Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Coming Rightist Wave

The NYT of all places has an article this morning on Flemish Interest, currently the strongest party in Flanders (that's the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, not Homer's neighbor). One third of the residents of Antwerp support the party. And Flemish Interest is not alone.
From the Freedom Party in Austria to the National Front in France to the Republicans in Germany, Europe's far right has made a comeback in recent years, largely on the strength of anti-immigration feelings sharpened to a fear of Islam. That fear is fed by threats of terrorism, rising crime rates among Muslim youth and mounting cultural clashes with the Continent's growing Islamic communities.
I wrote about this months ago in This Is What Terrorism Does. Don't dismiss these parties as neo-Nazis or budding fascist movements. Sure they contain such elements but the European left still contains Stalinists but we don't smear the Social Democrats as Stalinist. One third of Antwerp ain't fascist. The story here is that Europeans aren't as suicidally "tolerant" as their elites.

"Other political parties, they are very worried about the Muslim votes and say let's be tolerant, while we are saying - the new political forces in Europe are saying - no, we should defend our identity."

Moderate Muslims and center-left politicians are not doing enough to alleviate the concerns that drive these parties. Indeed they seem to be doing everything they can to increase the rightist fears. (M)"ost of Europe's Muslim politicians have allied themselves with socialists or other left-leaning parties. But radical Muslims are also getting involved, and in many ways they are helping to validate the fears that keep parties like Vlaams Belang alive."

It's a strategic disaster for the left to be seen as partners of the Muslim parties. People will remember. Plus, you have guys like Jean-Fran├žois Bastin, a Belgian convert to Islam who heads the Young Muslims Party (does that name sound familiar?).

He calls Osama bin Laden "a modern Robin Hood," and the World Trade Center attacks "a poetic act," "a pure abstraction." His 23-year-old son is in jail in Turkey on charges that he was involved in the bombings there that killed 61 people in November 2003.

But don't worry. "Were not talking about Shariah now," he says. The implication/threat being that he will talk about it in the future. What if a rightst leader said, "We not talking about expulsion now"? Somehow I think that would cause an uproar. But talk about sharia is all over the continent right now, so his statement is not shocking.

These rightist parties will grow quickly over the coming years. Every terror attack will spur more growth and will damage the left parties who have allied themselves with Muslims. These moderate Muslims will be thrust into an impossible position, seen as a Fifth Column by growing rightist movements and attacked as apostates and traitors by the Islamists. Their numbers will shirk as many leave politics out of fear or despair, or leave Islam altogether like Hirsi Ali in Holland.

Indeed Europe's next assassination may very will be that of a Moderate Muslim leader, for example the Muslim mayor of Amsterdam. It won't really matter if he is killed by a Muslim or a Dutch, the effect will be the same: to drive moderate Muslims out of the public realm.

The center-left governments are facing a dilemma over these growing rightist movements. They could crack down and outlaw them. Belgium outlawed the Vlaams Blok last November because the supreme court deemed it racist. If they don't have a legitimate political party the rightists will go underground and organize in secret. They could assassinate leftist or Islamist politicians or start a campaign of arson attacks against mosques (we saw scattered arson in Holland after the van Gogh murder; next time it will be organized and much more disciplined.)

If the governments allow rightist parties to contest elections they risk losing votes and polarizing the electorate and further radicalizing the Muslim population. And allowing the rightists into mainstream political discourse is no guarantee that underground groups will not commit assassinations or other criminal acts.

In the interest of full disclosure (and in case you couldn't tell) I sympathize with these rightist movements. They aren't jackbooted soccer hooligans. They are an expression of the frustration and anxiety of the native populations in the face of increasing Islamist agitation. What do you expect the indigenous Europeans to do?
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