders. Despite some common overarching features, each Far Right party is a product of its own environment and narrative of history. For example, anti-Semitism is a significant feature in the Baltic States (Bulgaria and Romania), Hungary and Poland. These states were not part of the post-war Western European process of remembering the Holocaust and the horrors of aggressive nationalism. (This is one of the reasons why the Charlie Hebdo magazine in France could not print anti-Semitic images with impunity. Also, Geert Wilders takes a pro-Israel stance to avoid being classified as anti-Semitic.) Anti-Roma sentiment is also strong in Bulgaria, Italy, France and Czech Republic, and is particularly violent in Hungary.[12] Homophobia is also a salient feature in more conservative Eastern European countries.[13]

Another common feature particular to this time is the rejection of the EU. Anti-EU sentiment is linked to the idea of a powerful sovereign nation against the tide of opening the borders for Europeanisation and Globalisation. But while the economic crisis is a factor in the success of Far Right parties, many argue that it is not a direct correlation. These parties were gaining popularity before the crisis, and even some prosperous countries – such as Austria, Norway, Denmark and Switzerland – still see a rise in the Far Right. Although the majority of Far Right supporters come from working-class backgrounds, the educated middle-class are now also joining the ranks, driven less by economic factors and more about preservation of national identity.[14]

The Far Right and Islam

Immigration has always been a central issue in Far Right discourse. Immigrants are seen as threats, as they drain state resources and are a sign of decay that is undermine the national fabric. However, as Betz claims, the discussion has shifted its focus to the meaning of integration and the type of immigrant. Now they claim that certain groups are inherently incompatible to modern liberal values and therefore can never integrate. Far Right groups, Ignazi points out, have borrowed elements of liberal thought as a tool against Muslims. To this end, we see Geert Wilders claiming that he is not an Islamaphobe, but rather Muslims are in fact the source of intolerance.[15] This feeds into the ‘moderate Muslim vs. radical Muslim’ discourse where the ‘good Muslim’ is integrated (read ‘assimilated’) and the ‘bad Muslim’ should be targeted. Framing the argument in this way is a tactic to deflect the label of racism.

It is clear that Islam is now the new enemy and that, as Jean Yves-Camus states, “racist rhetoric today [has] an undeniable Islamaphobic dimension.”[16] The Forum of Muslim Youth and Student Organisations (FEMYSO) report outlines six different arguments posed by Far Right groups against Islam:[17]

Untitled3One of the by-products of Far Right Islamaphobic discourse is the growing relevance of Christian narratives and motifs. Jose Pedro Zuquete argues this is directly related to the increased perception of Muslims and Islam as a threat. It is the narrative of embattled ‘Christian Europe’ under attack by Islamic Shariah Law, and the high birth rate of Muslims. Demonstrations against mosques and minarets throughout Europe are about preserving the ‘Christian heritage’ of the country. At a protest against the burqa, a European MP for the Northern League declared that ‘Islam is a dangerous virus, and we must stop it from spreading, because Padania must remain Christian.[18] In 2006, the Far Right party in Austria released a political advertisement showing the cross on top of the oldest church in the country being replaced by an Islamic crescent.[19] Probably one of the most thought-provoking comments is by a member of the Far Right Flemish Party Vlaams Belang who said, “Many of us are not ‘believers’ in the religious meaning of the word, but we share the moral values of Christianity. They are the foundation of European civilization.[20] More recently, at the PEGIDA protest, people held up the German flag in the shape of a cross.

PEGIDA protest December 2014.[21]

PEGIDA protest December 2014.[21]

Strategies Against The Far Right

The Bertelsmann Foundation in Germany analysed strategies against the Far Right in eleven European countries. Also Professor Guibernau –one of the leading academics in this area – similarly concludes the following:[22]

  • Mainstream parties have ignored the Far Right casting them aside as extreme. But they must take these issues seriously and tackle the public’s fears about the concerns they raise surrounding immigration, the economy, labour market competition and cultural diversity. An alternative positive narrative needs to be created and substantiated.
  • The public’s confidence must be boosted in mainstream politics with less bureaucracy and more transparency.
  • There must be zero tolerance for racism and xenophobia; it should lead directly to a ban from important political positions. Hate crimes must also be reported and given greater awareness and a strong response.
  • The media should be encouraged to play a role in exposing the extreme views of the Far Right.

