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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The European "Counter-Jihad" Movement

A research team based at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence has released a report on the English Defence League (EDL) and its European allies. The report provides a rare insight on the EDL and its strategy of linking up with other European islamophobic movements which the authors of the report refer to collectively as the European Counter-Jihad Movement. According to the report
In the last several months this loose international alliance has begun to exhibit a more developed operational structure. 
Based on fieldwork in Europe and interviews with the leading figures of the European Counter-Jihad Movement, the report points out that the latter, unlike most other far-right organisations, remains a one-issue movement, and has yet to show an interest in expanding its scope to cover other popular concerns.

The authors suggest that the European Counter-Jihad Movement espouses what they call "an assertive cultural nationalism" - a term that I think is misleading and inadequately discussed. They argue that as the movement's rhetoric quite often echoes discourses from across the political spectrum, it appears to be less extreme and less threatening than the traditional far right. Although the evocation of fundamental liberal principles such as free speech and equality before the law, in their opinion, makes the task of categorizing it as “far-right” or extreme quite difficult, they argue that its anti-liberal proposed responses to the putative "Islamic threat" leave little doubt as to its true colours. 

The report constitutes a welcome addition to the very limited literature on the phenomenon of the European anti-Jihad movement. It contributes to the study of the transnationalization of the "Counter-Jihad" Movement, the osmotic relationships that underlie European Islamophobia and stresses the contradiction between the evocation of European liberal values and the illiberal visions of these organizations. Although the report does not provide a holistic image of the European "anti-Jihad" movement, its multifaceted character and its internal diversity, it nevertheless constitutes a starting point for a debate that needs to be held. We will return to these issues later.

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