How the right exploits Christianity and secularism to attack Muslims

The European right is advocating a Christian identity for Europe not because it wants to promote Christianity but because it wants to push back against Islam and the integration of Muslims – or what the National Front calls “the Islamization of Europe.”

Public spaces have become a major battleground. There are bans on “head scarves and other signs of religious affiliation” in schools (in France) and on full-face veils on the streets (in France and Belgium), and efforts to block the construction of mosques (throughout Europe) or just minarets (in Switzerland, mosques are allowed but without their distinctive towers, the latter being considered the “expression of an intolerant culture”). The pushback against Islam also concerns the individual body, with, for example, campaigns to prohibit circumcision and halal food in Norway.

Notably, these measures are being advocated in the name of protecting not Christianity but liberal secularism. The hijab is said to offend women’s rights; circumcision, children’s rights; ritual slaughter, animal rights. Oriana Fallaci and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, two radical spokespersons for the feminist resistance to Islam, became darlings of the conservative right in Italy (Fallaci) and the Netherlands and America (Hirsi Ali).

This anti-Islam rhetoric is spreading to the mainstream. The coalition government of the Netherlands requires would-be immigrants to accept progressive values before they are given a residency visa. Applicants are asked whether they tolerate the mixing of boys and girls in school, gender equality, nudity in public and gay rights. Although all applicants must take these tests, given the concerns revealed in these questions and the demographics of migration into Europe, there can be little doubt that the exams are designed to challenge adherents to Islam. Such measures are unfair to Muslims, and they violate European states’ professed commitment to multiculturalism and the separation of church and state.

Olivier Roy condemns the hijacking of Christianity and secularism by right-wing Islamophobes.

New York Times, 4 June 2014