ISLAMOPHOBIA & THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE MUSLIM OTHER
The 2015 attacks in Paris carried out by ISIL drive Islamophobia. Meanwhile, the situation in Syria leads to a refugee crisis in Europe.
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MAINSTREAMING OF FAR RIGHT POLITICS
HUNGARY - The rise of Viktor Orban
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EUROPE’S FAR RIGHT: RUSSIA’S TROJAN HORSE?
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THE BIG PICTURE: THE MAKING AND BREAKING OF EUROPE
Islamophobia & the construction of the Muslim other
Marine Le Pen salutes the party members as she is named as France's far-right nationalist party, Front National's new leader at a party conference on January 16, 2011 in Tours, France. | PHOTO BY PATRICK DURAND/GETTY IMAGES
“The Muslim is the new symbol of the enemy”
In France, Marine Le Pen, daughter of Jean-Marie, had taken over as leader of the National Front, shifting its emphasis to a centre ground that had already shifted to the right.
MARINE LE PEN
Marine Le Pen is a French politician who is the president of the National Front (FN)
She took over leadership of the FN after her father and the party’s founder Jean-Marie Le Pen stepped down in January 2011.
He was later expelled from the far right movement by his daughter after repeating the claim that the Holocaust was “a detail of history”.
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The National Front would amplify its anti-EU credo under Marine Le Pen and in a bid to exploit the perceived mood of the French people, she renounced her father’s anti-semitism, and reclaimed the anti-Islamic rhetoric now part of mainstream politics.
“I don't want my daughters to be hidden behind a burqa. I don't want to be forced to eat Halal. I don't want Sharia to replace the laws of the French Republic.”
Marine Le Pen
“The Muslim is the new symbol of the enemy. Here’s a new enemy, globally. We say Muslim. We were citizens before that. But now everyone talked about Muslim people. They are no more French, they are not more … they are not citizens any more.”
The twin-pronged attack on Muslims and the European Union gave Marine Le Pen 18% of the vote in the 2012 French Presidential elections – proving that she was not only capable of emulating her father’s achievements, but also had a chance of going beyond them…
The political mood in France was volatile, but in 2015 it would be darkened by violence in its capital city,
2015 would begin and end with targeted attacks in Paris that would make Europe’s Muslim ‘other’, Europe’s enemy No 1.
Timeline of the attacks in France
Click on the incidents for details
“So every single party on the radical right uses this to show that Islam is the major threat, we cannot be safe without being fairly draconian, not just towards refugees and immigrants but also to Muslims in our own country.”
1. 03/2012, TOULOUSE & MONTAUBAN
French gunman Mohammed Merah, 23, killed seven people in March 2012. After shooting three French paratroopers on March 11 and 15, he killed a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school on March 19. Merah was killed by police on March 22, during a siege at his apartment in Toulouse.
2. 05/2013, LA DEFENSE, PARIS
23-year-old soldier Cédric Cordier was stabbed in the neck by Alexandre Dhaussy, 21, who has been described as a recent convert to Islam. Cordier survived the attack.
3. 12/2014, JOUE-LES-TOURS
Bertrand Nzohabonayo, 20, walked into a police station and attacked three officers with a knife, shouting, "Allahu Akbar" ("God is greatest"). He was shot and killed by police.
4. 12/2014, DIJON
At least 11 people were injured after a driver, who also shouted, "Allahu Akbar" ("God is greatest"), drove into pedestrians in eastern France.
5. 12/2014, NANTES
Sébastien Sarron, 37, ran over pedestrians at a Christmas market in western France, injuring at least 10 people, before attempting suicide by stabbing himself.
This was the third attack in three days by individuals against civilians or security forces in France. The attacks were treated as unrelated.
6a. 01/2015, CHARLIE HEBDO OFFICES, PARIS
Two French brothers, Said and Cherif Kouachi, attacked the Paris offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people. The brothers were shot dead by police two days later during a siege in Dammartin-en-Goële.