 

[1] http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/08/18/232961.html

[2] To see a detailed list of Far Right success throughout Europe, please see Robin Wilson and Paul Hainsworth. 2012. Far Right Parties And Discourse In Europe: A Challenge For Our Times. Brussels: European Network Against Racism (ENAR). pp. 6-7.

[3] http://proigual.org/the-far-right-and-the-2014-european-elections-in-7-points/

[4] http://www.policy-network.net/pno_detail.aspx?ID=4317&title=The-SVP-A-success-story-of-right-wing-populism; http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/30/world/europe/30swiss.html

[5] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6980766.stm; http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/577185/Swiss-Peoples-Party

[6] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/05/30/the-far-right-in-the-2014-european-elections-of-earthquakes-cartels-and-designer-fascists/

[7] Academics note the fragmentation between different Far Right parties across Europe. While they are all clear on what they reject, they lack a coherent plan for the future. One such example is point 7: http://proigual.org/the-far-right-and-the-2014-european-elections-in-7-points/

[8] Robin Wilson and Paul Hainsworth. 2012. Far Right Parties And Discourse In Europe: A Challenge For Our Times. Brussels: European Network Against Racism (ENAR). p. 7.

[9] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/28/newcastle-pegida-unites-far-right-march-islam-protest

[10] Carter divides Far Right groups in five categories: neo-Nazi, neo-fascist, authoritarian xenophobic, neo-liberal xenophobic and neo-liberal populist. The latter three are the most successful. Carter, Elisabeth (2005), The Extreme Right in Western Europe: Success or Failure? (Manchester: Manchester University Press) p. 13 – 63.

[11] Robin Wilson and Paul Hainsworth. 2012. Far Right Parties And Discourse In Europe: A Challenge For Our Times. Brussels: European Network Against Racism (ENAR). p. 3.

[12] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/wakeup-call-for-hungary-as-neonazis-jailed-for-attacks-that-killed-six-roma–including-fouryearold-boy-8748945.html

[13] For more detail about the differences between the parties see Robin Wilson and Paul Hainsworth. 2012. Far Right Parties And Discourse In Europe: A Challenge For Our Times. Brussels: European Network Against Racism (ENAR). pp. 11-14.

[14] https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/montserrat-guibernau/migration-rise-of-radical-right

[15] Robin Wilson and Paul Hainsworth. 2012. Far Right Parties And Discourse In Europe: A Challenge For Our Times. Brussels: European Network Against Racism (ENAR). p. 12.

[16] Cited in José Pedro Zúquete (2008) The European extreme-right and Islam: New directions?, Journal of Political Ideologies, 13:3. p. 322. [It is important to note that this is not an entirely recent phenomenon. In 1990 the French National Front magazine dedicated an issue to the ‘incompatibility’ of Islam with European culture and ‘a danger for Europe.’]

[17] A. EASAT-DAAS and S. OUNISSI. 2013. European Muslim Youth and the Rise of the Far-Right Anti-Muslim Narrative. Brussels: Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organisations (FEMYSO). p. 14.

[18] José Pedro Zúquete (2008) The European extreme-right and Islam: New directions?, Journal of Political Ideologies, 13:3. pp. 324-7.

[19] http://onislam.orkiservers.com/english/news/europe/426358

[20] José Pedro Zúquete (2008) The European extreme-right and Islam: New directions?, Journal of Political Ideologies, 13:3. pp. 324-7.

[21] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/germany-antiislam-protests-17000-march-on-dresden-against-islamification-of-the-west-9941656.html

[22] L Bjurwald. 2010. Paper 6: The 
Extreme 
And 
Far
 Right 
In 
Europe. Policy Papers. FORES. pp. 28-31.

