Truth and Reconciliation: Should Canada Follow Germany’s Lead?

Many believe Canada should take note of Germany’s reconciliation efforts. There’s just one problem; Canada’s atrocities are still ongoing.

Regular human behaviour is to look for advice and suggestions when dealing with a difficult issue. This seems to be the case for the people in Canada questioning how to go about reconciling with our past crimes against Indigenous peoples. Many Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars, activists and politicians have suggested that Canadians should adopt the German model for reconciling with their communist and fascist legacy, into our own society. Although this idealised strategy seems do-able on paper, there are too many fraught factors that play into the current Canadian-Indigenous government relationship for it to work out.

After Germany’s reunification in 1990, the years 1992 and 1995 called for two different commissions to reconcile for the aftermath of WWII and the East German socialist past. However, reconciliation started long before the nineties in Germany, with memorials and memories of the atrocities that took place in WWII popping up as early as the 1950’s-1960’s. With the Nuremberg trials, the various commissions, and the historic remembrance through monuments, holidays, and other events, Germany has made it very clear that it acknowledges its dark past and has come to terms with the role it played in that era of history.

 In contrast, 2007 was the year that the federal government in Canada established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The purpose was to hear the testimonials of survivors investigate the evidence supporting the reports of systematic abuse and other atrocities that occurred within the Canadian residential school system. In 2015, the commission released its findings, and a list of 94 calls to action “in order to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.” As of June 5th, 2021, the Canadian government has implemented 13 out of 94 calls to action.

 In Germany, the first camp opened in 1933, and the last concentration camp closed in May of 1945. Established in 1949, the soviet sector of Germany ended in 1990. Wide scale German Socialism and Fascism were over. These two Germany historic events are situations that many people around the globe are aware of. Comparing the Canadian context, residential schools opened in 1831, and the last residential school closed in 1997. One hundred and sixty-six years of cultural genocide, and if you asked someone outside of Canada about it 15 years ago, they would be most likely of had absolutely no idea what you were talking about. Also, the mass issue of removing Indigenous children from their homes is an event that is far from over. According to the Canadian 2016 census, Indigenous children account for only 7.7% of the total child population in the country, but account for 52.2% of the children who are in foster care. Many advocates firmly believe that “the residential school system has been replaced by Canada’s child welfare system.”

The first step towards reconciliation is goodwill on both sides of the situation. The demonstration of ‘goodwill’ to reconcile with the past can be seen not only in the many memorials and museums across the country, but goodwill is also exemplified in the actions and words of the German government. On her first trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel can be quoted saying “remembering the crimes… is a responsibility which never ends. It belongs inseparably to our country. To be aware of this responsibility is part of our national identity, our self-understanding as an enlightened and free society… a democracy.” In contrast, on the first truth and reconciliation day in which he made a holiday for federal employee’s only, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was seen surfing on vacation in British Colombia despite being invited to numerous ceremonies and events. Trudeau’s response was typical and not surprising in the least – he apologised and swept the situation under the rug.

 Trudeau’s actions of blatant disrespect on truth and reconciliation day fall in line with the historic and ongoing behaviour the Canadian government has directed towards the Indigenous population. When you take into consideration the ongoing atrocities that face Indigenous peoples in Canada at the hands of the government such as access to clean water, proper housing, access to education, and the right to keep their children within their own communities, reconciliation is a word that isn’t fathomable at this movement in time.

The issue in Canada is not figuring out how to move towards reconciliation like so many suggest, but instead needing to give Indigenous people an even playing ground – basic necessities. When this has been accomplished, instead of looking for outside inspiration to reconcile with the Indigenous population, we should take note of the 94 calls to action created to directly challenge reconciliation within a Canadian context.

The Growing Problem of Anti-Vax Holocaust Comparisons

Anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination protests have become commonplace in Europe and North America. While the reasons, slogans, and strategies for these protests can be varied, some distressing trends have emerged. One disturbing trend is the appropriation of Holocaust imagery to express the victimhood of anti-vaxxers. These comparisons are inaccurate, offensive, and harmful to real victims and the history of the Holocaust. This hyperbolic manipulation tactic needs to stop.

This imagery, including protesters wearing a Star of David with “unvaccinated” written on it, is primarily used to decry the supposedly fascist behaviours of the government and to compare it to the Nazi regime. This misrepresentation of the narrative of Holocaust victims is used purely for aggressive politics at the expense of the history and lived experiences of actual survivors of the Holocaust. Anti-vaxxers have taken this story of victimization away from its historical context and transplanted it onto themselves without the trauma or complexities of the actual events. They leverage the representations of Holocaust victimization to garner a similar visceral reaction. They plucked these narratives out of time simply because of their emotional and political resonance. They wish to extend the feelings of horror and empathy associated with the Holocaust onto their narrative of perceived persecution.

