EuropeNews April 27 2008 Essay by Henrik R Clausen
This essay is a response to an essay authored by John Matthies and published by PajamasMedia and Middel East Forum. It is part of a broader debate concerning what some maintain is a resurgent (and possibly dangerous) Far Right movement, while others maintain that no such thing is taking place, and that the notion constitutes scaremongering based on misunderstanding and misinterpretations of the facts on the ground.
The author of this response is in agreement with the latter of these positions. John Matthies in his essay seems to be influenced by the former of these. This essay is written to clear up misunderstandings and misconceptions, not least the problem that it can be interpreted to support either point of view. The response has been discussed with John Matthies, who states clearly that this is not meant as an attack on the movement, but rather to give insight and actually to demolish the Far Right meme.
In particular, the use of the Young Turks moniker, which history-aware Europeans might understand as a derogative reference to the proto-facist and genocidal CUPS regime, is in fact an appreciation of the fresh and spontaneous people standing up for their ideals, as in the song by Rod Stewart.
That said, time do dive into the details, bit by bit:
The title itself is intriguing, and somewhat puzzling. Let's take the MEF's mission statement for context for publishing an article on this theme:
The Middle East Forum, a think tank, seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East. It defines U.S. interests to include fighting radical Islam, whether terroristic or lawful; working for Palestinian acceptance of Israel; improving the management of U.S. democracy efforts; reducing energy dependence on the Middle East; more robustly asserting U.S. interests vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia; and countering the Iranian threat. The Forum also works to improve Middle East studies in North America.
This article seems a bit off topic for MEF, which does not concern itself with the details of European politics per se. The link, of course, is Islam, but the subject of this article as we shall see is not Islam. Personally, I consider this to be off topic, which is a warning sign. It might mean either that something profoundly significant is taking place here, or the author/editor would probably not divert from his core competences.
The title has a couple of interesting details. First, it assumes that the Europe's Far Right is a connected movement, that there is a rise of a coordinated Far Right movement in Europe. We in Europe might look around and say Where, who, what? to that, but is sure triggers curiosity.
Second, the notion of the Far Right itself is ambiguous. What exactly is the Far Right? It has a negative connotation, it is 'bad' to be Far Right. As to what that means, that is immaterial. The very concept of 'left' and 'right' stems from the time of the French revolution, where the left would be the radicals and the right would be the conservatives, as seated in the national assembly.
But this clear distinction would hardly apply here, as we are more than two centuries away from that. What then is the Far Right? Jonah Goldberg in his profound and entertaining book Liberal Fascism probably has the only workable definition: Left is statist (in support of the big state, high taxes), Right is libertarian, as in minimal taxes, minimal state.
Unfortunately, a clear definition is lacking in this essay, and that leaves us to grasp with conventional (mis-)perceptions. Libertarians in Europe is a rare species, found mostly in the East with the low-budget states and flat taxes. In the West, Europe is full of extensive social security systems, or what WSJ aptly named 'Rampant welfarism'. The Far Right, as in supporters of the 'nightwatch state', have marginal or no political influence in Western Europe.
What then would be the Far Right? Nationalists, probably, but the lack of a clear definition remains a problem. And why would nationalism (AKA patriotism) be considered to be Far in the first place?
Point is, European nationalism (or patriotism) has taken serious damage from its encounter with fascism. It is still viewed as suspicious by many, including many, and strangely that includes some very patriotic Americans, who should know the good of patriotism and appreciate it elsewhere, too.
Let's move on.
What is to account for the success of Europe's Far Right?
Here's an assumption unaccounted for. Actually two. What is the 'success', and who is the Far Right? The latter sounds a bit sinister, let's see.
