Sunday, 20 April 2008

Islam and the Evolution of Europe’s Far Right, by R. John Matthies

Islam and the Evolution of Europe's Far Right, by R. John Matthies, Pajamas Media (Read full article here)

"Mounting fears of Islamic encroachment are restructuring the European Far Right, bringing about the rise of fire-breathing libertarians and pro-Israel populists."

"One might prefer to dismiss Wilders ["Geert Wilders, the Netherlands' puckish libertarian"] and Kjærsgaard [Pia Kjærsgaard of the Danish People's Party (DF)] as hotheads, or merely out of touch. But a report just now released by the World Economic Forum (in partnership with Georgetown University) on the subject of West-Islamic world dialogue, suggests that the Far Right's anti-Islam turn is far more representative of Europe's fears than one has wished to believe. According to the results of surveys gathered by the Gallup Institute, 60% of Europeans surveyed see the growing interaction between the Muslim world and the West as a menace to freedom. What's more, the study claims that the citizens of Wilders' Netherlands and Kjærsgaard's Denmark are most fearful, with 67% of Dutch and 80% of Danes surveyed in agreement with this statement. What's more, like Kjærsgaard, fully half of Danes consider Islam incompatible with democracy. (Sadly, Gallup failed to collect opinions in France, Germany, or Great Britain.)

In the end, the phenomenon of right-wing populism (or left-wing reaction) is as good a marker as any to insist upon the new ground being broken among these figures and parties of the "Far Right." And it is clear that perceptions of Islam as an intolerant faith are driving the agenda - for Left and for Right, and across the political spectrum. For this reason, one can no longer easily dismiss the hodgepodge of characters, all platforms considered, who "bang on about Islam." And if Britain’s Nick Griffin is correct in his estimation that Islam is soon to dominate political discussion, we can expect to hear noises like his own from the continent’s mainstream political elite. It is unlikely that Old Guard formations like the British National Party will ever enjoy the support of the Swiss and Danish Far Right - both for reasons of their history and the promise of fresh libertarian faces like Wilders'. But in the meantime, Britain’s flagging passion for "diversity" presents sure opportunity for the party - as it does for anyone interested in the popular vote."

Islam and the West: Annual Report on the State of Dialogue, January 2008

"European populations surveyed are much more likely to believe that greater interaction between the Muslim and Western worlds is a threat rather than a benefit. This appears to reflect widespread anti-immigration sentiment within the European Union.
Clear majorities in all European countries surveyed see greater interaction between the West and Muslim worlds as a threat. This is true of 79% of the population in Denmark, 67% in Italy, 67% in the Netherlands, 68% in Spain, 65% in Sweden and 59% in Belgium. This corresponds to a growing fear among Europeans of a perceived 'Islamic threat' to their cultural identities, driven in part by rising immigration from predominantly Muslim regions.
A recent poll found that only 21% of Europeans supported Turkey’s bid for EU membership. Nicolas Sarkozy’s successful presidential campaign in France included strong opposition to Turkish EU membership. A 2006 poll found that the main reason Germans opposed Turkey’s membership was 'fear of a growing influence of Islam in Europe'.
Although some might expect the United States, Israel and the Middle East to be more likely than Europe to feel threatened by the 'other,' the opposite is the case. In the United States (70%), Canada (72%) and Israel (56%) majorities say that greater interaction is a benefit." (p.p. 24-25)

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