6b. 01/2015, HYPERCACHER SUPERMARKET, PARIS
Two days after the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices, Amedy Coulibaly, 32, killed a policewoman in Moutrouge, and then held up a Jewish supermarket in Paris, killing four hostages. Coulibaly, who had links to at least one of the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, died during the police raid on the Hypercacher supermarket, after which 15 more hostages were freed.
7. 02/2015, NICE
Three French soldiers were attacked by a man wielding a knife outside a Jewish cultural centre in Nice.
8. 04/2015, VILLEJUIF, PARIS
French-Algerian student Sid Ahmed Ghlam, 24, was arrested for planning attacks on churches in the suburbs of Paris, and for the murder of a woman found dead in her car.
9. 06/2015, SAINT-QUENTIN-FALLAVIER
Yassin Salhi, 35, decapitated his employer, and then drove a vehicle into a building containing flammable liquids at a chemical plant, injuring several others. A French state prosecutor said Salhi had a “terrorist motive” and links to ISIL fighters in Syria. Salhi committed suicide in prison in December 2015.
10. 08/2015, OIGNIES
An attack on a Paris-bound train was averted when several passengers overpowered gunman Ayoub El-Khazzani.
11. 11/2015, PARIS
130 people were killed and 352 wounded in a series of attacks across Paris on the night of November 13. It was described by French president François Hollande as an “act of war”. The Bataclan concert hall, a major stadium, restaurants and bars were targeted by three coordinated teams of gunmen and suicide bombers.
12. 01/2016, VALENCE
A man drove his car at four soldiers guarding a mosque in southeastern France, injuring one of them. The driver was shot and wounded.
13. 01/2016, PARIS
Police shot dead a man carrying a meat cleaver and wearing a fake suicide vest, who tried to attack a police station on the anniversary of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks.
14. 06/2016, MAGNANVILLE
A French police chief and his wife were stabbed to death at their Paris home by a man convicted of terrorist offences and claiming allegiance to ISIL.
15. 07/2016, NICE
At least 84 people were killed when an attacker drove a truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice. Police shot and killed the driver, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a Tunisian resident of France.
16. 07/2016, SAINT-ETIENNE-DU-ROUVRAY
Two knife men killed an 84-year-old priest and took four other people hostage at a Normandy church. The attackers, who were reportedly members of ISIL, were shot dead by police.
Members of the public grieve as they sit opposite the main entrance of Bataclan concert hall as French police lift the cordon following Fridays terrorist attacks on November 16, 2015 in Paris, France. | PHOTO BY JEFF J MITCHELL/GETTY IMAGES
In 2015, attacks in Paris would claim 146 lives. In May 2014, a French gunman shot and killed four people at a Jewish museum in the Belgian capital Brussels.
The attacker had returned from the war in Syria where he had fought with rebel groups against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
The Syrian conflict would also bring more than a million refugees to Europe’s doorstep, while European economies remained mired in troubles of their own.
A child waits with her father at the migrant processing center at the increasingly overwhelmed Moria camp on the island of Lesbos on October 23, 2015 in Mytilene, Greece. | PHOTO BY SPENCER PLATT/GETTY IMAGES
Europe was ill-prepared for a mass intake of new people as weaker nations, many at the coalface of the refugee crisis, continued to struggle economically.
For the European Union, the confluence of crises around violence, refugees and failing economies was a troubling brew that called for tighter control.
For Europe’s far right, it would yield timely opportunity.
