Europe’s increasingly vocal and powerful Far Right parties have swapped a racist agenda for an Islamophobic one, moving them closer to the mainstream, where anti-Muslim views are commonplace among conservative commentators and politicians.
Islamophobia is “more widespread in Western Europe than any social prejudice since the anti-Semitism of the 1930s”, says a leading expert on the Far Right in Europe.
According to Professor Cas Mudde, a Dutch academic at DePauw University and the younger brother of prominent right-wing activist Tim Mudde, Islamophobic views have largely replaced racist ones on the Far Right. But anti-Muslim rhetoric is not just limited to the extreme fringe, says Professor Mudde; Mainstream European commentators and politicians also frequently denounce Muslim practices.
“The problem is that the vast majority of Muslims in Europe are born and raised there. By excluding them discursively, but also increasingly in government policies, such as putting limitations on building mosques, which you don’t have on churches and synagogues, or by banning the burqa, you marginalise and exclude a large part of the population which is growing.”
Mudde argues that Islamophobic ideas have become acceptable because a near majority of European citizens now consider Muslims to be alien to Western culture:
“Democratic societies are based on loyalty and solidarity. If Muslims are excluded and isolated, why should they feel solidarity with other populations? It’s important because there are increasingly cities in Europe with Muslim majorities.”
In addition, the demonization of the Islamic faith in popular culture has also led to a rise in Islamophobic hate crimes. Strong evidence of this came in a 2009 study of anti-Muslim prejudice by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency. They questioned 23,500 people from ethnic minority groups in all 27 EU Member States about their experience of prejudice.
The report found an extremely high level of intolerance: One in three Muslim respondents had been discriminated against in the previous 12 months, and 11 per cent had experienced a racist, or anti-Islamic, crime.
Read the full story by David Smith on EconomyWatch: EconomyWatch Exposé: Europe’s Far Right – Fuelled By Islamophobia?
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