By CAGE editors

The Joint Statement by EU Home Affairs Ministers issued on 13 November outlined a pan-European integrated approach to counter-terrorism that seems to only reinforce the worn-out tactics of securitisation and coercion with renewed vigour. 

Following last month’s attacks in France and Austria, the French President Emmanuel Macron and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, called for a pan-European ‘United Front’ against ‘Political Islam’ or ‘Islamism’

The ‘culture war’ framing of the statement made no attempts to conceal the fact that the clear target of its proposals are Muslims.

A continental ramping up of draconian policies. 

Among other proposals the statement mentioned measures being adopted for:

  • Strengthening border control and deportation powers for member states to tackle ‘extremists’;
  • Tougher regulation of social media to counter ‘online radicalisation’;
  • The restriction of public funding for groups deemed to have violated ‘the democratic order and values of European Member States’, 
  • as well as crackdowns on overseas funding for civil and religious organisations; 
  • and undermining encryption and increasing cross-state data sharing.

Many of the proposed measures have been adopted in some form across the EU and the UK, but the declaration indicates a renewed emphasis on full spectrum securitisation.

This latest pan-European initiative appears to foreshadow a turn towards ramping up the ‘hard’ wing of counter-terrorism across the EU.

Far right Kurz and centrist Macron’s crackdown on Muslims is indistinguishable 

While the statement may not have fully matched up to the expectations of Macron and Kurz, it will justify their respective crackdowns on Muslims and Muslim civil society in recent weeks. 

Macron launched his latest invective against ‘Islamist separatism’ in France in early October – prior to the killing of teacher Samuel Paty. Since then, his government has overseen flagrant violations of due process against Muslims through house raids, mosque closures and charity shutdowns, with no court process being followed. 

Sebastian Kurz’s government also has form in attacking Muslims and migrants. While announcing earlier this year that controlling immigration was as important as climate protection, measures under his coalition government to “monitor and regulate” “political Islam” have been used to close down of Islamic nurseries, schools and mosques.  

Recently his government set up a Documentation Centre for Political Islam “which [serves] as a resource for integration policy and the security agencies“ by providing a mass monitoring and auditing mechanism for organisations and individuals deemed by the paranoid state to display “links” to “political Islam”. 

Macron’s politics of distraction through state violence 

Whilst his ideological zeal certainly runs deep, Macron’s moves to force this initiative on the agenda domestically and in the EU was seen by many as an early salvo for the 2022 French elections, and as a means to secure the ambitions of international leadership he has long fostered. 

His attempts to position France as a leader in the EU post-Brexit, and his aggressive political engagement with Lebanon after the explosion there this summer, are evidence of these.  

While it appears that the unbridled bigotry of his approach is somewhat out of step with his European peers, for him to even consider pursuing such a socially destructive path for political gain underscores the state of global politics today.

The man long feted for saving the “centre ground” of politics has spent much of his short presidency brutalising his citizens, and is now unleashing further violence on a minority community to leverage himself and shore up his power.

Further still, his agenda is also dangerously ill-fitting for the times – state violence and social engineering is not what is required at a time of a global pandemic. 

While European states are still reeling from the economic devastation of coronavirus, its collective forces would be much better served by developing and advancing strategies for protecting their people from serious material loss and widespread instability.

And yet the danger of these intrusive and heavy-handed measures being shared and adopted across European states is very real. 

And therein perhaps is the key: the invocation of a terrible, ever-evolving outside enemy has always been the best distraction from a crumbling internal core. Yet again we are astounded by the lack of protestation from the champions of free expression and media commentators at this assault of the basic rights of a minority . 

Those who are vociferous in their condemnation of policies in Turkey, for example, are silent when oppressive policies are applied on the much vaunted liberal European continent. It seems hypocrisy and double standards has no shame.

We stand together with Muslims in France, and all people who want to find a lasting path towards peace and stability without the need for counter-terrorism or counter-extremism in any way, shape or form.



CC image courtesy of Bundesministerium für europäische und internationale Angelegenheiten on Flikr


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