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The Middle Ages and the Holocaust

Defending the West: Cultural Racism and Pan-Europeanism on the Far-Right—Daniel Wollenberg

Department of English, General Literature, and Rhetoric, Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY

Abstract

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Using terrorist Anders Breivik’s manifesto as a barometer of right and far-right political rhetoric of the last two decades, this essay argues that two core ideas of Breivik’s manifesto reveal larger shifts in post-Holocaust racist discourse: first, that in a post-Holocaust world in which explicit biological racism is becoming rarer, Breivik and other figures on the contemporary European far-right have spotlighted a common Western identity, rooted in and bolstered by medieval imagery and rhetoric, as the chief quality marking the West as historically and culturally unique; second, that the ‘clash of civilizations’ theory of Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington has permeated far-right anti-immigration discourse.

Article

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 1
When those who write ‘paranoid history’ study historical events, they see a vast conspiracy ‘set in motion by demonic forces of almost transcendent power’ (Hofstadter, 1967, 29; Finke and Shichtman, 2004, 203). Anders Behring Breivik, a far-right terrorist responsible for 77 murders in Norway in July 2011 and currently serving a 21-year sentence in prison, writes quintessentially paranoid history. Breivik refers to his manifesto, 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, as a ‘true uncensored history’ unlike the histories told by ‘Islamists, Arab Nationalists, and Marxist theorists’ who ‘have been at the forefront of falsifying our history’ since the Second World War (Breivik, 2011, 39), producing what Breivik calls ‘the official European historical falsification process’ (Breivik, 2011, 40). Although Breivik’s central concern in his manifesto is the loss of traditional Western European culture as a result of the ‘demographic warfare’ of Muslim immigrants, he took his ‘vengeance’ not on immigrants themselves but on those whom he perceived to be leftist appeasers, killing eight people in government buildings in Oslo and then killing 69 more people, mostly teenagers, in a summer camp connected with the Norwegian Labor Party. Despite Breivik’s extremely savage crimes and despite conservative voices disavowing his resemblance to right-wing politics, Breivik is by no means an isolated voice.[1] He is hardly alone in his disdain for ‘accommodationist leftists’ or in his belief in the necessity of a ‘pan-European defense’ against the threat of Islamic invasions – a defense that he justifies by evoking a transhistorical struggle between the West and Islam. Breivik’s depiction of this 1400-year struggle is essentially his interpretation of the ‘clash of civilizations’ theory popularized by the historian Bernard Lewis and the Harvard political scientist and former National Security advisor Samuel Huntington. In the past two decades, the right, especially the far-right, has ‘managed to promote [itself] as genuine defenders of secularism, democracy, and Western values in general,’ co-opting the idea of a clash of civilizations as part of a larger effort to save Enlightenment ideals (Betz, 2007, 42).

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 1 Breivik’s manifesto is thus deeply rooted not only in far-right discourse but in mainstream scholarly right-leaning thought, especially in the concept of the ‘clash of civilizations.’ Using Breivik’s manifesto as a touchstone for examining how Lewis’ and Huntington’s clash of civilizations theory has been co-opted by extremists, I argue that two ideas in particular at the core of Breivik’s manifesto reveal seismic changes in post-Holocaust racist discourse, especially among the European far-right of the last two decades: first, that the locus of post-Holocaust racist discourse has become cultural racism rather than biological racism, in which the primary characteristic separating ‘native’ Europeans from outsiders is a common culture consisting of enlightened values and institutions rooted in a long and shared history; second, that the permeation of the clash of civilizations theory in far-right rhetoric has invited extremists to propose a fundamental divide between ‘us’ (a Judeo-Christian West) and ‘them’ (a Muslim East) and to look to the past, especially the medieval past, as an archetype for militant action.

Heritage and Cultural Racism

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 1 In a landmark article, ‘The Roots of Muslim Rage,’ Bernard Lewis popularized the term ‘clash of civilizations’ to mean a centuries-long conflict between Islam and the West that not only originated in but continues to be fostered by the past and is a ‘perhaps irrational but surely historic reaction of an ancient rival against our Judeo-Christian heritage’ (Lewis, 1990). Lewis posits that violent intolerance is the true nature of Islam, and that a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam is the correct one. His concept of a ‘clash of civilizations’ anticipates Breivik’s paranoid history by linking the Battle of Tours in 732, the Crusades, the Siege of Vienna in 1683, and the twentieth century in a grandiose narrative underpinned by a timeless and insatiable Muslim desire for missionizing expansionism. Lewis states emphatically that the ‘struggle between these rival systems has now lasted for some fourteen centuries. It began with the advent of Islam, in the seventh century, and has continued virtually to the present day…since the failure of the second Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683 and the rise of the European colonial empires in Asia and Africa, Islam has been on the defensive’ (Lewis, 1990).

