The Iliberal Alliance: Cosmopolitans and Traditionalists against Islam

Jake Rooke

The role of Islam in European politics and contemporary society with the presence of relatively larger migration flows has become a hot topic, especially amongst right-wing activists. The collective memory of Islam in Europe is contested and, in many respects, its most prolific impacts, in Medieval Spain and through the Ottoman Empire in South Eastern Europe have largely been framed through paradigms of conquest and culture wars. These culture wars created a dichotomy of ‘In-group’ and ‘Out-group’ in historical memory, fostering a historical perspective that considers Europeanness and its civilizational roots as a homogenous and overtly exclusive concept. In contemporary Europe, the core-inner group’s exclusive and hegemonic chronotope has reoriented, from Christian heritages to secular-dominated linear narratives. However, Muslim actors are entering secular spaces and embracing secular experiences, clearly demonstrating the heterogeneity Muslim peoples (Gole 2012) some perceptions are changing. Nonetheless, “many young pious Muslims defend Islam as the religion of their parents; Islam provides them with a source of resistance to acculturation and an opportunity to bind with their heritage” (Gole 2012: 668). With this, many young European-born Muslims’ and migrants experiences with Islam is remarkably different than peoples in Muslim majority countries, such as Turkey and Syria.

Although Islam is not identical to its believers, the introduction of Islam in European contemporary societies’ is having a large effect on the social and power structure. First, traditional cultural identities, mainly deriving from the Christian faith have been displaced by newer cosmopolitan and multicultural norms. These groups traditionally sought power against cosmopolitan liberal values with counter ultra-conservative reaction. With the introduction of Islam into the mainstream through migration, traditional ultra-conservative groups have a newer target. Second, newer liberal cosmopolitan structures and groups, notably such as aspects of the wealthy gay cohort and their allies, largely seen as the victors of the traditional v. cosmopolitan culture wars are being co-opted against the new ‘other; Muslim European-born and Muslim migrants. This is evident in the Onishi (2019) article, that focuses on Renaud Camus, a Gay French literary and fiction author that coined the phrase ‘the Great Replacement’. The far-right have co-opted many secular individuals in their fight against Islam in Europe. This is particularly evident in countries such as France, with its long history of collective and confrontational secularism, that sees Islam and religion as by-products of a bygone age. The Great Replacement is also being mainstreamed by Hungarian Prime Ministe, Obran and Poland’s governing Law and Justice Party. In France’s case, the Great Replacement is largely in relation to France’s secular and liberal values and traditions. Whereas in the post-bloc countries, Poland and Hungary, a lack of secularism and adherence to universal liberal values, such as gay rights, pro-choice and multiculturalism, has resulted in a state-run systematic ‘othering’ of migrants from Syria and the Middle East.

Islam is being painted by traditional and aspects of the cosmopolitan class, as anti-European and fundamentally at odds with the civilizational social fabric of the continent. There is this notion that Muslim born individual must be ‘saved’ from Islam and its supposed medieval values. This is hypocritical to the core. For one to be pro-women’s rights and a believer in ‘women can make choices for themselves’, ordering a woman to not wear a burka exhibits a lot of irony.

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