An image from an Anti-Vax protest that inspired me to write this Op/Ed

To portray anti-vaxxers like holocaust victims and their local governments like Nazis is a false equivalency. These protestors focus on surface-level similarities to argue that their experiences are alike. For example, some argue vaccine passports equate to the forced identification and segregation of a minority group by a totalitarian regime, much like how the Nazis marked Jews with the Star of David. However, this comparison is inaccurate as it ignores the realities and intricacies of both history and the present social conflict. History is complex. Insinuating that any event is the same as something that happened in the past is reductive. While circumstances may seem similar on the surface, a closer look at the details will reveal just how different they are. A significant difference between these two situations is the importance of choice and circumstance. Unlike victims of the Holocaust who were victimized for things they could not change, anti-vaxxers feel persecuted because of a conscious decision. Furthermore, anti-vaxxers made this choice at the expense of the safety of those around them, knowing full well the consequences of rejecting the vaccine. This is not a case of a victimized minority group. Instead, it is a group that wishes to make a personal decision to the detriment of the rest of society. They want to avoid the consequences of this decision by framing those consequences as persecution instead of the result of their own selfishness.

These comparisons have been condemned by Holocaust survivors. By coopting holocaust victimhood narratives, anti-vaxxers lessen the real experiences of actual Holocaust survivors. Not only do victims have to see representations and symbols that could trigger traumatic memories, but they have to witness people equating the terrible things they went through with the simple act of getting vaccinated. Even if the vaccines were as harmful as anti-vaxxers tout them to be, it’s still incomparable with the trauma people endured during the Holocaust. And while it is often unhelpful to argue about who suffered more in history, there is still a clear difference in severity between public health measures and genocide. It’s offensive to the memories of all those affected by the Holocaust that anti-vaxxers would reduce their experiences so much that they think the current public health measures are at all comparable. It is incredibly offensive, especially because many of those protesting public health measures also subscribe to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, like blood libel or suggesting that Covid-19 and the actions taken to combat it are part of a Jewish-led conspiracy.

This absurd and harmful comparison between the current political discourse surrounding public health and the Holocaust needs to end. The comparison doesn’t further the actual arguments put forward by anti-vaxxers—it only serves as hyperbole intended to trigger emotional reactions to stoke fear and outrage. If anti-vaxxers want to be taken seriously, they should do so by using their own arguments and experiences instead of appropriating and weaponizing the suffering of others for political gain.

Anti-Kosher Laws and Increasing Antisemitism in Europe

Some European countries are reviving 19th century laws designed to target Jewish communities at the same time antisemitism has been rising across the continent. Critics of the EU Strategy on Combating Antisemitism and Fostering Jewish Life (2021-2030) are frustrated at its refusal to address these issues.

Author: Riley Weymann


Authors of a recent study by the European Jewish Association (EJA) estimate that 20% of Europeans are either strongly (12%) or moderately (8%) antisemitic.[i] Radicalization of far-right movements and groups has been growing for years, even before they were thrust into the spotlight for their participation in anti-mask or anti-vaccination protests. Although they are often seen as a fringe population, far enough removed to cause any real damage, it is important to realize that they do not only exist in protests; some of their number hold important positions in society and have the power to impose their views on others. One of the ways they accomplish this is by co-opting popular positions and using them to push an alternative agenda, as has been the case with the movement across Europe to ban or limit Jewish traditional slaughtering practices.

In countries like Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Poland, Sweden, and Slovenia, laws limiting or outlawing Jewish ritual slaughtering of animals have been increasingly introduced over the last decade or so. Most of the support behind the laws are based in animal protectionism, citing the fact that to be considered kosher, the slaughtered animal must remain conscious.[ii] This directly mirrors the ways in which kosher slaughtering was discussed in the period leading up to World War I. Though the intent was more explicit then, with postcards, posters, and jokes portraying Jewish butchers as unkempt murderers practicing blood libel, in policy discussions it was also common to hear the issue through the lens of animal rights.[iii]

This scene depicting Jewish butchers ritualistically killing a young woman was published in 1899 in a Berlin antisemitic pamphlet following the death of Anežka Hrůzová. A Jewish butcher was eventually incorrectly charged with her death despite a lack of evidence.[iv]