The attention the news media have devoted to the story of Islam in Europe has never been greater. And displeasure over concessions granted to Europe's Muslims, fear and loathing of Sharia (Islamic) law and fears that Europe, in the rush to embrace the Other, may lose herself appear to be driving the continent's electoral agenda. These concerns have sprung from items as ridiculous as Fortis Bank's decision to do away with pig mascot Knorbert (for fear of offending Muslims) to the Archbishop of Canterbury's declaration that adoption of elements of Sharia law in the UK "seems unavoidable" and would, in fact, be a great help to maintain social cohesion. In any case, it appears that a growing number are sufficiently discouraged by the imposition of the multicultural gag to take Europe's latest war of religion to the voting booth.
A healthy stab at the problems of Islam pushing itself into the European societies, and the healthy reaction of reasserting basic European values. Nothing much to see here.
It is also the case, for many, that the persons who best speak to the continent's concerns are not those moderate (or secular) Muslims who talk of assimilation, but the leading lights of Europe's Far Right and the growing host of Muslim-baiters who sit in public office.
Here again we invoke the Far Right moniker. Without definition, without specificity.
But the electoral success of the Far Right has been far from evenly distributed. And this, of course, has a great deal to do with perceptions of the Old Guard of Europe's Far Right, the most familiar branch of the movement.
Now, to the disappointment of certain people working in Brussels, we don't have anything like a coordinated European Far Right. We have 30+ independent nations. But who then is the Old Guard of Europe's Far Right?
Geert Wilders, the Netherlands' puckish libertarian, for example, does not easily compare to France's Jean-Marie Le Pen, either with respect to personal history or electoral sway.
Good point. These two simply don't match up. Jean-Marie Le Pen is one of those I would personally label Vulgar nationalist, having an imprecise romantic idea about 'Frenchness' and the return to the 'good old days'. France, in particular, has an amazing history of being anti-libertarian. Lumping these two together seems odd but the fault of them both seems to be that they're patriots. They care for their countries.
But as difficult as it is to stack Wilders among the "blood and soil" conservatives of the Old Guard, Wilders and other members of the "progressive" nationalist faction nevertheless constitute an important, second branch of the confederation one casually describes as "Far Right."
Difficult as it may seem, the author sure tries hard. But that's immaterial. What is more important is the 'confederation'. What confederation? It sounds profound, that somewhere there's an confederation so important, yet so unknown, that only the author of this article seems to know it. Myself, being European and politically active on a international level, have not heard of this confederation. It might or might not be a reference to the now-defunct ITS group of the European Parliament, or possibly an unfounded assumption. We are not being told. As for one casually describes, the reader may wonder who this refers to. Probably just the author and a few of the same opinion. But again, details are left out.
These are the Young Turks of the movement.
Here, in one small sentence, we move from unspecified 'bad' to what to many Europeans, in particular those aware of history, would perceive as 'outright evil'. The Young Turks, as the reader may be aware, is the movement around the CUPS regime in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, the group directly responsible for the Armenian genocide. While CUPS itself was dissolved, the trials concerning the genocide were inconclusive, and the Turkish government as of today denies that the genocide was anything but justified acts of war. Associating the aging Le Pen or the outspoken Islam-critic Geert Wilders with this group constitutes libel. This linking, taken at face value, is as incriminating as linking to Nazis. Fortunately, Mr. Matthies has later made clear that this was not the intention.
And lastly, there is the success of right-wing populists, like those in Belgium and Switzerland,
While being 'populist' is quite obviously 'bad', we are not getting any substantiation of what the term means, or that the parties involved (that'd be Vlaams Belang in Belgium and the Volkspartei in Switzerland) fulfils the definition of being 'populist'. Or right-wing, for that matter.
who clearly seek to transcend Old Guard allegiances and adapt their platforms to better respond to the continent's "Islam problem." These groups represent a third branch, and a slippery strength within the greater movement.
What 'greater movement'? The 'third branch' is unspecified. Many have used this to denote 'neither socialist or capitalist'. It's a term in need of definition. One wonders what the author is up to. It's unclear.
All told, however, what describes the strength of Europe's Far Right is the fact that votes have begun to derive, in meaningful numbers, from across the political spectrum: from the "Godless" Left to the fascist Right, and all points in between.
