After Paris attacks, could David Duke style Racist Parties Sweep to Power in Europe?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) —

Anti-immigrant sentiment and Islamophobia was already raging through Europe before the Kouashi al-Qaeda Cell targeted the staff of the magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish deli in Paris. Although President Francois Hollande insisted that the attacks had nothing to do with the religion of Islam (and rightly so), many Europeans hold a dissenting view.

From an American point of view, where public discourse was profoundly altered by the Civil Rights Movement, the way some European politicians speak sounds eerily like the unrepentant racists in the Deep South during the Jim Crow era. A whole gaggle of politicians not very different in their views from David Duke are poised to take power.

The Dutch so-called “Party of Freedom” already called for all mosques in the Netherlands to be closed. The party is the most popular in the country in current opinion polls. In response to the Paris attacks, POF leader Geert Wilders demanded that immigration be halted altogether. He said he wanted less Islam in his country, and that the attacks were “an act of war.” Wilders not so long ago got a Dutch crowd to chant, “less Moroccans.” He has been indicted for hate speech and will face a trial this spring. He was acquitted of similar charges in 2011 on the grounds that he hadn’t said anything racist, but had only criticized a religion, which is not illegal. But the recent crack about Moroccans is about an ethnic group. Wilders is playing the sympathy card with the public. Will he be the next prime minister of the Netherlands, the country of Spinoza and Erasmus?

In a combative interview, Channel 4 News more or less called Wilders a Nazi.

The Netherlands have about 1 million Muslims in a population of roughly 17 million.

Nigel Farage of the far right United Kingdom Independence Party said that the Paris attacks were the action of a “fifth column.” It was not clear if he meant al-Qaeda or just Muslims in general. He said the events are an indictment of what he called policies of multi-culturalism. He also rather insensitively suggested that the terrorism in Paris was a good reason for Britain to keep its distance from Europe.

Channel 4 News: “Nigel Farage: Paris attack a result of ‘fifth column’ living in EU”

Britain has about 3.7 million Muslims in a population of 64 million.

In Germany the small anti-Muslim hate movement, Pegida, has allied with German Euro-skeptics. It managed to get 18,000 protesters to come out against Muslims in Dresden in early January, though a counter-demonstration this weekend for tolerance in that city was much bigger. It is profiled in Der Spiegel.

Pegida is planning to stage even larger rallies on Monday, attempting to build support on the basis of the Charlie Hebdo attack. Like Wilders, they call for de-Islamization.

There are about 4.3 million Muslims in a population of 80 million Germans.

As for France, opinion polling suggested even before the attacks that Marine LePen of the National Front could well succeed the socialist Hollande as president of the republic. LePen is more careful than her father was to avoid explicitly racist language in her speeches, but they still reek of it. After the attacks, LePen called on President Hollande to suspend the visa-free Schengen Zone and to strip French citizenship from terrorists. She said, “Time is up for denial and hypocrisy …The absolute rejection of Islamic fundamentalism must be proclaimed loudly and clearly.” I don’t think it is just fundamentalism that bothers her.

The Islamophobes and racists on the European Far Right also tend to be Euroskeptics. If they come to power out of public revulsion against the Paris attacks, they may well beging dismantling the European Union. And the discriminatory policies they plan toward Muslims would be a complete retreat from European human rights laws and norms.

Remember, I maintain that heightening tensions among European religious communities was a key goal of the terrorist plot in Paris. It may be working.

24 Responses

  1. “The Islamophobes and racists on the European Far Right also tend to be Euroskeptics. If they come to power out of public revulsion against the Paris attacks, they may well beging dismantling the European Union. “

    This is spoken as if ‘racism’ and ‘phobias’ are traits exclusive to the so called ‘right’. If all people are basically the same then the other ‘side’ of the equation (unclear who that is here) is rife with its own phobias and hatreds. By the way, one does not have to be of the ‘right’ to see the benefits is E.U. dismantlement,

    “Everybody in this room is wearing a uniform and don’t kid yourselves”**

    **F. Zappa

  2. The increasing of tensions serves only extremists on both sides, and indeed they cooperate in mutual provocations to ensure their power in their own group. The right wing can survive only in a climate of fear and anger. Only those who can put atrocities in perspective and understand the makeup of provocateurs and the underlying cultural and historical issues can lead their nations to sensible actions. The US does not have such leaders because right wing economic concentrations control US elections and mass media, and similar phenomena are at work in Europe. The ignorant are kept dumbed-down by US media, looking only for the simplest explanations and solutions, and expecting those to be provided by their TV. Only amendments to restrict funding of elections and mass media to limited individual contributions can displace the right wing oligarchy, and we shall not hear of that in mass media. So we are doomed to perpetual war until the oligarchy is forcibly displaced.

