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Islamophobia in Europe: The Radical Right and the Mainstream

The surge of Islamophobia in Europe has been linked with the growing popularity and agenda-setting power of the radical right. However, attributing the rise of Islamophobia to the radical right-wing parties is all too comforting at a time when the dominant, ‘mainstream’ culture has increasingly embraced positions openly hostile and often discriminatory to Islam and Muslim communities. The fight against Islamophobia begins with the realization that Islamophobia is a ‘mainstream’ problem for European societies, which now need more than ever a positive vision for a diverse, inclusive, and open post-crisis Europe.

Islamophobia in Europe The Radical Right and the Mainstream
Supporters of PEGIDA hold a banner during a rally on November 29, 2015 in Rotterdam. AFP PHOTO / ANP / ROBIN UTRECHT
 

The radical right has been flashing brighter and brighter on the international political radar. As a party family, it is enjoying impressive electoral success in a wide range of countries well beyond its traditional strongholds. In some cases, its parties have managed to become coalition partners or brokers, not only gaining access to power but also exerting influence on state policy. Elsewhere, the radical right remains a potent repository for the growing wave of protest voting even when (and perhaps also because) mainstream political forces have categorically ruled out any prospect of cooperating with them. Beyond organized parties, movements with a populist, hyper-nationalist, nativist ideological profile have become more active in recent years, both on the streets and on the internet, mobilizing support for their divisive and exclusionary political agendas. 

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