The EU Strategy on Combating Antisemitism and Fostering Jewish Life (2021-2030) is a 46-page document published on Oct. 6 of this year which reiterates several long-term goals and principles of various EU institutions regarding antisemitism. Adoption of a standard EU definition of antisemitism by members states and commitments to educating young people against stereotypes were well-received, but many felt that this was simply not enough. Nowhere in the document does it mention protecting fundamental practices within the Jewish religion, including bans on the pre-stunning slaughtering of animals or attempts to outlaw the non-medical circumcision of boys. One of its critics, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, warned that European countries must not fall into the trap of being ‘two faced: solidly protecting us from antisemitism on one side, whilst making it impossible for Jews to practice their faith by legislating against us on the other.”[v]

The echoes of the late 19th century that we see in these laws are worrying. Once prejudice passes beyond the purview of fringe extremist groups and becomes enshrined in law, it becomes all that much more difficult to combat. There is room for debate around the humane slaughtering of animals, but to target a group and damage not only their traditions but their diet and wellbeing is irresponsible and needlessly destructive. With increasing antisemitism in Europe, issues like this are more important than many people realize. As Rabbi Menachem Margolin mentioned, it is very possible that more dangerous elements within governments can quietly undermine aspects of Jewish life until there is very little left and they are forced to leave.


[i] Riegert, Bernd. “Antisemitismus in Der EU Weit Verbreitet.” Deutsche Welle. October 14, 2021. https://www.dw.com/de/antisemitismus-in-der-eu-weit-verbreitet/a-59482132.

[ii] That is not to diminish the role that anti-Muslim prejudice plays in this, as well, as halal meat is also prepared without stunning the animal.

[iii] Judd, Robin. “The Politics of Beef: Animal Advocacy and the Kosher Butchering Debates in Germany.” Jewish social studies 10, no. 1 (2003): 117–150.

[iv] Laudin, Radek. “Lékař Usiluje O Hilsnerovo Očištění v Případu Přes Sto Let Staré Vraždy.” IDNES.cz. February 27, 2015. https://www.idnes.cz/jihlava/zpravy/berlinsky-lekar-hodla-ocistit-jmeno-odsouzeneho-vraha-hilsnera.A150226_2142760_jihlava-zpravy_evs.

[v] “Belgian Court Decision to Ban Central Tenet of Jewish Faith Is Opportunity for European Countries to Fully Stand Behind Their Jewish Communities.” European Jewish Association. October 1, 2021. https://ejassociation.eu/hot-topics/belgian-court-decision-to-ban-central-tenet-of-jewish-faith-is-opportunity-for-european-countries-to-fully-stand-behind-their-jewish-communities/.

Normalizing Nationalism through the Language of Human Rights.

By: Ali Yasin

Columbus Day has always courted controversy, more so than nearly any other holiday. Its celebration across the Americas, as well as in Italy and Spain, has often been a battleground for activists and scholars on both sides of the political spectrum. This year the debate seems to have reached new heights as US President Joe Biden weighed in on the subject. He’s the first American president to acknowledge the “painful history of wrongs and atrocities that many European explorers inflicted on Tribal Nations”, during his commemoration of Columbus Day. [1]

Many Americans see this recognition as overdue and somewhat timid considering the extent of Columbus’ personal cruelty, let alone the countless other crimes committed over the centuries of imperialism in the Americas. On the other side of the Atlantic however, a host of current and former Spanish politicians have harshly criticized Biden’s comments. Members of the conservative Popular Party and more hard-line populist Vox have come to the defence of the long dead Spanish Empire and its brutal conquest of the Americas. Santiago Abascal, the leader of Vox, argued that Spanish people should feel a sense of pride when remembering the actions of the Spanish Empire, what he described as “an empire of human rights”.[2] This line of thinking was echoed across the Spanish political right, with colonial conquest being portrayed as a noble quest to discover the new world, create prosperity, and spread Christian humanism.

Almost any historian of colonial Latin America would find these claims baffling as they’re in reference to the same empire which worked hundreds of thousands of Quechua people to death, operating a single sliver mine at Potosi Bolivia, the same mine which produced 80% of the worlds silver at the time, making the Spanish Empire the richest in Europe.[3] It’s difficult to see how any reasonable person could describe the colonization of the Americas as anything other than blatant and murderous exploitation. Columbus himself set this tone early as he routinely punished the native Taino people with mutilation, death, and infanticide when they failed to produce the tributes of gold and silver he demanded.