Finally, we're getting some sort of a definition of what 'Left' and 'Right' means in Europe. 'Left' is the 'Godless' side (presumably socialists), and the 'Right' is fascist. Swell. We have now moved from unclarity over a touch of evil to outright uninformed. The 'Far Right' is taking votes from all over the political spectrum? Then it can hardly be described as 'Far Right', one should think...
As for this 'Far Right movement' being somehow related to fascism, let us make one thing clear. Being European, and following the politics here, I can say one thing for sure:
There is NO grand scale, widely supported fascist revival in Europe.
Forget it. People who claim so are usually hardcore Stalinists, using obscure sources like EXPO or Antifa, left-wing extremists who desire the straw man of fascism to return, for them to have an obvious enemy to hate. Fortunately, it's imaginary.
To describe the Old Guard, then, is to include the likes of two men: Nick Griffin, national chairman of the British National Party (BNP), and Jean-Marie Le Pen of France's National Front (FN).
We're now getting something concrete, which is nice, a specification of the 'Old Guard'. My personal knowledge of both of these is quite limited, as these parties exist in other countries than my own (Denmark). BNP is, to my knowledge, a 'statist' party, wishing for a large state control of matters. They've recently moved to a pro-Jewish and pro-Israel attitude, which is quite an improvement. Not knowing anyone involved with the BNP, I can say no more.
For the Front National, well, the mere inclusion of this party-in-decline firmly contradicts the theme of this article, a movement on the rise. Le Pen himself had a great success in beating the socialist candidate in the French presidential elections some years ago, but since then it's been downhill. He is now quite old, and his daughter is taking a lead role in the party.
Since their earliest days in politics, one has likened these men to public discourse as one likens hooligans to organized sports.
'One' can say that. Not least if 'one' doesn't want to enter a debate about actual issues.
What is now clear, however, is that these men have failed to unite the electorate behind their classic fear of European federalism, Turkish accession to the European Union, and more or less avowed anti-Semitism.
That was three important points in one sentence:
'European federalism', of course, refers to the European Union and the accelerating integration of participating countries into the Union. The Lisbon Treaty, currently under ratification, is the subject of much controversy in Europe not least because our politicians did everything possible to avoid referenda on the treaty, in spite of a whopping 75 % of the European citizens desiring such a referendum. Not necessarily to reject the treaty (though this happened in France and Netherlands already), but to get the discussions with the politicians about the future direction of Europe. OK, this is sidetracking a bit, but the issue is controversial here.
The author, instead of going into the details of this, denounces the 'classical fear of federalism' as something errant, implying that those who oppose it are confused or driven by fear, not rationality. Second comes he issue of Turkish accession to the European Union. This, too, is the source of much controversy, with a significant majority of European citizens being against it, but the European politicians and civil servants going ahead anyway, in spite of the severe problems concerning human rights, minorities' rights and democracy in Turkey. This wilful ignorance of public opinion, as well as the facts on the ground in Turkey, is eroding the confidence in the European Union. Le Pen has raised the issue. But since the current president Sarkozy has adopted it, people stopped voting for Le Pen, who's widely considered somewhat unsophisticated.
As above, the author implies that opposing Turkish EU membership is caused by fear, not rationality or knowledge. This is an underhanded judgement of issues he might not know to well. As for anti-Semitism, this point is moot, at least as concerns the conservatives or the 'right wing' in Europe. Any bits of anti-Semitism is confronted and dismantled. It does exist, however, on the left wing, disguised as Criticism of the state of Israel, distrust of anything Jewish and the like. I encounter it frequently in public debate, but always on the 'left', never on the 'right'. Invoking this association is incriminating, and certainly not based on facts on the ground.
Due to my complete ignorance of the BNP, I'll prefer to skip the BNP comments. There may be issues to take up with them directly. But framing the conservatives of Europe in general to be associated with the BNP is another mistake of this article. They're generally shunned.
Similarly ignorant of the details of the now-marginalized FN, I shall skip commenting on them and move on to:
Consider now the Young Turks of Europe's Far Right.
