Are the Muslims of Europe the new ‘Ersatz Juden?’
MIRNES KOVACIn the same way as an advertisement serves to commerce, propaganda is serving politics. It is not strange that in the midst of intra-European crisis scapegoats are in high demand. History teaches us that the weakest were always the best candidates for this role. Unfortunately, today this role is reserved for the Muslims of Europe. It seems that spitting in the face of Islam best compensates political unpopularity!
No matter how much Islam and Muslims are being perceived as a threat, (and no matter how huge are their own internal problems), in reality both are much more victims than culprits of the dangerous interventionist policy of Euro-Atlantic alliance in the last two decades. These had self-evidently created chaos in the Middle East. If we follow the despair in this principal living space of Islam (only in Syria the number of killed has reached almost five hundred thousand people) we can easily see that there is a prolonged state of siege, both internal and external. That siege deepens suffering and horrors of people of the Middle East on a daily basis and further destroys social tissue and cohesion of its societies. It drives millions of human beings to look for security and safety somewhere outside the war zone. And recently, the most popular destinations for refugees (not immigrants as they very intentionally misnamed) were lands of the West. Paradoxically, they seek refuge in the lands of those governments who more or less caused their turmoil by unprincipled interventionism. Today’s crisis in Syria has reached its peak and it is seriously threatening with the major world conflict.
Recently French President François Holland gave his contribution to the heinous propaganda of the satanization of Islam and Muslims. Hollande told the authors of book that was published under the title “A President Shouldn’t Say That…” and authored by two investigative journalists of Le Monde (Gerard Davet and Fabrice L’Homme) that “France has a problem with Islam.” The journalists composed the book from their private interviews with Mr. Hollande and reported sometimes very openly views of Mr. Hollande on various issues both in France and internationally. In the book, as Le Monde reported recently, Hollande confessed about the problems with Islam and Muslims. He is reported to have said that there are too many immigrants arriving in the country who “should not be there.” “It’s not that Islam poses a problem in the sense that it is a dangerous religion, but in as far as it wants to affirm itself as a religion of the Republic,” Hollande was quoted in the controversial book. “I think there are too many arrivals of immigration that shouldn’t be there,” the French president told Davet and L’Homme.
Probably the biggest problem in Europe today, for which it was claimed that represents the civilization founded on reason, is that it more than ever lacks humanity imbued with emotions. It was the concept of homo sentimentalis that contemporary European philosophers elevated to the level of value. However, this value is obviously losing itself in the aftermath of wider crisis of European identity. And it is very visible in the highly developed societies of Europe, especially in France currently led by Mr. Hollande. There is the open problem of populist movements that clearly indicates the troubles with identity. We could have seen this in the “unexpected” success of Brexit. What is next? What is the next stumbling block for Europe?
When protests erupted in the suburbs of Paris 10 years ago, in which cars and buildings were set on fire, some media called it the “French Intifada,” framing it in Arab-Islamic coloring. But these riots were against the limitations of integration, especially against non-economic integration. These were classical Western-style riots, and not the clash between the East and the West… Demonstrators demanded for themselves and for their children the same thing that others already had.
There is a general problem in Europe with populist movements, which can cause serious damage to the idea of Europe. For what is the identity of today’s Europe and is that identity possible at all? No one can answer this question right now. But, if we have the cases that all the problems of Europe are being addressed to endangered and ghettoized immigrant communities and that these accusations are coming from the most prominent political offices of the Old Continent – then that could create serious consequences not just for Europe but for the entire world. This can be seen in the announcement of Nicolas Sarkozy (if he get the nomination of the center-right) who promises very rigorous anti-immigrant policies in France.
A year ago, in October 2015, when Eastern Europe faced thousands of refugees, similarly alarms were raised by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. After waves of refugees who were expelled from their homelands in the Middle East, Mr. Orban exclaimed that “Islam never belonged to Europe.” After the issue calmed a bit and after we all saw that Mr. Orban had a problem with the EU immigration policy which Hungary could not follow, we clearly saw that the Hungarian prime minister had actually reached for the easiest solution: stirring up fear against Islam and Muslims. Did he solve the problem? No! But now Mr. Orban has a like-minded colleague from a much stronger European nation that has relied on an immigrant workforce for more than a century and which now has one fifth of its own population composed by either immigrant or immigrant-born people. The question is where will this dangerous rhetoric lead.
Are we witnessing the same propaganda like the one actively promoted against the Jews of Europe at the beginning of 20th century? We all know where this kind of hatred can lead. Are the Muslims of Europe the new scapegoats of Europe? Are they destined to be a kind of “Ersatz Juden” or surrogate Jews, like those at the beginning of 20th century on the eve of the Holocaust?
Unfortunately, Europe proved more than once that it has the capacity to turn to darkness and that it failed its promise of “never again” in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is very dangerous to attempt to solve current geopolitical problems by shortcuts and fears and by populism that is the main indicator of the identity crisis.
For what is the identity of today’s Europeans? Do I, as a native European Muslim, have the right to ask this question? Is Europe a Christian continent? Does it uphold Christian values? Is secularism the mere separation of state and church or is it a kind of artificial national ideology? Or is it a fake myth? Does anybody actually know what it means? Do “secular values” exist at all? Maybe these are questions Hollande should answer before pointing the finger at Islam and Muslims. Maybe the answers to these questions will help him find a scapegoat for his extremely low popularity.
*Mirnes Kovac is a journalist and political analyst from Sarajevo. He is the author of the recently published book ‘The Siege of Islam’ and a regular columnist and commentator on the Middle East and Balkan issues.