Sunday, October 3, 2010

Anti-Islam Politics in Europe

Just type the work "Islam" in Google images and you get a good feeling for the current sentiment towards that word. Islam is slowly becoming the equivalent of the evil force that is trying to take over the world. This trend is global, it extend from the Western world though Russia and China. The world is polarizing.

In Europe this trend is very visible. In many countries ultra right political movements are gaining force. In the Netherlands the anti-Islam party PVV is now executing its political agenda by quasi-participating in Dutch government. But anti-Islam movements are on the rise in many countries in Europe: Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and so on.

Why do I believe this trend is so dangerous?

1) The economy is bad. People suffer and need a black sheep to blame. It's true that there are serious integration issues in the big cities in the Netherlands and a small fraction of Moroccan youths cause significant trouble. But so do other minority sub-populations such as Antilleans. These problems are caused by ignoring integration problems for far too long, but they seem to have little to do with Islam.

2) Al-Qaeda Terrorist attacks fuel the anti-Islam sentiments. Every time there is an attack all Muslims get to share in the blame. This is the annoying tendency of humans to over-generalize. We find one feature that holds true of the terrorist (they are Muslim), then the logic gets reversed to infer that all people who share this feature must therefore be evil to some degree. This is a well documented psychological phenomenon. But of course, the majority of Muslims want nothing to do with terrorists, they are law abiding citizens that value democracy and freedom as much as the rest of us do.

3) The problems are global. They span China, Russia, Europe, North America and Africa. Not to forget the Middle-East. Further escalation of the conflict between Iran and Israel may spread through the world like wildfire because the tensions are already high. And it seems inevitable that at some point Israel will strike against Iran's nuclear program.

Where have we seen the concurrence of these conditions before? In particular: a group of people labeled by their religious beliefs blamed for the problems in society? We must not follow gut-feelings, we must not generalize, we must remember the conditions that led to earlier conflicts and genocide. We must educate the population at large, broadcast the friendly and hospitable side of Islamic culture, foster tolerance and compassion.