As above. Americans seem to be a bit in the dark about the history of Turkey. Mr. Matthies uses the term Young Turks in a causal way, without connecting it to the genocide of 1-1 œ million Armenians (probably), as well as Assyrians and Pontic Greeks and others by the hundreds of thousands. Reading the works of Taner Akcam, in particular A Shameful Act, is recommended.
In a way, the confusion is understandable. In English slang, a "Young Turk" was a rebellious kind of teenager who would go against the grain. But the historical meaning of the term makes it a pitfall when used to describe (supposed) political movements. Those of us aware of the details of how the Ottoman Empire collapsed know better than to use this one.
This group represents a new breed of politician, who, although tarred with the extremist brush for their attacks on Islam, speak most loudly to themes dear to libertarians and social democrats. And now is their magic moment. In the past decade, the "progressive" nationalism of these politicians has come to enjoy support the moribund Old Guard has only imagined; for these represent a new generation of politician: libertarian and socially democratic personalities who feel that to legislate Islamic space is to assault core "progressive" European values.
This is a tricky paragraph. First off, what do Social Democrats and Libertarians have in common? Not much, it would seem. Social Democrats, whose ideology is widely adopted by Conservatives in Europe, are statist people, wishing a big state and guarantees for everything in society. Not unlike Mussolini, BTW, but in a more gentle fashion.
Libertarians are at the other end of the scale, wanting the state minimized and private concern and initiative to be the driving force in society. But libertarians are marginalized in Europe. Many countries, including Denmark, does not have a libertarian party with parliamentary representation. This is an odd combination, and certainly does not support the notion of a wide Far Right movement in Europe at large.
The mention of 'European values' is interesting, though. However it is marred by the adjective 'Progressive'. My own research, and here I'm deeply indebted to Rodney Stark, Thomas Woods and others, indicates that what can properly be termed 'European values' has roots around 800 years into history, into the High Middle Ages with the grand philosophers, the development of capitalism and the proto-democracies of the European city-states in Italy, Netherlands, England and the Hansa.
The more recent 'Progressive' movement of the early 20th century seems to be but an odd storm on the surface of these deep waters. But probably the statement wasn't even meant to refer to that movement it just sounded good.
This is a portion of the movement that came to prominence under the openly gay and socially libertarian Pim Fortuyn, who abandoned mainstream politics to found his Pim Fortuyn List (LPF). Most remarkable is the fact that the Dutch were quick to adopt his message: Assassinated shortly before the 2002 vote, Fortuyn's party still went on to claim 26 of 150 seats and become the second party in parliament. His most natural successors, both in matter of abrasive charisma and fire-breathing anti-Islamism, are Geert Wilders of the Netherlands' Party for Freedom (PVV) and Pia Kjærsgaard of the Danish People's Party (DF). Like Fortuyn, both abandoned establishment parties to form groups prompt to defend "national values" against the multiculturalisme mou (milquetoast multiculturalism) of the new Europe.
Interestingly, we here see anti-Islamism, with the adjective 'fire-breathing', as something radical. And I thought Islamism was radical and anti-democratic? A tad confusing, I'd say. Invoking Pim Fortuyn here is somewhat odd in relation to what's supposed to be something 'Far Right', as he certainly belonged to a marginal group (homosexuals) who'd easily be targeted by classical fascists. Islamo-fascists, too. The Danish People's Party is added to the mix. Probably because it, too, wants to defend the nation-state and the Danish culture. The Danish People's Party, however, is not libertarian.
Wilders' transformation to become Despiser of the Faith came as something of a shock to the Dutch public. He is now best known for his short file Fitna (strife), which seeks to expose the "fascist" program of the Koran. The Guardian profiled Wilders in February, making the point that he views himself as a "libertarian provocateur like the late Pim Fortuyn or Theo van Gogh.
Back with the Libertarians, the only common denominator seems to be that these people take a stand against Islam. Weird. Not a 'Far Right' movement by a mile.
