Along Came Sharia
by Lorenzo Vidino and Erick Stakelbeck
National Review Online
February 19, 2004
Last month, as Muslims in the small northern Italian town of Luino prepared to celebrate the annual Islamic Eid Al-Adha, or "Feast of Sacrifice," they were met by some surprising opposition. The feast, which requires the slaughter of rams and lambs carried out according to Islamic tradition--meaning the animal must bleed to death after its throat is slit--sparked outrage amongst the region's animal-rights activists. Abandoning the hushed reverence with which Europe's Left usually regards all things Islamic, a coalition of groups gathered in front of a Luino slaughterhouse in an effort to prevent trucks loaded with animals from entering. Soon enough, the protesters--some of whom, ironically, wore Palestinian keffiyehs--were confronted by a group of angry local Muslims shouting "Allah u Akhbar!" ("God is Great!"). In the past, such blatant disregard for Muslim sensitivities would have caused the local Left to apologize profusely and enroll in cultural sensitivity training, post haste. But in today's increasingly Islamicized Europe, many on the Left are slowly realizing that the behavior of large segments of Europe's Muslim population represents the antithesis of their politically correct ideals and values. Indeed, only the intervention of local police prevented physical violence between the protesters in Luino and their Muslim counterparts.
The Luino incident was not an isolated one. From France's controversial decision to ban the veil in public schools to news of the barbaric application of Islamic law throughout Europe, Muslim immigrants are creating a crisis of conscience within the Left. While most European conservatives have acknowledged the problems created by massive Muslim immigration, the Left has usually chosen instead to blame Muslims' assimilation problems on the close-mindedness of native European populations. But after years of calling conservatives racist for raising these issues, Leftists have begun to notice that many of the Muslim immigrants arriving in Europe have little respect for values sacrosanct to the Left, like women's rights and separation of Church and State.
As a result, the positions of the late Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, rejected as extreme just a few years ago by his opponents, are now being quietly reconsidered by many on the Left. Fortuyn, who was assassinated in 2002 by, ironically, an animal-rights activist, hailed from the Dutch city of Rotterdam, where roughly half the residents are foreign born and many are Muslim. Fortuyn feared that due to its unwillingness to assimilate, Holland's growing Muslim population (which currently comprises almost ten percent of the Dutch population), would undermine traditional Dutch values. Fortuyn, who was openly gay, also worried that Islam's aversion to homosexuality would clash with Holland's liberal attitude toward gays. Whereas Fortuyn was once branded a "fascist" by the European media, his views are now gaining mainstream acceptance.
For example, supporters of the ban of the Muslim veil in France and Belgium come from a variety of political parties, including some in which multiculturalism is normally considered gospel. A member of the Belgian Socialist party, Anne-Marie Lizin, declared to the British newspaper the Guardian that, "It's not normal that in certain parts of Brussels there are more women in veils than in the streets of Algiers." Until recently, Lizin would have been ostracized for making such a statement. However, her comments explaining her vote in favor of the ban went largely unreported in the European press. Interestingly enough, members of Lizin's Socialist party have previously referred to rival Belgian party Vlaams Blok--which advocates a moratorium on immigration--as a fascist organization. But Lizin's comments to the Guardian show that her view of the veil is firmly in line with that of Vlaams Blok and other European conservative parties.
The hijab is only one aspect of women's status in Islam that Left-leaning Europeans find troubling. In Spain, Muslim imam Mohamed Kamal Mustafa, who wrote a 120-page book, "Women in Islam," which taught Muslim men the "proper" way to beat their wives, was sentenced in January to fifteen months in prison for encouraging violence against women. In the book, Mustafa urged husbands not to hit their wives on sensitive parts of the body but, rather, "on hands and feet, using a light rod so that the blows don't leave scars or bruises." In his decision, Judge Juan Pedro Yllanes said that Mustafa's book was "infused with a tone of obsolete machismo," and "incompatible with the reigning social mores." The case against Mustafa was spearheaded by three Spanish feminist groups, who filed a lawsuit against the book in July 2000. The groups were represented by renowned feminist lawyer Maria Jose Varela, who said the verdict against Mustafa was the first in Spain to recognize "incitement to violence on the basis of gender" as a crime.
Recently, feminist and other Leftist organizations in Europe have also taken a decisive stand against female circumcision, a gruesome practice occurring with increased frequency in the West as its third-world population grows. When a Muslim gynecologist in Florence proposed "soft" circumcisions for local Muslim women, Florence city officials--renowned for their left-wing politics and for supporting the ban of the crucifix in Italian schools--responded with a resounding "no." One of them, Marzia Monciatti, was quoted as saying that certain traditions are at such odds with Italian values that accepting them in any form was impossible.
The European Left's strong support for Muslim immigrants has traditionally been twofold: first, Muslims are a religious and ethnic minority in Europe and therefore advance the Left's multicultural agenda. Secondly, as evidenced by their joint participation in the antiwar protests of the past two years, Europe's Left shares with many Muslim immigrants a resentment of the U.S., Israel and capitalism. But virtually all other aspects of the two groups' belief systems are at odds: gay rights, women's rights, abortion rights, multiculturalism, separation of church and state, interfaith dialogue and opposition to the death penalty, all perennial Leftist causes, are opposed by an overwhelming number of Europe's Muslim immigrants, sometimes brutally so. As its ever-growing Muslim population continues to alter the Old Continent's social fabric, the European Left seems to be coming to the realization that the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" adage to which it has traditionally ascribed its support of mass Muslim immigration no longer applies. For many of Europe's Muslims, the most pressing "enemy" is not the U.S., Israel or capitalism, but the liberal, secularized way of life practiced by their "infidel" hosts.
--Erick Stakelbeck is head writer and Lorenzo Vidino is an attorney and terrorism analyst at the Investigative Project, a Washington, D.C.-based counterterrorism think tank.