The Rise of the Right: Europe’s Solution to Immigration
By Handan T. Satiroglu
Women’s International Perspective
January 7, 2009
A December Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project reports anti-immigrant, and especially anti-Muslim sentiments, to be growing steadily across [Europe]. Noting that the increase in Muslim prejudice has occurred over a period of decades, the report claims that nearly 52 percent of Spaniards expressed a negative opinion of Muslims - a view echoed by 50 percent of Germans, 46 percent of Poles, and 38 percent of French people. According to an April Georgetown University report, 67 percent of Dutch, and 80 percent of Danes agree with the statement, “the growing interaction between the Muslim world and the West is a menace to freedom.”
Once a welcoming multicultural haven, Denmark’s voters have given the Danish People’s Party its fourth consecutive hike in voting share, making it the third largest party in Europe. In Switzerland where the foreign-born population hovers around 20 percent, the nationalist Swiss People’s Party regularly receives 29 percent of the vote; in France, Nicolas Sarkozy grabbed the presidency after mimicking the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the unforgiving nationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen. Netherlands, Sweden and Italy have all witnessed the rise of conservative discourse, while the second largest party in Norway runs on an anti-immigrant platform. And if there is anything that the Flemish and Walloons of Belgium can agree upon, it is the curtailment of the progressive Islamization of their society.
The term Islamization has gained much popularity in recent years, especially in the right-wing media. As European Muslims demand more mosques, state-funded Islamic schools, and even the implementation of Sharia (Islamic law) in their host countries, the term refers to the gradual process by which European society is becoming increasingly and visibly Muslim.
Unquestionably, an exploding Islamic population remains the driver behind changing voter patterns. […] In just three short decades, Islam has moved from essentially being a nonfactor to a religion that challenges the European identity. Perhaps nothing illustrates this change more graphically than the omnipresent symbols of Islam sprinkled across European cities and towns: state-funded Islamic schools, halal butcher shops, Arabic signs in store fronts, ladies in burqas and headscarves, Turkish or Moroccan flags fluttering over residential buildings. Sharia courts have already been adopted in many cities in the UK after persistent demands by British Muslims.
Indeed, the sheer number of Muslim immigrants sheds some light on the newfound fear of the “bewildering Islamic cacophony,” as Johann Hari in a Dissent magazine article sardonically put it. By varying estimates, the European Union is now home to 15-20 million Muslims, with France hosting the largest number. Annually, half a million migrants flood the gates of Europe in search of work and an additional 400,000 seek asylum, many of whom are from the Middle East. Added to this mix, is the influx of between 120,000 to 500,000 undocumented immigrants.
High immigration from Muslim nations, combined with fertility advantages, means that ethnic Europeans might lose their demographic counterpoise: a fact that touches a raw nerve with many. For almost a generation now, Europe’s birthrates have dipped far below the replacement level. According to 2005 statistics collected by the European Union, for instance, 30 percent of German women are childless, with the number rising to 40 percent among more educated women. With a Muslim population that is expected to grow to 40-50 million by 2050, the populations of major European cities would be half non-native within two generations.
Seizing on these numbers, Bernard Lewis, a leading historian on Islam, argues that Europe would complete its transformation into “Eurabia” by the end of the 21st century. Italy’s flamboyant and controversial journalist Oriana Fallaci once lamented that their province was falling prey to ‘a colony of Islam’ – whereby a sense of surrender of fundamental European values such as freedom of expression and democracy were being felt.
Though I don’t personally believe the far-right is a panacea to the continent's woes, I do believe the time has come for a new kind of politics, not necessarily far-left or far-right, but politics that genuinely represent the interests and concerns of citizens; politics that make the diversity of Europe work. Until then, Europe can expect votes for the radical right to come from the right and the left, the young and the old, the marginalized and privileged, the integrated and the alienated, the urban and the suburban for years to come. It is a phenomenon leftist or centrist parties can no longer ignore.