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Election posters for Jimmie Akesson, right, leader of the far-right Sweden Democrats, and Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, second from right, Flen, Sweden, Aug. 30, 2018 (AP photo by Michael Probst).

Europe’s Al-Qaidas: The 9/11 Roots of Anti-Immigrant Populism

Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018

Yesterday’s anniversary of the 9/11 attacks passed by with relatively muted commemorations. This is understandable given the passage of time, and how we commemorate increasingly distant events. But if the immediate consequences of 9/11 have faded, the less visible aftereffects of that day’s trauma persist. At times, these aftereffects, no less pernicious for being hidden, spring into full view—most recently on Sunday, when Swedish voters made the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats party the third-largest in parliament.

It would be relatively easy to trace the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe, of which the Swedish electoral results are but the latest example, to the attacks of 9/11. There is a direct chain of events—albeit one with inflection points that could have taken other directions—connecting the ill-advised decision by the George W. Bush administration to use the attacks as an excuse to invade Iraq in 2003 with the European refugee crisis that, in 2015, boosted the prospects of Europe’s far-right parties, all historically anti-immigrant and hostile to the European Union. ...

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