The Spanish right’s depiction of colonialism as a humanitarian undertaking is puzzling not only because of its misrepresentation of actual history, but also because it defends nationalist attitudes using the language of human rights. Although seeing Trump-style populists using terms like humanism to protect their sense of grassroots nationalism may seem strange to many in North America, scholars of right-wing populism in Europe have studied this trend for decades now. Unlike the far-right movements of the early 20th century, the “New Right” rejects the use of violence as an immediate means to seize power, while still seeing themselves as a revolutionary movement. They instead argue that their role as revolutionaries is to transform the cultural landscape and bring their views back into mainstream politics.[4] Ironically, this strategy was first proposed by Italian Socialist Antonio Gramsci while imprisoned under Italy’s fascist regime during the 1930’s, leading some to describe the New Right as the Gramscians of the right.

This may explain why the modern populist right has focused so much energy on what they call the “culture wars”. It may also explain why their use of humanitarian language to describe colonialism, so closely resembles the statements made recently by Emmanuel Macron in defence of French colonialism. Despite often being seen as a bulwark against right wing populism in Europe, president Macron took the same defiant stance when questioned on France’s colonial history in Algeria and the rest of Africa. He described the history of colonialism in Algeria as being “entirely re-written” and “based not on truths” but “on a discourse of hatred towards France”. Going even further to undermine the suffering inflicted on Algerians during their experience of French colonialism, which included having roughly one third of their entire population killed during the initial conquest, Macron stated “these are only stories of wounds… the problem is that many people are irreconcilable towards one another”.[5]

It seems that despite the supposed political gulf between them, both far-right populists and avowedly anti-populists liberals in Europe, feel compelled to defend not only the imperial pasts of their nations, but more importantly the historical narratives which have been built around them. Narratives that serve the purpose of unifying inherently diverse people around collective national agendas and justifying the exploitation which comes with those agendas, regardless of how divorced from the complex realities of actual history these narratives are. If both the most liberal and illiberal forms of our current political system are dependent on the same constructed narratives to justify their often exploitive actions, can neo-liberalism actually offer a compelling alternative to illiberal populism, or are both simply part of the same political spectrum and facilitating one another?


[1] Hedgecoe, Guy. “Spanish Right Attacks Biden over Columbus and Conquests.” BBC News, 12 Oct. 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-58882832.

[2] Casey, Nicholas. “In Debate Over Conquistadors 500 Years Ago, Spanish Right Sees an Opportunity.” The New York Times, 9 Oct. 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/09/world/europe/spain-conservatives-conquistadors.html.

[3] Forero, Juan. “Bolivia’s Cerro Rico: The Mountain That Eats Men.” NPR, 25 Sept. 2012, https://www.npr.org/2012/09/25/161752820/bolivias-cerro-rico-the-mountain-that-eats-men.

[4] Roger Griffin, “Between Metapolitics and Apoliteia: The Nouvelle Droite’s Strategy for Conserving the Fascist Vision in the ‘Interregnum.’” Modern & Contemporary France, vol. 8, no. 1 (Feb. 2000): pp. 35–53.

[5] Bensaid, Adam. “France’s Silence over Colonial Crimes Ensures Confrontation with Algeria.” TRT World, 14 Oct. 2021, https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/france-s-silence-over-colonial-crimes-ensures-confrontation-with-algeria-50756.

Photo Credit: Al-Jezeera, https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2019/4/26/spain-is-in-danger-of-falling-into-the-hands-of-the-far-right

What Britain’s Far Right Movement Lacks in Size, it Makes Up in Sentiment

M. Guthrie

Scotland recently captured public attention following the integration of LGBTQ+ content into its schooling– making it the first country to successfully adopt such sentiments into its educational curriculum. However, the decision has not come without significant backlash – nor erased instances of homophobia in Britain. Rather, the lingering influence of the far-right movement has contributed to the ongoing normalization of systemic discrimination.

The curriculum, put into practice in September, places emphasis on uplifting the voices of LGBTQ+ role models, preventing discrimination, and normalizing alternative family models, “ensuring [that] all children and young people receive the support they need.”

One example of the inclusion of LGBTQ+ families in the new curriculum. Courtesy of https://lgbteducation.scot/resources/curriculum-resources-primary/

Although for Britain’s Far Right, including groups such as Patriotic Alternative (PA), the inclusion of LGBTQ+ content threatens the traditional values of the nuclear family – in which “the central building block of our nation” is comprised of a man, woman, and their children. As such, the public acceptance of diversity from a national institution has spurred waves of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment – whether inflicted by those proudly associated with the group, or rather those who have simply been exposed to such ideals through their normalization.   

So, what exactly is Patriotic Alternative?

