FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Paying the Price for Europe’s Identity Crisis

by RAMZY BAROUD

It seems that the targeting of Muslims and Islam has become a kind of national theater in France. Unlike theater, however, the disturbing trend can, and will turn ugly – in fact to a degree it already has – if the French government doesn’t get a grip on reality. The world, including France, is a complex, multifaceted and fascinatingly diverse place; it cannot be co-opted to fit national specificities determined by a group of irritable far right racists with a distorted interpretation of themselves and others.

Unfortunately, France is not alone; it merely highlights the most obvious manifestation of growing anti-Muslim sentiments throughout Europe. Unearthing the reasons behind the disturbing phenomena is hardly an easy task, for it arguably requires a greater examination of the political, economic and social woes of European states than it does of the ‘shortcomings’ of Islam.

Islam is a great religion in many respects; it has endured for over 1400 years. Its membership is never confined by skin color, culture, political ideology or geographic boundaries. Its views of antiquity, on equality, women rights and peace are considered progressive even by today’s standards.

The detractors of Islam fail to see all this. If Islam is dissected politically or ‘academically’, the investigation is done for the sake of destroying its repute, and discrediting or humiliating its followers.

The Swiss People’s Party (SVP) may claim that their commitment is to keep Switzerland secular, devoid of symbols of oppression (as in a mosque’s minaret), but this only sounds like incoherent blabber and reflects nothing but a growing tendency towards racism, intolerance and ethnocentrism. These trends are glaring violations of the liberal philosophies associated with European countries, which guarantee individual and collective rights, including those of self-expression and freedom of speech.

In France, the phenomenon is protracted and more dangerous. Considering that France is the home of five million French Muslims, rightwing tendencies threaten future discord in the country.

The Washington Post reported on December 19 that Bilal Mosque, in the tranquil French town of Castres was desecrated by unknown assailants. “Two pig’s ears and a poster of the French flag stapled to the door; a pig’s snout dangled from the doorknob. ‘White power’ and ‘Sieg heil’ were spray-painted on one side…and ‘France for the French’ on the other.”

Here, one must recall the alarming words of Britain’s first Muslim minister, Shahid Malik. Himself a victim of hate crimes, Malik lamented a year and a half ago that many Muslims feel targeted like the “Jews of Europe”, and that many British Muslims feel like “aliens in their own country”.

While Many Muslims share the same feeling of nationalism and patriotism in their homelands in Europe, rightwing racists – who are unfortunately becoming a dominant force in shaping public views in various European states – insist on a very narrow definition of what makes a French, a British, a German or a Swiss.

There is indeed an identity crisis that is real and frightening. And it’s one that is not engulfing Europe alone, but also affects and in some instances has devastated many cultures all over the world. While it is a byproduct of misguided and unchecked globalization, in the case of Europe itself the issue is very national and very personal. The European Union, which started as a purely economic body has morphed into a political and pan-nationalist organization that is attempting, by accident or design, to define a united Europe and a prototypical European. This has raised fears of the loss of national identities or whatever remains of it. Expectedly, it is the politically underrepresented, socially marginalized and economically disadvantaged groups that often pay the price of this sort of national resurgence.

Targeting Muslims is a common denominator that now unifies a great proportion of European political elites and media. The reasons are numerous and obvious. Some European countries are at war (which they have chosen) in various Muslim countries; desperate and failed politicians are in need for constant distractions from their own failures and mishaps; associating Islam with terrorism is more than an acceptable intellectual diatribe, a topic of discussion that has occupied more radio and television airtime than any other; also, pushing Muslims around seems to have few political repercussions – unlike the subjugation of targeting of other groups with political or economic clout.

But is their more to this? A 2007-08 Gallup poll asked the following question: does religion occupy an important place in your life? The vast majority in Western European countries answered with a resounding “no”. Only 9 percent of Turkish citizens – a country with a Muslim majority – shared the popular view. Most European Muslims strongly identify with their religion, which has preserved their sense of community, and helped maintain a degree of cultural cohesion and a semblance of collective identity at a time when many in Europe are losing theirs. Muslims must not be blamed for this loss, and nor should they be punished, derided or targeted for daring to hold onto their beliefs.

Returning again to France, what is most alarming about the anti-Muslim measures is that they are largely led by the government itself, rather than a fanatical group of disenchanted ideologues. Eric Besson, the country’s Immigration Minister, stated on December 16 that Muslim veils will be grounds of denying citizenships and long-term residence. Besson was only echoing the disquieting policies of conservative president Nicolas Sarkozy who has started a ‘national identity campaign’ for ensuring an exclusive identity of France – one that is occupied with the targeting of immigrants, particularly Muslims.

Sarkozy, Besson, and Europe’s rightwing and far right politicians must understand the possible ramifications if they continue to press with their reckless and alienating policies.

Radicalization is an unavoidable offshoot of group alienation, which is sadly being used to further fuel the anti-immigrant fervor throughout the continent. It is a vicious cycle, the blame for which lies squarely with the savvy politicians and their obvious agendas. As for those who insist on blaming Islam for Europe’s woes, they should really find another pastime; the self-indulgent game is too hazardous and must stop.

RAMZY BAROUD is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London). His newbook is, “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London).

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail