EUROPE'S WAR AGAINST ISLAM
From the Canadain MACLEAN'S magazine - January 2010
Attacks on religious freedoms are going mainstream!
By MICHAEL PETROU
Perhaps it is fitting that it was French President Nicolas
Sarkozy who came to the defence of the Swiss, who voted in
November to ban the construction of new minarets in their
country. Sarkozy's father was an immigrant to France, and his
mother's ancestors included Ottoman Sephardic Jews from
Thessalonica. Sarkozy's father abandoned his family and refused
to help them financially. Sarkozy grew up poorer than his peers
and resented it. "What made me who I am now is the sum of all the
humiliations suffered during childhood."
He was, in other words, something of an outsider. It wouldn't be
a stretch to imagine that he might be predisposed to sympathy
toward the millions of other outsiders now trying to find their
place in Europe - the continent's growing Muslim population. Yet
Sarkozy reacted to the Swiss vote by urging that it be respected.
"Instead of condemning the Swiss out of hand, we should try to
understand what they meant to express and what so many people in
Europe feel, including people in France," he wrote in the French
newspaper Le Monde. "Nothing would be worse than denial:" He
urged French Muslims, who make up four per cent of France's
population and are more numerous than in any other country in
Europe, not to challenge France's Christian heritage and
Sarkozy, a populist politician, was simply reflecting widespread
popular discomfort about Islam in Europe. A 2008 survey funded by
the Germany Marshall Fund of the United States found that more
than 50 per cent of respondents in Germany, Italy, Holland, and
France believe that "Western and Muslim ways of life are
irreconcilable." Another study, by the Pew Research Center,
revealed an increase in negative views toward Muslims and Jews in
Europe from 2004 to 2008. (Attitudes towards Muslims and Jews in
the United States improved during the same time period.)
Some sort of symbolic demonstration was likely inevitable. But
the Swiss never looked like obvious candidates to launch what is
arguably the most illiberal and bigoted legislation Europe has
seen in years.
Switzerland hasn't suffered an Islamist terror attack. And Swiss
Muslims, who make up about five per cent of the population, are
more integrated and upwardly mobile than Muslims elsewhere in
Europe. Most Swiss Muslims come from Turkey, Albania, and the
former Yugoslavia. Few are radical or even all that conservative.
Women who hide their faces behind Islamic niqabs are a common
sight in east London, but not in Berne.
Islam's presence isn't that visible in Swiss architecture,
either. In the entire country, there are a grand total of four
minarets - the steeple-like spires that often adorn mosques where
Muslims pray. But that was four too many for the Swiss. More than
57 per cent of participating voters approved the proposed
ban, with majorities in 22 out of 26 cantons supporting the
constitutional amendment. The conservative Swiss People's Party
spearheaded the referendum campaign. Their anti-immigrant public
relations campaigns in the past have included posters depicting
three white sheep kicking a black one off of a Swiss flag. This
time around, their posters featured a sinister-looking woman in a
black burka standing before a Swiss flag riddled with
Those supporting a minaret ban pointed to a poem Turkish Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan recited more than to years ago that
compares minarets to bayonets. But the vote wasn't really about
minarets, or architectural harmony, or even, as some have
suggested, the Swiss thumbing their noses at political and media
elites who assured them that the responsible thing to do would be
to reject the proposed ban.
"The minarets are an excuse," says Stefano Allievi, a sociologist
at the University of Padua. "The issue is Islam."
According to Clive Church, an emeritus professor at the
University of Kent, many Swiss are slow to accept foreigners.
Citizenship can be denied to third-generation Swiss residents,
whose grandparents immigrated decades ago. There is also anger in
Switzerland over the arrest in Libya of two Swiss businessmen who
were detained in 2008, shortly after Geneva police arrested
Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi's son and his son's wife on
suspicion that they beat their domestic staff. Gadhafi's son and
daughterin-law were quickly freed, while the Swiss businessmen
were jailed for more than a year before they were released on
bail in November. (They have since been convicted of immigration
offences and sentenced to 16-month jail terms.) Some Swiss anger
over this affair was channelled into the movement to ban
Still, it would be wrong to portray the minaret vote as some sort
of freak storm that will soon dissipate. The vote tapped into a
deep well of unease. Already there are moves to build on it.
