Is the rise of the far right normalizing racism across Europe?

Speakers at an event in London yesterday raised concerns about increasing racism and Islamophobia across Europe as far-right parties make political inroads in national elections. (AN Photo/Elaine Knutsen)
Updated 22 October 2017
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Is the rise of the far right normalizing racism across Europe?

LONDON: The rise of far-right political parties across Europe is normalizing racism, politicians and activists warned at an event in London.

Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice are on the rise, the Stand Up to Racism event in London heard yesterday.

“Populism is on the march,” Claude Moraes, a Labour member of the European Parliament for London, told the audience. “In Hungary, in Poland, where you see the turning back day by day of democracy, where you see the targeting of minorities, the scapegoating of minorities, it is an incremental move backwards.”

Far-right parties have made major gains in elections across Europe this year, often running campaigns infused with anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant rhetoric.

In parliamentary elections held in September, Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has drummed up fears about the “Islamification” of Germany, won 13 percent of the vote.

Last week Austria’s Freedom Party, which has decried Islam as “fascistic,” earned 51 seats in Parliament.

The far-right was also poised to emerge as the winner in Czech elections held this weekend, with the Freedom and Direct Democracy party set for major gains.

“The growth of Islamophobia, the acceptability is sharpening and making racism acceptable. We have to make sure it doesn’t get normalized,” said Weyman Bennett, a co-convenor of Stand Up to Racism.

The belief that Muslims represent a risk to British values and a security threat is propagated by politicians, he said.

Attacks against Islam in the popular media, said Labour MP Catherine West, were particularly concerning.

“I’m very worried that it somehow acceptable to criticize Muslims, and that dog-whistle politics which is on the front page of many of our tabloids seems to be gaining ground. We need to challenge that.”

Julie Ward, a member of the European Parliament representing North West England, agreed. “I’ve been witnessing in the media and in the public domain an increasing normalization of racism which has certainly led to the Brexit vote,” she told Arab News. “I have a huge Muslim community in my constituency, and they are on the receiving end of some of the most horrendous racism.”

“I’m worried. I’m worried because racism seems to be the new norm in the center right, let alone the far right,” she said.

Attendee Sabina Khan said that as a woman of color she was concerned about racism in the UK.

“There is always a different rule, for white people and for ethnic minorities,” she said. “We live in a multicultural society but we’re not accepted.”
Jemima Miah, a young volunteer and activist attending the day-long event, said that she had stood by as her sister, who wears a hijab, faced verbal abuse on the Tube.

“A really elderly woman said: “I’m disgusted by you,” Miah recalled, shaking her head. “We can’t ignore it. It’s not just islamophobia, It’s all hate crimes. They need to go.”

Hate crimes have increased dramatically in the UK by 29 percent in the past year, according to recently released statistics.

There is reason to be hopeful, however. West lauded the cooperation between Muslims and Jews in the wake of the attack at the Finsbury Mosque which killed a worshipper during Ramadan.

“We do have a really strong sense of solidarity in London communities,” she said. “Unity and resistance is necessary in the face of rising intolerance.”


‘No-deal’ Brexit would hit trucks, airlines and pet owners — govt papers

Updated 25 September 2018
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‘No-deal’ Brexit would hit trucks, airlines and pet owners — govt papers

  • Many business chiefs and investors fear politics could scupper an agreement
  • Without a deal, the UK would move to customs arrangements set by the WTO for external states with no preferential deals

LONDON: Leaving the European Union without a proper divorce deal could ground airlines, stop hauliers from lugging goods to the world’s biggest trading bloc and even make headaches for pet owners who want to take their dogs on holiday, according to government documents.
With just six months to go until the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on March 29, Prime Minister Theresa May has warned that negotiations are at an impasse and that the EU must come up with new proposals on how to craft a divorce settlement.
Many business chiefs and investors fear politics could scupper an agreement, thrusting the world’s fifth largest economy into a “no-deal” Brexit that they say would spook financial markets and silt up the arteries of trade.
Britain, which has warned it could leave without a deal, published 25 technical notices on Monday covering everything from commercial road haulage and buying timber to airline regulations and taking pets abroad.
“If the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 with no agreement in place, UK and EU licensed airlines would lose the automatic right to operate air services between the UK and the EU without seeking advance permission,” the government said.
Overall, the government has published more than 65 such notices giving a glimpse of what a no-deal Brexit — the nightmare scenario for chief executives of most multinationals operating in Britain — would look like.
Amid warnings that trucks could stack up on both sides of the English Channel in the confusion of a no deal, Britain said it would seek to strike bilateral agreements with European countries to ensure hauliers would retain access.
The notices covered a vast swathe of the British economy, warning, for example, that labels on packaged food would have to be changed.
“Use of the term ‘EU’ in origin labelling would no longer be correct for food or ingredients from the UK,” the government said.
Honey producers would have to change their labels while EU countries might not accept British mineral water, the government said.
In the worse case scenario for pet owners, dogs, cats and even ferrets might need health certificates and rabies jabs. Travel plans would have to be discussed with a vet at least four months in advance before traveling to the EU.
That would mean someone wanting to take their pet to the EU on March 30, 2019, the day after Britain leaves the bloc, would have to discuss the trip with a vet before the end of November.
Without a deal, the UK would move from seamless trade with the rest of the EU to customs arrangements set by the World Trade Organization for external states with no preferential deals.
Brexiteers accept there is likely to be some short-term economic pain but say the government is trying to scare voters about the impact of a no-deal Brexit.
Britain, many Brexiteers say, will thrive in the longer term if cut loose from what they see as a doomed experiment in German-dominated unity and excessive debt-funded welfare spending.