Founded in September of 2019 by known neo-Nazi Mark Collett, Patriotic Alternative describes itself as a “community building and activism group …” designed “to raise awareness of issues such as the demographic decline of native Britons, the environmental impact of mass immigration and the indoctrination and political bias taking place in … schools.” Centered around twenty fundamental tenets, PA strives to protect the ‘integrity’ of Britain – a nation for those of English, Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish descent, and as such, social infrastructure (such as the welfare, healthcare, and education systems) would cease to benefit those from other backgrounds. Under this plan, immigration and asylum would cease to exist – viewing immigration as an erosion of British culture, and an environmental detriment.

While Patriotic Alternative itself is a relatively new organization, its origins have roots in the nation’s complicated relationship with fascism.

Fascism in Britain

Despite attempts over the past decades by figures such as Sir Oswald Mosley and John Tyndall, Britain’s fascist movement has ultimately struggled to make significant headway. Establishing the British Union of Fascists (BUF) in 1933, Mosley strived to follow in the footsteps of popular European fascists: Hitler and Mussolini. Viewing economic turmoil as an opportunity to rouse political support, Mosley began to amass followers called Blackshirts.

Sir Oswald Mosley being saluted by fascists in Bristol, England, 1934.
Courtesy of Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Similarly, John Tyndall, leader of the National Front (NF) and founder of the British National Party (BNP) espoused anti-Semitic and racism ideology – even participating in a general election in 1979. However, in post-war Britain, Mosley and Tyndall’s messages of hate were met with general hostility – the state even declaring the BUF as a public enemy. Given the strong sense of national pride in the wake of WWII and the defeat of Nazism, Britain was more inclined to turn towards the Labour Party for political representation than far-right fringe groups.

Although the history of fascism in Britain has been relatively feeble when compared to other European nations, the fact remains that the ideologies of such groups have continued to exist in the public consciousness. With PA capturing attention through use of ‘White Lives Matter’ banners on Scotland’s Ben Nevis this past August, their message has gained a rather public platform. Even for those who may not be familiar with the group itself, the very presence of such views (primarily dispensed through social media platforms) allows for the spread of xenophobic ideas – subsequently bleeding into the mainstream in the form of violence.

Members of PA unfurl a ‘White Lives Matter’ banner at Scotland’s Ben Nevis.
Courtesy of https://www.thenational.scot/news/19485677.ben-nevis-witnesses-horrified-patriotic-alternative-banner-mountain-summit/

Rising Anti-LGBTQ+ Crime

Amidst attempts by Scotland’s Directors of Education to normalize diversity within the public sphere, LGBTQ+ centered hate crimes have only continued to climb across the United Kingdom, with instances of crimes based on one’s gender identity and/or sexual orientation rising by 5% in Scotland alone since April 2020. In August, two men in Edinburgh were publicly robbed and beaten for their sexuality, reportedly having been called slurs by their attackers. Likewise, the UK has seen an uptick in crimes against transgender individuals, making them four times more likely to become the victim in violent offenses.

When they are not attacking immigrants or racial minorities, Patriotic Alternative has also great taken issue with the LGBTQ+ community. In an article posted to their website, the group reinforced harmful stereotypes of transgender individuals being confused and unnatural; hypothesizing that gender affirming treatments causes irreversible bodily damage and that trans-ness is the result of the “WOKE entertainment industry,” indoctrinating young people. Even going as far as proposing an alternative curriculum, PA’s messaging drives home that teaching children about the very existence of LGBTQ+ individuals and their history is simply unacceptable.

Considering the reach and accessibility of the internet, this influence from far-right groups is significant, as it gives not only a platform but also perceived validity to xenophobic thoughts and behaviours, with real world repercussions. While Scotland settles into its first term under the new inclusive curriculum – undoubtedly provoking intolerant reactions from a wave of individuals, we must continue in the outright condemnation of far-right ideologies to curb their spread, calling them for what they are: not an “activist group” to be welcomed in public discourse, but rather a hateful, white supremacist form of neo- Nazism.

Why Europe continues to struggle with memorialising its colonial legacy

Alison Miller

Canada’s first National Truth and Reconciliation Day has come and gone, but the point of origin for the colonial system that has made the day necessary is notably silent besides a quiet acknowledgement from Queen Elizabeth II. Despite the success that Germany has had with addressing Holocaust history, and Europe’s memorialisation of World War One and Two, the continent continues to struggle with (and ignore) how to address its dark history as coloniser.

Yes, some concessions have been made at the EU level with regards to acknowledging the legacies left by colonialism, but acknowledgment at the country level (particularly England, France, Germany, Italy, and Belgium) are slow in coming, not thought through, or are applied unevenly.

The question, it seems, is two-fold. The first is why Europe, and especially France, continues to struggle to acknowledge its colonial past and the second is how that colonial past might be memorialised.

