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HomeArchive-1The Rise of the Right: Europe's "Scary" Solution to Immigration

The Rise of the Right: Europe’s “Scary” Solution to Immigration

It is a phenomenon leftist or centrist parties can no longer ignore.

Not too far from the Baroque palaces and Gothic cathedrals that madethe city of Vienna famous, a group of jubilant men and women are packedinto a café. Glasses clink with each congratulatory toast. Jubilationslike “long live populism,” and “Austria is the Freedom Party” flyrandomly across the room. On that memorable September evening, Iwatched the celebration of the far-right triumph in Austria. It was theAustrian ‘extremist’ right’s best performance since World War II.

Ifthe old face of the Far-Right in Europe resembled that of a combativefascist, these new ordinary faces put those images to rest. Gone arethe days when support for the radical right came from neo-Nazi elementsin European society; they now come from ordinary citizens, concernednot only about bleeding social welfare programs, but also from worriesabout the continued influx of immigration — a feeling that is likelyto worsen as recession hangs over the continent.

“I voted for the Freedom Party to stop immigrants from burdening oursocial welfare system,” says Lukas, a grandfatherly figure andgovernment employee. A former supporter of the Social Democrats, hegestures towards the rushing pedestrians outside the café, “Austria hasinhaled enough people. We are full.”

Echoing similar sentiments,35 year old Brigitte, a nurse practitioner who is proud to have led amajor campaign in her neighborhood against the expansion of an Islamiccenter, claims, “the center already attracts hordes of people a day,and causes enough problems with congestion.” Poised and confident, shecontinues: “The people who use the Islamic center do not try tointegrate into society, or even socialize with us. None of the otherparties would hear our concerns … That’s why we voted forHeinz-Christian Strache.”

Not too far from the café, a mural reads: “Arab, go home.”

Such is the dynamic in today’s European race relations. A December Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Projectreports anti-immigrant, and especially anti-Muslim sentiments, to begrowing steadily across the continent. Noting that the increase inMuslim prejudice has occurred over a period of decades, the reportclaims that nearly 52 percent of Spaniards expressed a negative opinionof Muslims — a view echoed by 50 percent of Germans, 46 percent ofPoles, and 38 percent of French people. According to an AprilGeorgetown University report, 67 percent of Dutch, and 80 percent ofDanes agree with the statement, “the growing interaction between theMuslim world and the West is a menace to freedom.”

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2009-02-03

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