It mentions also that he "[rails] against Islamisation' as a threat to what used to be the easy-going Dutch model of tolerance." "My allies are not Le Pen or [Jörg] Haider," he wishes to make clear. "We'll never join up with the fascists and Mussolinis of Italy. I'm very afraid of being linked with the wrong rightist fascist groups." Instead, as reported by the daily, "Dutch iconoclasm, Scandinavian insistence on free expression, the right to provoke are what drive him."
Wilders got his facts right: Italy does have a neo-fascist party. It is a long way removed from his own libertarian ideals, however, and teaming up with those people would seem odd. Wilders rejects it clearly. One wonders why this article tries to lump them together.
Danish politician Pia Kjærsgaard speaks a similar language, remarking last year to the Associated Press: "The most important thing for the Danish People's Party (DF) is to maintain the Danish identity." And like Wilders, she is quick to reject comparisons to Europe's Old Guard, saying: "There is nothing racist about what I have said, I know that. My driving force is the love for my home country. I want Denmark to be a safe and good and cozy nation that has a good relationship to the rest of the world." Her party today is the parliament's third largest, having garnered 14% of the legislative vote in November 2007. This was also a moment for the party to affirm its anti-Islamist credentials: a campaign poster depicted a cartoon illustration of Mohammed, underscored by text that read: "Freedom of speech is Danish, censorship is not."
Good stuff. So why is she being mentioned along with the Young Turks of Europe?
Add to the Old Guard and the Young Turks of resurgent nationalism a third group, comprised of right-wing populists often associated with the likes of Britain's Griffin and the Frenchman Le Pen. These are the nationalist (and regionalist) parties of Austria, Switzerland, and Belgium.
Hang on. A severe lack of details marks this paragrah. To fill in the blanks, the non-mentioned parties would be: FPÖ of Austria. Schweizerische Volkspartei SVP of Switzerland Vlaams Belang of Flanders, Belgium
Like the Old Guard, these groups are often socially conservative and subject to accusations of anti-Semitism (and, perhaps, too fond memories of Hitler's Reich).
As anyone with real knowledge of Europe knows, Nazism is discredited, throughoutly. Nazi hooligan groups exist, but these people know only of violence, not influence. They hardly read newspapers, not to mention books. The author of this article gets away with this without doing outright slander by stating ... subject to accusations of. A sly wording. This is libel, not political analysis. Not actionable in court, just demeaning.
FPÖ had the somewhat dubious Jörg Haider as a leader some years ago, but any and all Nazi-sympathies have been kicked solid. A friend of mine is doing consultancy for FPÖ, and testifies that these people are conservative patriots, not closet Nazis. They are Euro-sceptics, too, which is probably what marks them as 'suspicious'.
SVP, like the BNP, I have no direct knowledge of.
Vlaams Belang of Flanders, Belgium, is a separatist party taking roughly 25 % of the vote in Flandern. These people are separationists, which is a legit political viewpoint, free-market proponents (more libertarian than most Europeans), and have strong ties to Israel and the Jewish community in Antwerp. Using the term 'Anti-semitism' in this context is libel. As usual, it is unsubstantiated. As for the 'fond memories of Hitler's Reich', this is another piece of libel, and an evil accusation indeed. Anyone versed in Belgian history would know that the Walloons, not the Flemish, were the ones with the greater frequency of Nazi collaboration (factor 2:1), as measured by people volunteering for Hitlers' cause. Today the 'fondness for the Reich' exists only in fringe groups with absolutely no influence, and certainly not within any political parties with governmental representation. Claiming the contrary is either ignorant or demeaning. I'll assume 'ignorant'.
These groups have packaged themselves under nationalist-populist wrap to play on perceptions that establishment parties are deaf to the cause of the people; and they are interesting for having reoriented their politics and policies in calculation of popular support. Like the Young Turks, however, this populist Right has learned to exploit fears of insurgent Islam to great electoral success.
