Continent of Fear: The Rise of Europe's Right-Wing Populists

Part 2: Parties Discover the Power of Islamophobia

Photo Gallery: The Right on the Rise Photos
AFP

Right-wing populism itself isn't anything new. It has been a fixed entity for about 30 years in many European countries, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. What is new, however, is that the right-wing populists have discovered an issue that is much more appealing to voters than the usual anger against foreigners and the political class. They have found a powerful new issue in resistance against the growing visibility of Islam in Europe. They portray themselves as the defenders of European values, and yet both they and their voters seem to care very little that some of those values, such as freedom of religion, are being trampled on in the struggle.

The fear that Muslim immigrants could change the character of European society penetrates deeply into the middle of society. In German opinion polls, about three-quarters of respondents say they are concerned about the influence of Islam. Similar sentiments are voiced in other countries, even though immigration to Europe has been in decline for years.

Barbaric practices in some Islamic countries -- when women are forced to wear burqas, gays and lesbians are persecuted and adulterers are stoned, all under the pretext of religion -- are undoubtedly deeply contrary to modern European values. And there is no question that many countries face severe problems with integrating immigrants into society. But these things alone do not explain the discomfort. Rather, it stems from the fact that the established parties have failed to give their voters the feeling that they are addressing these issues. The economic crisis of the past couple of years has also unnerved the middle class. Europe is aging, and other, younger regions of the world are catching up. Many people are worried about the future in a globalized world, one in which the balance of power is shifting.

Decline of Traditional Center-Left Parties

In the northern European countries, in particular, the rise of the populists goes hand-in-hand with a decline in support for the traditional center-left social democratic parties. This is partly because immigrants are as likely as anyone to abuse the system in the kind of social welfare states promoted by social democratic parties. But it is also because the traditional parties have become bogged down in the details of integration policy.

They have created integration specialists, immigration offices and integration conferences, but they have lost sight of citizens' concerns. And because they are also in favor of free speech, feminism and secularism, they are incapable of defending themselves against right-wing populists, who cite the same values of free speech, feminism and secularism in defending their battles against headscarves, minarets and mosques. The only difference is that the right-wing populists are more vocal and simplify the issues to the point that their position seems logical.

The Sweden Democrats, which have their origins within the extreme right, have learned from modern right-wing populists like Wilders as well as the Danish People's Party (DF) and its chairwoman, Pia Kjaersgaard. During the recent election campaign, the Sweden Democrats had a television ad showing an elderly woman who, as she is struggling along with her wheeled walker, is almost run over by women in burqas pushing their strollers. The women in burqas are hurrying toward a desk labeled "Government Budget." "On Sept. 19, you can pull the immigration brake -- and not the pension brake," says a voice.

Conservativism Meets Left-Wing Policies

Pitting immigrants against pensioners is one of Wilders' tactics. He brings together right-wing and left-wing policies, Islamophobia and the fear of exploitation of the social welfare state. "It is one of our biggest successes, this combination of being culturally conservative, on the one hand, and leftist on other issues," says Wilders, who characterizes himself as someone who is against immigration but has "a warm heart for the weak and the elderly."

Wilders was one of the first politicians to consistently use Islam as an issue, and many have followed his example. It is telling that the anti-Islam movement did not get underway directly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, even though they were the main trigger of the current uncertainty and fear of Islamist terror. Instead, it has only reached its climax today, years later.

On the surface, this new right wing has little in common with the old right wing, even though the first far-right European politician began inveighing against Muslims as long ago as the 1970s and 80s. That was Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of France's National Front, who targeted immigrants from the former French colonies in North Africa. Le Pen made a career for himself as an angry outsider. He was primitive and old-fashioned, often racist and anti-Semitic, and yet he managed to upend the political landscape. In the first round of the 2002 presidential elections, he even captured more votes than the Socialist candidate, Lionel Jospin. It was a shock for the French elite.

What happened in France has happened in many other countries since then, countries in which the traditional parties have sought to sideline the far right: The centrist politicians have moved to the right. This was the case in Denmark, where the Danish People's Party has given its parliamentary support to a right-liberal minority government since 2001. And even though the populists are not part of the government, Denmark has tightened its immigration laws considerably.

