Why Xenophobia. Its political influence
Xenophobia and anti-immigrant fanaticism are not only important issues to talk about among people who are supposed to be sensitive to these themes as scholars or as human beings. This topic is also a political issue of our time, because fanaticism is entering the daily public discourse in Europe and the United States. In fact, these points of view are influencing elections everywhere, moving from the fringe to the center of the political arena. They are promoting the success of political parties in terms of votes. In some countries this consensus exceeds the line of the 10%, reaching up to 20% (Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, Hungary, Romania – Italy and France just a bit under the 10 % – Tea parties in the US seem to occupy part of the same ground. However, the difference between Europe and the US lies in the different ideas of citizenship and the right to vote. For example, 21 million eligible Hispanic voters, just to mention one of the minorities in the US, make the difference, and this evidence gives us the occasion to reconsider its importance. (As we see, this point is sometimes invoked, even by the Republican Party).
Fuel for political propaganda
The xenophobic trends are putting pressure on legislators to contradict liberal principles in several situations: the Immigrant Law in Arizona, the French proposal (which could become law as already happened for the veil and for the burqa) to ban any form of religious prayer in public places (supported by Le Pen and Sarkozy), the actual ban on mosques in Switzerland and several other discriminatory proposals against minorities in many European countries. Now I am writing of Western Europe. I don’t want to focus here on the special case of Russia, where the level of ethnic hate and violence is very high. I would rather focus on the situation of many democratic European states, where the right to obtain the citizenship for newcomers is practically impossible, even after an indefinitely long phase of living, working and paying taxes in a Western European country.
The anti-immigrant and anti-foreigner rhetoric based on fear provides fuel for political propaganda, as it boosts the public’s attention, feeding conservative parties and embarrassing the progressive ones. The former are committed to challenge the extreme right trying to follow them onto the same ground (see Sarkozy with the Front National), the latter are afraid to lose voters if they are too soft on this matter and if they are not able to give an effective answer or a fit solution.
Muslim immigrants in Europe, the most burning case
Muslim immigrants represent the most burning case, and Islam and islamophobia deserve special attention, but we should also consider Hispanics in the US, Romanians and Eastern Europeans in Western Europe, or Caucasians and “non-Slavic faces” in Russia, who are all preyed upon by hate-culture and fear-politics. There is a lot of evidence that economic uncertainty, unemployment, and fear of poverty undoubtedly create a favorable ground for ethnic and racial tensions. Fighting xenophobia and fanaticism has to do with objective factors: managing migration and economy are the first appropriate steps to keeping hate and violence under control in public life.
Obsessive trends of hate
But the purpose of this discussion (New York, IPK, 9th of Dec 2011) arises from the fact that obsessive trends of hate are flourishing in our public life, in the media landscape, on TV, on the radio and also in some bookshops. Take the case of Thilo Sarrazin in Germany. In his bestselling book, Deutschland schafft sich ab, he analyzed the hottest issue of the welfare state under the threat of immigrants, and he revitalized eugenics, racism, and xenophobia, provoking a huge reaction: he lost his job and was repudiated by his former party. All his acquaintances made severe statements to keep a clear distance from his ideas. But that’s the post-war Germany, with its severe antifascist, antiracist education, the same thing cannot be said for many other countries, and protagonists of an openly biased racial propaganda elsewhere. We have many examples of it.
The Norwegian killer’s document and his sources
If you wish to collect a bibliography of this type of hatred, turn to the document that Anders Behring Breivik, the killer of Utoya, put online on the very day of the massacre in the Norwegian island, where 69 people died under his fire (after the bomb in Oslo that killed other 8 people). In this document of 1500 pages, called «2083, a European Declaration of Independence», you can find 64 quotations of Robert Spencer, many other references to Bat Ye’or (70 times) or Pamela Geller, but you would also be impressed by Breivik’s admiration for Oriana Fallaci or Geert Wilders. All of these names represent standard references for those obsessed with the Islamic “invasion” of Europe and by the demographic wave that will allegedly overwhelm Europe.
The cultural background of xenophobia is present in the ordinary political discourse of some politicians, journalists, radio talk shows and TV anchormen. For instance, the existential longing for a missing identity and the regret for the decline of nationalism, the ghost of multiculturalism and his sister, the “political correctness,” the “lack of character” and the “cowardice” are all called in the game as consequences of the corruption of souls due to the liberal propaganda and to the liberal «internationalism, extreme feminism, extreme egalitarianism, anti-elitism, anti-Nationalism» (quotations of Breivik’s document).
