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).

More articles by:

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

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
July 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Kevin Zeese
Green Party Growing Pains; Our Own Crisis of Democracy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State
Paul Street
“Inclusive Capitalism,” Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet
Anthony DiMaggio
Higher Education Fallacies: What’s Behind Rising Conservative Distrust of Learning?
Andrew Levine
Why Republicans Won’t Dump Trump Anytime Soon
Michael Colby
Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes
Bruce Dixon
White Liberal Guilt, Black Opportunism and the Green Party
Edward Hunt
Killing Civilians in Iraq and Syria
Matthew Kovac
Is the Flint Water Crisis a Crime Against Humanity?
Mark Harris
The Revolutionary Imagination: Rosa for Our Times
David Rosen
America’s Five Sex Panics
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia: the Kingdom Whose Name We Dare Not Speak At All
Jack Heyman
Class War on the Waterfront: Longshore Workers Under Attack
Kim C. Domenico
Marginalize This:  Turning the Tables on Neoliberal Triumphalism
Brian Cloughley
Trying to Negotiate With the United States
John Laforge
Activists Challenge US Nukes in Germany; Occupy Bunker Deep Inside Nuclear Weapons Base
Jonathan Latham
The Biotech Industry is Taking Over the Regulation of GMOs From the Inside
Russell Mokhiber
DC Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox Won’t Let Whistleblower Lawyer Lynne Bernabei Go
Ramzy Baroud
The Story Behind the Jerusalem Attack: How Trump and Netanyahu Pushed Palestinians to A Corner
Farzana Versey
The Murder of Muslims
Kathy Kelly
At Every Door
David W. Pear
Venezuela Under Siege by U.S. Empire
Maria Paez Victor
Venezuelan Opposition Now Opposes the People
Uri Avnery
Soros’ Sorrows
Joseph Natoli
The Mythos Meme of Choice
Clark T. Scott
High Confidence and Low Methods
Missy Comley Beattie
Glioblastoma As Metaphor
Ann Garrison
Organizing Pennsylvania’s 197: Cheri Honkala on Frontline Communities
Ted Rall
What Happened When I Represented Myself as My Own Lawyer
Colin Todhunter
Codex Alimentarius and Monsanto’s Toxic Relations
Graham Peebles
Europe’s Shameful Refugee Policy
Louis Proyect
Reversals of Imperial Fortune: From the Comanche to Vietnam
Stephen Cooper
Gov. Kasich: “Amazing Grace” Starts With You! 
Jeffrey Wilson
Demolish! The Story of One Detroit Resident’s Home
REZA FIYOUZAT
Billionaire In Panic Over Dems’ Self-Destruct
David Penner
The Barbarism of Privatized Health Care
Yves Engler
Canada in Zambia
Ludwig Watzal
What Israel is Really All About
Randy Shields
Matters of National Insecurity
Vacy Vlanza
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: Through Eyes of an Activist for Palestine
Cesar Chelala
Dr. Schweitzer’s Lost Message
Masturah Alatas
Becoming Italian
Martin Billheimer
Lessons Paid in Full
Charles R. Larson
Review: James Q. Whitman’s “Hitler’s American Model”
David Yearsley
The Brilliance of Velasquez
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail