From Interstate - Journal of International Affairs VOL. 2011/2012 NO. 2
The Protocols of the Elders of Mecca
IN THIS ARTICLE
‘An ethno-religious group has a plan to take control over Europe. The nation is stabbed in the back by one group of people.’
This could be referring to Nazi propaganda from the 1930s. However, it is, in fact, an ideology that is gaining influence in contemporary Europe. This time, allegedly, it is not Jews that have a plan to take control over Europe; it is Muslims. The nation is not perceived as being stabbed in the back by Marxists and “cultural Bolsheviks”, but, allegedly, by multiculturalists and “cultural Marxists”. This is the “Eurabia” conspiracy theory, supported by influential European politicians, some of which are holding the balance of power in parliament, such as the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders, as well as historians, selfprofessed “experts on Islam” and bloggers that are said to be read by millions. This was the ideology that drove the Norwegian terrorist and spree killer Anders Behring Breivik to murder 77 people in the terrorist attacks on the Government quarter and the Labour Party’s youth camp on the island of Utøya in Norway on 22 July 2011. This ideology is, in other words, much more influential than most realise, and is on the rise.
To date, this ideology, Islamophobia has largely been overlooked in Europe, despite the great influence and grave consequences it has. This article will examine how Muslims are perceived as taking control of Europe, either through a conscious policy in cooperation with national elites or by exploiting the “ignorance” of governments throughout Europe. It will argue that this extreme Islamophobic discourse is inherently violent with its images of occupation and treachery. Firstly, the article will examine the conspiracy theory that Muslims are planning to take control of Europe, discussing its most important aspects. It will show how most of its arguments are falsifications or are based on conspiratorial readings of real events. Following this will be a discussion of the role European politicians, who are seen as “traitors” or “collaborators”. Thirdly, it will examine the possible “solutions” that members of this Islamophobic community are proposing. It will argue that whether they actually advocate violence is not crucial, as violence is following naturally from their narrative. Lastly, it will be argued that more violence in the aftermath of the attacks in Norway is probable.
Islamophobia is hard to define, as it is not clear whether it is hatred or fear of Muslims or Islam; or of the way Islam is practiced. Chris Allen, recognised as one of the most experienced researchers on Islamophobia,2 defines Islamophobia as ‘an ideology, similar ... to racism ..., that sustains and perpetuates negatively evaluated meaning about Muslims and Islam ... inform[ing] and construct[ing] thinking about Muslims and Islam as Other’.3 “Islamophobia” will thus in this article be synonymous with what Fred Halliday calls “anti- Muslimism”.4
The Muslim “Conspiracy”
‘This [multiculti-government] is enthusiastically cooperating with the Islamization of [this country] ... [It] views bowing to the horrors of Allah as its most important task’.5 This could have been written by Breivik, however, it is Wilders of the Party for Freedom, kingmaker of the Dutch parliament,6 who expressed this view. It is, in other words, not only “crazy conspirators” who believe that there is a plot to “Islamise” Europe. This view is also held by significant European parties, such as the aforementioned Party for Freedom, as well as the Sweden Democrats and Vlaams Belang (“Flemish Interest”).7 Others holding similar opinions include influential “experts on Islam”, historians and bloggers; which are all intertwined.8 The conspiracy theories that will be presented in this section can, thus, be found not merely at the fringe of the extreme right.
Those who support the “Eurabia” conspiracy theory share the belief that Muslims are trying to take control of Europe, and that European elites are assisting them, either through conscious policies or through their own ignorance: Europe is in this view being “Islamised”. Bat Ye’or, whose real name is Gisèle Littman,9 is undoubtedly an influential writer within the “Eurabia” literature”. In her view, Europe is no longer Europe, but “Eurabia”, ‘a cultural and political appendage of the Arab/Muslim world’.10 She describes a perception of reality in which Europe has become a ‘dhimmi civilization’,11 which in her opinion means being in a condition of “dhimmitude”. She sees this as a ‘condition of “subjection with protection” ...’,12 where ‘non-Muslim individuals or people [in their own country] ... [must] accept the restrictive and humiliating subordination to an ascendant Islamic power to avoid enslavement or death’.13 In this world, Europeans have surrendered to Islam and in allowing it to flourish they have left themselves with limited rights and no choice but to accept discrimination by Muslims.14 According to Ye’or, the worst thing about this state of existence is that Europeans should be ‘grateful for being tolerated’.15
In Ye’or’s opinion, Muslims will undertake jihad, continuous and universal religious war, against the “world of infidels” until the rest of the world is under Islamic rule.16 “Arab Islamism”, which in her vocabulary is another term for Islam, is imposed upon Europe by immigrants who still are, and will always be, ‘politically and culturally attached to [their] countries of origin’.17 The Caliphate is already to be found in European cities, which is proven by the ‘facts’ that basic freedoms are extinct, that sharia, Islamic jurisprudence, subverts ‘democratic laws’; that thought, opinion and culture are being controlled by the Caliphate; and that people are having to resort to self-censorship and are fearful of Muslims.18 In other words, Ye’or’s twisted interpretation of the situation is itself proof of it being true, creating a reality in which people fear Muslims. This circular theory, that is central to all conspiracy theories,19 is necessary for her conspiracy theory to function.
Robert Spencer is one of the so-called “experts” on Islam. He has held seminars for the American intelligence and counter-terrorism communities and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as having written a New York Times bestseller on the topic.20 He is also the “principal leader” of what Robert Crane calls ‘the new academic field of Islam bashing’.21 In Spencer’s view, Islam can never be moderate or peaceful, as ‘[i]t is the only major world religion with a developed doctrine and tradition of warfare against unbelievers,22 which in itself is debatable, given the “Christian” tradition of the Crusades. In other words, Spencer sees violent extremism as key to traditional Islam, which seems to mean that all “true” Muslims are jihadists. A great issue with Spencer is that he has no education in Islamic studies, being entirely self-taught. He also reads the Koran literally and selectively to support his claim that Islam cannot be peaceful.23 Further, he has attended conferences with Islamophobic politicians, as well as extreme bloggers, such as “Fjordman”,24 who will be discussed later in this article, and is the co-founder of Stop Islamization of America, with Pamela Geller.25
Central to the belief in the “Eurabian” threat is demographics. Mark Steyn, political commentator and a New York Times bestselling author,26 argues, with regards to the perceived Muslim take-over that ‘demography is the most basic root [cause] of all‘.27 In this view, the reduced number of children per “European” woman, combined with the allegedly much higher fertility rate among European Muslims (some arguing as high as 8.1 children per woman, compared to the 1.6 for the European Union (EU) overall28), will lead to an increased number of Muslims in Europe, all plotting to make Europe into what Ye’or called ‘[an] appendage of the Arab/Muslim world’.29 Using projections of future demographics, it has been argued that, in Bernard Lewis’ words, ‘Europe will have Muslim majorities in the population by the end of the twenty-first century at the latest’,30 while some, including Steyn, argue that Europe will be close to a Muslim majority in just 30 years’ time.31 In this way, it is not merely living Muslims that are threats, but the unborn alike.
Implicit in this argument is the view that European Muslim women will continue to give birth at exactly the same rate in the future. This would also be the case for fifth-generation European Muslim women. However, the fertility rate of Muslim women in both Europe and the Arab world is declining quicker than that of non-Muslim Europeans.32 If this theory had been correct, the number of Muslims in Europe would increase quickly. However, the number of Muslims in Europe, both born on the continent and immigrants, is merely projected to grow from the 44.1 million Muslims that lived in Europe in 2010 to 58.2 million in 2030, an increase from six to eight per cent of the total European population.33 Demographics are a difficult subject, but it is clear that Europe will not have a Muslim majority at any point in the conceivable future.34 Even if the demographic argument was correct, it would require that all Europeans of Muslim heritage would identify themselves as Muslims only, pleading allegiance to the Caliphate and to jihad rather than to the community in which they are born and live. This in itself is highly unrealistic.
Some of the most significant inventions of this ideology lie in the connections its supporters draw. The founding myth for much of the Islamophobic community is the 1683 Siege of Vienna, where Ottoman forces were stopped by the Holy Roman Empire.35 To use the motto of the blog Gates of Vienna, whose bloggers are said to be read by millions,36 ‘[a]t the siege of Vienna in 1683 Islam seemed poised to overrun Christian Europe. We are in a new phase of a very old war’.37 Instead of seeing it as a war between Ottoman forces and the Holy Roman Empire, it is argued to be a struggle between Islamist jihad and a culturally “Christian Europe”. In other words, everything that is done by someone who happens to be a Muslim is seen as Islamic warfare against “unbelievers”. This is an absurd idea.
No discussion of Islamophobia and the “Eurabian” conspiracy theory can avoid the role important European politicians are playing. Belief in these theories is not confined to just the individuals mentioned so far, but can also be found among politicians. To Wilders, the “Islamisation” of Europe is taking place today through a “stealth invasion”.38 He sees Islam as a “fascist ideology”39 intending to control, subdue and eliminate Western civilisation.40 The result of this conception of Islam is that it is perceived as a dangerous ideology, comparable to Nazism, and its followers (approximately a quarter of the world’s population)41 are made into imperialistic combatants, comparable to soldiers of any historical warmongering empire. These are dangerous arguments by a politician who greatly influences the immigration and integration policies of a government that is relying on his support in parliament.42This ideology, where Muslims are seen as taking over Europe, is what guides politicians such as Wilders, as well people like the terrorist Breivik. In this view, Muslims in Europe are “fifth-columnists”, working on behalf of the worldwide Muslim community, to continue from where the Ottoman Empire failed in 1683, in taking control over Europe. Islam is not a religion, but a “fascist ideology”, and the followers of this religion are “stealth” jihadists, “Islamising” Europe from within. Before going on to discuss what the “Eurabian” conspiracy theorists suggests as “solutions” to this alleged problem, the issue of collaborationists or traitors within European governments will have to be faced.
The “Traitors”: European Elites
Another important part of this conspiracy theory is the extent to which influential politicians, the “multiculturalists”43 or “cultural Marxists”,44 are to blame. In this view, key politicians are responsible for “letting in” Muslims, and allowing their “needs” to dictate what society should look like. This may either be a conscious policy or due to naïveté, with the different interpretations held by different members of this wider Islamophobic community. In her book Eurabia: the Euro-Arab Axis, Ye’or “exposes” – in a way that would make Dan Brown jealous - how the Muslim take-over of Europe is a policy designed by the EU in cooperation with Arab states.45
Ye’or’s starting point is that Europe’s political elite is appeasing “jihadist driving forces”.46 In her view, the little-known organisation the Euro-Arab Dialogue is the driving force behind the “Islamisation” of Europe, being a forum for cooperation between the EU and the states of the Arab League. Under this interpretation, the EU has chosen not to resist “dhimmitude”, “giving away” its independence, for integration with ‘the Islamic world of North Africa and the Middle East’.47 The so-called “Eurabians”, European politicians of all political colours, the media and academia are agents of “Islamic political ambitions”. The trigger was the 1973 oil embargo, where the then European Economic Community abandoned its freedom for access to oil and economic benefits.48 In other words, Europe is seen as being controlled by the “Arab/Muslim world” through the Euro-Arab Dialogue, doing whatever its Arab “overlords” tells it to. In reality, her book is flawed due to her extremely conspiratorial reading of events, records and opinions, at times an extreme lack of referencing, reliance on meetings that have taken place behind closed doors (where minutes were not taken and which she has not attended), and false statistics and information. Her extraction of information from these “sources” is based upon her own twisted interpretations.
A view that is held by more Islamophobic people is that European governments simply are “serving Allah” without taking part in a bigger plot. Here there are at least two distinct views; one, that the government is naïve and has no will to oppose the alleged “Islamisation”; and the other, where politicians are traitors. The first is supported by Wilders, who saw the cabinet of Prime Minister Balkenende as ‘enthusiastically co-operating with the Islamization of the Netherlands’, and as having no will to oppose the “Islamisation” of the country.49 His motivation for arguing this is not crucial, as the arguments are greatly influencing the general public and contributing to Islamophobia in the Netherlands, as well as Europe in general.
The second view, that is especially popular online, is that politicians are simply traitors. In Norway, as in other European countries, one does not have to look far to find hateful messages declaring that politicians are traitors. They can even be found on the websites of mainstream media. One example is a discussion at the forum of Hegnar Online, a Norwegian mainstream financial newspaper. One year before the attack on the Labour Youth summer camp at the island of Utøya, the very youths who were killed there were called ‘the vermin at Utøya’, and were said to be ‘trained in hailing treachery’ by several debaters, while the Norwegian Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, was seen to be the greatest Quisling of all time.50 In other words, it was not only Breivik, the mass murderer, who thought of them as being traitors of a culturally “Christian Norway”; those views are also easily found in the comments section of mainstream media. There is, in other words, a common view that Muslims are invading “our” countries, and that “our” politicians are actively or inactively helping “them” in “their” plot to take control of Europe, resulting in the Christian population being reduced to a state of “dhimmitude”. There is a war going on, and the leaders are traitors, assisting the enemy. What the natural consequences of this may be will be discussed in the next section.
The “Solutions” to the “Muslim Question”
Although those discussed in this article deny ever having called for violence, violence is a natural outcome of their belief in the “Eurabia” conspiracy theory. In a world where Muslims are “conquerors” and governments are “traitors” collaborating with the “enemy”, violence is a logical consequence. This section will discuss the “solutions” to this perceived problem. The highly influential blogger “Fjordman”, also known as Peder Nøstvold Jensen,51 is allegedly being read by millions online52 and is Breivik’s great “idol”.53 “Fjordman’s” thinking is based on Ye’or’s conspiracy theory, and in an essay called “A European Declaration of Independence”, he demands an end to the ‘evil [multiculturalist] ideology’ and an immediate halt to all Muslim immigration. To “Fjordman”, if these demands are not met, ‘we, the peoples of Europe are left with no other choice than to conclude that our authorities have abandoned us ... We will stop paying taxes and take the appropriate measures to protect our own security and ensure our national survival’.54 He does not explain what the “appropriate measures” are.55 However, he has called for Islam to be physically removed from the West, and that could be interpreted as ethnic cleansing.56 But, as long as he argues that national governments are collaborators – at least as great traitors as those of the Second World War – aiding foreign Muslim colonisation of an entire continent in a European civil war, the implied threat of violence is clear. As an example, ‘[e]very single’ of “Fjordman’s” central ideas was repeated by Breivik in his own manifesto.57
“Fjordman’s” arguments are good examples of those held by this extreme community. Others with similar arguments include Steyn and Alan Lake, whose real name is Alan Ayling,58 the financier and strategist of the English Defence League (EDL),59 which is an English right-wing Islamophobic social movement.60 In his New York Times bestseller, America Alone, Steyn considers copying the Bosnian Serb genocide of Bosnian Muslims to save America from “Islamisation”, arguing that ‘if you can’t outbreed the enemy, cull ‘em’.61 However, he considers it as ‘unlikely to accomplish much’ and that it ‘would change America beyond recognition’.62 In other words, the reason for not mass murdering Muslims is not that it is morally wrong, but that it would not ‘accomplish much’. This is not the ramblings of a mass murderer; it is a New York Times bestseller.
Lake has probably got the most extreme “solution” of this Islamophobic community. He has predicted that the United Kingdom will fragment into Islamic enclaves, suggesting that Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, should be moved to the enclaves, ‘sending them to their death at worst ... [or] subjected to all the depredations, persecutions and abuse that non-Muslims worldwide currently “enjoy” ... [at best]’.63 Lake is highly relevant, not only as a financier of the EDL, but also for bringing together anti-Muslim organisations from a number of countries, like Stop Islamization of America, as well as for his close links to the Sweden Democrats.64 “Fjordman” is, then, neither alone in his argument, nor the most extreme.
In a world where Europe is perceived as being under attack from Muslims, aided by national elites, the resort to violence would be unsurprising. To quote Marc Sageman, a former CIA officer and consultant on terrorism, these writers, as well as Wilders, ‘are the infrastructure from which Breivik emerged’, and ‘[t]his rhetoric ... is not costfree’. 65 For example, “Fjordman” argued in May 2011, that ‘[w]e need to make sure ... that those who have championed the toxic ideas of Multiculturalism and mass immigration of alien tribes disappear with it’.66 That was exactly what Breivik attempted to do 81 days later, on 22 July 2011, when he murdered children and youths who were members of the Norwegian Labour Party’s youth division, a party of “traitors” “letting Muslims into the country”. Norway experienced on 22/7 that this kind of rhetoric was not cost-free. The next section will discuss the likelihood of these kinds of action being repeated elsewhere.Continued on Next Page »