In France, where the national election campaign is in full swing, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is the favorite among young voters. In the wake of the Toulouse killings in March, when a lone gunman who claimed association with al Qaeda shot dead seven people, Le Pen ratcheted up her anti-Islam rhetoric, accusing the government of surrendering poor suburbs to Islamic radicals. "Entire districts are in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists, and, I say it again, today the danger is underestimated," said Le Pen, leader of the National Front party.
This political mainstreaming of Islamophobia would have been inconceivable without the post-9/11 anti-Islamic discourse across European media and the blogosphere. In large part, this trail was blazed by intellectuals, who defended their positions in the name of liberalism and human rights. The first of this troupe, and hugely influential, was Italian writer Oriana Fallaci, whose bestselling books (translated into 21 languages) insisted on the radical essence of Islam, which she claimed was a thoroughly violent creed striving for world domination.
Others who followed include French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy ("the veil is an invitation to rape"), British novelist and former New Statesman editor Martin Amis, Dutch intellectual and Labor Party member Paul Scheffer, and in Germany such figures as Ralph Giordano, Necla Kelek, Alice Schwarzer, and Henryk Broder. Breivik approvingly quoted from this multinational assortment of anti-Muslim literati, including the American bloggers Robert Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch, and Pamela Geller, the executive director of the Stop Islamization of America. The Hope Not Hate report includes the two Americans among the "top dozen players" in the counter-jihad front.
The fact that Breivik was nowhere on Norway's radar underscores just how blind European intelligence and security services have been to the threat from the right since 9/11. Another stupendous recent gaffe in Northern Europe was Germany's inability to track a neo-Nazi terrorist group that murdered nine innocent migrants and a German policewoman over the course of the 2000s. The authorities had no clue that the murders were linked to right-wing extremists. Rather, they had chalked up the unsolved killings to mafia elements within the migrant communities or, in the case of the policewoman, to vagrant Gypsies. Completely by chance, late last year they stumbled upon evidence incriminating the neo-Nazi underground.
Obviously, European security forces have to refocus and zero in on right-wing terrorist groups. The Hope Not Hate report cites the formation in January of the organization Stop Islamization of Nations, which promotes an umbrella network of counter-jihad groups across Europe and the United States, as evidence of a global evolution. But the Islamophobe phenomenon is far greater than the likes of Breivik or the thugs of the English Defence League. Democratic political parties have to refuse to form coalitions -- formal or informal -- with parties that employ bigotry to wins votes, no matter how powerful they are. They have to resist caving in on core democratic issues like immigration and the freedom of Muslim women to wear a veil. And programs promoting religious tolerance have to be introduced in schools.