Ahmed Sami Abdel Fattah
When an intellectual extremism is created within a society, it necessarily leads to the emergence of counter-extremism to confront it. However, it is not necessary that the affiliated extremism has to be parallel to the independent extremism, which is contrary to it in power. Religious extremism is considered the most dangerous type of extremism, not only for the effectiveness of its took on the ground, but also because its members inherit its ideas, and then place them high above the criticism, which makes them less wise due to their religious leanings.
Extreme right-wing parties
Thus, secular countries have taken a general approach to governance, whereby religion is completely isolated from public life, in order to give national nationalism precedence over religious nationalism. Secularism succeeded in keeping many countries from the scourge of religious or sectarian wars, which only ignite conflicts and fragmentation.
In parallel with the European openness to the world following the Second World War, many Middle Eastern Muslims migrated to Europe. Immigration increased over time, especially after Europe’s economic successes, which culminated recently in the consolidation of the state of welfare, a state that exceeded fulfilling the rights of its citizens to provide them with all the necessities of a welfare life.
Some fanatical Europeans, who saw Muslim immigration as a threat to their countries’ national and religious identity, did not like it. They formed their political parties, which were based mainly on being hostile to immigrants.
In the beginning, any extreme right-wing party obtaining parliamentary representation was an achievement in itself, but in the post-global financial crisis that struck the world at the end of the first decade of the current century, the popularity of the extreme right grew, and became more ambitious in assuming power in some countries, such as the Netherlands and France, to name a few.
Germany’s “Pegida” movement
Right-wing parties adopted a populist approach to attack Muslims. They organized demonstrations and established protest movements, such as the German Pegida movement, which was founded in 2014 and then spread to many countries in Europe. The movements also included the “Britain First” movement, which was founded in 2011. They were announcing their hostile stance to Muslims. This has had a negative impact on Muslims in Europe, because the rhetoric of the extreme right puts all Muslims in one position, and does not distinguish between expatriates or indigenous people in Europe, making all groups feel religiously targeted.
Over time, traditional governments in Europe have had to impose religious restrictions on Muslims, trying to pull the rug from the feet of extreme right-wing parties. In some countries, such as France and Belgium, restrictions have been imposed on headscarves in the belief that this reduces the threat of terrorism in Europe. They did not realize that the veil itself does not push whoever wears it towards extremism, but the restrictions that prevent Muslims from wearing clothes that are consistent with their religions are what drive them to do so. That is because all religious restrictions drive the target group towards extremism.
The issue of the hijab may be controversial. While some believe that the hijab is a religious garment that must be banned in line with the state of secularism prevailing in society, others argue that the state of individual freedom prevailing in Europe gives citizens the right to do whatever they like, as long as they do no harm to other citizens.
If we looked at the matter from another angle, we will find that the damages of the hijab, which necessitate its prohibition, do not exist, compared to the niqab. Moreover, we find that its prohibition because it does not appeal to some or because it gives a feeling of the increasing percentage of Muslims in their societies is not enough. This is because if we move in the same sense, we will find demands from some European conservatives, Muslims and Christians, to limit the state of the deviation prevailing in Europe.
But whatever prevents not responding to the demands of the European conservatives should also prevent the banning of the veil because it is the same. The universality of the state of freedom must continue to prevail and not be restricted to one category or the other.
The extremist right-wing parties
At a related development, the growing popularity and influence of the extreme right has increased the negative perception towards Muslims. This has led to a deepening of the phenomenon of Islamophobia. It also prompted large numbers of European Muslims to emigrate and join the extremist organizations in Syria and Iraq, including in the foremost Daesh (Islamic State). They did so in the belief that it would provide them with an unprecedented state of religious freedom that was not provided to them by Europe.
The matter did not stop at the migration of Muslims outside Europe. Europeans worked to promote extremist organizations without leaving their countries, while others were engaged in violent actions within Europe by restoring the lone wolf concept. Lone wolves attack without any organizational contacts, making hunting them down very difficult.
Consistent with the policy of isolated work, Muslims form their own communities. They are concentrated in certain neighborhoods in large European cities, with the aim of providing some sort of mutual protection. The extremists take these neighborhoods as places for hiding and planning their attacks.
The concentration of Muslims in certain areas is contrary to the policy of integration pursued by Europe with minorities. That is because integration has a social and political aspect, as well as a geographical factor that requires the redistribution of Muslims to different cities in order to prevent them from forming any human concentrations in certain cities. This may enable them in the future to obtain parliamentary and political representations based on the intensity of their numbers in certain cities. In other words, the concentration of Muslims in certain neighborhoods and cities came as a result of their sense that they are targeted. That sense was generated in reaction to the growing rhetoric of the extreme right against them, which increased the threat of Islamism to the security of Europe.
Ultimately, Europe must realize that the civil integration of Europeans of foreign origin will contribute to strengthening its national security, as opposed to their total isolation.
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