Packaged themselves under? Calculation of popular support? This is a charge of 'populism'. What is much more likely the case here is: genuine patriotism. These people like their nations, and their voters like them as well. No wrapping needed, these people are as good and honest as any true American patriot. As for establishment parties being deaf to .. the people, we see that extensively in Europe, not least in matters related to the European Union. This is a democratic problem that the new parties do take up, and that is good. That this constitutes a play on perceptions seems to imply that the issue is not real, and thus an act of manipulation. Not so nice.
Again the 'Young Turks' is being invoked. As above, we have resolved that this is meant in the Rod Stewart (refresher here) sense, not a reference to genocidal regimes in Asia Minor. But there's something strange here: It goes Like the Young Turks. That looks like a direct historical reference. We move on to describing this 'Right' movement as 'populist', and that it 'exploits fears of .. Islam'. Sloppy wording, perhaps.
First to Belgium, where Vlaams Belang (the former Vlaams Blok) occupies 12% of the Chamber of Representatives. Party chief Filip Dewinter appears more than eager to transcend the politics of the Old Guard and declaim Europe's debt to Judeo-Christian tradition. Active support for Israel is a fine way to begin, he imagines. For example, in a 2006 interview with the American New Republic, Dewinter stated: "It's disgusting, it's infamous, it's treacherous, but many Socialist and Green politicians hope they can win over the Islamic vote bank by bashing Israel and the United States, and by turning a blind eye on the virulent anti-Semitic rhetoric in Islamic publications and Islamic websites. These facts mirror a remarkable switch of alliances in many European countries: The right-wingers defend Israel and warn against Islam. The left-wingers are bashing Israel and the United States, and kowtow for Islam."
As above, the invocation of 'anti-semitism' in context with the Vlaams Belang is contrafactual, as well as a piece of libel. Even the close relations of Vlaams Belang to Israel (Flandern has bilatera agreements with Israel) and Jewish circles is portrayed as insincere, a tool more than a goal. Not so nice.
In Switzerland, the Swiss People's Party (SVP) defied electoral expectations to walk away with 29% of the legislative vote in October. This was accomplished with no small help from the party's outspoken (and hotly controversial) position on the expulsion of law-breaking immigrants as well with the announcement, in May 2007, of the party's motion to ban minarets. Austria's Far Right has clearly sought to capitalize on the group's "Swiss Quality." In August 2007, Jörg Haider's Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) introduced an initiative to ban construction of "unusual" structures in the federal state of Carinthia. The reason? Minister of urban planning Uwe Scheuch explains: "With the help of this law, it will be de facto impossible to construct mosques or minarets."
Expulsion of law-breaking immigrants would seem in line with what the United States, and anyone protecting their own nation, would do. In Denmark we recently discovered a plot where two Tunesian immigrants would assassinate Kurt Westergaard, the artist of the world-famous 'Bomb-in-turban' cartoon. The two individuals were to be expelled, but due to technical details of the human rights conventions it was not possible. To the ire of many Danes, they will stay in Denmark and even at the expense of our welfare state. Expulsion of would-be terrorists, drug dealers and other criminal immigrants makes sense.
We have a well-functioning society due to the respect for the law and our freedom, and the immigrants must join that. Some need to learn it the hard way, like by seen those violating it being turned into emigrants by the police. The human rights conventions are causing us some trouble here. The conventions are historically created to protect individuals against criminal states, but we now see them being used to protect criminals and would-be terrorists from an honest state. It's an issue being worked on.
Some, of course, may see the construction of mosques and minarets in Europe as a 'cultural enrichment'. Those who have followed the racist, violent hate-speech in the mosques (see Channel 4: Undercover mosque (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=peFQWuk4nuo) for an example), as well as the too-frequent discovery of weapon caches there, will know that mosques are dangerous entities.