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 The Battle of Tours, the Crusades, and the Battle of Vienna are crucial to Lewis’ historiographical framework because they act as confirmation of a virtually eternal and unresolvable struggle between Judeo-Christian Western heritage and Islam. Lewis’ clash of civilizations theory placed culture at the center of foreign policy by proposing a gap between Western and Muslim values and institutions that cannot be bridged by the immigration laws of multicultural societies nor by introducing democracy to Islamic nations. Muslims are increasingly returning to what Lewis calls the ‘classical view of Islam,’ dividing the world between the House of Islam and the House of War, and it is the duty of all Muslims to bring infidels to the House of Islam. The classical view of Islam necessarily entails intolerance, and Islam, according to Lewis’ theory, cannot make room for the separation of Church and State as the West does.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 1 The clash, then, is ultimately between an atavistic Islam and the ‘secular present,’ along with ‘our Judeo-Christian heritage.’ Qureshi and Sells have critiqued Lewis’ characterization of ‘our Judeo-Christian heritage,’ which Lewis calls ‘a historical and cultural reality’ (Lewis, 1986, 118), as a gross simplification of Jewish history and culture, especially its interactions with Islamic civilizations (Qureshi and Sells, 2003, 6–7). Jean-François Lyotard offered a broader critique of the term ‘Judeo-Christian’ itself as a signification of Jewish death and Christian life, so that ‘the truth of the Jew is in the Christian’ and that which ‘is Jewish must be forgotten’ (Lyotard and Gruber, 1999, 15).[2] Echoing Lewis, Breivik insists that the core of Western identity is formed by a Judeo-Christian heritage that precludes Islamic influence. Because he sees them as natural allies against Muslims, Breivik embraces Jews as cohorts in the struggle against non-Western immigrants; his engagement with Jews and Judaism is thus self-serving. Although he laments post-World War II Jewish support of ‘European multiculturalism’ as a bulwark against extreme nationalisms, Breivik envisions Jews as potential allies of the right in its struggle to ‘oppose multiculturalism as a means to stop Islamification’ (Breivik, 2011, 1372). Breivik co-opts Judaism in the service of defining a secular, superior Western identity and as a means of distancing himself from neo-Nazism and biological racism, insisting that his diagnosis of the dangers of Muslim immigrants is not born of racist animus but rational, cogent, even progressive analysis. Breivik insists that his allies must reject National Socialism’s ‘anti-Jewish hate’ (Breivik, 2011, 1237) and ‘defend our right-wing Jewish’ groups ‘who have fought by our side with their lives’ (Breivik, 2011, 1127). Breivik’s manifesto argues that promoting ‘Judeo-Christian traditions’ is essential to the survival of Europe (Breivik, 2011, 1242) and decrees that in order for someone to be considered as a Grand Master Overseer in his paramilitary group, the Knights Templar, that individual ‘must support Judeo-Christian traditions’ (Breivik, 2011, 1073). This deployment of ‘Judeo-Christian traditions’ is reflective of the broader use of ‘Judeo-Christian’ among the right to fashion an inclusive, enlightened Western heritage that is fundamentally disparate from, on the one hand, an Eastern Islamic heritage, and on the other hand, older concepts of Western identity.[3] In 2010, the English Defence League, a far-right, populist, anti-Islamic movement, formed a Jewish division known as the Jewish Defence League. Even if the Jewish Defence League’s membership is likely quite low, the very act of embracing Jews as fellows in its opposition to Islamic extremism is indicative of a recent desire to distinguish between the “old,” antisemitic, racist right, and the new, populist right.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 2 Despite such attempts to embrace Jews and Judaism as a principal component in the cultural bedrock of Europe and in the fight against Islamic fundamentalism, there are similarities between nineteenth- and twentieth-century antisemitism (biological racism) and modern anti-Islamism (cultural racism). One similarity is the integral association of culture and identity made by anti-Islamists like Breivik, who argues that Muslims are necessarily external to a deeply rooted Western culture. Similarly, Hitler placed German culture at the very core of the superiority of the Aryan race, warning in Mein Kampf that the disappearance of the Aryan race would spell the concurrent disappearance of culture: ‘Human culture and civilization on this continent are inseparably bound up with the presence of the Aryan. If he dies out or declines, the dark veils of an age without culture will once again descend on this globe’ (Hitler, 1971, 383). For Hitler, it is the Aryan world, a world that is not ‘bastardized and niggerized,’ that contains ‘all the concepts of the humanly beautiful and sublime’ (Hitler, 1971, 383). Yet race, ‘the fundamental condition of all