By Gwenllian Jones, Project Manager at Wolfestone

It seems that throughout the last few years we have been bombarded with headlines conveying the seemingly increasing racist mentality found in Europe. The recent scandals within the footballing world were brought to a head during the Euro 2012 Tournament  held in Poland and the Ukraine when blatant racist chants from the  crowds were audible to the whole world.

Anders Breivik’s massacre of young Norwegians affiliated to the “too liberal” Labour Party in the country’s capital and the island of UtØya shocked the core of European democracy.

Islamophobia has seemingly become more widespread than ever across the European continent with groups such as the English Defence League and the ‘Stop Islamisation of Europe’ organisation flourishing, with more and more Europeans calling for the tightening of immigration rules and in extreme cases the deportation of all Muslims.

A shift to the right

It has become increasingly evident that during the past few years there has been a gathering momentum amongst Europeans to move towards the political far-right; groups traditionally associated with racist beliefs and strong oppositions towards immigration.

The recent elections in France saw Marine Le Pen’s Front National become the country’s third most popular party with a record 6.4 million people voting for the far-right party, a party renowned for its prominent aim of diminishing and even halting immigration into France. In 2009 the BNP of Britain managed to win its first county council seats and even managed to win two seats in the European Parliament.

Despite this apparent surge in racist tendencies in Europe, the question we must ask ourselves is whether racism is becoming more prevalent or whether its true extent is only now coming to light.

The current global economic crisis provides the perfect fuel for people’s frustrations and feelings, and ethnic minorities  can be the perfect scapegoats for the current state of nations across Europe.  These groups are apparently ‘taking all the jobs’ and ‘living off of our benefits and our taxes’.

History teaches us that times of crisis and hardship, be it economic, social or political, can be the catalyst for extreme nationalistic tendencies to come to a head amongst the population. The fascism of WW1, the rise of National Socialism (leading to WW2), and of course, the culture of Islamophobia that followed the terrorist attacks of 9/11 are all examples of this.

The impact of economics

It seems that the current economic situation, linked with fear of religious extremists due to recent global events, is having a grave effect on Europe and is making us more closed towards others who have perhaps emigrated to this country and now somehow ‘threaten’ its society.

The ‘why should we help them, when we haven’t got enough to help ourselves?’ attitude has become quite common.

The Olympics taking place in London this summer hopefully served as a reminder of what can be achieved through international cooperation, that we can celebrate this spectacle together and live side by side instead of shutting each other out and abandoning each other in times of need.

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  • David Jones

    I agree that a struggling economy is the classic trigger for bigotry. In times of trouble people can either accept responsibility for their own lives and strive to do better personally, or they can give in and accept an opportunity to blame it on someone else, to absolve themselves of responsibility. Economic hardship can make people forget who they are, lose confidence and identity and make them all too willing to follow leaders who are perceived to be “strong”. Unfortunately strength is often associated with certainty, and extreme racist behaviour carries the appearance of certainty and conviction. The weaker and more disenfranchised a person feels, the greater the danger of them being persuaded by the certainty of racism.

    The type of bigotry that you’ve described so articulately can only thrive with the consent of two groups; a noisy minority who lend their voices to the language of hatred and a silent majority who allow it to happen. The first group are giving up responsibility for their lives, giving up their very individuality, to join an angry mob. The second group are giving up responsibility for their society. It’s incredibly important that we follow a third path. It’s not enough to shrug our shoulders and roll our eyes at bigotry, we need to do what you’ve done in this excellent article and argue strongly against it.