13 Dec 2010

Europe’s rising tide of fear

In recent months, Europe has witnessed mass deportations and crackdowns on religious and ethnic minorities. With the burka ban in France and parts of Italy, the anti-Roma movements in France and Hungary and police surveillance cameras set up in predominately Muslim neighbourhoods in the UK, the continent seems to be experiencing a shift in ideology that is centred less on notions of liberty and inclusion and more on protectionism and exclusion.

European elections have yielded wins for right-wing parties in country after country - think Holland, Hungary, Sweden and the UK, where the Conservatives' failure to secure a solid majority is seen as a result of gains for the anti-immigrant UK Independence Party and the British National Party.


This swing to the right tends to sprout with grassroots community movements, frequently presented as protecting European values, or protecting Europe from the threat of cultural demise, Sharia, criminal immigrants and so on. But what, exactly, are European values, and is limiting certain freedoms and resorting to a nearly granular social control the best way to protect them?

To the outsider, European values may appear to rely on human rights rather than religious doctrines as a guiding principle, or they may be perceived as values based on Christianity.
When Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, warned the European parliament against the "new politics of polarisation", he was specifically concerned with intolerance towards Muslim immigrants. "Some play on people's fears. They seek to invoke liberal values for illiberal causes. They accuse immigrants of violating European values," he said in October.

Full article on Al Jazeera