Xenophobia and Islamophobia among European Right-Wing Populist Parties

Hostility towards strangers within European right-wing populist parties has been apparent in its commonness, its virulence, as well as its danger. Xenophobia can be defined as the fear of the unknown, particularly of strangers or foreigners. Islamophobia is one type of xenophobia which relates to the fear of Muslims, as well as their acts. This fear of another nation or minority that is in some way different often develops into hatred and the feeling of one’s own superiority above another person’s background and heritage. Xenophobia and Islamophobia incorporates the hatred of people that belong to a different race, ethnic group, or national origin. Needless to say, such negative attitudes are particularly dangerous within a multinational entity such as the European Union. As reports demonstrate, xenophobia and/or Islamophobia are present in the majority of the western European right-wing populist parties (Schori Liang, 49). This coursework attempts to analyze the differences and similarities in the occurrence of xenophobic behavior within right wing parties in a number of European Union countries, particularly Norway, France, the Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, and Austria.

In Norway, the Progress Party (Framstegspartiet, FrP) was originally formed as an anti-tax libertarian party, but at the present time, it is a typical anti-migration party. The Progress Party argues that immigration is the main cause of crime and social tensions that directly influence the welfare state, which the party wants to reduce. The Progress Party intends to tighten Norwegian immigration policy, allowing only a limited number of immigrants into the country’s labor market (Schori Liang, 50). While the Party’s intentions seem to have fair grounds, the slogans and atmosphere that it aims to set among the Norwegian population are at times particularly xenophobic.

In France, the situation is similar. However, the French Front National (FN) party opposes immigration both into the country and into the European Union in general. Furthermore, the FN Party has actively advocated in favor of the law that would make it compulsory for immigrants to leave the country, and the EU, and return to their country of origin. However, in light of the recent accusations of being too rigid and promoting xenophobic tendencies, the Front National has for now focused on preserving such actions for foreign-born criminals only.

The situation with xenophobia in the Netherlands has a particular Islamophobic peculiarity to it. It has been historically a country with a high rate of Muslim immigration, and apparently, some are quite frustrated with the fact that the immigrants from Muslim countries take away their welfare benefits and their jobs. With the economic crisis and increase in the unemployment rates, the Party of Freedom of Netherlands has strongly supported the idea of closing the borders to all Muslim immigrants, as well as such radical measures as banning the Koran, putting in “head rag tax” posters, and even arguing that Dutch Muslims should lose their citizenship. Moreover, the Party of Freedom stands firmly in favor of placing severe limits on any internal immigration from within the European Union (Kicker, 84).

The True Finns right-wing party of Finland refers to Brussels as “the heart of darkness.” The party runs on highly xenophobic grounds and enforces hostility to any foreign representatives. For instance, the party intends to restrict foreigners from acquiring Finnish nationality or take refuge in Finland (Cesari, 203). Similarly, the Northern League (Lega Nord) of Italy seeks “Padania”—the term that means greater autonomy for Northern parts of the country. The Northern League is against immigration from Romany and from outside the European Union. The party overtly antagonizes Muslims as well. On one occasion, a member of the Northern League party lobbed a pig’s head onto the prospective site of a mosque, a highly disrespectful and insulting act for Muslims.

In Switzerland, the Swiss People’s Party is highly opposed to Switzerland’s admission to the European Union. One of the main arguments against it is that joining the EU will cause a boost in immigration of foreigners, both legal and illegal, which is seen as a serious threat to the economic prosperity and well-being of the original Swiss population. In 2009, the Swiss People’s Party sent a direct message against the Muslim population when they supported a referendum that opposed the formation of new minarets (Islamic mosques), and 57% of Swiss voters endorsed the referendum.

In Denmark, the Danish People’s Party is also particularly aggressive towards immigration of all kinds, and is obsessed with security at the country’s borders. According to the party’s agenda, they will not allow Denmark to transform into a multi-ethnic society, because Denmark is not an immigrant-friendly nation and does not intend to become one. The party maintains that Denmark only belongs to the Danes and consequently, its citizens have a right to live in a secure society, established on the rule of law developed from Danish culture and traditions, and the rules of which would be completely alien to an immigrant. The Denmark People’s Party contributed to making Denmark’s immigration regulations the toughest in the whole of Europe. The Denmark People’s Party opposed Denmark’s admission to the European Union and won a critical victory when Denmark reestablished border controls (Kicker, 86).

In Austria, the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) and the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) under the leadership of Jörg Haider, campaign mainly on an anti-immigration stance. However, their party programs are acknowledged by libertarians and populists. In Sweden, the Swedish Democrat party motto is “Keep Sweden Swedish.” Just like most of Europe’s right-wing populist parties, the Swedish Democrats are typically recognized for their anti-immigrant xenophobia. The party demands a 90% decrease in the number of refugees migrating to Sweden.

It has been an acknowledged pattern that richer and more developed countries tend to be more aggressive and hostile towards immigrants. While the country may be absolutely friendly with foreigners coming in as tourists, as soon as the matter turns towards immigration, part of the population (usually those who support right-wing conservative political forces) tends to demonstrate xenophobia towards the foreigners coming into the country for the long-term. Sometimes, the display of xenophobic soundings may become less specific and relate to any foreign-born citizens, or even tourists. The failure to criticize initial inappropriate actions and promote tolerance within the country by the government, as well as by NGOs, directly contributes to acts of aggression and the development of xenophobia.

Oftentimes, the root causes of why right-wing parties in general and those of the European Union countries in particular demonstrate xenophobic moods are due to the failure of local government to control the flow of immigration to the desired level. There is a thin line between being friendly to other nations, both within and outside the EU, and staying strong in addressing the needs of taxpayers as a priority and protecting the citizens of the country from unemployment, while ensuring tolerance to people of different origin, religion, race, ethnicity, as well as to the local minorities.

Poor policy resolutions and ineptitude in border policing have therefore contributed to xenophobia in the right-wing parties discussed in this paper. When immigrants are admitted without proper internal political actions being taken, the national culture and economy may suffer, and national identities of citizens fade. Immigrants, particularly poor refugees, use a large quantity of government resources in terms of welfare, schooling and health care, as well as contribute to high levels of unemployment (Cesari, 205). One of the main reasons behind xenophobia in the European Right-Wing Populist parties is to protect national identity and limit normal adaptation by cultural minorities. Therefore, reinforcing strict policies, rules and laws that aim to control and limit immigration, while at the same time ensuring that immigration does not contribute to the rise of crime rates, unemployment and xenophobic manifestations in the society, is the key to maintaining the balance in the society, economy, and politics, and the flow of immigrants into the country.

Works Cited

Cesari, Jocelyne. Muslims in the West after 9/11: Religion, Politics, and Law. Taylor & Francis,
2010.
Kicker, Renate. The Council of Europe: Pioneer and Guarantor for Human Rights and Democracy.
Council of Europe, 2010.
Schori Liang, Christina. Europe for the Europeans: the Foreign and Security Policy of the
Populist Radical Right. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2007.

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