Europe: The Dangerous Rise of Anti-Islam Far-Right


On November 29, 2009, over 57 percent of Swiss voters approved a ban on the construction of Muslim minarets. This vote is yet another sign of  the rise of racist far-right European parties that focus their agenda on anti-Islam and anti-immigration issues.

Minarets are turrets or towers attached on Mosques from where Muslims are called to prayer. Only four cantons in Switzerland rejected the proposal. Switzerland has four minarets, the new legislation would block any further construction of these edifices. The country biggest political party, the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) had forced the referendum on the government under Swiss electoral regulations allowing a referendum if at least 100,000 signatures are collected on a specific issue.

The right-wing SVP claims that minarets “symbolize a political-religious claim to power.” The Swiss government opposed the ban, warning that it would harm Switzerland’s image.

“Muslims should be able to practice their religion and have access to minarets in Switzerland too,” said President Hans-Rudolf Merz before the referendum. There are an estimated 400,000 Muslims in Switzerland, a country of 7.5 million people. A large fraction of the Muslim population is originally from Bosnia.

This trend of right-wing anti-Muslim intolerance is spreading elsewhere in Europe. In England it is anti-Pakistanis; in Germany it is anti-Turks; and in France anti-Arabs. On Novenber 30, 2009, far-right parties in France and the Netherlands called for referendums over minaret construction and other issues.

“What is possible in Switzerland should be able to happen here. We will call for our government to make this referendum possible in the Netherlands,” said Dutch anti-Islamic politician Geert Wilders.

In France the Front National’s Marine Le Pen called for a vote to tackle the problem of immigration.

“I would like a national referendum on immigration and community politics. Because the problem is deeper and more serious than a simple question of minaret,” Marine Le Pen told the Agence France Presse.

For his part, French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner described the Swiss vote as “an expression of intolerance.”

“If we can’t build minarets, that means we are oppressing a religion,” said Kouchner in an interview with the radio station RTL. France has Europe’s largest Muslim population, composed mainly of Arabs from France’s former colonies in North Africa. They represent about 10 percent of France’s current population.

The Swiss referendum was strongly condemned across the Muslim world. In Indonesia, the vote was condemned and described as a manifestation of religious hatred. In Egypt, Mufti Alo Gomaa, the government key official in Islamic law, referred to the minaret ban as “an insult to Muslim across the world, and an attack on freedom of beliefs”. In Pakistan, Vice President Khurshid Ahmad said it “reflects extreme Islamophobia among people in the West.”

The rise of Islamophobia in Europe, just like the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, will have the side effect of becoming the best recruiting tool for Islamic fundamentalists. The US and NATO troops in Afghanistan will increasingly have two targets on their backs: the first one being an invader and the second one a “Christian crusader.” This wave of religious intolerance and xenophobia needs to be put in an historical context. The last time far-right parties all across Europe were building popular support on  similar themes of racism and intolerance was in the 1930’s, with the Nazis in Germany and the fascists in Italy and Spain.



42 Responses to Europe: The Dangerous Rise of Anti-Islam Far-Right

You must be logged in to post a comment Login