Last Thursday, the New York Times reported on the Danish elections and the win by the Danish People’s Party, which came in second in votes but emerged the victor:
In an election that turned on economic uncertainty and fierce debates over immigration, Danish voters on Thursday ousted their center-left government in a clear swing to the right that unexpectedly elevated an anti-immigrant, anti-European Union party that had been on the margins.
The People’s Party is described as “anti-immigrant,” and not “anti-Muslim immigrant.” And it turns out that “none of Denmark’s many smaller parties was willing to form a government with it.” Why? Precisely because of its focus on Muslim immigration, when the Times has just told us it is an “anti-immigrant” party and not “anti-Muslim-immigrant.” Could not the Times ever bring itself to change “anti-immigrant” to “anti-Muslim immigrant” in order to make that point clear? It is true that Bulgarian and Rumanian immigrants are mentioned in passing, but it is really the Muslim immigrants whom the Danish People’s Party worries about. It is in agreement with Geert Wilders, who said that he has “no objections to other, non-Muslim immigrants.” Why won’t the Times help its readers make this distinction between those who are against all immigration, and those who are only against Muslim immigration? It is seemingly so minor, but this phrasing continues to misstate, and thereby make less palatable, what is falsely presented as a general “anti-immigrant” movement. It paints a picture that is false.
The “economic uncertainty” is the other reason given for the victory of this “far-right party.” Would it not be useful for the Times to explain that that “economic uncertainty” is not about the stock market, or employment, or levels of export, but rather about the huge expense for the Danish welfare state of supporting all those Muslim immigrants? So the phrase “economic uncertainty” does not give us a distinct second reason for the victory of the Danish People’s Party; rather, it gives what is the same reason: fear of the consequences of Muslim immigration. In short, the Danish People’s Party won its unexpected victory because of fear of Muslims — fear of the economic damage they cause, and fear of their growing presence. Is that an impossible remark for the Times’ correspondent (Melissa Eddy) to have included? And how “far-right” can a party be if it wins the second highest number of votes in Denmark, and furthermore, like Geert Wilders, wants to increase social security payments to the natives, but recognizes that Muslim arrivals are using up funds that might be used to do so? To understand how generous with immigrants Denmark is, consider the clamor over the previous Prime Minister’s suggestion that the recipients of aid should work for that aid.
Why bother with these quibbles over how the election results were explained? Well, the persistence of “far-right” is always maddening. And soon enough, another “far-right” party is going to score surprisingly well: the Front National in France. It may not win, but it has already pushed the former UMP, under Sarkozy (who renamed his party “Les Republicains”) to adopt Front National policies toward both Muslim immigration and the Muslim presence in France. And just as with the Danish People’s Party, in the case of which, according to Eddy, many who did not dare to express their support nonetheless voted for the party, readers may assume that there are reasons why the Front National — which Americans know only as a “far-right” party without knowing why it is called that, and not a single thing more about it (how many, for example, know that its current leader, Marine Le Pen, has booted out her own father and his closest associates because they were indeed “far-right”?) — is called “far right” other than that of Muslim immigration. I can’t think of a single one; I don’t think the journalists who keep using the phrase can think of one, either. It is this that distinguishes the Front National: it is the only party that has called for a total halt to Muslim immigration; this is the issue that will win it the votes of the terrified and the depressed.
In Melissa Eddy’s article, a very good article really, I stop to quibble because the failure to clearly recognize both the economic issue and that of immigration as being both connected to Muslims continues, very subtly and persistently, to convey the wrong understanding to American readers. It is only toward the very end that Muslims are mentioned. This is forgivable, as Europe is now changing so fast that even the American press will soon catch up. And then my question is: will all those Americans who fondly assure us that “Muslims in America are completely different from those in Europe” be able to explain in what way the ideology of American Muslims is so very different from that of Muslims in Europe, or at least why living in the United States acts to inhibit the power and pull of Islam on the minds of its adherents in a way that living in Europe does not? Should Americans think they have little to learn from the European experience because “our Muslims are so different” and since poverty is a “root cause” of Muslim terrorism and there is apparently no other, so we need not worry? How many of those arrested for terrorism — start with Major Nidal Hasan and Tarek Mehanna — were doing very well in this country?
How is the Danish People’s Party’s victory being viewed in Washington? Is the European turn to what we are told is the “far-right” viewed with alarm on the State Department, or now with relief? I have the uneasy feeling that in the State Department some might still take seriously the phrase “far-right” as it is ordinarily applied, and would not welcome but would rather deplore the possible victory of Marine Le Pen.
And why is the coverage in the American press of events in Europe so limited when it comes to Islam? What about the cultural effect of Islam? How is it that the big brouhaha over proposed changes in the French curriculum, pushed by a half-Muslim Minister of Education, Najat Valaud-Belkacem, which if accepted would eliminate the teaching of Latin, Greek, and German, and cater to its new Muslim population by requiring, for example, study of Islam in high school, has not been mentioned all over the American press? Is it because the French, and European, ferocity in defending their own culture, the culture of Europe, shames the Americans who keep talking about multiculturalism instead of defending the European civilization to which America is heir, in literature, language, and legal system? And if the American public were to be told that so many of these “far-right” parties want to preserve their own culture and expand social services, wouldn’t that epithet have to be put to rest? Ideally, once the “right” or “far-right” sweeps in Europe, real or mischaracterized, as it must, as it did even in famously-left Denmark, the Americans will be able to follow suit, without any complexes over such epithets. It’s a prospect to welcome.