human cultural development,’ could only thrive in its individual nation-state, where the state is a sort of vessel and race is the liquid that fills it (Hitler, 1971, 393). As Omer Bartov reminds us, even if Hitler planned a Nazi-ruled global empire, he denounced internationalism as a Jewish conspiracy for global domination (Bartov, 2005, 12). Hitler explicitly opposed his ‘folkish worldview’ to the Marxist internationalist worldview and denied that a common cultural identity could exist beyond national borders. For Hitler, the Jew represented a universalist spirit that impeded the progress of German culture shaped by blood, history, and land. In this schema, Jewish rootlessness and a subsequent lack of any nationalist spirit of his own necessarily made the Jew into a barrier blocking the path of Germany’s realization of its full military, cultural, aesthetic, and territorial potential.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 1 The Norwegian far-right and anti-Islamic blogger Fjordman (Peder Jensen), whose online posts are cited extensively in Breivik’s manifesto, has written of ‘the greatness in this continent’ that once existed and its potential to ‘get there again’ as long as ‘the battle for Europe’ is won by ‘the West and indeed mankind’ (Fjordman, 2007). Fjordman’s post suggests that the nation-state is no longer center stage in far-right rhetoric, as transnational forces like the European Union and the global economy drive national communities toward a plurality of large-scale identities. Much contemporary anti-Islamic rhetoric in Europe is not rooted in ultra-nationalism so much as ‘Europeanism’; the sense that Europe, especially Western Europe, is united by its common cultural and political identity. The idea that the humanistic liberal values of Europe are under existential assault by Islam is shared by both left and right, both claiming to be the defenders of the idea of Europe. As Tony Judt argued in the early 1990s, the development of the idea of Europe after the revolutions of 1989 has been a way of repressing memories about violent, nationalist pasts, particularly the Second World War (Judt, 1996). The new far-right, in its move away from Nazism, fascism, and explicitly racist rhetoric, has embraced European identity, rather than individual nationalisms, as the glue binding the ‘indigenous’ peoples of the continent together. As Talal Asad acutely notes, for ‘liberals no less than for the extreme right, the narrative of Europe points to the idea of an unchangeable essence’ (Asad, 2002, 214). For both camps, there is a narrative of Europeanness that excludes Islam. Jacques Le Goff has shown how the formation of European identity has long been predicated on its enemies and, in turn, on ‘European’ values and ideals and the perceived values of its ‘others’ (Le Goff, 2005, 148–53). Le Goff cites the thirteenth-century European ideals of courtliness and virtue; today, those ideals shared by the left and the new right are ‘Judeo-Christian’ Enlightenment values like secularism, democracy, and personal freedoms.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 The last two decades have been witness to a re-emergence of extreme right-wing groups and political parties in Western Europe (Merkl and Weinberg, 2003; Schain, Zolberg, and Hossay, 2002; Hainsworth, 2000). Whereas some of these groups are openly neo-fascist or neo-Nazi, others represent a new right: populist movements that distance themselves from the post-Holocaust taboos of explicitly racist or fascist imagery and language to appeal to a wider electoral base. Rather than “blood” or race, culture and heritage have become the key factors in constructing communal identity. In the twenty-first century, the West’s cultural identity takes center-stage for some on the European far-right. Anti-Islamic discourse has come to the fore while biologically racist (especially antisemitic) rhetoric has dissipated in the wake of the Holocaust. Of course, this is not at all to say that antisemitism and other virulent racisms no longer exist in Western Europe; they do, and it is disturbing to read of attacks on synagogues or Jewish children in France, or of the far-right nationalist Hungarian political party Jobbik, which in the last decade has consistently used abhorrent antisemitic rhetoric.[4] Even if ‘Europe has moved on to another other,’ from Jew to Muslim, the rhetoric of intolerance against Muslims has largely taken an altered form (Wieseltier, 2005, 7). On the whole, racist discourse in the West has increasingly become about the right of a people to defend their collective identity. Racism and antiracism now speak the same language: ‘equality in difference,’ as French philosopher Pierre-André Taguieff puts it (Taguieff, 2001, 7). There is a new racism of cultural, rather than biological, difference. An anti-Islamist like Breivik does not argue for the inherent biological inferiority of Muslims; instead, he warns that ‘the ongoing Islamisation’ of the West threatens ‘our identity, our culture, and our national sovereignty,’ referring not just to his native Norway but all of Western Europe (Breivik, 2011, 9).