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1. Dangers of Religion
cyberrifles 09/28/2010
I have read the Koran and most of it is really beautiful. However, the part where they must convert non believers to Islam or kill them was a bit of a shock. I also do not like their having their own law. ANY religion that allows a justice system other than the system of the country needs to be watched and not allowed to get out of hand. I feel Islam is a danger to the world as we know it.
2. Europe is playing into the hands of the far...
Europeanonion 09/29/2010
...but, as we have seen, the far left is a far more dangerous adversary; the idea that the free movement of peoples throughout Europe is aberrant, playing into the hands of the forces of ‘no good’. One can see where the left, where Europe, the EU, is heading, break down national barriers and when we are all one where will the opposition to Brussels (or Strasbourg, depending on the time of year) be? It is underhand. It is ‘our’ riches and ‘our’ future whenever Britain has a little local difficulty and yet, especially in France, we have seen how issues can be inoculated against Brussels’ intervention by claims of particular or peculiar national interest and how it has maintained a Common Agricultural Policy that is as expensive as it is unwieldy; how the tentacles of that awful construct have reached out into the Third World besides breeding shortages and Byzantine practices at home. But that may be all about to change. It may well be a case of first in, first out for France. The Germans may be at ease with Gastarbeiter but to many, the British in particular, it has a ring of European convention that means little to them, especially when they have so many of the labouring classes who seem to be in line for never having full time employment again. The British are also left wondering how such tribal meanderings around Europe need to embody those people having access to naturalisation, the deployment of passports and access to pensions and other social security which are patently un-earned. The French have this local difficulty (and the Dutch, and yes, the Italians have the problem too) they do not want these people in the main and no amount of pressure for the free flow of ‘skills’ is ever going to win them over. France and the Netherlands have already signalled that they are ill at ease with the EU and Britain is famously unconvinced, if the free vote in the North East of England over Regional Assemblies is an indication (the only referendum on Europe that anyone in Britain has had access to) Europe is a dead letter as far as the British are concerned. What would it take for French Nationalism to take a stand against EU interference having already shown dissent? Elsewhere Spiegel refers to Wilders and the Dutch experience, add the economic uncertainty and the social manipulation together and France’s stand is supportable, will undoubtedly raise all the other issues concerning the centrist, socialist model. Britain has just voted-out a Government that was modelled on Europe, where all the diktats and voluminous rules stifled not only commerce but were able to introduce viral infections into the culture that militated against the natural British conservatism, that played fast and loose with our social dimension and introduced countless statutes based on the will of the Government rather than natural law. I refer of course to a period of massive immigration that Andrew Neather, a one time Labour apparatchik, exposed as being a policy to undermine the Tory Party and its view of the British Diaspora. This could be the defining issue. Who do you, as a German, Englander, whatever, want to live with, who do you want as your fellow countryman? How are any of the countries of Europe to plan for their electorate when they cannot even project within narrow confines the size of the problem that they are trying to administrate? How can any worker already contemplating a life of rejection from the labour market stand by as the many ‘onion skin’ accessions take place and ever lower wage scales are imposed on the market, where the indigenous with commitments of ancestral proportions find that they cannot maintain their social obligations because the best that is offered is part time working and that only on a casual basis and even then competed for by foot-loose individuals, carpetbaggers, who will still undercut them? The French are raising doubts about the European Laws as they apply to France and if they can be delineated, itemised, acted against then anything is susceptible. At the moment Ireland is paying for German stability. France is having to consider the fancies of outsiders, whatever they may be. They are contemplating having to reconfigure the fundamentals of being French and to consider sacrificing those parameters on the whim apparently of scrap collectors and beggars. A state should always consider the higher ideals and have discretion, two things that the centrist confection of Brussels cannot entertain.
3.
BTraven 10/01/2010
