Right-wing populism in Europe puts Muslim communities on edge

Right-wing parties and movements are enjoying their best electoral results since the second world war.
Sunday 15/04/2018
A man walks by an anti-migration billboard placed on a street in Budapest. (AP)
Rising wave. A man walks by an anti-migration billboard placed on a street in Budapest. (AP)

MILAN - A total of 950 attacks were perpetrated on Muslims and mosques in Germany in 2017, government statistics indicate.

Germany has Europe’s second largest Muslim population — about 4.7 million people, approximately 3 million of whom are Turkish immigrants or their descendants. The German government has been criticised for failing to integrate its Muslim population, though right-wing groups blame immigrants and minorities for not assimilating.

“Surveys show that while Muslims who have lived in Germany longer or were born here fundamentally feel German and have a strong affinity to the country, they still don’t really feel accepted as German, even though many of their families have been here for 40 years,” said Jorg Luyken, the editor of the Local Germany, a digital English language news network.

Luyken noted the management of Muslims in Germany has often been outsourced to Turkey. This has, at times, prevented a coming together of Muslims with native Germans and an understanding of each other.

The issue of Muslim identity in Germany created a political battle between those who say Islam is a part of German society and those who claim it does not belong.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has said Islam was “not part of Germany.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel fired back at Seehofer after meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, saying: “These Muslims are part of Germany and their religion, Islam, is just as much a part of Germany.”

The debate is sure to affect Muslims in Germany who say they feel ostracised by local society, especially women.

Anti-Muslim sentiment isn’t exclusive to Germany in Europe. France and the United Kingdom have large Muslim populations whose members face discrimination and alienation.

A flyer recently circulated in the United Kingdom with the words “Punish a Muslim Day” and offered rewards for attacking Muslims or mosques.

In Italy, Muslims struggle to congregate due to politicians blocking approval to build state-sanctioned mosques.

This is unlikely to change soon because far-right party the League, led by nationalist Matteo Salvini, performed better than predicted in Italy’s elections.

Running on an anti-migrant and anti-Muslim platform, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing Fidesz party won parliamentary elections on April 8. His success is seemingly encouraging populist nativism elsewhere in Europe.

Right-wing parties and movements in Europe are enjoying their best electoral results since the second world war.

In Germany, however, the police seem to have taken notice. They have heavily monitored far-right groups and are on alert, particularly after reports of groups infiltrating the country’s armed services.

“Germans are generally very sensitive about violence against minority groups and are aware of the threat that right-wing organisations pose,” Luyken said. “There is considerable surveillance of such groups, so I think it’s not necessarily true that the threat has been neglected.”