Sunday, June 18, 2006

Totally bloody ridiculous ideas of our time: #145 - "The Islamisation of Europe"

You know how right-wing pundits of a certain ilk are fond of going on about the "Islamisation" of Europe? Has it ever struck you how such views such a similar ring to the ignorant paranoia shared by many conspiracy theories throughout the ages? I was pondering this the other day, and decided to write something about it.

Before we get into it, if you don't know what I'm on about, and you need a refresher, there are several (particularly absurd) examples in the comments on this thread from Harry's Place. I say particularly absurd because the comments concerned refer to said "Islamisation" coming from the secular Muslim democracy of Turkey's prospective entrance into the EU. I should add that I don't think said comments necessarily represent the view of HP's owners.

So where does the theory come from? Well, it grew out of ideas about the decline of western civilisation at the hands of waves of immigration and declining "moral values", such as those expressed by uber-reactionary Pat Buchanan in his 2001 book "The Death of the West". This paints an apocalyptic scenario whereby a combination of declining non-immigrant birth rates, evil liberal do-gooders and waves of immigration diluting "The West's" values until finally Freedom Central is brought to its knees.

Sounds like paranoid bollocks, right? Yup, you got it in one.

Pat also thinks we in Europe have had our chips, at one point putting it thus, in a section (page 109 if you really want to look it up) that specifically refers to Muslims:

"The day of Europe is over. The coming mass migrations from the Islamic world will so change the ethnic composition of the Old Continent that Europeans will be too paralysed by a threat of terrorism to intervene in North Africa, the Middle East or the Persian Gulf. Europeans already ignore US sanctions on Iran, Iraq, and Libya. As their populations become more Arabic and Islamic, paralysis will set in."

Now, not does this ignore simple facts, like for instance the fact that Arabs actually don't compose any more than a small minority of Muslims in the UK and several other EU countries, it also assumes that all Muslims are theocrats, which is manifestly not true. More to the point, it also ignores the possibility that EU governments might have subverted US sanctions in the countries mentioned for reasons other than that they were "Paralysed by Muslims". These might have been because of commercial interests, or even (whisper it) because some in the various EU political establishments just thought the sanctions were plain wrong. Not to mention that 2 years after Buchanan wrote his book, several EU countries supported the US invasion of Iraq, which hardly fits his theory. Although I'm glad to say that some of those invasion supporters later came to their senses and altered their stance, but that's another story.

The various "creeping Islamisation" theses that have been churned out by right-wing pundits since 9/11 fit the same theme, to one degree or another. Creeping sinister fundamentalist conspiracies across Europe to "Islamise" it, or terrorists lurking behind every suburban curtain, you know the form. Oddly, a lot of these people refer constantly to Muslim anti-semitism whilst alluding to the treatment of Jews before World War Two, but actually it seems to me that the comparison is more appropriate between the treatment of Jews then and the treatment of Muslims now. The idea of sinister terrorist cells all over the country, the idea of government cowering before a "fundamentalist threat", the second guessing about motives, the idea that Muslims almost have to reiterate all the time that they are not terrorists/theocrats/intending to blow up your house, all of that marginalisation and demonisation sounds to me like the paranoia that used to be directed at Jews in pre-WW2 Europe.

The reality of the situation is that all of this "Islamisation" theorising is predicated on a basic notion that it isn't possible to be both Muslim and European. That notion is plainly utter rubbish - Muslim people have been living in Europe for centuries, and in any case "Christian" and "European" are not different words for the same thing, regardless of what some ignorant rightist politicians who want to exclude Turkey from the EU may wish to think. The majority of Muslim people, like every other group of people in Europe, want to live peaceful lives in a democratic state where they can work, succeed and experience life's joys and failures like any other citizen. The logic of "creeping Islamisation" theories is both to deny that self-evident truth, and further to deny that Muslim citizens have the same inclusive rights as anyone else.

The political left obviously has a special job to do here, in unambigously refuting such arguments and setting the debate straight. The paranoia and marginalisation that such ideas foster, is what set the context for things like the debate over the Danish cartoons; the unbelievable inability to see that context, was one of the reasons why I was so angry at the Alliance for Workers Liberty for republishing them on its website. The AWL are good people, and good anti-racists, regardless of what anyone else says about them. But to fail to see what they were doing by republishing those cartoons, to fail to see the wider social and political context in which they took that action, was just the worst decision that I think they've taken in ten years of my knowing them.

In conclusion; what citizenship of an EU nation should be about, is precisely being free, feeling included, and being onself liberal and inclusive. This basic stance (which is by no means exclusively "left-wing") appears to be lost on some parts of the political right, amid a morass of all-consuming paranoia that serves to further marginalise some of the most vulnerable people in contemporary Europe. It's the duty of progressive, decent people everywhere to see that these latter-day conspiracy paranoids don't get away with it.


Anonymous boogski said...

Some of the right-wing stuff is over the top. But you'd have to be supremely ignorant not to see a pattern when it comes to Islamic freaks. All one need do is pick up a newspaper. And yes. Pat Buchanan is a rancid douchebag.

7:30 AM  
Blogger Dariush said...

My guess is Boogski thinks Buchanan is a "rancid douchebag," because his vitriol is not only, or even mostly, directed at "Islamic freaks."

If Buchanan's targets were always more uniformally in line with the prevailing worldview of the Atlanticist establishment, ala Madame Phillips, Boogski would be a-okay with him.

1:01 PM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...

Funnily enough, I'm having a read through the Phillips book at the moment (it's grim stuff... the things I do for the cause...). Will post some thoughts when I have the chance.

2:53 PM  
Anonymous boogski said...

Dariush said...

My guess is Boogski thinks Buchanan is a "rancid douchebag," because his vitriol is not only, or even mostly, directed at "Islamic freaks."

Nope. My problem with Buchanan is that he's a Christian Neo-fundamentalist. But then, compared with some of the disgusting shit I see coming from the Islamic fundies, he's mild.

I gotta ask you Brits something. Why do you coddle Muslims when (according to a recent poll) they pretty much despise your way of life and values? Just curious.

6:00 PM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...

Some people do, some don't. If you're referring to that Pew research, I'm not 100% sure how they did their sampling.

Anyhow, there are more Muslims living in the USA than there are in the UK.

10:33 AM  

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