Sunday, 6 April 2014

Europe's problem with Muslims.

Now Marine Le Pen has stated that there should be no 'special treatment' for Muslims (and by extension Jews) with school meals. Either they eat pork, or they starve. This isn't to be understood as in isolation. As some of you may have read the Danish have banned halal and kosher slaughter on the grounds of animal rights. Of course, this is just another event in a long procession of bans in Europe. The French government banned the veil in public places, the Swiss government banned minarets, then there was the Cologne ruling against circumcision in 2012, and the 2013 ban on halal and kosher slaughter in Poland. This is at the same time as we've seen calls for the Qur'an to be banned from Dutch politician Geert Wilders. He has found common cause with other self-described 'counter-jihadists' such as Le Pen. We've had a recurring debate about whether Islam is compatible with 'Western' culture. Britain routinely has a debate over whether or not to ban the veil, with similar debates on halal meat and circumcision taking place with less frequency.

We should ask ourselves some stark questions about all of this. No Muslim country has invaded or occupied a 'Western' or European state in recent decades. To the contrary, the UK and the US invaded Iraq and Afghanistan and occupied leaving more than a million people dead. The vast majority killed have been civilians and no doubt most of them have been Muslims. The French were totally on board with the NATO intervention in Libya which left thousands dead, just as they also wanted to bomb Syria as US allies Turkey and Israel had already done. This is at the same time that the governments of the US and Western Europe continue to support dictatorships across the Arab and Muslim world. So the idea that there is a 'clash of civilisations' is somewhat absurd, mainly because it's rightists who want such a war. As for European Muslims, here's an excerpt from Yehouda Shenhav:

I would like to go back for a minute to what was known in Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century as the "Jewish problem," and to the debates of Jewish emancipation. The debates were originally stirred by a Prussian government effort to extend an identical status to all Jews under its rule; in 1841, it released a draft law concerned with the need for maintaining "the wondrous essence" of the Jews without "intervening with the Christian state." Bruno Bauer wrote that, in a state where Christianity was the official religion, Jews could not be truly emancipated. Religious freedom necessitates the privatization of religion and eschewing it away from the public sphere, but Judaism, being a religion of (public) law rather than of faith, cannot be reduced into a "private religion."

Just as Judaism is a public religion Islam can be understood in these terms as well and liberal societies cannot easily integrate such religious groups into atomised chambers of individual rights and freedoms. The pre-Enlightenment communitarian values of Judaeo-Islamic culture reach beyond the limits of individualism, as such an identity and tradition cannot easily be relegated to a private space. This is where multiculturalism entered as a liberal option of opening up a space for newly settled cultures within the liberal framework. But this has been a beleaguered idea since it first appeared. This is how we are to understand the calls to ban the veil, minarets, and so on. It's no coincidence that the anti-Muslim racism of today can easily overlap with anti-Semitism. This is what bans on circumcision and halal slaughter demonstrate so well. The European fascist parties now have a new means of reinstating old anti-Jewish measures as a programme for defending 'our culture' from imaginary Muslim hordes.

Over the last decade we've witnessed the legitimation of anti-Muslim hatred across Europe in various forms. The actions Breivik undertook can only be understood with this background. The Far-Right used to claim Communism was the Jewish plot to destroy European nationhood, now they claim the Left (and the Jews, no doubt!) are working to flood Europe with Muslims and impose Islamic law in order to destroy 'Western' civilisation. This was the essence of Breivik's ideology: multiculturalism, feminism, and 'political-correctness', are a "cultural Marxist" affront to European nations and their traditional culture. I've covered the growth of this theory among neo-fascists before. It should concern all of us, especially as anti-Muslim hatred is increasingly normalised by the very same liberal intelligentsia who are meant to be the custodians of liberal democratic values.

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