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 3 The politics of prejudice and hate are changing.  Breivik represents the violent emergence of a new radical wing of the right that is not biologically but culturally racist, paradoxically turning multiculturalist anti-racism into a tool of racism that excludes cultures unlike one’s own. Taguieff has shown how ‘the words and values of antiracism, whose ideology was fixed on the motif of the praise of difference, has contributed to making the new racism of difference unrecognizable’ to older biological racism (Taguieff, 2001, 7). The contemporary radical right cynically and ironically borrows from the left a concept of the ‘right to difference’ of all cultures in order to argue that Europe, with its shared history and traditions, has the right to its cultural distinctiveness. Because the discourse of openly (biological) racism is becoming rarer in a post-Holocaust world, a ‘cultural school of thought’ such as France’s Nouvelle Droite (New Right) has abandoned ultra-nationalism and explicitly disavows biological racism, seeking to win the hearts and minds of Europeans by appealing to their common ‘cultural and historical matrix’; in short, a Europe for Europeans (Bar-On, 2011, 199; Bar-On, 2013, 138–9). For cultural racists like Breivik and Alain de Benoist, the founder of the French New Right, what distinguishes Europeans from other peoples is their common history, identity, and culture (Whine, 2012, 318).

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 3 In lieu of ultra-nationalism the New Right seeks a pan-European empire ‘cleansed of immigrants and bent on preserving ethnic homogeneity within the “authentic,” historic regions of Europe,’ according to Bar-On (Bar-On, 2013, 18). Jean-Marie Le Pen and his daughter Marine Le Pen, respectively the founder and current president of the far-right National Front in France, consistently deploy images of Clovis, the fifth-century Frankish king whom Jean-Marie Le Pen has called the ‘Christian Father of France,’ as well as Charlemagne, for his defense of Christian France against Islamic threats, and Joan of Arc (Lampert-Weissig, 2010, 118). The Le Pens exploit what Le Goff has called the ‘modern Carolingian myth’: that Charlemagne’s legal, cultural, and martial unification of Europe ‘looked ahead to the future destiny of Europe’ and thus birthed the idea of a common European identity; as Rosamond McKitterick has put it, ‘Charlemagne has come to symbolize the common roots of European political and legal culture, with an impact on ideology and imagination that can be traced across the 1,200 years since he died’ (McKitterick, 2008, 5; also Le Goff, 2005, 33). In his explicit search for ‘soldiers and heroes,’ Jean-Marie Le Pen promises that he follows ‘in the continuity of [Joan of Arc’s] combat for the liberty of France and the defence of French citizens,’ and in 1986 the Front National Jeunesse adopted the slogan ‘Le Pen—Joan of Arc—The Same Battle’ (Davies, 1999, 105, 113). Joan of Arc’s fifteenth-century mission to drive the English out of France is paralleled with Le Pen’s mission to expel North African immigrants from modern-day France.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 1 Though the New Right is less explicitly hostile towards Muslim immigrants than the National Front, when the New Right calls for all cultures to have ethnic pride and for the ‘right to difference’ of all peoples, they are not calling for the peaceful coexistence of a variety of ethnic communities sharing the same space. Quite the opposite: according to political scientist Alberto Spektorowski, the New Right desires ‘a multicultural world in which each culture develops its own moral code, and its own political framework,’ so that ‘by upholding the right of ethnic cultures to maintain distinct identities, the New Right reinforces European culture’s right to preserve its own ethnic purity’ (Spektorowski, 2000, 118–9). Jean-Yves Le Gallou, a former prominent member of the Front National in France, echoes this position when promoting what he has called the patriotisme de civilization, arguing that what ‘we have to defend today is more than France, it’s our civilization, meaning European civilization in its French expression’ (Betz, 2007, 43).

