Europe is the center of attention this week.
In Dresden, an 18,000 strong crowd demonstrated against the Islamization of Europe. PEGIDA (“Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West”) has been staging demonstrations in a number of cities. Counter-demonstrations are also being held by those in support of Muslims. How many of the participants are Muslims themselves has not been revealed.
PEGIDA has been condemned by the German Chancellor and President, along with many other prominent people, but the movement must be a serious worry to the establishment. A backlash against Islam has clearly started and is gaining momentum.
That momentum is likely to build with the terrorist attack in Paris today. Twelve people were killed and as many injured when the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were invaded by two or three gunmen. It’s of particular concern that the gunmen were asking for specific people who they named. The publication has satirized Islam in the past. It has just been revealed that the publication’s editor and two cartoonists were amongst those murdered.
This is a classic example of a clash of civilizations – whereas western countries appreciate satire, Islamists don’t. It remains to be seen what effect this attack will have on freedom of speech. This is the second attack on the publication’s offices – the first was in November 2011. One of the gunmen shouted, “The prophet has been avenged!” – clearly, any publication or writer who speaks out against Islam is in danger!
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the daily terror attacks that were taking place in France prior to the holidays. France may seem a long way away but the reality is that these attacks could happen anywhere. Ottawa and Sydney suffered terror attacks recently. In the US, one of the Boston Marathon bombers is about to go on trial.
Increasing concerns about the Islamization of Europe will also likely be boosted by a new best-selling novel in France, written by Michel Houellebecq, France’s most famous living writer. The novel’s title is Soumission (Submission), which is the meaning of the word “Islam.” The book takes a look at France in 2022, not too many years from now, when the country is led by a Muslim who, amongst other things, orders women to stop working (thereby ending unemployment). The novel shows most French collaborating with the new regime, as most did in World War II when the country was invaded by Germany.
Attitudes toward Muslims may also be affected by Europe’s latest economic news. Today, it was revealed that the eurozone has entered a period of deflation, with prices dropping. Partly, this is due to the fall in the price of oil; but it also reflects other factors that show economies going down. There will no doubt be emergency measures taken to stop a deflationary spiral, which is one of the worst things that can happen to an economy. One likely solution to be tried will be quantitative easing, as applied in the US. Otherwise known as printing more money, this practice carries its own risks.
Rising unemployment and economies in disarray will only add to feelings of xenophobia.
Meanwhile, Greece may have a new left-wing government soon, which will increase the likelihood of the country withdrawing from the euro. The majority of Greeks are angry that the country has gone through a period of severe austerity imposed from outside as the price of staying in the single currency. The euro can’t be all bad – Lithuania has become the latest country to adopt the currency, which is now used by all three Baltic republics. The three countries, ruled by the Soviet Union before the collapse of communism, are anchoring themselves in the West.
Finally, staying in Europe, Germany’s Angela Merkel is visiting Britain’s David Cameron. The UK wants to see some changes in the treaties that govern the EU, which Frau Merkel does not want. If those changes are not forthcoming, it’s likely that Britain will pull out of the Union. They will need the German Chancellor’s help whichever way things go, so the visit is timely and comes just before a British general election in May.
It’s going to be an interesting year in Europe, with a serious prospect of big changes.