European multiculturalism is not a new concept – but the rejection of it is

Michaela Bax-Leaney

As the notion of a homogenous ethno-cultural has become an increasingly central identifier for those on the right, the calls to defend that identity from perceived external attacks have too grown in kind. However, as we know from those such as Paul Hanebrink and Patrick Geary, that sense of identity – the “pure European” – is rooted largely in falsehoods, and the concept of a “pure” European does not exist as the far-right espouses it to be.

As Göle reminds us, Islam is hardly a new phenomenon in Europe; medieval Spain and Portugal were former Islamic states, Bosnian Muslims are ‘native’ to (or at very least have lengthy historical roots in) Europe, and the Ottoman Empire also comprised a large part of Europe up until World War I. As Onishi reports, Camus argues that previous migrants came to France out of love, but surely these new migrants – read, Muslims and people of colour – arrive in France with hatred in their hearts and plans to replace French culture with their own.

The problematic implications here aside, thought certainly not insignificant, his central premise is one we know to be false. The idea that French and European culture is inherently white and Christian is an inaccurate overgeneralization. And as Stone notes, even as we have constructed it, this white Christian European identity may not be all that great to begin with when we consider the treatment of Jewish refugees, and the enduring legacy of these attitudes. This is particularly pronounced in Hungary and Poland, where the religious and the right have coalesced and continue to fight for the ‘preservation’ of the white Christian right.

One Reply to “European multiculturalism is not a new concept – but the rejection of it is”

  1. Hi Michaela,

    You make a good point on that Islam is not a new phenomenon in Europe and that the idea of a “pure European” identity is false. It’s ironic that most far-right groups are trying to “reclaim” something that never really existed. It is reassuring though that, in Stone’s article, the churches were willing to speak up about using Christianity falsely and defending their faith from being used as a weapon. It is concerning that the number of liberal churches in Hungary who were willing to speak out, now feel threatened and will remain silent on the issues.

    Sara Dix

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