27 Oct Is a Backlash Brewing?
The next thing I knew, the discussion was onto the subject of fascism in America. Everybody was talking about police repression and the anxiety and paranoia as good folks waited for the knock on the door and the descent of the knout on the nape of the neck. I couldn’t make any sense out of it….This was the mid-1960’s. The post-World War II boom had by now pumped money into every level of the population on a scale unparalleled in any nation in history…. Suddenly I heard myself blurting out over my microphone: “My God, what are you talking about? We’re in the middle of a … Happiness Explosion!”…Support came from a quarter I hadn’t counted on. It was [Günther] Grass, speaking in English.
“For the past hour I have my eyes fixed on the doors here,” he said. “You talk about fascism and police repression. In Germany when I was a student, they come through those doors long ago. Here they must be very slow.”
Grass was enjoying himself for the first time all evening. He was not simply saying, “You really don’t have so much to worry about.” He was indulging his sense of the absurd. He was saying: “You American intellectuals—you want so desperately to feel besieged and persecuted!”
He sounded like Jean-François Revel, a French socialist writer who talks about one of the great unexplained phenomena of modern astronomy: namely, that the dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe.
–Tom Wolfe, “The Intelligent Coed’s Guide to America,” 1976.
The other day, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about President Biden’s “level of concern” about the rising incidence of antisemitism related to the renewal of hostilities in the Middle East. As she is wont to do, Jean-Pierre responded to the clearly articulated question with a mouthful of gibberish: “Muslim and those perceived to be Muslim have endured a disproportionate number of hate-fueled attacks, and certainly President Biden understands that many of our Muslim, Arab, Arab-American and Palestinian-American loved ones and neighbors are worried about the hate being directed at their communities….”
Ms. Jean-Pierre later insisted that she had misunderstood the question, which is not implausible, given how bizarre her answer was, even by the generous standards usually applied to her often rambling non-sequiturs. But even if she did misunderstand the question, she nevertheless made the point and made it clearly: our primary concern when Islamists commit atrocities is to ensure that their co-religionists do not suffer as a result.
This over-solicitous anxiety about Islamophobic reprisals began, of course, with 9/11, and it has been reprised over and over again, every time a radical tries to blow up a plane with his undies or with his shoes or opens fire in a gay nightclub or kills three people running a marathon. Large factions within the media and in governments at various levels are, it seems, perpetually on the lookout for acts of reprisal, convinced that most Americans are unable to control themselves, are unable to distinguish innocent Muslims from terrorists, and are just itching to bring back the days of street justice and lynchings.
All of this comes despite the fact that Americans have, for the most part, never engaged in overt or aggressive “Islamophobia.” It is true that a young Muslim boy – 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume – was brutally murdered in suburban Chicago two weeks ago by his 71-year-old landlord, and we should not overlook this heinous act of hatred. Nevertheless, this murder is, essentially, the exception that proves the rule. As President Biden himself noted just two days after Al-Fayoume’s murder, “Antisemitic hate crimes rose 25 percent from 2021 to 2022, and Antisemitism accounted for over half of all reported religion-based hate crimes.” By contrast, anti-Islamic hate crimes accounted for a scant 8% of the total.
In short, despite its many critics’ constant complaints, the United States is now and long has been profoundly tolerant of Islam and its immigrant practitioners.
This is not, however, to say that there will be no anti-Muslim backlash. Increasingly, we think that there will be. It’s just that it won’t be here.
For more than a decade now, we have regularly pondered Europe’s future. We have been asked by and had discussions with old friends and longtime readers on the Continent. Will Europeans simply lie down, we and they have wondered, and accept their fate as dying peoples in dying nations? Will they allow their history, traditions, and culture to be sacrificed on the altar of diversity and to the demands of open borders? Or will they, at some point, respond? Will they push back? And if they do push back, what will that look like? How aggressively will this response be pursued?
