This week, the readings reflected on European multiculturalism. The question was not IS Europe multicultural but rather WHAT has been the backlash to Europe being multicultural. All of the readings address the surge of right-wing populist groups within recent years, whose platforms are a combination of xenophobia, nativism, Islamophobia and (in contract to Fascist dictators of the early 20th century) democratic values.
These groups first began to take form in the 1980’s when immigrants and minorities in Europe became less secluded and more “visible” in society. Their purpose was to preserve the “us” (usually white Christians) from “them” (minorities). It should be noted that the “them” does change depending on the country. For example, antisemitism can be found in groups from the east but typically not in the west. Meanwhile, Islamophobia is most common throughout Europe.
In any case, these groups have become much stronger in recent years. While there are many reasons, the readings suggest this is mainly due to a combination of the weak traditional elite, the refugee crisis, and recent terror attacks. These recent events have caused general discontentment to come to a boiling point, which is a recipe for popularity in radical ideologies. This is especially due to the left and more moderate rights having few tangible ideas for how to address such problems. In conclusion, while there is lack of a blueprint on how to confront these issues (in addition to other issues that arise from multiculturalism such as debates on the burka or Black Pete), the radical right will continue only to gain traction at the expense of a multicultural Europe.
This weeks readings provide an interesting picture of Europe as a place that has an undercurrent of xenophobia and racism. Zack Beauchamp discusses the anti-immigrant policies of Europe’s far-right groups. Gloria Wekker addresses the pervasiveness of the image of Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) in Dutch Culture. Nilüfer Göle examines how the presence of Islam in Europe destabilizes its postcolonial identity. These readings bring into question whether or not Europe can be as multicultural as it may seem, because it cannot handle the challenging of norms.
Göle’s discussion of European hegemony makes the actions regarding the issues addressed in the articles make more sense because it highlights a sort of inherent desire to hold on to that power. For instance, in the case of the Dutch and Black Pete, those in favour of the figure often argue that it is an important part of their culture, but fail to recognize that this attitude is unintentionally racist because it seeks to continue caricaturizing non-white people. There seems to be no understanding of the postcolonial power dynamic in these assertions.
In Beauchamp’s article, there is the explanation that anti-immigrant sentiment and far right parties began to rise as a result of increased immigration and multiculturalism. To me, this signals a desire of these groups to hold on to the past and an imagined way of life where nations are full of only the “right” kind of people. These views are inherently problematic, as we have seen, because they lead to violence and oppression against minorities. Europe is home to many liberal democracies, so it is important to recognize these issues in order to prevent this type of democracy, that is supposed to protect all citizens, from being undermined.