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Europe’s Fearful Natives

More than ever before in recent decades, fear is becoming the dominant force in European politics. And it is not an abstract, undefined fear: it is above all the fear of the non-European “other,” perceived by a growing numbers of “white” Europeans as a threat to their identities and ways of life, if not their physical security and jobs.

PARIS – A referendum in Switzerland forbids the construction of new minarets. Racial violence explodes in the southern Italian region of Calabria. An intense and controversial debate takes place in France on the issue of national identity. These events have little in common, yet they all point to a growing European trend.

More than ever before in recent decades, fear is becoming the dominant force in European politics. And it is not an abstract, undefined fear: it is above all the fear of the non-European “other,” perceived by a growing numbers of “white” Europeans as a threat to our European identities and ways of life, if not our physical security and jobs.

At the very center of these debates lie the issue of Islam and immigration. The success of Christopher Caldwell’s recent essay “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe” is indicative of this growing fear of “Islamization” – a fear heightened by the destabilizing impact of economic hard times.

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