The Struggle of Apologising

Most frequently blamed for the lack of apology is that the events happened such a long time ago, and that the people that were responsible for them are no longer around, so it does not make sense to apologise for them, despite the fact that the last major European colony gained independence in the 1970s. Colonialism is deeply entrenched in the European system (the continent was built on the money, labour, and capital that colonialism brought) but the lack of education about the colonial project and its effects is lacking.

It might also be tempting to put the blame on far right-wing parties and their espousal of the myth of European exceptionalism for the resistance to addressing colonialism on the European continent, but major figures in multiple European countries have fallen short of real apologies, or have simply refused to give them. Emmanuel Macron, often considered a centrist, has refused to apologise to Algeria for what the French did during the colonial period. The Belgian King wrote a letter to the President of the Congo, but King Leopold II is not named as the perpetrator for the atrocities and the apology is incomplete. Britain has mentioned it “sincerely regrets” certain actions taken during the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya, and is willing to make reparations, but the extent of the British Empire at its height indicates this is only a very small first step. Shada Islam even argues that the only reason Europe is even thinking about apologising is because it is a strategic when trying to develop new economic agreements with African countries.

Of all of the colonial countries resisting addressing their colonial past, France presents one of the most interesting cases. Leading French intellectuals hold the belief that addressing colonialism is somehow intertwined in the transnational encroachment of American perceptions of social justice. The fear is that French secularism and the importance France places on integration will be subsumed by American practices, and that these practices will create fractures in French society. These beliefs have been at least somewhat endorsed by Macron, despite the fact that the country has yet to even address racial inequality by gathering official metrics on race and ethnicity in the country.

How can one begin to memorialise colonialism when even the act of acknowledging race becomes a national concern over the loss of societal cohesion, and apologies are perceived as strategic rather than genuine bids for acknowledgement of wrongdoing?

Transnational Reparations?

It is not likely that many of these colonising countries will make wide-reaching apologies for colonialism, even as a united front. At least, not for a long time. Too many of the countries within Europe are built on the legacies of colonialism, and the dearth of knowledge about colonial pasts leaves these countries slow to move.

However, the failures to address colonialism and the racism within Europe have come face to face with a transnational response to the racism present in countries that participated in it. Following the George Floyd protests in the summer of 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement found its way into Europe, bringing issues that anti-colonial and anti-racist groups have been working on for decades to the forefront. Despite France’s concerns over the Americanisation of France, there was clearly something that struck a chord, as protests against police brutality sprung up in the country. In much the same manner, statues of Leopold II were graffitied and torn down, Britain underwent major overhauls of a variety of statues, streets, and buildings named after slave-traders and that invoked Imperialist ideals, and 15000 people attended protests in Berlin alone.

Getty Images, courtesy of the BBC

Prior to these protests, Europe reframed de-colonisation as mostly working on anti-racism and the renaming of streets and buildings. The George Floyd protests fit neatly into this method of European anti-racism action, but at a much larger scale. While an argument can be made that tearing down statues does not address the deeper legacies of the racism of colonisation, when Europe has been so slow to address these issues, addressing the very public facing memorialisation of colonialism seems like a good start.

Staining the beautiful game: Why Italy’s far-right resurgence is allowing racism to remain engraved in Italian football

Cameron Sen

Combatting issues of racism in football cotninues to be an ongoing challnege, but in Italy, this fight seems to be making a turn for the worse and the far-right is to blame

Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly (in red) with stadium authorities, attempting to idenitfiy those partaking in racist chanting. The Sengalese defender took to social media after the club’s 2-1 victory at Fiorentina, calling for action to be taken, after he was called a “F****** monkey” by ultra supproters

Watching TV to Combat Hate Crime: The Case of Diriliş: Ertuğrul

D.Khaznadji

At the end of a day as summer camp counsellor last year, I was saying goodbye to the kids as their parents came to pick them up. A father then approached me and recognized my Ertuğrul theme ring. We immediately hit it off and started talking about the show and the characters. This interaction is part of a global fascination for a Turkish historical drama that shows (finally!) a positive portrayal of Muslims in mass media. 

The show in question, Diriliş: Ertuğrul (Resurrection: Ertugrul), sets in 13th century Anatolia. It portrays the story of Ertuğrul Ghazi and his quest to find a permanent homeland for his tribe. Ertuğrul Ghazi is the father of Osman I, who is remembered as being the first sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The first episode aired in 2014 and ever since, the show’s popularity is such that it was dubbed in six languages and broadcasted in 72 countries. Being particularly successful in the Muslim countries, the audience in the West was however not immune to this growing fascination, as evidenced by my own experience in the summer camp. 

