The rise of far-right parties in Europe

The current issue of the New Internationalist features a useful article on the rise of the European far right by K. Biswas, who writes:

The success of many far-right parties is predicated on a significant public distrust of Muslims. Over half of Danes believe that Islam hinders social harmony; three-quarters of citizens from the former East Germany want to ‘seriously limit’ the practice of Islam; half of Britons associate Islam with terrorism; four in ten French people see Muslims living in their country as a ‘threat’ to their national identity; more than half of Austrians believe that ‘Islam poses a threat to the West and our familiar lifestyle’.

Even though Muslims in Europe originate from different parts of the globe – Turks in Germany, North Africans in France, Pakistanis in Britain – they are portrayed as a single monolithic block, unable to integrate into European society. The populist press has played its role in generating public fears of Muslims. In Britain, which has elected no far-right representatives into its national parliament, the Daily Express and Daily Star blare out hate-filled statements from their front pages on an almost daily basis, characterizing Muslims as a homogenous group hell-bent on undermining the British way of life. ‘Muslim Schools ban our culture,’ ‘Muslims get their own laws in Britain,’ ‘Sniffer dogs offend Muslims,’ ‘Muslims tell British – Go to Hell’.

‘The media have uncritically incorporated the idea that “Islam equals threat”, therefore Muslims are a threat,’ according to Liz Fekete, the Chair of Britain’s Institute of Race Relations. The media are ‘constantly looking for the extreme voice within the Muslim community, because it’s an easy peg to hang a story on. So if a small extremist sect that doesn’t have any legitimacy within the Muslim community is organizing a protest, it becomes the major framework for any public discussion on Muslims.’

A ‘poppy-burning’ demonstration on Remembrance Day by the little-known group Muslims Against Crusades attracted a handful of extremists to Kensington in West London, yet made the front page of many national newspapers.