 

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Hira Amin is a British muslimah of Pakistani descent. Despite originally being a mathematics graduate, after a few years inside the corporate world, she decided to change paths drastically to studying history. She completed her Masters in the History of International Relations and is currently undertaking her PhD at the University of Cambridge. Her focus areas are South Asian Muslims and their migration to the UK, Islam’s interaction with Western imperialism and modernity, feminism and 20th century international history.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. John Howard

    April 8, 2015 at 12:30 AM

    You can demand the banning and jailing of these people but it will not make their concerns go away. As this woman well knows over 60% of British believe that Islam is incompatible with their nation’s values Are you going to incarcerate these people? Many actions by Muslims have brought this about

    • Andrew Purcell

      April 8, 2015 at 10:58 AM

      John Howard. I did not see any mention in this article of jailing anyone. There is a call for a ban on giving positions of authority to those who hold these beliefs. That is called an election in most parts of the world.
      You claim that the author knows very well that “over 60% of British believe that Islam is incompatible with their nation’s values”. 60% of British what? Or British who? 60% of British Islamaphobes? I’d buy that claim, but even so that number seems high. I don’t think I could get 60% of any random survey to agree that Texas is hot in August.

      • John Howard

        April 8, 2015 at 6:35 PM

        The implication is very clear. How can you ban someone from office if they are elected to that position by a majority? Polls are taken very regularly on this topic and they are subject to the same conditions that all polls are taken and the results are consistently showing an upward trend on this not just here in the UK but across Europe. Why do you think the rise of right wing parties is growing as fast as they have in the last few years? British what? you ask – That would be non Muslim British wouldn’t you agree? After all they are still the vast majority of people still in the UK when I last looked. They are not just whites if you want to bring the race card into it ( I am just getting in first here) but among Chinese, Indians and other ethnic groups as well)
        I don’t know anything about Texas and its agreement about its temperature but I am pretty sure I could get 100% agreement here that it’s cold in January in the UK. Perhaps Texans are more reptilian than the rest of us and don’t feel the heat like we do. I haven’t met too many Texans over here but the ones I have met have all agreed about our cold weather

      • Mark Citadel

        April 9, 2015 at 4:57 PM

        “There is a call for a ban on giving positions of authority to those who hold these beliefs. That is called an election in most parts of the world.”

        hahahhahaha. funniest thing I’ve read all day. Is that an election in Stalin’s Russia or what?

        The far right have learned from our mistakes in the past. This time, we will not fail to destroy your vile little world.

      • Sun

        April 21, 2015 at 4:51 PM

        No. People with the beliefs of destroying Western Civilization by bringing in these groups should be banned. Europeans as a racial, cultural, ethnic groups, have THE RIGHT to PRESERVE their countries. It’s funny how these countries are so “racist” but Arab/Muslims keep coming…

        IT’S ALMOST AS IF THE COUNTRIES THEY CREATE ARE INFERIOR.

  2. red

    April 9, 2015 at 4:57 PM

    Fear is the Key.
    The majority live in fear of Islam, look around the World.
    Getting closer to Home everyday.

  3. Hira Amin

    April 10, 2015 at 3:43 AM

    Salaam (peace)

    The point was that society should have a zero tolerance policy to xenophobia in general, in a similar way it has a zero tolerance policy towards politicians who deal in corruption, sex abuse etc. (albeit now this happens ostensibly i.e. when it gets leaked!)

    The issue of banning political members on the basis of their actions or views is definitely not a concept only in Stalin Russia! Democracy, like secularism is practiced slightly different across Europe and America, and rule of banning certain members exemplifies this. A funny example is that UKIP actually bans members of the BNP for joining their party as they deem as ‘racist’! Andre Lampitt was also expelled for his racist views. Obviously they have an agenda but the point is that it is possible to be banned in British politics without obstructing the values of liberal democracy.

    Similarly, European states and America adopt a variety of policies when dealing with racist parties – it is a balancing act between freedom of expression and anti-racism. The United Nations’ International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination act (ICERD) holds fast to freedom of expression but also prohibits organisations that incite racial discrimination. The Netherlands also banned a radical party in 1998. Each state deals with their internal issues in accordance with their history, which is why it is no surprise that Germany in fact has the strictest laws in this issue.

    But the main point is not banning alone – that will make matters worse as it drives the movement underground. Zero tolerance of xenophobia *MUST* be coupled with mainstream parties tackling the issues Far Right parties raise head on and providing alternative narratives alongside the other points made in the last paragraph of the article.

    Red – the answer to why Far Right parties enjoy some success in the 21st century is a whole another article! ☺ If you are interested, I would recommend Arjun Appadurai’s work on this topic. He theorises this in a lot of depth.

