It is well known that British Prime Minister David Cameron is facing immense political pressure from the Europhobic UKIP party and that he risks losing Conservative supremacy in the next elections.
But it is not understandable that one of the most historical parties in Europe – one of the pillars of the bipartisan system – is openly turning toward populism.
This can be seen in how the party is planning to address two of the most politically crucial problems: immigration (European Union citizens included) and the growing number of UK citizens turning to Jihadists. The party is toeing a rather populist line on both these issues.
The new legal procedure that the UK wants to adopt concerning those who are fighting or have fought in the Middle East appears to be very dangerous. The government wants to tackle this phenomenon – to prevent Muslim or even Christian citizens from joining Islamic State – by using the police and authoritarian methods.
A few weeks ago, the UK government adopted another measure – that of revoking passports from UK citizens who travelled to Syria or Iraq with the aim of joining IS. But the measure was considered ineffective and a violation of European law. It was subsequently withdrawn.
How the Conservative government is trying now to solve the problem of IS recruitment of UK citizens has really nothing to do with the problem per se, but with the upcoming elections.
Even though their plan is likely to save them some votes and even attract some new voters back to the Conservative party, it will also widen the gap between the UK Muslims and the rest of UK society. This is because Cameron’s measures are targeting the Muslim community in the UK and provoking irritation especially among young Muslims.
On the other side of the sea in the Netherlands, the well known far-right leader Geert Wilders and his VVF party have declared their aim is to shut down every Mosque in Netherlands. This is maybe a clearer policy than that of the UK’s Conservatives, but it is also dangerous, ugly, inhuman and anti-European.
How can a member of parliament in a European country declare this openly and without any legal consequence?
France has also taken a major turn toward intolerance as evidenced by the growing support of the far-right party of Marine Le Pen
In all three cases, we have European citizens who are being targeted. According to our European tradition and culture, Europeans have every right to believe or not and have every right to observe the religion they chose.
The populist turn of the Conservatives in UK and of the far-right parties in France and the Netherlands toward anti-Muslim populism, has put oil to the fire and hurled the entire European society into great danger.
This populism is isolating Muslims and creating the conditions for a deep separation inside our society.
Instead of imagining new ideas of division and threats, the European leaders should carefully examine the real reasons they are pushing young Europeans (many of them are not even Muslims) to embrace the ‘ideals’ of Islamic State and to put their life in danger by going off to fight in the Middle East.
The problem is not in the minds of the European jihadists and it does not lie in the Middle East. The problem is right here in Europe, in our societies, and this is where it must be solved.