Now, to be clear, anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States and anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe are two different things. In America, Islamophobia, such as it is, is mostly a racial/cultural phenomenon, that is to say, it is a byproduct of the belief that the Clash of Civilizations between the West and Islam applies wherever Muslims may be. It is very much a traditional presumptive prejudice. This is not the case in Europe, though, where anti-Muslim sentiment is more tied up in day-to-day, quality-of-life issues. Whereas mass immigration to the United States today comes mostly from Latin America, which is predominantly Christian, mass immigration to Europe comes almost entirely from the Middle East and North Africa, predominantly Muslim parts of the world. This embeds the clash of cultures in everyday life, encompassing national immigration policy, law enforcement policies, housing issues, labor concerns, religious freedom questions, and a whole host of other matters. Islam born of mass immigration is, by and large, inescapable in much of Europe.
And this is precisely why a backlash there seems all but certain.
In the United States, over the last three weeks, we’ve seen countless protests and truly shocking displays of antisemitism. For the most part, however, these activities have been spearheaded by activists – some Muslim, some white, most indoctrinated with the colonizer/oppressor pablum that passes for intellectualism in the nation’s increasingly absurd academic discourse. In Europe, by contrast, the antisemitism has been…well…different:
Hours after the attacks in Israel, Muslims in one Berlin neighborhood were handing out candy as they reveled in the results of the attack. A smiling Muslim woman in Hamburg told a regional broadcaster that her family celebrated the events at home.
The headquarters of the Kahal Adass Jisroel Jewish community in central Berlin was firebombed early Wednesday. No one was hurt in the attack on the building that hosts a synagogue and a religious school, police said. The community, which was destroyed during the Holocaust and rebuilt in recent years, recently participated in a series of events promoting Jewish-Muslim dialogue.
In a sinister echo of the 1930s, some homes in Berlin were marked with the Star of David….
The tension that exploded this week had been rising for some time. Last year saw a surge in violence directed toward Jews: Two Jewish communities were firebombed and a rabbi’s house was peppered with bullets amid other incidents involving physical attacks on Jews.
The anti-Israel protests and a spike in online hate speech last week persuaded some Jewish families to keep their children away from schools and kindergartens for fear of violent incidents.
In the United States, the bulk of the response has been to condemn academia and to insist that higher education must be reformed at the very least and, more likely, radically restructured. Again, in Europe, the response has been different:
In a rare move, German authorities have banned public demonstrations in support of Hamas and most other pro-Palestinian rallies. Prosecutors said they would prosecute people who have praised Hamas in conversations with journalists.
In addition, Germany has banned Hamas and any organization supporting it, including charities and cultural associations, effectively putting it on the same level as Islamic State, which was banned in 2014.
Berlin has prohibited the wearing of the black-and-white Palestinian scarf on school grounds and any chant of “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”—a call to establish a Palestinian state on all of Israel’s current territory.
Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said local authorities should instruct police to gather evidence of any antisemitic offenses so they could be systematically prosecuted. As of next year, foreign antisemitic offenders will be barred from obtaining German citizenship.
We suspect that this is just the beginning. The nature of the European backlash against Islamism will likely depend on the aggressiveness and resolve of the various national governments. If the German government and the French government and the Italian government all say, “enough is enough,” close their borders to mass immigration (especially mass male immigration), and begin the process of integrating those who wish to be integrated and deporting those who wish not to be, then the backlash will be fairly orderly and workable.
If, however, Europe’s national governments stop short of addressing the problems that have been building to a head for decades; if they allow themselves to be emotionally blackmailed by the EU and the Vatican; if they hope simply that things will go “back to normal” after the Israeli-Hamas hot war has cooled; if, in short, they kick the proverbial can down the road in the hope of making it someone else’s problem, then the backlash could get serious and ugly. Average Europeans have been remarkably restrained and accommodating up to now, but that’s not to say that they will be forever. Reactionary parties have been slowly but surely gaining power throughout the continent, and further domestic unrest will all but surely foster the creation of even more reactionary factions with even fewer mainstream ideas.
Europe is, indeed, at a crossroads. One suspects that the window of opportunity to prevent the descent of the dark night of fascism is closing rapidly. Can the mainstream leaders who brought the continent to this dangerous point be counted on to prevent that nightfall?
We are, we must admit, rather dubious.