LONDON — Recent days have witnessed the rise of a continent-wide anti-immigration mass movement.
Beginning in Germany, the “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West” are known by their German acronym, Pegida.
Last week, Pegida held coordinated rallies in the U.K., Ireland, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, southern Austria, and even reached as far afield as Australia. The protests have been multi-ethnic and multi-faith, but markedly anti-Islam.
Being Muslim is the new bogeyman. Xenophobia and bigotry are disguised as patriotism. Populism is on its ugly march once more across Europe. And people are petrified.
The Pegida protests were met by often violent anti-fascist counter-protesters. True to form, the one arrest at the U.K. protest was of an anti-fascist. These are in fact Regressive Left fellow-travellers of Islamism, and they have only inflamed community tensions further.
In the name of their own ideological experiment driven by identity politics, the anti-fascists not only ignore, but wholeheartedly defend the stranglehold Islamists have over Europe’s Muslim communities. Theocracy and illiberalism are disguised as diversity. Multiculturalism is institutionalized across Europe. And people are petrified.
Free speech has suffered the terribly. Populists will abuse it to incite hatred of Muslims. Islamists will simultaneously argue for it, and against it, depending on whether the topic is the right to advocate theocracy or ban cartoons. The Regressive Left’s answer is typically authoritarian, preferring to silence debate rather than think uncomfortable thoughts.
Last week, exhausted by moderating the trolls, the Guardian announced that it has decided to shut down comments on its now ironically named “Comment is Free” opinion page for the three topics of Islam, race and immigration.
Meanwhile, Vice revealed the existence of a private company that maintains a for-profit secret blacklist of Muslims it arbitrarily labels as terrorists. I am named on this list.
Reasonable conversation around Islam, race, and immigration has become impossible.
Years ago, when Bin Laden launched his war on “the West,” contrary to being a madman with no plan, he told us exactly what he wanted to achieve. By making non-Muslims pay for the decisions of governments he didn’t like, Bin Laden wanted to make Western populations turn on their own governments, and turn on their Muslims citizens, too.
The consequences of this would be that politicians become spineless in dealing with the jihadist insurgency in the Middle East, while Muslims in the West are alienated and isolated by wider society, leaving them with no refuge apart from seeking their own state—a jihadist caliphate.
Years after Bin Laden’s death, both he and Anders Breivik, the Norwegian far-right terrorist who murdered 77 people in 2011, would delight at the division they have sown across Europe. Both wanted Western citizens to identify primarily by a religious cultural tag, and that is exactly what has happened.
Terrorism, the refugee crisis, and Europe’s growing, underachieving,Muslim population are challenges not going away any time soon. Last week, the International Organization for Migration reported that 67,000 arrived in Europe by boat last month alone.
Due to widespread governance failure in North and East Africa, hundreds of thousands will continue to come, even if the Syrian conflict were solved tomorrow. Couple this with the fact that Europe’s labor market—and Germany is a case in point—has a dire need for major influxes of manual labor, and the cultural paradox Europe faces when dealing with Islam, race, and immigration will only continue to grow.
Populist inflammation of this problem will not help to solve it, but can only lead to civil war. Likewise, Leftist denial of the problem is feeding the rise of the Populist Right. The breakup of the European Union is at risk, and with it the dream of forever avoiding a Europe at war again. Russia wants the EU gone. Islamists want the EU gone. Populists want the EU gone. And the Left’s uncritical policies are aiding them all.
Between xenophobia and xenophilia, a solution to Europe’s cultural wars lies in facing up to a few uncomfortable home truths first. Some of the right’s critique of immigration is correct. Some of the left’s concern with hosting refugees is correct. Some of the Muslim concern with racism and bigotry is correct. But the Old World models of populism, multiculturalism and Islamism—of divisive identity politics—are not the answer. They cannot be the answer. They are tearing us apart.
Candor, consistency, leadership, and integrity are the only ways to cut a liberal, secular, and humane path through this polarized political mosaic. As the left-of-center columnist Nick Cohen has noted, making a distinction between economic migrants and genuine refugees would be a start. But the debate must go further.
The mass sex attacks in Cologne over New Year’s highlighted that even after striking a middle ground on a sensible migration policy, once refugees are in Europe there is little excuse for neglecting a policy that focuses on integration and language skills. New arrivals must adapt to the liberal culture they have sought to make their own.
The Populist Right, Islamists, and the Regressive Left share a bigotry: They insist that Muslims, Islam, and Islamism are one and the same. They either attack or defend all three as one and the same thing. Simple minds require a simple world. Simple right-wingers need Islam to be the only evil. Simple Muslims need Islam to be the only true faith. Simple left-wingers need Muslims to be the only victims.
In between these simplifications, intelligent debate is lost. Liberalism provides freedom of religion and from religion. Free speech allows for the advocacy of ideas like Islamist theocracy, but it also means that others can advocate their own ideas, in the form of cartoons. Bigotry can exist against minorities and also by minorities.
Human rights is a double-edged sword of justice. It works both for and against people, including for and against minorities. We should be able to hold two thoughts at the same time. And to those vested in dividing our communities along narrow identity lines, a plague on all your houses.