Zitat von Europeanonion...but, as we have seen, the far left is a far more dangerous adversary; the idea that the free movement of peoples throughout Europe is aberrant, playing into the hands of the forces of ‘no good’. One can see where the left, where Europe, the EU, is heading, break down national barriers and when we are all one where will the opposition to Brussels (or Strasbourg, depending on the time of year) be? It is underhand. It is ‘our’ riches and ‘our’ future whenever Britain has a little local difficulty and yet, especially in France, we have seen how issues can be inoculated against Brussels’ intervention by claims of particular or peculiar national interest and how it has maintained a Common Agricultural Policy that is as expensive as it is unwieldy; how the tentacles of that awful construct have reached out into the Third World besides breeding shortages and Byzantine practices at home. But that may be all about to change. It may well be a case of first in, first out for France. The Germans may be at ease with Gastarbeiter but to many, the British in particular, it has a ring of European convention that means little to them, especially when they have so many of the labouring classes who seem to be in line for never having full time employment again. The British are also left wondering how such tribal meanderings around Europe need to embody those people having access to naturalisation, the deployment of passports and access to pensions and other social security which are patently un-earned. The French have this local difficulty (and the Dutch, and yes, the Italians have the problem too) they do not want these people in the main and no amount of pressure for the free flow of ‘skills’ is ever going to win them over. France and the Netherlands have already signalled that they are ill at ease with the EU and Britain is famously unconvinced, if the free vote in the North East of England over Regional Assemblies is an indication (the only referendum on Europe that anyone in Britain has had access to) Europe is a dead letter as far as the British are concerned. What would it take for French Nationalism to take a stand against EU interference having already shown dissent? Elsewhere Spiegel refers to Wilders and the Dutch experience, add the economic uncertainty and the social manipulation together and France’s stand is supportable, will undoubtedly raise all the other issues concerning the centrist, socialist model. Britain has just voted-out a Government that was modelled on Europe, where all the diktats and voluminous rules stifled not only commerce but were able to introduce viral infections into the culture that militated against the natural British conservatism, that played fast and loose with our social dimension and introduced countless statutes based on the will of the Government rather than natural law. I refer of course to a period of massive immigration that Andrew Neather, a one time Labour apparatchik, exposed as being a policy to undermine the Tory Party and its view of the British Diaspora. This could be the defining issue. Who do you, as a German, Englander, whatever, want to live with, who do you want as your fellow countryman? How are any of the countries of Europe to plan for their electorate when they cannot even project within narrow confines the size of the problem that they are trying to administrate? How can any worker already contemplating a life of rejection from the labour market stand by as the many ‘onion skin’ accessions take place and ever lower wage scales are imposed on the market, where the indigenous with commitments of ancestral proportions find that they cannot maintain their social obligations because the best that is offered is part time working and that only on a casual basis and even then competed for by foot-loose individuals, carpetbaggers, who will still undercut them? The French are raising doubts about the European Laws as they apply to France and if they can be delineated, itemised, acted against then anything is susceptible. At the moment Ireland is paying for German stability. France is having to consider the fancies of outsiders, whatever they may be. They are contemplating having to reconfigure the fundamentals of being French and to consider sacrificing those parameters on the whim apparently of scrap collectors and beggars. A state should always consider the higher ideals and have discretion, two things that the centrist confection of Brussels cannot entertain.
Interesting statement which is not easy to answer since I will take a while to form my own opinion about it. Therefore I focus on next to last paragraph. Were Polish people not welcomed when the economy was still booming? The media gave always the impression that they were needed in order to keep up high growth rate. Nobody complained about them. Women could work because there were cheap babysitters available. Restaurants owners could offer meals at competitive prices. And, like in Germany, it was always claimed that they would do the work nobody wants to do. I think it was not the mistake of the left alone. The mistake of Labour was to permit that praxis. And it lost the election because those who had benefited from that policy think Tories and Liberals will continue with it. They chance only the people who serve their clientele. But the next wave of emigration is about to start - the Irish are forced to leave their country.
4. Rise of Europe
giggles13 11/09/2012
Rise of Europe is a free to play strategy browser game developed by China-based Perfect World and published by Travian Games. After I saw the demo of Game of Thrones Seven Kingdoms by Bigpoint (http://www.dotmmo.com/game-of-thrones-seven-kingdoms-10333.html), I think it will be popular among 3D browser game players because of the high quality graphfics and gameplays.
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