There is alarming news about the rising racist and xenophobic movements in Europe, often called “Far Right”. A hundred years ago European racism was directed against Jews, and today virtually the same prejudice: Back then it was the “Can you be Jewish and European” question, today it is the “can you be Muslim and European” provocation.
The bad news is real: for the first time ever there was a coordinated rally of many Islamophobic groups across Europe.
The rally, held in Denmark on March 30th, was coordinated by the English Defence League (EDL), which opposes what it calls the “Islamification of Europe.”
These groups are now demonstrated to have neo-Nazi connections.
Previous investigations by the Guardian have revealed the seriousness of their hate agenda.
According to the BBC, the far-right and racist groups expert Matthew Goodwin, has noted the significance of this rally: “What we are seeing here for the first time in British political history is an anti-Muslim far-right organisation taking the lead in trying to mobilise pan-European opposition to Islam,” he said.
So that’s the bad news, that these groups exist, they are growing in number, that they are getting a pass from the British press, and that they are now organizing and networking with similar hate organizations across Europe.
Yet, there is some good news: The rally in Denmark failed to attract the number of participants that its fascist, Neo-Nazi organizers were hoping, topping off at about 160 members. More importantly, they were opposed by some 4,000 counter-protesters who rejected the rising tide of Islamophobia across Europe.
In a distinctly European phenomenon, the previous such attempt by the Neo-Nazi Islamophobes was turned back by a combination of anti-racist groups and the supporters of the popular Ajax football team! (Neo-Nazi groups like EDL have in the past used incitments in football games to initiate riots.)
Furthermore, these NeoNazi fascist organizations are linked to the American xenophobic and Islamophobic organizations like Jihad Watch (led by Robert Spencer) and Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugged, as well as groups with titles like “Stop the Islamization of America” (led by both Spencer and Geller) that opposed the Park51 Project [the “so-called Ground Zero Mosque”—which was in reality neither a mosque nor at Ground Zero.] The EDL had also invited Terry Jones, the mustached, Qur'an-burning pastor from Florida, to their demonstrations. In other words, we see that Islamophobia is now a trans-Atlantic phenomenon.
The moral of the story seems to be clear: the line between good and bad, hate and love, light and darkness, does not go between religions or nations. It is a struggle inside each and every single one of our hearts, our families, our communities, our nations, and our religions. While it is alarming that there is an increasing tide of Neo-nazi Islamophobia in Europe, it is also assuring that many more people are rising up to them to propose a different vision of Europe. Ultimately, what we are faced with is not a clash of Islam vs. the West (as the EDL and the American Islamophobes would have us believe), but rather a struggle inside Islam and another struggle inside Europe and America.
Our best hope for a life of shared dignity rooted in peace and justice is for all of us who see our strength to be connected to our diversity—and not weakened by that—to reach out together to oppose those hateful voices that inevitably will incite here and there. That seems to be what the Europeans are already learning, and hopefully we Americans will as well.
Image 1 is from BBC.
image 2 is from Guardian
Image 3 is from Salon.