Is Europe Awakening to Islamist Threat?

The political situation in Europe today is quite different from the stereotype of a continent hostile to the United States (even if Obama is personally popular) and Israel, appeasement-oriented toward Iran and revolutionary Islamism, and eagerly multicultural and politically correct.

True, it is more oriented in that direction than North America, but there is a real struggle afoot.

In many countries -- notably the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Germany, and to a slightly lesser extent the United Kingdom and France -- the partisan gap between the left and center-right marks a boundary of much greater significance than a decade or two ago. Although each situation is different, the parties of the left tend to be more anti-American and anti-Israel and less alert to the threat of revolutionary Islamism, as well as favor continued large-scale immigration and big-state, big-spending policies.

Take the Netherlands as a case study. After elections last month, the parties of the center-right hold 83 seats, while those of the left have 67. Since there are ten parties in parliament, talks to form a coalition government will last for weeks, especially since the two largest have only twenty percent each. In the elections, only three seats changed hands between blocs.

But the big news was the shift within the center-right -- the rise of the People's Party for Freedom (PVV) led by the controversial Geert Wilders, which almost tripled its presence from 9 to 24 seats. To his enemies, almost no epithet is too extreme to throw at Wilders. The flamboyant Wilders has been outspoken in opposing immigration, especially that of Muslims, making a sharp critique of political Islamism and sometimes Islam itself.

The power of the Dutch state was turned on Wilders, who is currently on trial for making statements which in America would fall well within constitutional protection. State television ran documentaries during the election designed to paint him as a virtual Nazi.

What is Wilders’ program? First, a sharp limitation on asylum seekers admitted into the country, and none from Muslim-majority states. No dual nationality, no new mosques, no separate Islamic schools, no wearing of burqas, and no government subsidies for Islamic media. Mosques where violence is propagated will be closed. Heavy punishment for female circumcision. For their first ten years in Holland, immigrants receive no social benefits or citizenship. At the end of that period, those with no criminal record will receive full citizenship.

The rise in support for Wilders’ party is in large part a response to serious concern over the domestic situation in the country. Aside from the assassination of a filmmaker by a radical Islamist, there has been a steep increase in crime and social welfare spending. Amsterdam, not long ago the most gay-friendly city in the world, is a place where homosexuals might be attacked in the streets by Muslim immigrant youth. A recent television program followed three Jews wearing identifiable garb as they strolled around the city, being harassed and insulted.

Twenty percent of Dutch teachers report that attempts to teach about the Holocaust, in the country of Anne Frank, were rejected or disrupted by immigrant children.

While Muslims still comprise only a bit more than 5 percent of the population, whole areas of Dutch cities have a majority of people who are recent immigrants and whose commitment to assimilation into the country's continued norms is questionable. For example, it is frequently estimated that up to half the country’s Muslim population is sympathetic to the September 11 attacks.