How Do Muslims Respond to Far Right Political Mobilization in Their European State

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 12:30
Oral Presentation
Pamela Irving JACKSON, Rhode Island College, USA
Peter DOERSCHLER, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, USA
This paper evaluates quantitative and qualitative evidence of Muslims’ responses to the waves of hostility that washed over them during the 2016-17 election cycles in western European states. Far-right political mobilization stoked anti-Muslim sentiment in Austria, the Netherlands and France during the run-up to national elections for president and prime minister. The center prevailed in each case, but these campaigns further legitimized hostility toward the religious minority. Norbert Hofer’s right-wing Freedom Party (FPO) platform, for example, rallied Austrians against “‘the invasion of Muslims’” (Washington Post, May 19, 2016). Marine Le Pen’s National Front promised France “fewer mosques and less halal meat” (Guardian, November 1, 2016). Geert Wilders led the Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Netherlands, declaring that “Islam and freedom are not compatible” (USA Today, February 21, 2017). Though they represent less than 10% of the population in each of these European states, Muslims are in the spotlight in the post-election period. Speculation abounds regarding their reactions to the hate speech directed toward them. Will they radicalize? Will they mobilize into new political parties (like Denk in the Netherlands) intended to promote the minority protections promised by democratic states in Europe, pushing toward multiculturalism and undermining the structures supporting images of white Christian nationhood? Or will Muslims, already shown to have greater trust in European institutions than their non-Muslim neighbors (cf. Jackson and Doerschler, 2012; 2016), continue to act like other Europeans in their social and economic class, striving to move themselves and their children forward economically and educationally? Evidence suggests that the latter course of action will prevail even in the current context. This project is intended to provide accurate information to policy makers and the general public in the face of widespread unsubstantiated stereotypes about the primary concerns of Muslims in Europe and their support for democracy.