The forces opposing immigrants and Islam in Europe go hand in hand: elections and the politics of division have served such forces well. In advancing their political agenda, the elites of the continent dislike Muslim immigrants, hate Halaal meat and remain fixated on Islamic fundamentalism. Extremists such as Anders Behring Breivik killed his own people because he felt that the Labour Party was too relaxed about Muslim immigration into Norway. It became the reason that he massacred them on July 2011 in Utoya. Moreover, the spectacular success of the French far-right party, The National Front, in 2012 French presidential election demonstrate the alarming shift of Europe’s politics from traditional liberalism to more radical extremism, cultural intolerance and more importantly, accepting Muslim integration into the European mainstream.
Britain’s far-right, the British Freedom Party has a clearly adopted anti-Islamic policy which it manifests as its ideology. The same is true for the British National Party and Nick Griffin’s anti-Muslim views are well known. Thus, Amnesty International warned in its April report 2012 ‘Choice and Prejudice: discrimination against Muslims in Europe’, that the rise of extremist movements in Europe could lead further discriminatory policies targeting Muslims. So could these developments suggest a total rejection of a different faith? Or are they merely based (as some argue) on the beliefs that Muslim migrants in Europe were indirectly responsible for Europe’s economic crisis that led the harsh austerity measures adopted by the governments?
Whatever the case might be these developments negate the admiration of European culture in the hearts of Muslims. It was well known that Europeans have been preserving the culture of tolerance since the end of Second World War and therefore Europeans frequently argue that their past history of intolerance and prejudice has forced their societies to be more just and democratic. Such achievements attracted and helped the flourishing of multiculturalism in the continent. Mr. Christian Rampage the French counsel general in Karachi said while he was speaking at a Seminar on “Vision for a Common European Home” at the Area Study Center for Europe in the University of Karachi; that the European Union is a product of gigantic human and intellectual endeavors which transformed a blood ridden continent into a land of peace and growth – promoting and ensuring the prosperity of multiculturalism.
However contrary to this claim, Ziauddin Sardar, a scholar and advocate for European Muslims says the open manifestation of racism is not an isolated phenomenon. Rather, it is deeply rooted in a colonial experience. He traveled across four European countries (Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and France) to assess the level of prejudice against Muslim minorities and his discovery was not only disturbing but also frightening. Sardar found that in Germany, massive Turkish immigrants were brought after the end of the war to build the war torn Germany but were not considered good enough to be granted German nationality. They have been kept outside of German identity as to preserve the continuation of racial purity. In Holland, he came to know that the Dutch see Muslims as a separate community because Holland has a brutal colonial history in the most populous Muslim nation on Earth – Indonesia. The Islamist insurgency in Aceh is a legacy of the people’s long war with the Dutch, a war the colonizer never won.
Similarly Belgium had the most vicious and inhumane colonial history in Congo and armed police would routinely invade villages, round up women and children, imprison them, and murder them until the required amount of rubber had been delivered by the men. Sardar argues that Europe’s colonial past is the main obstacle to Islam’s assimilation into Europe. His view is shared by Wolfram Richter, a professor of economics at the University of Dortmund, who emphasizes that all problems encountered by the Muslims in Europe are created by fear and loathing that is rooted in old-fashioned racism. He added that Europeans could not learn from their history and concluded, “the next holocaust would be against Muslims”.
France’s prohibition on the full-face veil is another attack on Muslim identity. Such motives constitute retrogressive attitudes and prove that the acceptability of multiculturalism is, at best, far-fetched in Europe. And of course, there were the Danish cartoons as well!
Equally, the policies of extreme hatred against Islam can be seen hard at work in the Netherlands where a far-right anti-Islam party, Freedom Party, led by Geert Wilders is the third largest party in the Parliament. The party has been popular for years and won 9 nine seats in the 2006 election; this number rose to 24 in 2010 and the party had a bigger share of the vote than the Christian Democrats. Geert Wilders is an outspoken politician against Islam and called the Quran – the Holy Book of Islam as ‘Fascist Book’, he said Islam is not a religion but an ideology; the ideology of retarded culture. He said, “I have had enough of Islam in Netherlands, I don’t want one more Muslim immigrant. We have to stop the Tsunami of Islamization, it is effecting our hearts, our ideology, our culture”. He went further by saying that I have read the Quran and studied the life of Mohamed, the messenger, and came to know that Islam is a totalitarian ideology that restricts individual freedom and liberty. He concluded that “more Islam in Europe means less life, less liberty and less happiness”.
With the disappearance of Communist ideology as a threat to western democracy, western policymakers have come to perceive Islam, particularly Islamic militants as an emerging threat to the values of democracy: this is confusing because Islam the religion and Jihadist movements are two wholly separate things. They assume Islam to be a menace to Western Civilization. Instead, Europe must look back to its historical experience of prejudice. It must discourage extremists by adopting mechanisms that inspire open dialogue between all parties.
Samuel Huntington infamously described the “fault lines” of today as the “battle lines” of tomorrow. People such as Anders Behring Breivik have taken the clash of civilizations thesis a bit beyond its logical conclusion: or perhaps not? We can only wonder how much Huntington’s theory has contributed to the rise of anti-Islamism …
Abdulkadir Suleiman is a Somali Student in Karachi University and a Researcher in PIIA: his views are his alone and are not necessarily shared or endorsed by PH or PIIA.