The Clash of Civilizations

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 A united Christian front in medieval and early modern Europe is made to serve as both mirror and paradigm for contemporary depictions of a historical struggle for cultural survival, or the clash of civilizations. Echoing Lewis, Breivik’s manifesto links early medieval, early modern, and contemporary Muslim invasions of Europe, and presents them as being part of a timeless Muslim desire for total domination. Breivik warns that

Europe has been under constant attack by Islam for the last 1400 years. Charles Martel successfully defended Europe against an invasion launched by the Ummayad Caliphate in 732 at the Battle of Poitiers…In 1683, Western Europe was at the brink of annihilation again, this time by an Ottoman Caliphate invasion…. [In 2009], Western Europe is being invaded again, this time through demographic warfare (mass Muslim immigration in combination with high Muslim birth-rates). The forces of Islam are flooding the European gates once more…[a]ided and abetted by the cultural Marxist/multiculturalist elites of Western Europe. (Breivik, 2011, 816)

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 Breivik’s account of a 1400-year civilizational struggle between the West and Islam is by no means unique to his manifesto. Texts as diverse as Theodore Roosevelt’s Fear God and Take Your Own Part (1914) and the memoirs of far-right Dutch politician and founder of the Party for Freedom Geert Wilders (2012) demonstrate that the narrative of a long history of a European Christian defense against an encroaching Islamic threat, emanating from the Crusades, as well as the notion of a ‘clash of civilizations,’ is manifold in twentieth-century and contemporary political writing.  Breivik’s paranoid history looks to the Crusades as an antecedent and explanation for our own times, as an era when Europe successfully united under the common banner of Christendom to strike out aggressively against its enemies by mounting a heroic, pious campaign against the advance of Islam. Breivik imagines a ‘cultural conservative political alliance’ (he calls it the European Federation), which would launch a ‘crusade’ to defend Judeo-Christian European values from Western European ‘multiculturalist regimes’ and from ‘Jihadi imperialism’ (Breivik, 2011, 1069). Breivik calls himself a ‘Justiciar Knight Commander for Knights Templar Europe’ (Breivik, 2011, 9), a Crusader Nationalist, and a sort of reincarnation of Sigurd the Crusader (Breivik, 2011, 1414), referring to an early-twelfth century king of Norway who was the first Scandinavian king to launch a crusade.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 Breivik lionizes militant crusader-knights for their fusion of conscientious, righteous warfare and spiritual values; in the broad scope of far-right thought, Breivik’s celebration of medieval spiritual harmony and martial gallantry is hardly an outlier. For Alain de Benoist, the Western invention of the concept of modernity in the eighteenth century entailed a breaking away from medieval communitarian ties and in turn gave rise to the concept of individual identity. De Benoist writes, ‘In medieval society, the prevalent value is loyalty. The question then is not who I am, but rather to whom I must be loyal, that is to say, to whom I owe allegiance (de Benoist, 2006, 2; my translation). In this reading of the medieval period, group loyalty was at the foundation of the Middle Ages and such communal loyalty limited hostility between social classes and the state. While in the medieval period the communal good was promoted, modernity reveres individualism and is ‘intrinsically antagonistic to collective identities because such identities are an obstacle to the march of progress towards a unitary mankind’ (de Benoist, 2013). De Benoist has called for a ‘return to communities’ that together would form a federal European state to take the place of the nation-state, which for de Benoist is gradually disappearing (de Benoist, 2005, 18–9). The concept of a return to communities implies, of course, that once Europe enjoyed this communitarian situation, and that it might again. De Benoist’s position on medieval communitarianism and the fragmentation and alienation that arose with the demolition of the medieval world is part of an anti-Enlightenment tradition that Zeev Sternhell traces to eighteenth-century figures like Edmund Burke and Herder, a tradition that ‘deplored the disappearance of the spiritual harmony that was the very fabric of medieval life’ (Sternhell, 2010, 8). Alongside reactionary and far-right romanticizations of the Middle Ages is a concomitant praise for the readiness and ability of medieval European Christians to fend off encroaching Islamic threats; Geert Wilders, perhaps best known for his outspoken views against Islam and Muslim immigrants in Europe, associates ‘strong’ military responses to Islam with Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours in 732 and ‘weak,’ liberal, multiculturalist, appeasement of Islam with Barack Obama. For Wilders, the intrinsic social values of the West were saved at the Battle of Tours, where ‘the progress of Western civilization would surely have ground to a halt’ if the Franks had been defeated, and today the West ‘would just be another poverty-stricken, underdeveloped colony of Islam’ (Wilders, 2012, 57–8). What is at stake now – as at the Battle of Tours – is the West’s ‘way of life’ and ‘our traditional culture’ (Wilders, 2012, 31).

