From the security meetings in Bonn, Munich and Baku, to the French and German elections, following Britain’s Brexit vote and Trump’s election, the world looks worried, anxious and different. Is it a crisis of priorities, or a problem of concepts? Are we still capable of coming up with a new definition for ‘coexistence’ in the age of brute populism?
Is it possible for bigots and extremists who hate even their compatriots and seek to repatriate immigrants to their countries, to live in peace and harmony with peoples whose fathers and grandfathers fought against theirs a few decades ago?! Whatever connects the “racists” of France to those of Germany when one remembers that behind the two peoples stand the animosities of two world wars and reciprocated claims of “occupied territories” in Alsace, Lorraine and Saarland?
Weren’t these animosities only buried by wise and great visionaries like Konrad Adenauer, Charles De Gaulle, and Robert Schumann who looked for unifying interests, which eventually, led to the idea of a United Europe? What brings together English right wing ‘isolationists’, who used to describe the Labour Party – with disdain – as ‘the Party of the Scots and Welsh’ and the extremist Flemish and Walloons of Belgium?
What principles unite the ‘zealots’ among the Catholics and Protestants separated through the ages by rivers of blood like those of St Bartholomew’s Day massacre in France and the ‘Irish Troubles’? Then, how can one explain the ‘morality’ or ‘logic’ of Arab, Kurdish, Indian or Chinese immigrants; and Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Sikh immigrants in Western Europe, who oppose newcomers from the white Christian Eastern European countries, such as Poland, Hungary and Romania?
Enemies of immigration?
How is it possible that immigrants and descendants of immigrants become enemies of immigration? What is the excuse for former victims of racism and extremism in their forefathers’ homelands practice racism and extremism against others, just because they arrived in their new home earlier, enjoyed its milk and honey, and then shut out the late comers?
This is the immoral and unstable world we live in today. This is the world some of whose leaders are trying to halt its slide into a massive ‘world war’. Still, the democratically-elected world leaders, throughout their debates and actions, are only dealing with symptoms rather than treating root causes.
Everybody is chattering about freedom, and yet has reservations about its most significant product … globalization. Everybody is looking at the issue of security, but turns a blind eye to hotbeds of injustice, nests of deprivation and swamps of ignorance that threaten peace and security of societies across the globe.
At the Munich Security Conference 2017, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said: “We should be careful that this fight (against terror) does not become a front against Islam and Muslims…” This has also been the position of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
However, correct and honorable as these positions may be, they mean little in the light of what we see and hear during election campaigns currently underway in the West. They carry no weight when opinion polls – time and time again – show that the more a candidate incites hatred and adopts isolationist and racist stances the higher he scores with the electorate.
Furthermore, they do not amount to anything, when we see before us maneuvers, conspiracies and crimes of religious and ethnic nature like those being committed from Myanmar, to the Americas, across the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
How the ‘racists’ fare in the Netherlands is worth observing since ‘racism’ is not a political ‘taboo’ any more, even in the greatest constitutional western democraciesEyad Abu Shakra
Maneuvers, conspiracies and crimes
Indeed, many of these maneuvers, conspiracies and crimes that include ethnic and religious-sectarian ‘cleansing’, are ongoing with international sponsorship or collusion, sometimes at the highest levels. America elected Donald Trump in November’s presidential race based on a clear and candid electoral platform. At the moment three delicate and dangerous elections are scheduled in the Netherlands, France and Germany.
If the Dutch elections are viewed by some as carrying less weight than what might happen in France and Germany, the advances made by the extreme Right have become ever more worrisome for various reasons; among which are its deep hatred to immigrant (especially Muslims) in a country with a sizable Muslim community, from which actually, comes the Speaker of the Dutch Parliament.
Thus, how the ‘racists’ fare in the Netherlands is worth observing since ‘racism’ is not a political ‘taboo’ any more, even in the greatest constitutional western democracies. No doubt, the French elections are crucially important for the French – including immigrant communities – as well as Europe and the whole World. What seems obvious so far is that the extremist ‘National Front’ is no more a political aberration, but is now rather a major player within the political establishment.
In addition to the success of Jean-Marie Le Pen with reaching the final round in the 2002 presidential race, the alt-right now enjoys significant support and influence. This fact is further proven by the stunning victory scored by ex-Premier Francois Fillon at the Republican Party primaries at the expense of two ‘heavy-weights’: ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy and ex-Premier Alain Juppé.
Fillon, came from behind to win big because he took the most conservative positions, indeed, taking in the process many leaves from the book of ‘National Front’—as the dangerous isolationist trend is dragged from the fringes into the mainstream.
In Germany, the ‘Alternative for Germany’, another extremist anti-immigrant party, is worth monitoring too. It would be interesting to see how it would channel what its ‘soulmates’ in the Netherlands and France achieve–particularly with what has become of the issue of immigrants and refugees has become.
The Syrian crisis
All this takes place based on the background of the Syrian crisis and its tragic consequences– a very sensitive issue for Europe, which has become a natural destination for refugees escaping the horrors of Syria, as well the whole Middle East and North Africa. Well, here we reach another dimension to the rise of racism, particularly, in Europe. It is Moscow’s position.
Moscow’s strong backing of Donald Trump in the US presidential race is well-established. In Europe, more and more reports are emerging about active Russian support being provided to extremist and racist blocs, including Marine Le Pen the current leader of France’s ‘Front National’ and its presidential candidate. Interestingly, this backing actually coincides with Moscow’s continuous sponsorship of a policy of systematic ‘displacement’ in Syria.
Where is Moscow’s interest in all this? Logically, the Kremlin seems to be sowing the seeds of devastating civil strife inside great western powers. It is also reasonable to belief that it views this strategy as the perfect revenge against the West which had brought down the Soviet Union and temporarily, at least, checked the Russian ‘imperialist’ advances towards the Old World’s warm waters.
This article was first published on Asharq Al-Awsat.
Eyad Abu Shakra (also written as Ayad Abou-Chakra) began his media career in 1973 with Annahar newspaper in Lebanon. He joined Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in the UK in 1979, occupying several positions including: Senior Editor, Managing Editor, and Head of Research Unit, as well as being a regular columnist. He has several published works, including books, chapters in edited books, and specialized articles, in addition to frequent regular TV and radio appearances. Eyad tweets @eyad1949.