Racism On The Rise In Europe – OpEd


By Ihsan Bal

Not long, but fifteen years ago, Europe was showcased as the most important integration project in the world.

From a single market to a common currency, from the free movement of people and capital to a common penal justice system, many supranational projects were actualized as success stories.

All these steps were products of a notion by which multiculturalism is internalized, and humanity’s common values are centered at the heart of the political philosophy in force within Europe.

Racism, fascism and othering were bygone and things to be ashamed of.

Those who produced such twaddle were treated as though they were mad, and were considered representatives of extreme and marginal views.
The Europe of those days was seen as both the new model for the world and its powerhouse, and many countries used to endeavor to take example from such a Europe.

When the radical rightist party of Austria led by Jörg Haider received 27 percent of the vote and became a coalition partner in 2000, this created a great crisis across Europe. Haider, who could not resist the pressure of other EU member states, had to resign the same year.

The Boot is on the other Leg

Now we are face-to-face with the reality of a new Europe.

In this new Europe, racism is not something to be ashamed of at all.

Leaving aside the smaller countries of Europe, one of the two leading countries of the Union like France has turned the current presidential election into a campaign of racism.

Once one of the strongest candidates for the presidency, Sarkozy, does not refrain from developing a discourse that is a complete substitute for racist Marine Le Pen’s, to please an extreme rightist electorate which constitutes around 18 percent of the voters.

For the new political codes of Europe, racism does not come in out of the cold.

In fact, surfing on the far-right electorate’s waves of emotion turned into an out-of-control competition for many politicians.

The situation is not limited to politicians.

When the tone of politics turns provocative and becomes exploitative of extreme emotions to such an extent, the rise of violence becomes inevitable.

85 percent of the acts of political violence that took place in Europe in recent years originate from the viper of racism which Europe nursed in its bosom.*

Hiding the truth is no longer possible even if the percentages of racist violence are overshadowed with a strong wind of propaganda and cases of“radical Islamist” assaults are exaggerated.

The emergence of murderers like Breivik, who committed massacres with racist motives in Norway where the extreme-right garnered around 23 percent of the vote and the addition of other European countries participating in such crusades would not be much of a surprise from now on.

The likelihood of the strong winds of racism, influential all over Europe, to transform into a storm should not be disregarded.

Furthermore, research conducted recently gives the impression that acts of political violence and serial killings nurtured by the racist discourse in Europe are indeed being tried to be whitewashed by the police and intelligence services.

It is such that in many cases it is witnessed that the police begin a hunt for a killer within the “immigrants-others” and lose precious time while the slain are still in sight and suspicions point toward racist aggressors.

In a sense, this is some kind of effort to whitewash the truth, if what is actually done is to be revealed, with a mentality of not letting it out of the room. Or these people are only trying to say “Our kids don’t do such things.”

The European experience reveals that othering, xenophobia and racism harm primarily Europeans. However, political discourses that will further provoke the youth are all the rage throughout the whole continent, where the fire of racism is gradually spreading nowadays.

It is really difficult to foresee the scales of disaster awaiting Europe, even though it is obvious that adding fuel to the flames will be of no good for Europe in the future. Still, something is for sure; modern European history, which is indeed an episode of racism and countering racism, testifies that Europeans do not have the luxury to underestimate the scale of the growing wave.

Ihsan Bal,
Head of USAK Science Committee

*For an extensive analysis of the issue, see Fatma Yılmaz Elmas’s “Avrupa’da Yükselen Duvarlar Göçmenlerin Üzerine Yıkılır mı?”Analist, July 2011.


JTW - the Journal of Turkish Weekly - is a respected Turkish news source in English language on international politics. Established in 2004, JTW is published by Ankara-based Turkish think tank International Strategic Research Organization (USAK).

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