Two days after terrorists struck Paris, Europe’s far-right and anti-immigrant parties jumped on the bandwagon yesterday to press home their divisive message that European Muslims are dangerous.
Populist movements warning of the “Islamisation” of Europe have been gaining ground across the continent.
Even as Europe’s Muslim community leaders lined up to condemn Wednesday’s attacks on magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Muslim officer emerged as a hero in the incident, racist forces lost no opportunity to lash out.
In Britain, anti-immigrant Ukip leader Nigel Farage claimed the attacks were the result of “a fifth column” living within Western societies “who hate us.”
And in France, far-right National Front leader Marine LePen (pictured) urged the French to beware the threat of Islamist fundamentalism. She claimed “The time of denial, hypocrisy is no longer possible.”
Some of the most vocal rightist responses were in Germany.
Far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) spokesman Holger Szymanski said his party would mobilise to join anti-Islam street protests in Dresden that have been growing in size over the past three months.
“It happened in Paris but it could have happened in Berlin, too,” he claimed.
“We’re calling on our members to take part in all protests taking place against Islamisation,” he said. “Why should we call for calm?”
Nationalist Alternative for Germany party spokesman Alexander Gauland insisted the attack had discredited his party’s critics: “All those who have so far ignored or laughed at the concerns many people have about the looming danger of Islamism have been proved wrong by this bloody deed.”
Organisers of the Pegida group marches in Dresden said they saw the attack as a vindication of their stance.
But they did not go unanswered. Across capitals including Madrid, London, Brussels, Sarajevo and Athens, thousands turned out for demonstrations which expressed solidarity with the murdered journalists but avoided anti-Muslim hatred.
In Athens, demonstrators formed a line and held up a letter each spelling out in Greek: “I do not hate, I am not afraid.”