  3. The growth of European ultra right wing political parties is a phase and only incidentally, if at all, connected to Islamic extremism. Racism inevitably develops during periods of economic stress and it’s focus is normally the nearest identifiable alien racial group. All over the world there has been outrage at this attack with rallies in many capitals which rather express a new international solidarity which certainly isn’t anti-Islam. In fact, a couple of says ago there was an immense rally in Dresden against racism. link to reuters.com It’s nice and tidy to link Jihadist extremism with quasi fascist European movements but in my view it’s over simplistic, and even dangerous since it fosters the paranoia promoted by Netanyahu and other like-minded warmongers.

    • From the sounds of things, Europe’s austerity programs are working just as well today as they did in the 1930s. When times get tough, humans get tense. Folks who can blame problems on scapegoats gain power by exploiting these tensions, and can only keep it by staying one step ahead of the angry mobs they themselves generated.

      The reason we’re seeing a generalized rise of extremism is the growing competition for resources. Jobs paying a living wage are increasingly scarce, oil is harder to find, fresh water and arable land are in short supply… all of which makes the populations ripe for someone to stand up and blame The Others. Today, the Muslims are the scapegoats for the West (Israel and US play that role elsewhere). However, we’re also seeing “multiculturalism” showing up in scapegoating, so we’ll soon see pogroms against folks with the wrong politics, as well. Today, the Revolution – tomorrow, the Terror.

      • In the 1930’s the global population was around 2 billion today it’s close to 7 billion. Dramatic changes in population in the past have tended to be both downwards and relatively local. Even so they had profound social, cultural and economic consequences. Whether we like it or not circumstances arising from this population phenomenon are beckoning us towards the need to become more cooperative as a species, and much of the underlying tension in the world today mirrors a struggle between that impulse and corresponding resistance from the more exploitive attitudes of the past. This is largely why people feel the need to move from one cultural environment to another in the first place. We might meliorate the effects of this struggle by re-empowering the UN but in the end it just has to work itself out.

  4. “Party of Freedom [sic]?”

    This appears to be a new and unfamiliar use of the word “freedom.”

  5. This is indeed a great risk. If Le Pen came to power and convinced France to leave NATO, they could align with Russia in a “traditional values” block which has little concern for many of the human rights the EU has established.

    • That would be supremely ironic. DeGaulle wanted to dismantle the Cold War insanity and restore French-Russian friendship, and Stanley Karnow alleged that DeGaulle conspired with Diem and Ho Chi Minh in a last-ditch attempt to save Diem’s regime from the imminent CIA coup in 1963. For LePen to complete DeGaulle’s secular, modernist vision is like a porn director finishing The Magnificent Ambersons.

  6. HAL

    likely especially due to no real diminish in support for such parties after Breivik terrorism

  7. gshevlin

    Nativism is rising in the UK, the attitude towards the EU is one of sullen resentment at dilution of “culture”. Already happening

  8. ernesto braam

    hopefully not! It could be a turning point and lead to more unity. “I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one”

  9. RK

    That’s clear objective when you look at West attitudes particularly to Egypt,Ukraine Nationalists. Not to mention rise in Germany?

  10. I can only speak of the UK situation. First, it was good to see that interviewer Jon Snow wasn’t having any of Farage’s illogical nonsense. (I’m sure many readers of Informed Comment will be familiar with Snow’s legendary takedowns of Israeli government front man, Marc Regev.)

    Farage is adept at “dog whistle” appeals to racists here, but UKIP’s main appeal is to people who think Britain would be better if it left the European Union. Farage is dangerous, though. Under our first-past-the-post election system, UKIP is unlikely to gain many seats in next May’s general election, but they could gain just enough to form a very right-wing coalition with the Conservatives. However, my money’s on them splitting the Conservative vote just enough to allow Labour to form a government, either on their own, or with the support of smaller parties such as the Scottish and Welsh Nationalists and the Greens.

