The Investigative Project on Terrorism, Abigail R. Esman, April 21, 2017
A movement is emerging across Europe: the rise of pro-Islam political parties, some with foreign support from the Muslim world. And the trend shows no sign of stopping.
Holland’s Denk (“Think”) party, established and led by two Turkish immigrants, is among the most significant. Denk won three seats in the Dutch parliament last month, becoming the country’s “fastest-growing” new party, according to Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad. Its platform: replace ideas of integration with “mutual acceptance” – a charming but antiquated idea in a culture where one group accepts gay marriage and the other is taught that homosexuals should be shoved off of tall buildings; an “acceptance monitor” to measure the extent to which such “mutual acceptance” has succeeded; and the establishment of a dedicated “anti-racism” police force.
While not the first of such Islamic parties in European politics, Denk’s March 15 win makes it an inspiration to others. Existing parties now see a new chance for success, while political aspirants across Europe are making plans to start similar parties of their own.
The French Union of Muslim Democrats (UDMF), founded in 2012, made headlines when it entered the 2015 electoral race. Its platform seems more moderate than many of its fellow Muslim parties across Europe: founder Nagib Azergui has insisted in interviews that he respects the secular foundation of the French republic, and advocates philosophy and civic education classes that would help mitigate against the recruitment efforts of Muslim extremists.
The party does, however, seek to establish sharia-compliant banks and calls for Turkey to become a member of the European Union. Further, it seeks to re-install the right of Muslim girls to wear headscarves in public schools, a move that could be seen as a gesture towards re-introducing religion into the secular sphere.
Austria, too, has seen a rise in Islamic political parties, such as the New Movement for the Future (NBZ), founded, like Denk and the PEJ, by Turkish immigrants. Unlike the others, however, NBZ has made little effort to hide its loyalty to Turkey. Following the failed 2016 Turkish coup, for instance, its leader, Adnan Dinçer, called on Austria to respect Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s clampdown on the country and the mass arrests that followed.
But it was Denk’s success, above all, that inspired Lebanese-Belgian activist Dyab Abou Jahjah to establish his newest political effort: a party (to date, unnamed) aimed at “Making Brussels Great Again, a la Bernie Sanders,” according to an interview in Belgian newspaper de Morgen.
This would be a third attempt for Jahjah, who first came into the public eye in 2002 as the founder of the Brussels-based Arab-European League, a pan-European political group that aimed to create what he called a Europe-wide “sharocracy” – a sharia-based democracy.
So far, none of the existing parties has had a great deal of success – and the emerging parties have yet to make their platforms known, let alone acquire active supporters. But as Denk founder Tunahan Kuzu proudly announced after the March elections, a new voice has now gained power in a European government. But what that voice ultimately will be, and the strength of its commitment to secular and democratic values, remains yet to be seen.