By Begüm Tunakan
02 January, 2015
2014 witnessed the growing trend in Islamophobia and xenophobia across Europe. Racially motivated attacks on mosques in several European cities and large demonstrations against Muslim populations organized by far-right extremist groups are indicative of a resurgence that sparks hatred of the Muslim community. Many Europeans are critical of the Muslim population and the rise in Islamophobia in European countries is still a controversial issue in the EU as it is threatening the security of Muslims.
Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) has drawn attention lately as it drew large support from far-right groups and ordinary citizens. Far-right anti-Muslim groups have become more prominent in Germany. A weekly march in the eastern city of Dresden has attracted many Germans, and more than 15,000 people take to the streets in Dresden every Monday to protest the rising number of immigrants. The anti-Islam rallies have also spread across Germany. With many Germans supporting anti-Muslim rhetoric and anti-immigration policies, according to a poll, more people have started to consider Islam a threat to their society. In the face of the growing number of refugees and asylum seekers looking for shelter in Germany and the threat posed by the radical militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), many Germans have been fuelling anti-immigration sentiments.
France is home to the largest Muslim population in Europe with an estimated population of over 8 million. Muslims in France have also been encountering increasing intolerance. There has been a growing nationalist trend in France and anti-Muslim sentiments are increasing. Bloc Identitaire, founded in 2002, is a nationalist political group that aims to promote French identity. The group perceives Islam as a threat to European identity. The far-right party, the National Front (FN) has gained significant ground in French politics, winning a considerable numbers of seats in European Parliament. Groupe Union Defense, a faction of FN, is a nationalist and patriotic youth movement that was involved in clashes with police in 2013.
Sweden is home to a significant number of refugees and immigrants, as the country promotes multiculturalism and diversity in society. However, in the face of a massive influx of refugees and asylum seekers, Swedish nationalism has been on the rise and far-right groups are deeply critical of the centre-left government's policies on immigration. The Swedish Resistance Movement was founded in 1997 as a far-right group and has been called the "most violent and pro-terrorist Nazis." Sweden witnessed an arson attack on Thursday, hinting at growing far-right extremism and xenophobia. Sweden received the most applications for asylum in the world from 2009 to 2013, according to the U.N. refugee agency, and the country expects that the number of asylum seekers in 2015 will break records.
Britain is also seeing a growing trend of far-right political parties and groups. Increasing concern over the burgeoning number of immigrants living in the country has led to an increase in votes for the anti-EU and the anti-immigration U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) over the past year. Border control and security are at the heart of its electoral campaigns as recent opinion polls show that there is a steady increase in support for UKIP. The English Defense League (EDL) is a far-right anti-Muslim organization based in Britain that said the following in an online statement of its Memorandum of Understanding: "Individual Muslims may well have plenty to offer, but there is much about Islamic culture that we cannot stay silent about. We are committed to countering extremism, wherever it is found, and we will guard against anything that would threaten our diverse and tolerant nations."