Christophe Darbellay, head of Switzerland's Christian Democratic
People's Party, wants a ban on separate Muslim and Jewish
cemeteries. And the Swiss People's Party is planning further
measures to reverse what one of its MPs describes as the
Islamicization of the country. "Voters gave a strong signal to
stop the claim to power by political Islam at the expense of our
laws and values," Adrian Amstutz told a news agency. "Forced
marriages, female circumcision, special dispensation from
swimming lessons, and the burka are top of the list."
Elsewhere on the continent, the Swiss vote has intensified a
debate as Europeans grapple with the fact that the demographic
makeup of their countries is changing rapidly, and likely
forever. Many want to halt this transformation, or at least erase
its most visible manifestations.
One in four Swedes is in favour of banning the construction of
more minarets. In Italy, a member of the Northern League, which
is a junior partner in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's
coalition government, called for a vote to ban minarets modelled
after the Swiss referendum. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, of
the Northern League, says he would have "no objections." A
nationwide vote may not be necessary. Allievi, the Italian
sociologist, says mosques in northern Italy frequently have their
electricity and water cut off. The official explanation is that
they have transgressed fire or zoning bylaws. "The real reason is
they detest Islam," he says.
Protesters in 2006 left a severed pig's head I outside a mosque
being built in Tuscany. The following year, those opposed to the
construction of a mosque in Padua paraded a pig around the site
to "desecrate" the soil for Muslims. Roberto Calderoli, a
Northern League senator, has called for a "Pig Day" to protest
the construction of a mosque in Bologna.
Opposition to visible signs of Islam in Germany is rarely so
explicit. Anti-mosque rallies draw more police than activists.
One last year brought out a handful of anti-Islam protesters, and
some 40,000 supporters. But, says, Josef Joffe, editor of the
German newsweekly Die Zeit, "We do this more subtly." People are
unlikely to complain about the mosque itself, but rather the
resulting noise or lack of parking.
In France, where a law already prevents French students from
wearing "conspicuous" religious symbols at state schools, a
parliamentary panel is exploring possible laws that would forbid
women from wearing burkas. Sarkozy has voiced his support for
such a ban. "The burka," he said, "is not a sign of religion. It
is a sign of subservience. It will not be welcome on the
territory of the French republic." Last month, the country's
justice minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, said that men who force
their wives to wear burkas should not be granted French
citizenship. "There are a certain number of basics on which we
must stand firm," she said. "For instance, someone whose wife
wears the full veil is someone who would not appear to be sharing
the values of our country."
France's former prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, has accused
the government of starting a "barroom discussion" about identity.
This is probably a good thing - at least until the discussion
moves from the bar to the gutter outside, where several political
parties have set up camp and are seeking to exploit tensions
regarding Islam's growth in Europe.
The far-right National Front in France has, predictably, called
for a referendum, but one that would extend beyond the simple
issue of minarets to include immigration and the impact of
religious and ethnic minorities on French society.
In Holland, Geert Wilders, the platinum-haired leader of the
Party for Freedom, has seen his popularity soar on the strength
of an unequivocal stand against Islam. Never mind minarets. He
wants to ban the Quran.
The British National Parry, afar-right organization that is only
now moving toward allowing non-white members (because Britain's
Human Rights Commission threatened legal action), today focuses
its vitriol almost exclusively against Muslims. "To go anywhere
near inciting racial hatred is grotesquely unfair because no one
can change how they are born," BNP chairman Nick Griffin has
said. "On the other hand, to criticize a religion in much
stronger terms - even if it does cross the line imposed by law -
I think is entirely justifiable, because everybody has the choice
to change a religion if it's bad."
