EUROPE’S a continent living in growing fear of its outsiders.
A YEAR after voting to ban minarets, the direct-election diehards of Switzerland have struck out again at their foreign population.
Residents born outside of Switzerland and potentially first, second and third-generation citizens of foreign origin now face automatic deportation if convicted of crimes from the serious – murder and rape – to relatively minor infractions such as dole fraud.
More than half, 53 per cent, of Swiss voters backed the proposal of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), following a campaign featuring some of the most racially charged campaign advertising Europe has seen in years. Opponents compared it to Nazi propaganda from the 1930s.
The most notorious poster depicted a white Swiss sheep kicking a black sheep off a Swiss flag. “Ivan S, rapist and soon a Swiss citizen?”, accompanied by a picture of a Slavic-looking hoodlum, also hit all the flagrant racist hot buttons.
In a heavy-handed reference to Muslims in Switzerland, another campaign advert picturing a bearded man said: “Faruk B is a murderer. Should he be allowed to become a Swiss citizen?”.
Perhaps the most shocking outcome of the latest example of what one Social Democrat MP, Andreas Gross, called “the tyranny of the majority” was the fact so few in Switzerland or elsewhere in Europe were even mildly shocked by the referendum result.
When minarets were outlawed at the end of last year, forcing Muslims in Switzerland to refrain from any visible architectural expression of their faith, the vote made headlines around the world.
Yet the Swiss attempt to create two unequal classes of citizens before the law when it comes to crime passed relatively unremarked across a continent living in growing fear of its foreign-born residents, and worried about the failure of integration, perceived rising violent crime and the threat of terrorism.
The referendum goes further than automatic expulsion for foreigners found guilty of serious or minor crimes. After serving their jail terms, blanket bans could bar them from Switzerland for up to 20 years.
The consensus government in Bern and even the Centre-Left tried to placate an electorate bent on punishing the 22 per cent of the Swiss population comprised of foreign born. They did so by proposing an alternative: expulsion for foreigners guilty of committing serious crimes, but only on a case-by-case basis.
The ruse failed, or as the SVP suggested – “why take the copy when you can have the original?”.
Frightened by the populist stampede linking migrants directly with crime, Bern reacted with reassuring words. An official statement from the federal council, the cabinet of Switzerland, said “the majority of voters have clearly explained that criminality is a serious problem for them. We will implement the mandate that has been handed to us”.
A brave voice amid the violent rejection of an ethnically and culturally diverse Europe, European parliament president Jose Manuel Barrosso told French radio the vote revealed a “general fear” in the face of “a nationalist push, that was chauvinist, xenophobic, and sometimes even characterised by very aggressive populism”.
The European Network Against Racism condemned the move as a breach of human rights.
“The Swiss People’s Party is exploiting feelings of fear among the Swiss population by launching its xenophobic campaigns,” ENAR president Mohammed Aziz said.
Still, public reaction in Europe seemed mostly on the side of the Swiss. German news agency Deutsche Welle said its website’s readers “came down clearly in favour of the Swiss referendum to enact stricter deportation laws”.
It was yet another confirmation of the thesis of Italian philosopher Raffaele Simone, the author of The Meek Monster, that the West, and particularly continental Europe, is veering to the Right and even far Right in a trend that can be traced back several decades.
This year has seen the globally condemned expulsion of thousands of Roma, or gypsies, from French territory, in scenes critics said harked back to the round-ups of Jews in World War II.
France now proposes to strip nationality from foreigners committing crimes such as attacking or murdering police.
In September, Sweden registered a huge vote for an openly racist far-right party in elections that shamed the ruling social democrats.
The burka has been banned in France and Belgium and there is a strong push for a similar law in Britain and elsewhere in Europe.
Meanwhile, the threat from homegrown terrorists in Belgium, France, Britain and Germany remains high.
In recent weeks, a security swoop resulted in the arrest of at least 10 jihadists in Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany. The radical group, operating out of Antwerp, was said to be planning major terrorist attacks in Belgium.
In October, France held a similar raid, following ongoing menaces of attacks on French citizens, French interests and French soil by Osama bin Laden. Almost a dozen suspected terrorists were arrested in a sweep from Avignon to Marseille and Bordeaux, along with the seizure of weapons.
This month, a BBC investigation revealed Saudi-funded Koranic study schools in Britain were teaching violent anti-Semitism, mutilation for homosexuals, and hatred of Western values to children and teenagers.
High-profile arrests of suspected foreign terrorists only serve to encourage Swiss demagogues whipping up public fury about the perceived link between immigration and crime. In contrast, French anthropologist Hugues Lagrange approaches the subject with a rigorous researcher’s eye.
In his controversial new book, The Denial of Culture, Lagrange traces the isolation and exclusion of certain French immigrant populations, including those of Maghrebin or North African, Middle Eastern and sub-Saharan African background. He concludes that there is indeed a link between certain ethnic groups in France such as sub-Saharan Africans and teenage delinquency or juvenile crime.
The difference between Lagrange’s approach and the Right’s polemics or the Left’s frequent political correctness is his sympathy for the children of migrants from cultures that diverge from the mainstream European norms of liberalism.
He says 30 per cent of families that arrive from sub-Saharan Africa have polygamous fathers as heads of the family. Lacking the countervailing powers of village and community culture in their home countries, influences that calm autocratic tendencies, these men become the sole source of family power and authority.
As autocratic patriarchs, they rule over a household where their wives are oppressed, girls are forced to submit and young boys are “out of control”: an “infernal scenario that repeats itself”. The problem is not too little authority; it is too much.
According to Lagrange, this incendiary mix is connected to high rates of school dropouts and adolescent involvement in violence, crime and even involvement with extreme Islamism.
Lagrange is especially strong on the cultural origins of female oppression, and the deleterious effect such oppression has on the development of young first-generation migrants attempting to build a place for themselves in a foreign society.
“To refuse to recognise the cultural origins of delinquency is hypocrisy,” Lagrange says. “France soothes itself with anti-racist refrains and denies reality.”
It is a message that seems to be spreading across Europe, albeit with racist overtones.