Mainstreaming of Far Right politics
A woman holds a placard reading 'Je Suis Charli' (I am Charlie) during a gathering of people showing their support for the victims of the terrorist attack at French magazine Charlie Hebdo, in front of the Embassy of France on January 7, 2015 in Madrid, Spain. | PHOTO BY PABLO BLAZQUEZ DOMINGUEZ/GETTY IMAGES
“Terrorist attacks produced a very powerful image for far-right parties to be the scapegoat a lot of the problems”
POINTS OF VIEW
CAS MUDDE ON THE RADICAL RIGHT
Cas Mudde, world-renowned expert on populism and the radical right, describes the three ideological features of the radical right: nativism, authoritarianism and populism:
Nativism is, simply stated, xenophobic nationalism, which means that you want your country, your state, to be inhabited only by people of your nation, and you consider anything and anyone that is not national or native as threatening
Authoritarianism means that you believe that order is crucial in society, but that without a strong state, there’s chaos, and so you want to have strict laws, you want to have a very strict enforcement discipline taught at schools, a lot of police, not too much oversight, those kind of things
Populism Populism is an understanding that society is constituted out of two different groups: On the one hand you have the “pure people,” and on the other hand you have the “corrupt elite”. Both are perceived as homogeneous and antagonistic, and populists want politics to follow what they call “the general will of the people,” and so they think that all the people pretty much share similar interests and ideas, and they’re all good, whereas, on the other hand, you have all the elite being really part of one corrupt bunch
He explains why 2015 created the perfect storm for the radical right, and how all three features of the radical right’s core ideology were activated by three key developments
The attacks in Paris activated authoritarianism because they were seen as failures of national security, with the state being perceived as too soft
The economic crisis in the Eurozone activated populism, because European elites were blamed for the economic hardship and austerity policies imposed on populations
The refugee crisis activated nativism, as populations felt threatened by the arrival of refugees of other nationalities
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“2015 created the perfect storm for the radical right because it had three developments that linked into the key agenda of the far right and so the year started with the terrorist attacks in Paris, and ended with it as well but that brought in first of all nativism, because these were Muslims. But that also links to the security issue and the authoritarianism, the state being too soft on it. Then we go into the Greek crisis which was an economic crisis where overall the far right didn’t have a strong position. But the way that the EU treated it was perceived as very authoritarian and showed how limited national sovereignty was, and that within the current EU national states are no longer important, which again strengthened the nativism and see we are losing control. On the back of that comes the refugee crisis which really just finishes it off because first and foremost of course these are the Muslim refugees, and so it links to the key issue that they have the key other who come in very large numbers unprecedented numbers.”
“Refugee equals terrorist, right. So by marrying people's anxiety about immigrants taking their jobs so the economic anxieties over unemployment, stagnation, slow growth etc, and on the other hand the anxiety about safety and security, because of terrorist attacks that has produced, I think, a very powerful image for far-right parties to be the scapegoat a lot of the problems the Europeans are feeling.”
In Germany, the far right Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) Party looked to challenge Angela Merkel’s willkommenskultur refugee policy.
"WILLKOMMENSKULTUR": "WELCOME CULTURE"
Coined by politicians a few years ago, it was originally meant to be the siren call that would attract people from other countries to come to Germany and compensate for a big shortage of skilled workers in sparsely populated areas.
These days Willkommenskultur is used to encourage help for the hundreds of thousands of refugees coming to Germany.
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Supporters of the AFD political party, including one woman holding a sign with an arrow that reads: 'Refugees Welcome, Federal Cahncellery (in) Berlin', attend an election rally. | PHOTO BY SEAN GALLUP/GETTY IMAGES
Angela Merkel is a German politician, the leader of the Democratic Party and the current chancellor of Germany.
Following the 2005 federal election, Merkel was appointed Germany's first woman chancellor.
At the 2013 federal election, Merkel won a landslide victory with 41.5 percent of the vote.
Merkel has been widely described as the de facto leader of the European Union throughout her tenure as chancellor.
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“Those who have to flee terror, war, who have reasons to be protected, those shall be welcomed here. And we stand by that."
“But the rise of the AfD is I think in direct response of course to Merkel’s policies … Its only real policy is an objection … to large scale immigration into Germany. And while Merkel has promoted politics, for example the politics of austerity, which arguably have fuelled the rise of the far right, for example in Greece. At the same token and this has to do with her … awareness of Germany’s Nazi past, she’s promoted a humanitarian and tolerant policy with respect to refugees which is unique in Europe.”
Angela Merkel looks on during a press conference on the first day after German federal elections at CDU headquarter Konrad-Adenauer-Haus on September 23, 2013. | PHOTO BY ALEXANDER HASSENSTEIN/GETTY IMAGES
A welcoming culture was far removed from what the AfD stood for.