Putin, Wilders and their “political incorrectness”
Take this phrase: “Western Europe is heading in a direction where they are going to become colonies of their former colonies”. These are words of Vladimir Putin, which the Norwegian killer quoted. He commented on these words: «Why does Europe lack the cultural and political self confidence to prevent its own suicide? Is it genetic and a way nature is saying that Europeans are not “fit to exist,” or is it just due to decades of excessive decadence? How did we end up as cowardly eunuchs applauding our own cultural and demographical demise?» And again: «What’s wrong with us, what’s wrong with the European modern man? Why doesn’t he rise up against the multiculturalist elites and at least attempt to inflict some damage or contribute to seize power on behalf of himself, his family and his people? Many state leaders around the world are puzzled over how little resistance the European elites are getting in their attempts to completely demographically reshape Europe.» Breivik’s hero is Geert Wilders. The leader of the Party for Freedom of Nederland came to New York during the campaign against Park 51 to say: «We must never give a free hand to those who want to subjugate us.» Wilders went on: «Draw this line so that New York … will never become New Mecca.» By the way, Newt Gingrich also came into this arena and compared the Islamic Community Center project to building a Nazi monument outside the Holocaust Museum.
“There is no such thing as a moderate Islam”
One of Wilders’ favorite phrases is, «There is no such thing as a moderate Islam». You can find the same slogan from a member of the French government, Jeannette Bougrab: «Je ne connais pas d’islamisme modéré», minister of the Youth, (Le Monde, Dec 3rd 2011), which she gave as a comment on the Egyptian elections. In the mind of the Norwegian killer, multiculturalists with their «brainwashing-campaigns», which are a kind of perverse and astute transformation of Marxism, should have been executed «in order for nationalism to succeed» and also to prevent the settlement of Eurabia. We know that neither Geert Wilders nor the Italian Northern League and neither Billy O’Reilly nor Glenn Beck would share this view, of course, and that difference is not to be ignored.
Huntington’s syllogisms. Multiculturalism as a Western suicide
But we must reflect on this pattern of syllogisms (all taken from the Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations): 1) enemies are essential for people seeking identity and reinventing ethnicity; 2) in the late twentieth century identity has come under intense and sustained onslaught from intellectuals in the name of multiculturalism, (i.e. promotion of racial, ethnic and other sub-national cultural identities and groupings) «The multicultural trend was also manifested in a variety of legislation that followed the civil rights acts of the 1960s, and in the ’90s the Clinton administration made the encouragement of diversity one of its major goals…» 3) “Rejection of the Creed and of the Western civilization means the end of the United States of America as we have known it. It also means effectively the end of Western civilization” (the “suicidal” trend, as you see…, the same targeted by Breivik and by Putin). «The clash between the multiculturalists and the defenders of Western civilization … is “the real clash” within the American segment of Western civilization… Domestically this means rejecting the divisive siren calls of multiculturalism».
The “real clash” is domestic
In the end, according to those who accept this perspective and want to defeat the self-destructive tendency to weaken the identity and the inherent national Creed, everyone has to keep higher the tension between «us» and the «enemy», with the aim of defeating those who promote any kind of dialogue. The strategy to fight the «real clash» is clear. The international conflict between the West and the enemy outside is a projection of the domestic battle between cowards and patriots, and vice versa. This game of mirrors is evident in every cultivation of cultural and political hate. The extreme version of it delivers the usual scheme of the totalitarian Stalinist power: the outside spectre has to be exploited in order to discover the fifth pillar hidden among us. As for all of us: we can be freely accused of being blind.
“Eurabia” and those who believe in
You can find this scheme applied in Bat Ye’or’s book Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis or in Brigitte Gabriel’s «They must be stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It». Take some titles from the index: «Madrassas in America, Reviving the Caliphate, The subtle Islamization agenda: boiling the West alive.» (also quoted by Breivik once).
The dialogue targeted by hate-literature
The purpose of our foundation is exactly the opposite: it aims to dismantle paranoid dark visions by promoting dialogue and openness, which especially attempts to cross the most troublesome borders and to overcome the distance between people divided by conflicts and sharp differences. I’m almost proud of seeing that either the members of our scientific committee or the other people who contribute to our work are targeted by this hate-literature as the worst cases of people “addicted to dialogue.” That role is perhaps sometimes uncomfortable, but it deserves our gratitude. Our goals – promoting dialogue and a better knowledge beyond borders – are becoming, if possible, even more urgent after the changes in Middle East and North Africa: revolts, reforms, free elections, and the emergence of strong Islamist parties. These events provide new fodder for the mobilization of fears, and therefore new reasons for promoting a clear and balanced view of our present.
Overcoming the dogma and the limits of national sovereignty in Europe
Xenophobia and revivals of nationalist ideology – accompanied by racial prejudices – represent a big political and cultural issue of our days. It’s a challenge particularly difficult in Europe now because we have to afford “the task to overcome the dogma and the limits of the national sovereignty”. Let me quote a letter send to my magazine Reset by the president of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano. “It’s a dogma, or recurring complex, that has had big part in the present crisis of the European leadership and of the European project”.