The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Dr H.A. Hellyer is Fellow of the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations, University of Warwick, author of “Muslims of Europe: the ‘Other’ Europeans”and Director of the Visionary Consultants Group.
By Dr H.A. Hellyer
The real inheritors of European liberalism need to stand up and make themselves known because the struggle to maintain pluralism in Europe is only going to get tougher from here on in.
People will differ as to when they started, and why, and who is to blame. But one thing is for sure. The problems in Europe around the Muslim presence are not going to go away – they are going to intensify. And real European liberals are going to have make their voices be counted, or say farewell to a Europe that fought so hard to ensure civil liberties and freedom could find homes on the continent.
It did not have to be this way, but the tell-tale signs have been there for a very long while. For years now, there have been two main set of trends that have been increasingly worrying, and which now have intersected with each other to produce a scenario that people should have tried to avoid. The first was the movement of the political spectrum towards the far-right. Let’s be clear – it is not that the far-right suddenly became a lot more popular, and a lot of votes were cast in their favour. That, in one respect, would have been more manageable.
The real success of the far-right has been to affect the national agenda itself, and make elements of their own political program more palatable to voters in mainstream political parties all across Europe. We see it in the UK, in how a lot of mainstream political discourse has changed, in order to keep votes away from the far-right like the British National Party (BNP). We see it in France, where mainstream politicians now openly say things in regards to immigration and Muslim minority groups that years ago only far-right politicians would ever utter.