As the next parliamentary elections approach, populist parties in Europe continue their offensive. Far from resembling one another due to significant ideological differences and varied political agendas, most tend to agree on their criticism, even outright rejection in some cases, of Islam, which they perceive to be the main threat to a so-called European identity.
Islamophobia in Europe is not new and, in this case, is actually in complete continuity with the decades-long discourse that has dominated the far right’s political strategy in particular. A fanatical concern over the “Islamisation” of Europe and its nations has been part and parcel to the identities of parties like the National Front (Front National), headed by Marine Le Pen in France and the Party for Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid), led by her Dutch ally, Geert Wilders, who, in 2007, compared the Quran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
Anti-Islam sentiment has also become so commonplace that it not only floods the thinking of the far right but also appears to be poisoning some sectors from the traditional right – for example, one of the British Conservative Party’s candidates, David Bishop, had to resign after local media drew attention to his Islamophobic tweets in early May.
Specifically around the issue of Islam, cracks are also slowly appearing within parties that are otherwise known for being rather open and tolerant. The response: a strong reaffirmation of their collective secular identity and values.