For more than 1,000 years, the predominantly Judeo-Christian West has been locked in a deadly struggle with the Islamic peoples of the Middle East and North Africa. The more radical elements of both sides of this clash of cultures have delivered myriad horrific atrocities against each other and against innocent, everyday citizens of both regions. In the midst of this turbulent history, opportunists of every sort have risen from the ashes of conflict???seizing power, eliminating the rights of the common person, and destroying liberty in the pursuit of tyranny.
In the wake of the tragic attacks on the offices of the distasteful French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the violent murders on the streets of Paris that, in total, resulted in the deaths of 17 French citizens, fascists and anti-immigration advocates are taking to the streets of Europe to take advantage of the growing discontent of the disenfranchised native European population.
Like the radical Islamic jihadists of the Middle East and North Africa, European fascists prey on the fears of working class men and women who see the growing influence of an entirely new culture as a legitimate threat to long-established and widely beloved cultural norms and values. Beneath the narrative espoused by these self-proclaimed culture warriors rests a larger and more sinister interest: the destruction of liberty and the reintroduction of 20th-century-style European fascism.
Fascist groups have been particularly triumphant in European nations with large Islamic populations and in countries where foreign influences have been very powerful. This is because fascists have successfully persuaded large groups of working class natives that all foreign influences are detrimental to the wellbeing of the domestic culture and economy. This propaganda is clearly the strategy of choice for modern fascists looking to seize power, and the results are more than slightly alarming.
In Sweden, a ???far-right??? political party with fascist leanings and a notable anti-immigration stance experienced increased support in 2014; opinion polls show about 16 percent of the population has a favorable view of it. Much of this support is the result of strong opposition to the growing Muslim population in Swedish cities like Malmo and Stockholm.
The influence of the European Union on Greece???s economy led to an alarming and rapid increase of fascism. The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party won 21 seats in the nation???s parliament during the nation???s 2012 elections ???the first time it won any seats since 1974.
In 2014, fascist parties in Greece garnered 13 percent of the vote in elections for the European Union Parliament, winning three seats. In 2009, the Golden Dawn party only polled less than 0.5 percent in European Parliament elections.
The steady growth of fascism across Europe is intricately tied to a strong sense of nationalism and anti-immigration. Following his party???s victories in 2012, Golden Dawn party leader Nikos Michaloliakos warned the nation, ???[T]he time for fear has come for those who betrayed this homeland. We are coming.???
A German group of nationalists known as the Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA) is planning a ???massive march??? tonight to protest against the growing population of European Muslims, and although the group does not identify as fascist (and likely isn???t), many known fascist groups have gained steam piggybacking on their anti-immigration efforts. On Jan. 5, prior to the deadly Paris attacks, PEGIDA organized a rally numbering around 18,000 in Dresden, Germany to protest the ???Islamization of the West.??? Hundreds more rallied in Berlin and Cologne.
The tremendous growth of Islam throughout Europe presents a significant challenge for the native people of that region. Traditional Western culture is slowly being replaced by moderate or, in some areas, more conservative forms of Islam.
By 2030, Muslims are projected to make up more than 10 percent of the population in 10 European nations, including Belgium, France, and Russia, and there are no signs that the population growth disparity between native European populations and Islamic populations living in Europe will slow at any point in the near future. In fact, the Muslim birth rate in Europe is three times higher than native European birth rates.
It is especially important then that both Muslims who move to Europe to take advantage of the available economic resources and guaranteed freedoms and native Europeans who want to protect cultural heritages understand that each will be targeted by fascists looking to take power for themselves. The history of Europe is riddled with examples of this fascist strategy, and we ought to look no further than World War II to see the potential results of its success.
Regardless of whether European peoples have legitimate grievances with poorly designed immigration policies or not, turning to fascism will only end in disaster, and Europeans must make every effort to halt its recent expansion.
Justin Haskins (Jhaskins@heartland.org) is an author, blogger, and an editor of publications at The Heartland Institute, a leading free-market think tank based out of Chicago, IL. You can follow him @TheNewRevere.