Facing a precarious future, Europe has only just begun to reckon with increasing Muslim populations and Islamic extremism. If current demographic trends persist, Europe’s democratic secular foundations will be in serious jeapordy in about twenty five years. This disturbing reality is causing a backlash, forcing European governments to confront the threat of Sharia law — and even some Muslims are joining the fight. The battle for the fate of the continent is intensifying.
France took the first step in trying to stop the spread of Islam by banning any religious symbols from being worn in public schools, which included the headscarves worn by many Muslim women. This caused outrage in the Muslim world, and President Obama criticized it during his address in Cairo. Then in November, the Swiss voted in favor of banning the construction of minarets on mosques. This has sparked major movements on the continent to take further measures that would have been unthinkable a decade ago.
One by one, the countries of Europe are placing restrictions on wearing the burqas and niqabs in government buildings or even in public. In April, Belgium became the first of them to pass an all-encompassing ban, and the French Council of Ministers followed by passing a similar ban that the National Assembly has just approved. It is expected to pass the Senate in September and then be signed by President Sarkozy.
Now, the Senate in Spain has passed a motion calling on the government to completely ban the wearing of the veil in public, and several municipalities in Spain have also placed restrictions on the burqa, although the parliament of Catalonia has switched its initial vote in favor of a ban. The Senate’s motion went further than what the ruling Socialist government wanted, which only sought to stop the veils from being worn in public buildings. There are growing movements with varying success in Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Italy for placing restrictions on the face veils. A battle over Sharia courts should be expected in the coming years, which Norway is taking the lead on. The Foreign Minister, who is the head of a panel on integration, has just expressed his opposition to them, saying “desegregation is our society’s biggest social challenge.”
Political parties that express a hard line on assimilation and Islam are gaining in the polls. A new Poll poll found that bans on the face veils are supported by a strong majority of Western Europeans. Eighty-two percent of the French, 71 percent of the Germans, 62 percent of the British and 59 percent of the Spanish are in favor of such a law.
The Freedom Party of Geert Wilders came in third in last month’s general elections in the Netherlands, expanding their number of seats from nine to 24. Wilders rightfully said that his party was “the biggest winner today.” Wilders is best known for releasing a movie called Fitna that caused outrage among Muslims for tying acts of Islamic terrorism and oppression to specific verses in the Koran, resulting in so many death threats (note the curious irony) that he constantly has bodyguards and frequently switches where he sleeps.
Wilders is currently being prosecuted for inciting hatred for his comments about Islam, the Koran and Mohammed. He has called for ending Muslim immigration, ceasing the construction of mosques, closing Islamic schools, and banning the Koran, among other measures. Those that feel these policies are undemocratic and extreme need to recognize that European public opinion is reacting to the quick growth of the Muslim population, their lack of assimilation into European society and increasingly aggressive activity by terrorists and extremists pushing for Sharia law. It is this threat, not anti-Muslim bigotry, which is fueling the support for tough, controversial measures.