Identity Politics

Europe seems to be going through a interesting (read: dangerous) phase of identity exploration (yet again) and there has been a notable increase in the popularity of identity politics. As is often the case in today’s world, Muslims are usually the victim, often being questioned about their loyalty, religious beliefs, past-times, etc in order to decide whether they are European enough or not – of course, in the end, they never are and probably will never be.

I came across a disturbing ad campaign for a Swiss referendum that will take place next week. The referendum is about deporting “immigrants” who have committed crimes. These “immigrants” can be Swiss nationals, if I’m not mistaken. The ad campaign:

A Right-wing political party in Switzerland has produced a provocative anti-immigration campaign in which a photograph of naked young models wading into Lake Zurich is contrasted with an image of headscarf-wearing Muslim women bathing in filthy water.

You can see the article here.

It was also in Switzerland where last year, a very controversial advert was used during elections:


Swiss Election Poster


We often hear how backwards the “developing” world is. We’re violent, small-minded, superstitious, lazy – and the list goes on.  I’d like to shift the focus a little. So-called “developed” countries are apparently in the midst of an identity crisis (the last one that was 50 years ago didn’t end so well). Here in the Netherlands there is apparently a “Muslim problem.” Politicians like Wilders, who has nothing except his anti-Islam rhetoric, are being elected and taken seriously (the hair on its own should have made people think twice). He calls himself a freedom fighter, a grave insult to the likes of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Whose freedom is he fighting for? The freedom for white Dutch people to live in a pure white country? What about the freedom of Dutch Muslims?

What do you guys think about the rise of the right in Europe? Europe – the continent constantly praised for its democracy, welfare, equality and all of that. Apparently those things don’t apply to everyone. If you wear a headscarf – too bad. If you’re a Roma – too bad. If you were once a Dutch colonial subject and your country was put through hell for the benefit of the Dutch and you think that now you might get something back – too bad.

I’m starting to question the idea that we will never see something like the Nazis again. I don’t think we will see a Holocaust in Europe of that magnitude again. But the ideas and rhetoric that brought Hitler to power are definitely back, with a new target. And what’s worrying is that more & more people are beginning to admit this.


16 thoughts on “Identity Politics

    • Yes, they both reflect the continuing subjugation of women and the use of women’s bodies to protect/defend tradition, whether “Islamic” tradition or “Swiss” tradition.

  1. I am definitely disturbed by the right wing in both Europe and America. They are completely unabashed in their ignorance and hatred. I have not seen anything in America coming close to the prejudice and propaganda coming from politicians in Europe!

    If there are more attacks by people who happen to be Muslim, there will be more hate and prejudice towards Muslims.

    An unfortunate truth. Europe has had to deal with far more consequences of Muslim extremism than America, and it is showing in their policies and the propaganda they run on.

    Hate breeds hate and it is definitely a circle. Social prejudice creates extremism, and extremism creates social prejudice and so on and so on.

    • I definitely agree that Europe is going to have a lot of home-grown terrorism to deal with, although so is America. Their foreign policies are also going to create an intense amount of discontent, hate, and resentment and this is not only going to come out in the form of terrorism (since Muslims have other ways of reacting that are not violent) but in the form of increasing social unrest.

  2. wow subhanallah i just was researching the similar topic but in the case of Germany. my topics was basically about What constitutes desirable integration of immigrantes is often taken for granted in the immigration discourse. There is a strong expectation that immigrants should accept The countries prevailing practice and standard and become similar to the resident population. The discourse nominally endorses cultural diversity, but specific cultural differences, especially those deemed to be far removed from the mainstream standard are viewed as obstacles to integration.
    this is often true in most western countries concerning muslims.
    they are always worried about how muslims are not able to ” integrate” but really they have many laws and rules that opress muslims, like for example in order to get a citizenship in certain states they will give you a “conscience test”. and the questions on it actually target stereotypical muslim beliefs. some questions include
    11 In your opinion which work must never be done by women? Is there any work area in which
    the existence of a woman boss would disturb you?

    13 If your daughter wants to get married to a person with a different religion or wants
    to work in a field that you do not endorse, what will your reaction be?

    15 Sports classes and swimming are a part of the school curricula in Germany. Do you endorse
    your daughter’s participation in those classes? If not, why?

    17 Your daughter/wife wants to get dressed in the way other girls and women do in Germany.
    Would you try to prevent them? If yes, by which methods?

    it’s quite sad and just laws that teachers can’t wear hijab but people of other faith can etc etc.

    and your completely right this is all because their own identity crisis, they are so of the “other” because they are actually threatened by it because as of right now many European state who may have for example been very Christian have no one going into their churches anymore. so in these states it happens on both micro and macro levels where the state has oppressive policies towards muslims, and in general people are not accepting of muslims because of their ” different from the mainstream” beliefs.