    • RED

      April 10, 2015 at 11:18 AM

      You can talk to the far right you know, i sometimes do, though I do not belong to any group.
      Generally most folks see Islam running amok in the world. everyday it gets closer to the west and seems a threat. People in the west never see the followers of Islam protesting about the Extreme elements of Islam. They see Barbarism in its extreme and now see people who live in local neighbourhoods leaving to join IS.
      I believe like you that the rise of the far right should be halted,but you need to do something to halt the actions that kick them off. I think it is a two way obligation.

    • Sun

      April 21, 2015 at 4:55 PM

      “Far-Right”=anyone who stands up for their own group/people. Excludes others and wants to preserve their societies. Ha ha.

      If that’s “far-right” I wonder what I consider far-right would be labeled to you.

      I really don’t think you know what far-right would actually entail. If you keep pushing, demanding that our countries are for you and your religion and cultural ways of life (and to destroy the racial makeup of our countries) even people like won’t be able to stop the REAL far-right.

      Go live in your own countries. Leave us Westerners ALONE.

  4. Marty

    April 17, 2015 at 10:41 PM

    To call the UKIP Far Right is a bit of a stretch in my opinion. Now, when it comes to democracy, are we not supposed to support free speech? What kind of slur is Islamaphobia? Islam is, in my opinion, is a bad idea. Am I now an Islamaphobe? If Islam has a right to exist then so do political movements that oppose it. After all, Islam is a political system.

    • Hira Amin

      April 19, 2015 at 9:43 AM

      Hey Marty,

      Thanks for your comment. You are right, some analysts state that UKIP are not ‘Far Right’ but ‘Far Right opportunists’ i.e. they draw on Far Right issues to win elections but in essence are not FR. But the majority just call them Far Right, as every time and age produces its own type of FR.

      With the issue of free speech – every single democracy has limits on free speech. The limits depend on the country’s history and values. Please see my comment just above, it deals with this balance.

      A person stating their dislike for Islam is not Islamaphobia. Islamaphobia is irrational fear of Islam, and someone who has researched the faith and is critical of certain aspects is definitely not an Islamaphobe. Many even within the Muslim community highly criticise certain aspects of the faith. There is a difference between well-informed criticism/opinion and just stating negative things about a faith and stirring up hatred for political ends.

      Islam is not a political system, it is a faith, like Christianity, Judaism etc. Politics is a part of life and always plays a role, but Islam is primarily about believing in one God and worshipping Him i.e. praying, giving in charity etc.

      Thanks

      • John Howard

        April 19, 2015 at 6:45 PM

        I do not believe that at all Islam is a combination of belief in faith and governance The religion and the state are seen as one. More and more we are seeing this in the Islamic world where in a nation like Turkey where the state has been separate to the faith we are seeing the rise of islamisation of the their laws. This is very obvious in the usual suspects like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Somalia etc., There is a very real fear in many western countries among among their secular citizens whose numbers are growing even faster than Islam that Muslims will demand that religious laws take priority over secular laws. We have seen this occur at the United Nations levels with the demand that blasphemy be classed as a criminal offense. Consistently polls taken among Muslims here in the west see demand and acceptance of sharia law at over 40% here in the UK. There are seven nations where atheism is punishable by death. All seven establish Islam as the state religion. The fear of Islam and its aims here in the west are not unjustified and as many Muslims seek to blacken and condemn the critics of their religion it only confirms for many that fear. The old saying where there is smoke there is fire comes to mind.
        Regarding the freedom of speech Muslims are relatively new in their numbers here in the west. Freedom of speech is seen as sacrosanct in our eyes and as long as it comes within the bounds of what the majority see as within their values then you as a minority have to accept that. There are well established laws that will protect from libel or slander of individuals and as the Christian faiths have found they have no more protection from those that question their relevance than does Islam. The west must not and can not change their culture or societal attitude to suit noisy minorities because it offends them. As many more erudite than I have said it is your right to be offended and to offend. Anjem Choudhary does it regularly.

      • red

        April 26, 2015 at 11:50 AM

        The words are nice, but the right fear the spread of Islam based on the barbarity they see on a daily basis.
        When will we see the moderate Muslims shouting out against the extremists, maybe a march here or there, a media article or even someone like yourself saying this is not right.
        Or are the right correct in the belief that you are all together.

  5. ymr

    May 19, 2015 at 4:55 PM

    Can you really blame them? The way muslims are acting in Europe is unacceptable. Especially, whenever someone insults Islam the whole European continent explodes.

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