Support for Counter-Jihad Groups Rising in Europe

By Matthew Goodwin, on , Briefing

Last October, the largely unknown French group Generation Identity occupied a mosque in the town of Poitiers. Founded only a month before, the group had already attracted interest after releasing a “declaration of war” through YouTube outlining goals focused heavily on opposing multiculturalism and Islam. The young activists presented themselves as a generation of “ethnic fracture,” who had suffered from record levels of unemployment, debt, multicultural decline and the “forced mixing of the races.” From the mosque’s rooftop, the group demanded a referendum on Muslim immigration.

While it is tempting to view such groups as isolated and largely insignificant, their recent emergence reflects how the radical right in Europe -- and, to a lesser extent, North America -- has spawned a new generation of activists who appear focused explicitly on tackling the perceived threat from Islam and Muslim communities. Often referred to as the “counter-jihad” movement, these groups include “defense leagues” in countries such as Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Serbia, Scotland and Sweden; groups in Germany that rally opposition to the construction of mosques; and international networks that attempt to coordinate these activities, such as Stop Islamization of Nations and the European Freedom Initiative, the latter of which claims to coordinate 18 defense leagues. ...

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