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The New Zealand Shooter’s White, Islam-Free Europe, is Imaginary

The New Zealand Shooter’s White, Islam-Free Europe is Imaginary - But European Islamophobia is Frighteningly Real | Opinion, HA Hellyer

There are two truths that should be kept in mind here. One, is that this mythical Islam-free, lily-white Europe never existed in the first place. Islam and Muslims have played a role in Europe - and throughout the Western World - ever since the scientific, artistic, literary and economic influence of the new faith began to spread beyond the Arabian peninsula.

The other truth is that in this warped thinking, the terrorist is not alone. In ever expanding parts of Europe, Islamophobia has become not just an unpleasant ingredient of local nationalist movement, but the very flag around which they coalesce. If we see the terrorist and avert our eyes from his ideological proximity to increasingly mainstream politicians, we’re failing in our response to the attack.

A key element of anti-Islamic bigotry is constantly recasting the present in contrast to an imagined past, in which mainstream "non-extremist" Muslims are relentlessly marginalized and their belonging to the West in the past, the present and the future is minimized or called into question.

That exclusion of Muslims from the idea of what Europe is, was, and should be like is all the more garish since, as I had a chance to argue in my book “Muslims of Europe: the ‘Other’ Europeans.” Muslims are an intrinsic part of the European tale—past, present, and future. Indeed, it is nonsensical to describe the European story, without taking note of the marks that European Muslims made from 8th century onwards, less than a century after the Prophet first preached in Mecca.

Scholars and philosophers in Spain and Portugal; intellectuals and politicians across southern Europe; legal thinkers and theologians in Italy; Tatars in Lithuania and Poland; the Ottoman heritage across much of southern and eastern parts of the continent. That is not even taking into account converts to Islam among the European intelligentsia, including in Britain and France, Switzerland and Germany, in latter modernity, following the fall of Muslim Iberia and the Ottoman state.

An example of the grotesque depths to which European imagination of the role of Islam has fallen is the public reaction to Sinead O’Connor’s publicly declared conversion to Islam. Forget Twitter trolls and 4chan denizens. Milbank, a nationally prominent theologian with bona fide radical credentials, declared: “Liberals will embrace an authoritarianism to escape their own contradictions if it is respectably other and non-Western. She is a civilisational traitress. And has no taste.”

It plays directly into the fear of ‘EurArabia’, that underpins so much of the contemporary right-wing populist discussion around Muslims in Europe.

In the context of contemporary Europe, such populist rhetoric expressed in the language of anti-Muslim bigotry is, at least, likely to have real life consequences on the lived experiences of Muslim European populations.

The myths of a fictional white Europe and the Muslim hordes undermining it need to be rebuffed—or the far right will never be starved out of fuel for their bigotry. The next white nationalist may be reading up on his Breivik as we speak.

I remind you of how to lose a war: first, lose your head. 

Dehumanize the opponent to such a point that their perceived monstrousness means no rational calculus could possibly exist. Can't reason with the irrational. So: eradicate them. 

You will never, ever, see them coming.

Counterterrorism strategy that succeeds doesn't operate on emotion. It isn't policy driven by public sentiment.

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