    • Yes, desperate times call for charismatic leaders blaming society’s problems on scapegoats and folks they can characterize as immoral degenerates who betrayed the right-minded people and allowed the scapegoats to attack. It’s a tried-and-true path to power.

  11. Whoever wins, it is French, European and citizens the world over who are going to lose more freedom and privacy.

  12. It’s ironic that a black guy killing four Jews is helping Islamophobes and racists on the European Far Right spread their message.

  13. Don’t know if ‘sweep’ into power, but growing in power, yes. It really is going to get difficult for European Muslims. The political right in the US were/are quite active in their anti-Muslim measures too.

  14. Europe already turned right with austerity policies in the economic realm and joining war on terror crusade in geopolitical realm. Blowback could have been expected and will push Europe further on that road. Isn’t it what American political elites wanted and achieved? Europe is paying for being an American poodle.

  15. I think that the march in Paris was a good idea especially seeing so many world leaders coming in from other countries to support the people in France. Terrorism is a global problem and the whole world needs to come together in order to solve this problem. Leaders need to come together to fight this problem because just one country cannot do it alone. Terrorism is a growing problem and it will take a lot to overcome. Hopefully what was shown in France’s streets will not be forgotten and the fight will continue. People have to remember that these terrorists are not Muslim and they do not represent the Muslim people who are good and honest citizens that live in many countries all over the world. They use God’s name to commit these terrible acts and this is a sin and they will be punished someday. Hopefully this will not happen again in France and the government takes steps to make sure of this.

  16. States use nationalism to bind diverse social groups together. It’s a secular form of religion that uses similar tropes and symbols. Dichotomies gain a sacred veneer, especially during times of distress. So, in the echo-chambers, we hear “liberals” claims that the French Republican tradition and its cherished civilization is at stake, that American values are under threat, and how our Christian culture is being undermined by, well, them, others.

    Germany is an interesting example. During the late 1960s and especially in the 1970s, factories encouraged the government to hire immigrants from Turkey for the lowest paid work. As an American son of an Army officer living in West Berlin in the early 1980s and attending a German school, people seemed glad that low-wage workers would do work they found beneath them. Three generations have now passed and few Germans of Turkish descent make it to university and become professionals. Most remain underemployed or part of the vast working-class. German unification after the Berlin Wall came crashing down exacerbated matters when suddenly East Germans joined in the mix and deindustrialization created lots of losers in the rest. You need scapegoats and the Pegida movement in Germany has anti-Muslim sentiment at its disposal which can help it overcome the almost bewildering mix of groups that have joined, all with different agendas.

    France, however, remains haunted by the horrors of the Algeria War and 1954 was the watershed year in both Algeria and Indochina. Robert Fisk of the Independent has an important article about the topic of the legacy of Algeria on French society. But his insights have predictably gone unnoticed. Perhaps because certain questions are too inconvenient and the history from 1954 until now is easier to ignore than confront. Algeria was the territory that experienced the most horrific violence — and yes, state-sponsored terrorism — that accompanied the brutal colonial fight over the Maghreb. Things get more complicated when we consider how the French state has inserted itself, with lethal force, into West Africa at the moment.

    We are constantly encouraged to criticize domestic terrorism but not when undertaken with the authority of the state. Fisk’s article can be read here: link to independent.co.uk

    Sunday’s march in Paris, across different regions of France and around the world, was truly inspiring. But the mix of more than 40 world leaders who walked with French President François Hollande hardly encourages optimism since many of those leaders persecute people who criticize their policies with extreme intimidation and violence. President Hollande might have the lowest approval rating in recent French history, but seeking the advice of former President Nicholas Sarkozy contradicts his articulated objective to bring the diverse communities of France together. Sarkozy’s racist remarks during the 2005 uprising in France while he was Interior Minister was cynical, appealed to the far-right, and inexorably increased distrust and exacerbated fears among ethnic minorities (especially those of Muslims descent).

    If we’re not careful, freedom in Western countries might continue to decline. Protecting freedom by reducing it in the name of security (an appeal to fear), seems to be the opposite of what the 3.7 million marchers across France were against. Right?

    I can say unequivocally that greater security requires trust. But…fear is a great leveler in asymmetric wars and a pernicious, often violent form of “sharpening the contradictions.”

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