BY ASSOC. PROF. GÖKHAN BACIK** | 26.07.2011
Norwegian academic Bernt Hagtvet, in an article titled “Right-wing extremism in Europe,” warned: “A specter is haunting Europe — the specter of nationalism, re-emerging and attended by a flurry of right-wing extremist behavior.
Its manifestations are apparent in a flare-up of political violence against minorities — foreigners and asylum-seekers most conspicuously, but also against the homeless and the disabled.” Interestingly, 17 years later, right-wing extremist terror claimed the lives of more than 90 innocent people in Hagtvet’s country. This is the time for Europe to face reality. European politics has for a long time been reluctant to consider the growth of extremism and violent political ideologies within Europe. The forerunners of this disaster have never been taken seriously. Europe has not been brave enough to take measures against growing racism and extremism or enmity against Islam. On the contrary, it has preferred not to make a big deal out of it. Worse, European political leaders of the 21st century have never hesitated to make decisions that would create an atmosphere conducive to these radical movements, which are 100 percent European!
A few things should be noted before making an analysis of the course of European radicalism: the terror that claimed the lives of dozens of people in Oslo is the product of European politics and culture. We are now facing a local and purely European terrorism. It is wrong to call this episode the Sept. 11 of Europe. The terror in Norway is a form of radicalism that European culture produced, rather than an external assault. The monster that European politics created is now destroying ordinary Europeans. References to Sept. 11 will prevent us from understanding how European politics has gradually generated a radicalism which is exists in almost every European country. Radicalism is all over Europe!
The extremist British National Party won 6 percent of votes in the country. The British fascist Andrew Brons received 9.8 percent of the votes in his election district. The Austrian Freedom Party, which holds extremist views, received nearly 13 percent of the national vote. Jobbik, a party known for its anti-Roma and Jewish policies, received 15 percent of the vote in Hungary. Jobbik also has an armed extension, reminding one of the Nazi SS, resorting to violence in the nighttime. The list could be extended to include examples from the Netherlands, Italy and other European countries. Extremist parties won 40 seats in the European Parliament elections. In short, European radicalism and terrorism is gaining strength all over the continent. This radicalism, in general terms, is xenophobic, Islamophobic and racist.
- How did it happen?
But how did this happen? Such notions as racism, fascism, colonialism and even nationalism are the products and gifts of Europe to the world. The fundamental problem is this: Europe has been in a period of reconstruction since 1945. This process of reconstruction, that defines the basic philosophy of the European Union, included civilian administration, human rights and other similar values. In a way, this was an attempt to create a freer and liberal Europe out of the former one that suffered from racism. Despite some roadblocks, Europe has been successful in its reconstruction efforts. The continent, which was suffering from racism and internal warfare 65 years ago, has attained to a new European peace where visas between countries are lifted and a common currency circulates.
However, this successful journey lost momentum beginning in the 2000s. With the period of weakening, the customs of old Europe including extremism and racism have resurfaced all over the continent. Why? This happened because in most European countries, narrow-minded politicians started winning elections. This new political elite, who failed to offer a constructive vision on significant issues, including relations with Muslims, and sought to appeal to the electoral base by reliance on nationalistic discourse, has put an end to the European dream.
Europe’s failure in the sphere of foreign policy also exacerbated the overall situation. The European Union, the second largest economy in the world, with $14 trillion in annual revenue, is behaving like a cat whose paws were removed. Does anyone now have any idea what German foreign policy is? In most significant global issues, the European Union has consistently acted reluctantly and even irresponsibly: they generally opt to remain indifferent or silent. The European political elites thought that the walls of the liberal dream that they fostered in their little continent would protect them. However, the walls constructed for a safe, stable Europe have led to corruption in the continent.
- Europe and Islam
Another important issue is the relationship between Europe and Islam. European politics has been making the lives of European Muslims miserable in late 2000s; this is a fundamental problem. Leaders of so-called advanced countries like France and Belgium have focused on relatively insignificant issues including the wearing of the chador and headscarf rather than real problems. These policies promote extremism among the masses. The vast part of the globe stretching from Mesopotamia to Europe, including Turkey, is, in the words of Said Nursi, historically a sphere of blending between the nations. Attempts for purification or homogenization in this region will inevitably lead to racism and extremism. The political actors of these lands, including Turkey, are able to address radicalism only as long as they remain multicultural. However, Europe is now trying to disconnect itself from other cultures and civilizations. Europe’s reluctant approach to Turkey’s membership in the EU, as well as its visa policies, are actually based on a racist politics, and this is destroying multiculturalism. For a Turk today, obtaining a Dutch or German visa means being insulted.
Norway is not an ordinary country. According to a number of serious indexes, including the UN’s Human Development Index, Norway is the most advanced and wealthiest country in the world. Yet, a well-educated Norwegian man who studied business administration murdered dozens of people in the capital city of this advanced country. Europeans have to think about how the most advanced country in the world has produced such a barbarity.
The fact that the Belgian government declared a veil ban shortly after the Oslo massacre raises another question: setting aside the ordinary extremists in the street, are there any high level politicians in Europe who can draft a reasonable policy to address the growing racism and xenophobia in the continent?
* First Published at today’szaman.
** Gökhan Bacık is an associate professor in the Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences at Zirve University.