Anti-immigrant movements in Europe

By Anna Varfolomeeva

BEIJING— (October 11, 2010 —M4relay) — Political parties that support anti-immigration policies are gaining seats in European parliaments. They drum up enough influence to arouse a new wave of fear against immigrants and develop the sense of intolerance among people.

In September an anti-immigrant party won seats in the Swedish parliament for the first time in history. Almost 6 percent of the population voted for the Swedish Democrats, a small nationalist party that accuses immigrants of being a threat to the Swedish national identity.

In 2007, the populist Danish People’s Party, which considers itself a defender of Western civilization, gained 13.8 percent of the vote. Islam was identified by the political movement as the main enemy. Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, speaks for the ban of the Quran and the full face veil. Moreover, a Danish member of parliament has called Islam “a plague upon Europe.”

In Netherlands the anti-immigrant Freedom Party was the third strongest party in a June election this year. The party might become the strongest in the country, according to the poll conducted among the citizens. Its program, as the program of the Danish party, includes the ban of face veils and the Quran, and closing Islamic schools in the Netherlands – a country whose population of 16.6 million includes 1 million Muslims.

Austria, Britain, Norway, Switzerland, France, Italy and Bulgaria are also engaged into anti-immigration and anti-Islamic discussions – and the list is growing.

At first sight, the fear of Islamization perfectly fits into a very popular theory of the clash of civilizations. The author of the “Clash” theory, a political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, argued that people’s cultural and religious identities will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world. But some of the scholars consider Huntington’s ideas irrelevant and point at the deeper root of the problem.

“The Clash of Civilizations” thesis is a gimmick like “The War of the Worlds,” better for reinforcing defensive self-pride than for critical understanding of the bewildering interdependence of our time,” Edward W. Said, an author, who was famous for his critics of the Orientalism concept, noted in his speech The Clash of Ignorance.

“Racism and xenophobia constitute a serious problem for society,” Daniel Poohl, the editor of anti-racism magazine Expo, said. “Combined with dissatisfaction and frustration, it has now gotten a voice in parliament.”

At this stage it is important to find out what can be done to solve the antagonisms.

“One possible solution is to let populist parties join the government if they get a sufficient number of votes… European populists could only be part of coalition governments. True, Hitler’s Nazis took over Germany almost as soon as they were voted into power, but the new European right are not Nazis. They have not used violence, or broken any laws. Not yet. As long as this is so, why not give them real political responsibility? They would then not only have to prove their competence, but also moderate their attitudes,” Ian Buruma, a professor of democracy and human rights at Bard College, wrote in his article Europe turns right.

Buruma argues that with falling birth rates, immigrants are needed to maintain European prosperity. At the same time, Europe must regulate its economic protective laws, so that immigrants could meet fewer barriers when looking for jobs.

We are living at the age of globalization when it is impossible for one nation not to be interlinked with the others. It will be impossible for any country to stand against terrorism without a support of all law-abiding Muslims.

“Europe will not be safer under politicians who claim that we are at war with Islam. On the contrary, their influence will make life not only less civilized, but a great deal more dangerous,” Buruma said.

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