These state- and nation-wide initiatives to ban mosque and minaret have also borne continental fruit. A grand multi-party rally erupted in Antwerp in February, under the banner "Cities Against Islamisation." The organization, which boasts an online platform in six languages, speaks to the rise of Far Right populism across the continent. Event coordinator Filip Dewinter (who insists his politics are merely "right-wing") explained: "We already have more than 6,000 mosques in Europe, which are not only a place to worship but also a symbol of radicalization. These kinds of symbols have to stop."
The implication here seems to be that speaking out against Islam is itself a radical act. As if political Islam wasn't radical in itself...
The Young Turks have profited from this language, of course; and that is quite the point.
Again European politicians are coupled with the genocidal 'Young Turks'. Now, Turks are usually Muslims, which confuses the argumentation here a bit, as the precision gets washed out by various metaphors. The implication that the 'Young Turks' have 'profited' from this language implies something improper, but it's not really substantiated.
Denmark's Kjærsgaard sums up the mood among Europe's right-wing elites: "I am convinced that the Islamists want to sneak Sharia (Islamic law) in through the back door, that they want to combat Western society and they want Islam to become the main religion." And when asked by the Associated Press whether she believed Islam had anything to contribute to Danish society, she replied: "I don't think so at all." Ditto for Wilders, who told the Washington Post in an interview: "Islam and democracy are fully incompatible. They will never be compatible not today, and not in a million years."
Somehow, the author of this article seems to assume that this is not a problem. He should read Brother Tariq by Caroline Fourest, Global Jihad by Patrick Sookhdeo, Militant Islam Reaches America by Daniel Pipes or other relevant literature to realize that there is a real challenge to western-style democracy, and that it grows in the suburbs in France (see 'ZUS'), the ghettos of London, Berlin, Brussels and elsewhere. Dismissing these worries without tackling them as the author of this article does, is rather meaningless. Interstingly, this doesn't match well with the mission statement of the MEF.
One might prefer to dismiss Wilders and Kjærsgaard as hotheads, or merely out of touch.
Or one may take the time and effort to investigate the relationship between Islam or democracy. And discover that significant problems do exist, unaddressed. The electorate seems to have a better understanding of the challenge than the author of this article. There's nothing 'hotheaded' about taking up the challenge fundamentalist Islam poses to our democracies. And we haven't even touched upon the dangers of 'Sharia finance'.
But a report just now released by the World Economic Forum (in partnership with Georgetown University) on the subject of West-Islamic world dialogue, suggests that the Far Right's anti-Islam turn is far more representative of Europe's fears than one has wished to believe. According to the results of surveys gathered by the Gallup Institute, 60% of Europeans surveyed see the growing interaction between the Muslim world and the West as a menace to freedom.
Looks like the citizens of Europe are gaining in understanding of the risks pertaining to Islam. Possibly they looked at the non-democratic state of most Islamic countries, the plight of women, or the treatment of non-Muslims there. The author here designates this as 'fears', which has an implication of irrationality, thus presumably based on ignorance.
What's more, the study claims that the citizens of Wilders' Netherlands and Kjærsgaard's Denmark are most fearful, with 67% of Dutch and 80% of Danes surveyed in agreement with this statement. What's more, like Kjærsgaard, fully half of Danes consider Islam incompatible with democracy. (Sadly, Gallup failed to collect opinions in France, Germany, or Great Britain.)
Now, depicting Danes as 'fearful' isn't very nice. Actually, Denmark has a pretty decent record of standing up against Islamic fanaticism and defending civil liberties, sometimes at great cost. Unfortunately, out-of-touch intellectuals like Tøger Seidenfaden, Rune Engelbreth-Larsen are stubbornly resisting to acknowledge the dangers of Islam. Since they have clout in the political and intellectual classes of Denmark, implementing effective countermeasures to totalitarian Islam is still difficult. Romanticists of 'multiculturalism' still block important initiatives.
This author seems to imply that Geert Wilders and Pia Kjærsgaard have taught the general public something exaggerated here. But he doesn't go into details to prove his unstated point. Sure, Pia Kjærsgaard and the Danish Peoples Party doesn't take 80 % in the elections (currently 13-14 %). Danes left and right have experienced this threat to freedom, it bears little correlation to Pia Kjærsgaard.
