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How Do Muslims Respond to Far Right Political Mobilization in Their European State?

This paper evaluates qualitative and quantitative evidence of Muslims’ European identification in France, Austria and the Netherlands while the far right mobilizes to exclude them from the national culture. In all these states, radical right parties stoked anti-Muslim sentiment during the run-up to the 2016-2017 national elections. The center ostensibly prevailed in each case, but these campaigns further legitimized exclusionary policies toward the religious minority. We assess the difficult political terrain faced by Muslims in Europe, their sense of discrimination, their attitude toward state institutions and their electoral participation. Political parties positioned against multiculturalism and immigration, state-level retrenchment of multicultural policies, and the regularity of terrorist attacks in Europe represent and exacerbate obstacles faced by Muslims in pursuing social, educational and economic progress for themselves and their families.

How Do Muslims Respond to Far Right Political Mobilization in
Different political parties and organizations in the Netherlands, led by the Denk Party, established by two Dutch politicians of Turkish origin, came together in anti-racism and anti-discrimination demonstrations. ABDULLAH AŞIRAN / AA Photo

Introduction1

Far right rhetoric and jihadi-inspired terrorist incidents have derailed progress on the minority protection initiatives begun in earnest with the European Year against Racism declared by the European Council of Ministers and representatives of the member states’ governments in 1997. These efforts were intended to reduce disparities and polarizations in Europe by removing barriers to the full participation of minorities in European States.2 The Council of Europe targeted eight key areas of life in its effort to monitor and improve parity between minorities, including Muslims, and those who call themselves “natives” of Europe.3 The key areas are “employment, housing, healthcare, nutrition, education, information, culture and basic public functions (which include equality, anti-discrimination and self-organization).”4 Reducing discrimination remains an elusive goal in this effort, though critical to minimizing minority/majority disparities and utilizing the talents of minorities in Europe. Discrimination predominately targets Muslims, whose conservative lifestyle and overt practice of religion draw unwanted attention in secular Europe, and far right parties have mobilized to deny Muslims a place in European culture.5 The diversity protection initiatives that began twenty years ago are viewed with suspicion by those attracted to the nativism promoted by right wing populist parties. Regardless of Europe’s need for labor and the demographic trough many member-states face, experts’ recommendations for addressing these problems are not persuasive to some in the ethnic majority. Demographers, like the economist-technocrats guiding the European Parliament’s policymaking or advising center-left political parties, face a skeptical audience for their analyses.6 Weakened trust in the state and in European policymakers also instigates a turning away from experts on the part of voters.

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Call for Paper | Politics of the Balkans and Future Perspectives