Notion of Otherness in Europe


The current migration issue sparked numerous debates in Europe, and it has of course provided far-right groups with new fuel for their ideological purposes. Kalmar uses the case of Hungary to show how Islamophobia became a tool for perpetuating attitudes that were rooted in antisemitism. This new “anti-antisemitism”, where far-right leaders distance themselves from antisemitism and embrace islamophobia, can be exemplified by the coining of the term “Islamo-gauchsime”. This term is especially popular in France and refers to the two enemies the far-Right is fighting in Europe: Islam and the left. This is very reminiscent of the term “judo-bolshevism”, which once again refers to the two enemies believed to be lethal to Europe: Judaism and communism. All of this is to say that Kalmar’s argument seemed pretty convincing to me. Today, it is not unusual to see far-right advocates going as far as voicing their support for Israel and at the same time treating Muslims as a problematic community that needs to be dealt with. 

Indeed, being a Muslim in the West can lead to an identity crisis. Trying to reconcile liberal, secular values with the traditionalism established in the private sphere can become exhausting. This leads to the belief that Islam is necessarily incompatible with Europe. What is overlooked here is that Islam is not in contradiction with culture, for as long as it does not oppose Islam’s fundamental rules. Thus, a European Muslim will have a European culture. It might sound obvious but I think it is important to say it. Right-wing groups in France make the mistake of associating Islam with north-African and Subsaharan culture. As Kalmar points out, people like the Bosnians are Muslims indigenous to Europe. History also has examples of a European Muslim state like al-Andalus, which was an example of inter-religious cohabitation. 

Turkey offers a good example of the clash between Islam and secularism. I found it interesting how Erdogan uses the notion of the Black Turk (the pious Muslim from the Anatolian provinces) as being oppressed by the White Turk (the secular, francophone from Istanbul). This racial form of populism allowed him to discredit his opponents in moments of crisis. And even though Turkey has been trying to become part of the EU, it should be noted that other ideologies are also becoming increasingly influential, such as Turkish and Turanism, which can make Turkey move away from Europe and turn to the East, more specifically to its Turkic relatives. 

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