Europe: An anti-Islam wave?

Europe: An anti-Islam wave?

American statistics analysis site Five-Thirty-Eight took a look at anti-Islam sentiments across Europe:

After the Dutch coalition government of Jan Peter Balkenende collapsed abruptly last February, a new election has been scheduled for June 9th. While it is unclear which party will take the most seats, all eyes are on far-right, anti-Islamic Party for Freedom (PVV, in Dutch) and its flamboyant, bombastic leader Geert Wilders. Wilders produced the inflammatory film Fitna, which denounces Islam as a terrorist religion. Some polls show the PVV in the lead--taking a plurality of 18% -- though Wilders would probably rather remain in the opposition in parliament than attempt to form a governing coalition. (The Netherlands uses a system of proportional representation under which it is very rare for any one party to gain an absolute majority.)

The rise of Wilders has alarmed many political observers, and has been cited as yet another point of evidence of a new tide of European anti-Islamism. (Though Wilders specifically rejects comparisons to far-right politicians Jean-Marie Le Pen and Jörg Haider.) Bolstering this “trend” are Switzerland’s referendum against minarets, the French ban on headscarves in public buildings, and anti-immigration parties making headway in other countries. But is pure Islamophobia (e.g., the number of people who fear or dislike Islam) the driving factor in the PVV’s rise in support? And why are anti-Islam/anti-immigration parties such a force in the Netherlands, but not in countries like Spain? Is it simply a matter of integration of a new immigrant group, rather than cultural or political characteristics specific to Muslims?

To begin with, it seems -- understandably -- that the countries with the highest percentage of Muslims are where tensions have come to a head first.

The three countries where anti-Muslim sentiment has reached a peak in recent years, France, Netherlands and Switzerland, have the highest percentage of Muslims in western Europe. Germany and the UK also have high Muslim populations, though more centralized in a few urban locations.

Possible factors at play:

• Anti-globalization and Euroskepticism in general.
• Nativism stemming from poor economic conditions.
• Fractures within internal welfare state coalition.
• Anxiety over/of aging population.
• Increased concern about crime.
• Increased concern about terrorism.
• Rapidly growing muslim populations in particular European countries and cities


Source: Five-Thirty-Eight (English)

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