“When she spoke about the real welcome culture, she actually welcomed refugees but at the same time also said that we should be stricter towards economic immigrants. That completely fell flat, there was virtually no support for her position and she stood alone and the person who really stood up to her was Viktor Orban.”
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban listens during a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel following talks on February 2, 2015 in Budapest, Hungary. | PHOTO BY CARSTEN KOALL/GETTY IMAGES
Protesters holding sings that read: 'Welcome' and 'NOT you, Mr. Orban!' demonstrate outside the Kloster Banz congress center against the arrival of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at a meeting of the CSU Bavarian Christian Democrats parliamentary faction in Bad Staffelstein, Germany. | PHOTO BY SEAN GALLUP/GETTY IMAGES
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban openly championed illiberalism, challenging press freedoms, the independence of the judiciary and the idea of open borders.
His right-wing policies appealed to populist fears, and disregarded EU authority.
Orban signalled his vision of a Christian Europe, but also looked to check the advance of the extreme right Jobbik party.
Hungary’s political landscape was now being shaped by far right forces competing for power.
“It is forbidden to say that immigration brings crime and terror to our countries.”
“Orban created the sense of crisis and invasion to strengthen his point and, so while it’s true that Hungary saw a huge number of refugees coming to it, it didn’t do anything to accommodate that.”
“Orban just laid out an alternative vision and that alternative vision is exactly the same as a radical right vision. It says that we do not want multiculturalism, he literally says Hungary for the Hungarians, Europe for the Europeans. Now to a certain extent you have to think that what can you expect of East Central Europe, which was completely white pretty much until the refugee crisis and which has heard over the last decades people like Sarkozy or Merkel or Cameron say that multiculturalism has failed and so if you all the time hear from the West multiculturalism has failed, then why should you try it?”
“Jobbik, the extremist far right party, is now the second most popular, most powerful party in Hungary. Fidesz the centre right party led by Viktor Orban has very much almost merged in some way with Jobbik, not officially, but if you look at some statements that Orban says versus some of the policy that Jobbik has put out there, they are sounding more and more similar.”
“Orban goes to Brussels and says, look what's to do? Either Hungary becomes a corridor for migrants who want to go to Germany and Sweden, or we build a fence.”
Viktor Orban is a Hungarian politician and jurist. He is the leader of the Fidesz Party.
He has been prime minister of Hungary twice: from 1998 to 2002 & 2010 to the present time.
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Hungary’s prime minister stepped up and changed the game, talking up the merits of illiberalism, undermining the key principle of European solidarity.
Europe’s Far Right: Russia’s trojan horse?
Demonstrators holding a banner that reads: 'Putin No! Europe Yes!' march to protest against a visit to Budapest by Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as against the government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on February 16, 2015 in Budapest, Hungary. | PHOTO BY SEAN GALLUP/GETTY IMAGE
“The Kremlin has developed a network of influence across Western and Eastern Europe that can be activated almost like Trojan horses across the region”
Western Europe’s liberalism was being challenged by right-wing governments and far right radicals.
For Russian leader Vladimir Putin, long regarded as an illiberal force by the West, this would be an opportunity to serve Russia’s interests and widen cracks in Europe’s unity.
“[The] Kremlin, under the guidance of President Putin, has been heavily investing in parties and political leaders that he sees as destabilising the European Union because these kinds of political forces vote against EU-wide, comprehensive policies, especially when it comes to foreign policy. One way to think about these relationships the Kremlin has built with far right politicians and parties and other organisations, is that they have developed a network of influence across Western and Eastern Europe that can be activated almost like Trojan horses across the region at just the right moments.”
“These organisations not only share kind of Russia’s interest now in sort of nationalist ideology, but … but they also want to undermine the central European Project, which is the European Union.”
“President Putin does seem to be subsidising the far right in Europe. It’s known that he’s been arranging soft loans to the Front National in France. As far as I know he’s been giving support to far right movements elsewhere on the continent. And I’m sure President Putin is absolutely happy to continue doing this and to hope that all this pays off in a Europe that disintegrates.”
IS THE EU IMPLODING?