  3. yah i just can’t get over how messed up all of this is, like in development in most of my classes it is so easy to bash so called ” developing” countries and see how wrong they are and “backward” and strategize all these policies and plans to help them become ” developed” when really these countries are doing many backhanded things that just are completely unjust. they say freedom of religion, they protest mosque, ban niqabs, ban hijabs , call muslim women oppressed etc.
    the sad thing is many people in my classes do not even realize this. i did a whole presentation on my paper which is about the above ” the integration discourse” and i got bombarded with questions about
    – niqab and how it wouldn’t work in German society that interacts with facial expressions
    – polygamy
    – how they didn’t believe me that hijabs are banned but other religious symbols are etc
    – how it doesn’t only oppress muslims

    i just get so mad and really channel my anger into these essays that i think might teach someone something about this world.. but no
    in the mainstream development field it’s much focused on policies, developing countries, poverty alleviation, responsibility to protect, millennium dvm goals etc. i can’t wait to inshallah do a degree more in anthropology where you can actually discuss the discourse of development.
    two-three of my classes in my whole undergrad talked about the discourse of development. many are just so embedded in this thing and i just am sick of it. btw i really like your posts and it’s great to find more people in this field that think this way. this post actually made me smile because i just did this presentation on friday and was mad all weekend about the outcome, but seeing that you have noticed similar things, kinda made me feel like i’m not alone who things this way lol

    • I feel what you said about getting attacked after your presentation. I’ve actually noticed a shift on this blog as well – now whenever I post something about Islam, I get a lot of responses criticizing Islam and asking me to explain things that people don’t agree with that they think Islam condones. Moreover, when I post something defending Islam or criticizing the west, I often get responses criticizing Islam and pointing out that “Islam is also at fault.” It seems you can’t criticize the west without criticizing Muslims as well. Which is fine since Muslims are also at fault in most situations, but it’s interesting that people are not okay with criticism of the west unless one also points out that Muslims do something wrong.
      I see this now in the media as well…instead of focusing on America’s role in global policitcs that has been exposed by Wikileaks, they are choosing to focus on the (few) cables that show how “violent” and “evil” the Arab states are. Yes, the governments of these states have faults, but so does America, so why aren’t we hearing about that?

  4. Sara, I think the referendum already took place yesterday and it was voted for by 53% or so.
    Also, I think it does not include Swiss nationals (that would have probably been outright unconstitutional, but it’s actually what they’re after).

  5. I’m not sure if my comment got through or not, so I’m leaving another:
    – I think it was already voted for yesterday.
    – It does not include Swiss nationals, as far as I understand (that would have indeed been outright apartheid).

  6. Just want to say that I agree with unsettledsoul.

    But for whatever it’s worth, from a man’s perspective—or at least from my perspective—that naked woman on the extreme left is skinny, but not sexy.

    Second from the left is OK, but perhaps would be better if the waistline is a bit smaller, and more flesh in her thighs.

    Third one from the left is better than both of those on her left, although I don’t really like the buttocks which appear to sag a bit.

    The one on the extreme right is the sexiest of the four, just nice for my taste. Hehehe

    But seriously, did this ad actually have an effect on the voters?

  7. Interesting post. So what do you think can be done to combat this rise in hatred on both sides? How can we stop this vicious cycle of, say, Europeans or Americans disliking Muslims and at the same time stop haters like the Somali teen in Oregon who was perfectly fine with hurting innocent men, women and children?

    It’s almost like when things settle down, we are introduced to yet another would-be terrorist on American soil who wants to kill others. And I know these are very very few in the Muslim community yet some will wrongly conclude there is a rising threat, these Muslims don’t like us, we need to stop them before they hurt others, etc. I think this is a rise in fear and when people fear they are OK with limiting freedoms – for themselves and others.

    I hate it! 😦

    Enjoyed your post!

  8. I think what’s missing is America asking itself where this home-grown terrorism is coming from. It’s so easy to blame Islam and Arab culture, but is it really that? Or is it discrimination, racism, invading Muslim countries, westernization, etc?
    Maybe it’s AMERICAN culture, not Islam. All these school shootings are certainly saying something is wrong. But still, the tendency is always to blame Islam and Arab culture…it’s never the US. And until more Americans are honest about hay, nothing will change.

    • Yes, that makes sense. Those are good questions. I think people often want to shift blame instead of ask the hard questions about themselves. Achelois’ post about God-central consciousness reminded me of this.

      Here’s to hoping we can ask ourselves the hard questions…beginning with me. Thanks, Sara!

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