Western Europe is slipping from liberal acceptation to right-wing nationalism – Liberal Article
Western Europe has been the promised land of migration for a long time. But is it as utopian as we think?
I know there are many flaws in democracy and western liberalism. However, I did not realise how racist of a society we are. It is no longer about a few bad apples, it is integrated into our society.
After reading an article in the Guardian discussing a report published by the Council of Europe outlining anti-Islamic behaviour, I was thoroughly shocked. The article mentions some key statistics proving how racism is rooted in society: in Germany and Switzerland, for example, one in two people believe Islam to be a threat to society.
Even in the UK, a place of large ethnic diversity, two in five share the same attitude. These numbers are incredibly high; especially in Germany in which over 5% of the population is Muslim. Since the migrant crisis and acts of Jihadi terrorism in 2015, we have seen a rise in nationalist, racist attitudes, and far-right political parties rise to power. To believe that it has slowly dwindled away and become less apparent is naïve.
I am fault of this. Living in Switzerland, I am used to racism being at the core of the party in power; the Swiss People’s Party. However, I believed that over time, people were becoming more acceptant of racial diversity; I was very wrong.
It is very clear this is a societal issue. For example in 2015, Germany adopted the ‘Wilkommenstruktur’ policy, to help refugees enter Germany and seek asylum. However, when comparing social stances of Germans to Poles, they have a similar perception of Islam. Germany’s political acceptance is in heavy contrast to that of Poland, who made their best attempt to prevent refugees from entering. How can the social stance and political stance be in such heavy contrast when Germany holds free elections?
The danger of racism in society is the impact on crime. In Germany, the German police statistics say that crimes labelled as Islamophobia rose by over 4% in 2019. Attacks on Muslims in Germany is a serious issue. Mosques and refugee centres are being targeted and it is a real threat to German national security.
I understand that it is not every German who is carrying out racial attacks. However, we as a society condemn terrorist attacks, yet we are okay with attacking innocent Muslims. All, simply because they believe in the same religion as those who carried out attacks in 2015?
The difficult question is what lies ahead. Will we see society come together and praise love, no matter what race? Unlikely.
I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom, because we have seen periods of togetherness. Around the world there have protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Europeans are not horrible monsters, but we are playing with fire here. The rise of far-right parties, along with a greater following, truly worries me. I hope that the future is brighter than it looks because I worry we are on a slippery slope here.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Charlie Papamichael
Point of Information
Look for bad and you will often find it – A Conservative Response
I am dumbfounded after reading Charlie’s article, I really am. Concluding “European society” to be “racist” is such an ill-founded, effortless deduction from the little evidence presented. One cannot claim to have found and understood causation of Islamophobic attacks from the superficial (and lack of) evidence presented here.
Firstly, the idea that Europe is a “racist society” because of increased Islamophobia does not hold true. People who propose this argument seem to often (and conveniently) forget about countries such as Turkey, Kosovo, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cyprus, which are all European nations with relatively high Muslim populations. Turkey, Kosovo, and Albania have estimated Muslim populations to be 98%, 93%, and 80% respectively.
Funnily enough, I was unable to find statistics of Islamophobia in these three European nations, neither is any presented in the single Guardian article referenced above by Charlie. If Europe “as a society” is racist and Islamophobic, I am confused about where Turkey and Kosovo stand on this discussion; or why the Muslim population within Europe is still steadily increasing.
Those who advocate this idea of “European society” being racist do not look at the wider picture. They instead decide to focus on single microcosms of life and try to stretch this onto the entirety of Europe.
According to a study conducted by Business Outsider, nineteen of the 25 most tolerant countries are a part of “European society”. However, a single study is not definite proof, but similar studies conducted by The Independent, WorldAtlas, the American Psychological Association, and Politic-ED all have the majority of their ‘most liberal countries” to be European countries. I cannot believe a continent which contains the most liberal countries in the world (according to many more studies than just those I have referenced) to be a racist society.
Furthermore, the narrative of Islamophobia exclusively being perpetuated by the right is not only incorrect, but it is also dangerous. The article referenced above warns of anti-Muslim bias being “omnipresent” geographically and “across the political spectrum”, so for anyone truly against Islamophobia it is irresponsible to only condemn it to one side of the political spectrum or the other. People who actively blame only a single side of the political spectrum can not truly be wanting to combat Islamophobia if they do not wish to challenge ALL those enacting it.
I would like to point out all forms of discrimination, including Islamophobia, are wrong and bigoted perspectives. Thankfully, they are rejected by the majority of peoples within Europe. Sadly, however, the link to the increase in Islamophobia links to terrorist attacks over the past two decades, the most recent being last month in Paris.