So what makes Diriliş: Ertuğrul so contagious? A big part of the answer is the way Muslims are portrayed. They are the centre of the show, and are shown is a very positive light. The characters are, amongst other things, courageous; respectful of elders; and compassionate. Most importantly, they are proud of their identity. 

Considering that most of the muslim representation in Hollywood is still, sadly, very stereotypical, one can understand how seeing a brave warrior fighting for justice would be a good change from your usual terrorist, cab driver or simple extra. Indeed, the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative released a report suggesting that the overly stereotypical portrayal of Muslims in mass media as foreigners and threats could be a significant factor in the rise of hate crimes against Muslims. The causes are complex of course, and I am not trying to reduce the problem to this sole cause, but I do believe, knowing the impressive power mass media can have, that it is part of the answer. 

The portrayal of women also marks a stark comparison with what we are used to see in Western productions. While the image of the weak, confused and oppressed muslim woman who needs to be rescued from her family is still being cultivated, Diriliş: Ertuğrul portrays women as strong warriors, wise leaders, competent doctors and skilled politicians. It is also not unusual to see Muslim women generally seen as potential romantic partners and nothing more, but Diriliş: Ertuğrul, while involving its fair share of romance, also includes scenes where women are voicing very strongly their refusal to marry someone, which once again moves away from the submissive image we are used to see. 

Which brings us back to an important concept: identity. As I explained above, the pejorative portrayal of Muslims, bolstered by mass media, contributes to the general idea of Muslims as alien. For Muslims living in the West, that can lead to a real identity crisis. How to reconcile the values they learn when they are children with the way they are seen on TV? How to deal with the pressure to conform to that flawed view? What a show like Diriliş: Ertuğrul can do is reclaim Muslim identity. Associate professor at Bilgi university in Istanbul Burak Ozcetin explains that “in times of crisis in particular, history plays an important role in the creation of identities”. Characters in Ertuğrul find their strength in their faith, and would not trade it for all the wealth that this Earth contains. Such a powerful message, combined with the vitrine it acquired, can help in shifting not only the perceptions of non-Muslims on Muslims, but also of Muslims about themselves. This is in my opinion, what makes this show so successful. 

In conclusion, I think it is safe to say that Muslims can be things other than terrorists or cab drivers. Limiting ourselves to these options when we make TV productions only perpetuates a flawed notion that only fuels anti-Muslim sentiments. Mass media is such a powerful instrument in these modern times, why not use it for a more positive outcome? Seeing the impact of a show like Diriliş: Ertuğrul, which despite being Turkish still found resonance in the West, there is definitely a case to make about the need for better Muslim representation in Western productions. 

The French Far-Right’s Legitimacy: A Danger to Democracy – The 2022 French Election

Wesley M.

France is facing an unprecedented challenge to their established democracy in the upcoming 2022 French election. This challenge comes from the forces of the far-right populists seeking to change the course of French policies to something more befitting their viewpoint of how France should be governed, and which values the populist element of France believe should be prioritized. You might be asking yourself, why is this important?

Indeed, I am aware that many readers may not have followed the previous French election or maybe just do not know or care about French politics, assuming that the far-right is merely a fringe movement of disgruntled extremists. Unfortunately, in France, this is not the case. The fact is the French far-right are well organized and the leading far-right party, the National Rally (formally known as the National Front (FN) until its attempt at a rebrand in 2018), was able to win enough support in the previous 2017 French election that it was granted opposition party status. Hopefully now the reader sees why this upcoming election is incredibly important.

The reality is that the National Rally’s party leader, Marine Le Pen has grown steadily more popular since her rise to being party leader. The question is why? Why has her leadership of the party allowed it to become legitimate within French politics? How has the situation in France become so perilous that voters have allowed far-right extremists to have a legitimate voice in the government as the opposition party?

To explain this rise of the far-right to actual legitimate status, I must briefly explore the history of how the far-right has grown in France over the past 40 years from illegitimate to a legitimate political power once again. To begin with, I will explain how the far-right’s ideology has shifted from the early 1970s to being less openly fascist and adapted to the times. According to Professor Tamir Bar-On the French far-right group the Nouvelle Droite (ND) aided the French far-right by giving them a reinterpretation in terms of focus while creating the argument that cultural hegemony specifically within a European framework focused on “publicly recognizing differences in order to preserve the ‘authentic’ regions of Europe against the onslaught of non-European immigrants.” Basically it would allow the party who used the idea to have greater legitimacy against the label of fascist as well as boost her popularity by uniting her with those anti-immigration voters, which as you can see from remarks here, she has taken to heart.