In the end, the phenomenon of right-wing populism (or left-wing reaction) is as good a marker as any to insist upon the new ground being broken among these figures and parties of the "Far Right."
In a return to the title of this essay, the term Far Right remains undefined, although we have seen it to be a rather imprecise common denominator. for those who speak up against Islam. Which is a shame, for we have so far covered quite diverse political parties: The libertarian-minded Vlaams Belang of Belgium, the more Social Democratic styled Danish People Party, the 'vulgar nationalists' of the Front National, FPÖ, SVP and others. All patriotic political parties, usually eurosceptics and Islam-critical, but otherwise quite diverse. Labeling these parties, many of which do not have mutual contacts, as a greater European Far Right movement is meaningless.
And it is clear that perceptions of Islam as an intolerant faith are driving the agenda for Left and for Right, and across the political spectrum.
Oddly, the author now addresses the perception of Islam as being an intolerant faith or rather, he doesn't but he does notice that this is a widespread perception across the political spectrum. Now, what was it with that Evolution of the European Far Right? This is a self-contradiction.
For this reason, one can no longer easily dismiss the hodgepodge of characters, all platforms considered, who "bang on about Islam."
Actually, it would be more accurate to say that we can no longer dismiss the challenge of Islam. But that does not seem to concern the author much, he is more worried about those taking Islam to task for being intolerant and anti-democratic. One wonders what this article is doing on MEF at all.
And if Britain's Nick Griffin is correct in his estimation that Islam is soon to dominate political discussion, we can expect to hear noises like his own from the continent's mainstream political elite.
Griffin was right on this point. Villy Søvndal, leader of the left-wing Danish party Socialistisk Folkeparti, recently requested Islamists to Go to Hell, with 'Hell' defined as a country where Islam rules. He takes the challenge of intolerance, womens' rights, freedom of expression and democracy seriously, and says so openly, to the outspoken relief of great numbers of Danish socialists. The reward has been roughly a 50 % increase in the polls to an astonishing 20 % of the electorate, at the expense of the Social Democrats. A 'success of the European Right'? Well, hardly. This guy is a hard-core socialist...
This whole thing is now about politicians in Denmark broadly agreeing that we do not want the Caliphate, women dressed like tents or capital punishment for apostasy. The socialists are returning to their traditional idea Religion is the opiate of the people and their critical position against religion, reasserting the primacy of the state and the rule of law over religious fanaticism. Danish politicians tend to do better than others on this issue, which is good.
One may dismiss this attitude as 'noises'. One might call for the police to clamp down on this opinion as 'extremist'. Or face up to the real challenge of fundamentalist Islam and rejoice in people making a stand for democracy and freedom, across the political spectrum.
It is unlikely that Old Guard formations like the British National Party will ever enjoy the support of the Swiss and Danish Far Right both for reasons of their history and the promise of fresh libertarian faces like Wilders'. But in the meantime, Britain's flagging passion for "diversity" presents sure opportunity for the party as it does for anyone interested in the popular vote.
The BNP seems to be of primary interest to this author. Like most Europeans, I'll dismiss that. But then we follow down a fallacy, namely that of a Swiss and Danish Far Right. By which definition? That the parties implied are patriotic? Because they're Islam-critical? The Danish Peoples Party, as mentioned, is not libertarian like Wilders. And again, being critical against Islam is seen as a tool to gain influence more than a sincere point of view. Which of course would form the basis of labelling these parties as 'populist'.
As for the European Far Right movement, well, it might exist in the minds of some non-European observers, who are not used to tackle the complexity and diversity of the European political landscape. Political parties in individual European countries are truly independent, and do not form a common 'movement' in any meaningful sense of the word. Nor does the label Far Right itself, even, as the article itself has actually demonstrated. It's a myth, no more, no less.
It still remains a mystery what this under-researched and sloppy article does in the otherwise fine legacy of John Matthies personally, MEF and PajamasMedia in general.