Terrorist attacks in no way represent the people of a particular religion. It is equally wrong to group together an entire religion as terrorists because of the actions of a small minority. Just as it is equally wrong to conclude an entire continent (Europe) to be racist because of the actions of a minority too.
Islamophobia as a response to terrorist attacks is wrong and derives from fear and ignorance. It is sad to see it occurring and it is just a repeat of attitudes seen during The Troubles in Britain. People being fearful is understandable, but Islamophobically motivated attacks are detestable and should be condemned.
What proponents of this generalised argument of a “racist Europe” seem to ignore is perspective. Condemning an entire continent, such as Europe, to be racist is easy and requires little-to-no effort to find supporting evidence. When you look for the bad in something it is easy to find; the same way if you expect bad things to happen, they do.
What is more difficult is to look at data objectively and not assume a conclusion from face value analysis. Furthermore, the single article referenced appears to have made its conclusions before analysing the evidence (confirmation bias) and then only acknowledges the countries which support the preconceived conclusion. It does not discuss the countries which contradict its findings, nor does it attempt to address the multitudes of evidence which suggest their argument is void.
The increase in Islamophobically motivated attacks is sad and disgusting to see. I do not dispute that the number of incidents may have increased. But I thoroughly refute the idea of Europe being a “racist society”.
Making the link of Europe being racist from more Islamophobic attacks is nonsensical. It is more of a radical jump than a carefully deducted conclusion as it is only a very small fringe minority perpetuating this, rather than an entire “society”.
For those trying to question how liberal Europe truly is, I agree with the sentiment as it is beneficial to challenge conceptions. However, I believe it is such a profound complex topic that it needs considerably more than several paragraphs and a single reference to discuss such a topic.
Written by Junior Conservative Writer, Peter Pearce
We need to label racism when we see it – A Labour Response
Charlie does well to remind us that levels of racism in European countries are high. He is rightly shocked at statistics such as ‘one in two people believe Islam to be a threat to society’.
Peter was shocked that Charlie was shocked. Peter argues that Charlie makes too great a leap from the evidence he presents to the conclusion that Europe is racist. Charlie only cites one guardian article and I agree that he should perhaps cite more. However, I think that he can be forgiven considering there is a wealth of psychographic literature and surveys (pew polls for example) out there that have painted quite a bleak picture of opinions in Europe for a long time now. Charlie’s article seemed to be catching up on where that literature is at the moment.
Peter doesn’t realise that Charlie is actually talking about racism in western Europe, not about the continent of Europe as a whole. This renders Peter’s point about Kosovo, Bosnia, etc. null and void. It would have been a sound counterargument if Charlie was arguing that the whole of Europe was Islamophobic. But, if you actually read Charlie’s article you will notice that he argues that ‘Western Europe’ is racist.
For a country to be ‘racist’, its political system involves a worryingly high level of prejudicial opinions against outsider identities of the racial kind. This definition would likely apply to most countries to higher or lower degrees; it would be present with a multitude of different characteristics.
I think that’s an absolutely fine result and is a world away from the common right-wing fantasy of leftists supposedly thinking everyone is Hitler. A liberal use of the term ‘racism’ is permissible because the racism of a nation is not irredeemable. Levels of racism change (e.g. Germany is no longer in the grips of Nazism; Hutu’s are no longer purging Tutsis in Rwanda; the majority of Briton’s no longer think that the slave trade was moral).
It’s up to us to apply the label of ‘racist’ in ways that are pragmatic. Doing so will reduce the levels of racism and its damage to the best of our ability. If we may only reserve the use of the label for the most severe cases of national racism, then we risk missing the chance to stop their rise before it’s too late.
I think Charlie makes a good, relatively modest point and Peter misses it. Unless Peter is disputing the facts put forward in the guardian article, he cannot but share in Charlie’s surprise that from the ’19’ of the ‘25’ most tolerant countries there could arise a statistic that 50% of people in that country believe that Islam is a threat to Europe.
Written by Junior Labour Writer, Joseph Cradick
I am a second year student currently reading International Relations and Modern Languages at the University of Exeter.
I am going into my second year at the University of Exeter studying a flexible combined honour in Geography and Politics. My interest in politics and geography stems from an interest in current events and the wider world, with geography being the study of all world processes.
I am a graduate of the University of Exeter where I studied politics, philosophy and economics. I used this fantastic opportunity to pursue my deepest interests in the subjects of moral philosophy and political psychology.