The fact is that Le Pen is able to hide her party’s unsavoury qualities by disguising it as a critique of French society in the Evolian school of thought, specifically within the context of claiming her party is merely traditionalists and making an anti-globalist argument rather than a targeted critique against a specific group. By portraying herself within this acceptable context, Le Pen has been able to tap into greater support as well as fortify her party’s radical base. She has also sought to seem more democratic to voters by purging her party of radical far-right people including her father, to distance her party from claims of being extremists.

She and her radical far-right policies regarding anti-immigration have been supported by the radical French author Renaud Camus, infamous for coining the Great Replacement conspiracy theory that refers to the “replacement of a people, the indigenous French people, by one or others; of its culture by the loss of its cultural identity through multiculturalism.” The reiterated fact of her party’s opposition status means that her Eurosceptic, anti-immigrant policies must be highly popular in France, which is troubling.

The destabilizing force of the COVID-19 pandemic on France, resulting in economic downturn across the globe makes French society’s stability more important than ever. The fact Le Pen has switched her stance on the EU and the Euro currency to keeping both, claiming that she wants “a union of national states”, doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, given politicians change unpopular policies to get into office and once there, they enact those policies anyway. If Le Pen chooses to enact her initial policy of leaving the EU and abandoning the Euro, it would likely harm France’s economy.

So, what are the far-right’s chances of winning the French election? I’d say a significant possibility and yet they may not succeed. Only time will tell if the infamous statement at a National Front party conference by Steve Bannon: “history is on our side and will bring us victory” was true or just a boast.

far right nationalism in Poland

Tyson Symes

With the 2019 election in Poland saw the PiS party win in the largest percentage fora Polish election since they were started in 1989 Poland election: Ruling Law and Justice party win poll the PiS party is openly opposed to gay marriage and insists it’s a threat to society Polish election: Leader targets gay rights as threat to society. The party also tried to lower the age of retirement to force judges into retiring early and used state backed threats to judges who opposed them ‘They’re trying to break me’: Polish judges face state-led intimidation. After a near total abortion ban people were protesting across Poland Protests erupt as Poland adopts near-total ban on abortion. The government even tried to imprison those who ‘falsely’ claimed that the Polish were complicit in the Nazi death camps. Poland Holocaust law: Government U-turn on jail threat. And while they turned back on it it brought up an interesting thought. Why has Poland, a country that suffered dearly under Nazi rule, going to the far-right? It would not be expected that a country that suffered under them would be staunchly opposed to that kind of government because of what happened. However, Nazi Germany was not the only time Poland has suffered 

Poland as a country is a state who has had their fair share of ups and downs throughout history and on multiple occasions has just ceased to exist. Poland’s Territorial Changes 1635-Present – Life, Death & Rebirth and even at times when it did exist it was not fully under its own control such as during the Cold War where it was very heavily overseen by the USSR. In response there were multiple uprisings against the government such as the Poznan Riots in 1956 Poznań Riots | Polish history, protests in 1970, and again in 1980. It wasn’t really until the 1990s that Poland could really govern itself with no outside influence controlling them.

So when the PiS came along saying that they wanted to put Poland’s priorities first, people could be happy for that because it was something that they haven’t seen in a long time. A similar thing could be seen in Germany and Italy in the interwar period. People had suffered under the previous government and this had caused them to look for some more extreme options, and in Poland they had just been under Communist rule for decades. So when people looked to a side to land on they chose the opposite of those who they had just felt they suffered under. 

Poland is also a deeply catholic state and the PiS is looking to push forward on that angle Poland’s government is leading a Catholic revival. It has minorities and liberals worried and as this happens it would mean more and more people would look to the right as the party to choose because they are the ones preaching the Catholic angle, but as this happens more and more freedoms can and would likely be taken away but the religious angle would try to counteract that by saying the changes are a good thing and need to be happening. This is creating a front in which the government and religion are more linked if they get their way eventually actually encoded into law within the country. So by taking what was already a deeply religious country and then not one trying to make the people more religious but also to ensure that the religion is then linked into law it helps the right wing government solidify their power into a position that people can’t effectively protest around. 

However these issues are not just in Poland but rather are seen in other Eastern European countries as well such as Hungary How Hungary Became a Haven for the Alt-Right and Belarus Belarus fighter jet forces Ryanair plane to land to detain opposition blogger. These show that the issue is more than just a Polish thing and is seen in the region as a whole leading me to more firmly believe that a large part of the right wing rise in Poland and by extension, Eastern Europe as a whole is due to the Cold War and how some of these countries suffered under the USSR’s sphere of influence and we are now seeing a bounce to the other end.