Griffin describes Islam as "a wicked, vicious faith" and "a
cancer eating away at our freedoms and our democracy and rights
for our women." This June, the BNP won two seats in the European
Parliament. The party is poised to accept its first non-white
member, Rajinder Singh, a septuagenarian Sikh who hates Muslims.
"He is perhaps the kind of immigrant you want, if you are going
to have them," a BNP spokesman says.
At issue is a question of national identity--what it means to be
Dutch, or French, or German, or Italian. "The big problem in
Europe is that the way we create identities is unlike how it is
done in classic immigration nations like the United States,
Canada, and Australia," says Jan Techau, director of the Europe
program at the German Council on Foreign Relations. "We have not
developed any kind of mechanism that allows people from all over
the place to enter our societies, play by a certain set of rules,
and become one of us."
Indeed, many of the Muslims in continental European countries are
the descendants of migrants who arrived a generation or two ago
as "guest workers." They were never meant to stay, and therefore
little effort was made to integrate them. But they did stay. And
they had children who are now considered foreigners despite their
native birth. Often without citizenship, they have little stake
in the political process, and withdraw into isolated Muslim
enclaves that are common in dozens of European cities.
It would be wrong, however, to blame this segregation solely on
the host societies. Integration is not always sought by European
Muslims, either. Many mosques and Muslim organizations in
Britain, for example, have ties to South Asian Islamist groups
that discourage friendly interaction with nonbelievers. In some
European Muslim communities, brides are imported from poor and
backward villages in North Africa. They arrive too late to attend
school and have little opportunity to learn the language, get a
job, or become part of the larger society.
"It takes two to tango," says Joffe. "The indigenous have to be
more generous about accepting 'the Other' and his unfamiliar
ways. The newcomers have to adapt to local mores:
don't drop out of school, learn a trade, become a bit like us,
try exogamy, don't build mosques that are higher than the church
steeple next door, don't live in 'parallel universes,' as a
classic shibboleth has it. This is going to be a long bargaining
process - painful for both sides, but absolutely necessary."
For several years, Usama Hasan, a parttime imam at the al Tawhid
mosque in east London and a professor of artificial intelligence
at Middlesex University, has been trying to encourage the growth
of a "Western, British Islam" that is both modern and moderate,
and rejects the cultural and political baggage of South Asia and
the Middle East. Last year, he helped launch the Quilliam
Foundation, which dubs itself the "world's anti-Islamic
protesters in London (right) first counter-extremism think tank,"
and whose founders are ex-Islamists who now reject the ideology
they once followed. "It' worrying, this kind of development,"
Hasan said of the Swiss referendum in an interview with
Maclean's. "It underlines the need fo more dialogue, more
interaction, more balanced and sane voices to speak up. That's
the only way forward after this."
Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss author and acedemic, blamed the minaret
ban partly on hi compatriots' fear of Islam. "While European
countries are going through a real and deep identity crisis, the
new visibility of Muslim is problematic - and it's scary," he
wrote in the wake of the vote. But Ramadan also blame his fellow
Swiss Muslims for their passive rol in the debate, for not
engaging with thei countrymen. "I have been repeating for year to
Muslim people that they have to be positively visible, active and
proactive within the: respective Western societies," he said.
Integration won't be easy. And there ar many European Muslims and
non-Muslim who don't appear to want it. But it's difficult to
imagine a stable and harmonious continent unless this occurs.
Those who want to ban minarets might not want to acknowledge ity,
but Islam is now a European religion.
This is all a part of end-time prophecy that will eventually lead
up to the "king of the North" (the mighty Beast power of Europe)
attacking and conquering the "king of the South" (an Egyptian led
Arab confederation of nations) when the king of the South "pushes
at" (whatever that push may be) the king of the North. Then the
Beast of Europe will enter the Holy Land, and will turn its guns
on the Jerusalem, the Jews, and the Western world, to take
control. This will be the "great tribulation" as was never before
and never will be again, spoken about by Daniel and Jeremiah
(Daniel 11:40-45; 12:1-3; Jerem.30:1-9) and confirmed by Jesus Christ
in Matthew 24.
Keep your eys on Europe!