Yep, folks, this is what I'm reading on Christmas morning...Gary Younge's very powerful column in the latest issue of The Nation. Here are a few choice excerpts, but be sure to read the entire piece. As Younge notes, it's not just the hard right in Europe that is making hay out of as well as inciting anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, anti-"Islamofascist" sentiment, but such sentiment is increasingly mainstream, as the comments by Martin Amis (never buy another one of his books!) and Angela Merkel indicate.
But the primary threat to democracy in Europe is not "Islamofascism"--that clunking, thuggish phrase that keeps lashing out in the hope that it will one day strike a meaning--but plain old fascism. The kind whereby mostly white Europeans take to the streets to terrorize minorities in the name of racial, cultural or religious superiority.
For fascism--and the xenophobic, racist and nationalistic elements that are its most vile manifestations--has returned as a mainstream ideology in Europe. Its advocates not only run in elections but win them. They control local councils and sit in parliaments. In Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France and Italy, hard-right nationalist and anti-immigrant parties regularly receive more than 10 percent of the vote. In Norway it is 22 percent; in Switzerland, 29 percent. In Italy and Austria they have been in government; in Switzerland, where the anti-immigrant Swiss People's Party is the largest party, they still are.
Recently German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a Christian Democrat party congress that "we must take care that mosque cupolas are not built demonstratively higher than church steeples."
In September 2006, British novelist Martin Amis told the Times of London: "There's a definite urge--don't you have it?--to say, 'the Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.' What sort of suffering? Not letting them travel. Deportation--further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they're from the Middle East or from Pakistan.... Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children."
[Can you believe this guy??!!]
Far from being the principal purveyors of racial animus in Europe, Muslims are its principal targets. Between 2000 and 2005 officially reported racist violence rose 71 percent in Denmark, 34 percent in France and 21 percent in Ireland. With few governments collecting data on racial crime victims, it has been left to NGOs to record the sharp rise in attacks on Muslims, those believed to be Muslims and Muslim targets.
None of this means anti-Semitism and jihadism don't exist among Muslim communities in Europe. But it does provide a context for both. Muslims are a relatively tiny percentage of European citizens--there is a higher proportion of Asians in Utah than Muslims in Italy--and are overwhelmingly concentrated among the poor. More than 40 percent of Bangladeshi men in Britain under the age of 25 are unemployed. All of this excuses nothing but explains a great deal. According to a Pew Research Center survey, the principal concerns of Muslims in France, Germany and Spain are unemployment and Islamic extremism. Integrating into a society that won't employ you, educate you or house you adequately is no easy feat. Participating in a political culture that scapegoats you is also tough. Attacked as Muslims at home and abroad, they defend themselves as Muslims.
The most potent anti-Semites and bigots in Europe do not live in run-down housing projects but grace the corridors of power. They are not Muslim; they are Christian.
(The photo is from the New York Times.)