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 1 In a 1993 article in Foreign Affairs that was expanded in his book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1996), Samuel Huntington offers an analysis of the clash of civilizations theory that resembles Wilders’ and Breivik’s combination of vigilance and anxiety. Huntington warns of the ‘end of Western civilization’ due to the degradation of the cultural heritage of the United States by multiculturalists promoting ‘racial, ethnic, and other subnational cultural identities and groupings’ (Huntington, 1996, 305–7). His interpretation of the clash of civilizations theory posits that in the late-twentieth century culture became the chief source of conflict between the major civilizations of the world, two of which are Western civilization and Islamic civilization. Huntington proposes an unbridgeable gap between West and East, Christian and Muslim, and it is precisely this clear divide between Western and Eastern peoples that has influenced figures on the European far-right in the last two decades to move towards defining the West, and especially Europe, as a singular and distinct cultural entity. The West is exceptional, in Huntington’s view, for its ‘values and institutions’: ‘Christianity, pluralism, individualism, and rule of law, which made it possible for the West to invent modernity, expand throughout the world, and become the envy of other societies.’ It is the duty of political leaders to ‘preserve, protect, and renew the unique qualities of Western civilization’ (Huntington, 1996, 311). Huntington’s warnings about the necessity of cultural defense and the catastrophic consequences that will result should multiculturalism win the day form an intellectual framework for the new right’s foreign policy. As Hans-Georg Betz has noted, Huntington’s analysis is ‘virtually identical with those advanced by the contemporary Western European populist right to bolster their campaign against migrants, particularly those from Muslim countries’ (Betz, 2007, 37). The European far-right has enthusiastically adopted Huntington’s thesis that ‘cultural identity is what is most meaningful to most people,’ and that ‘the most pervasive, important, and dangerous conflicts’ will not be between classes but between different ‘cultural entities’ (Huntington, 1996, 21). For Betz, Huntington’s argument lends ‘intellectual legitimacy’ to the far-right’s ‘campaign against immigration and multiculturalism’ (Betz, 2007, 38).[5] By arguing that in the post-Cold War world it is ‘culture and cultural identities’ that are ‘shaping patterns of cohesion, disintegration, and conflict’ (Huntington, 1996, 20) and by direly warning that the rejection of traditional Western identity ‘means effectively the end of Western civilization’ (Huntington, 1996, 307), Huntington helps to establish culture as the prime political battleground of the twenty-first century.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 1 The ‘clash of civilizations’ theory of Huntington and Lewis has paved a path that has led, even if unintentionally, to cultural racism and calls for the ‘right to difference’ of cultures. Le Gallou and Philippe Olivier, who along with Le Gallou is also a prominent former member of the French National Front, were among the first to espouse the nativist ‘right to difference’ view. Le Gallou and Olivier wrote in the early 1990s of a perennial history of cultural strife between the West and Islam. ‘The history of Europe and of the world shows that there has never been an example of an enduring, peaceful coexistence between peoples of different ethnic and religious origin sharing the same territory,’ specifically ‘between the Europeans and Christians on the one hand and the Orientals and Muslims on the other,’ Le Gallou and Olivier argue (cited in Betz, 2007, 39). It is precisely this historical clash of civilizations that Le Gallou and Olivier deploy to legitimize their anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant viewpoints.

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 2 If Huntington is right that today people ‘are discovering new but often old identities’ and that their discovery leads to ‘wars with new but often old enemies,’ then surely these are not chance discoveries (Huntington, 1996, 20). People go looking for the past and find in it the justification they need for the present. Culture and tradition do not sit politely in the past waiting to be discovered; they are crafted and manipulated by present needs. When the Middle Ages are deployed to justify arguments about modern-day problems such as identity and heritage, then medievalists have a key role to play in ensuring that transhistorical fantasies are not left to flourish. If culture is now the prime battleground of identity politics, and if old identities and old wars are new again, then we ought to be certain that we have a clear and cogent understand of both the old and the new.

About the Author

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 1 Daniel Wollenberg is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Tampa. His interests include medieval romance and chronicles, collective memory and nationalism, and the use of medieval imagery and rhetoric in contemporary political discourse. He has recently published an article in postmedieval on the Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik (E-mail: dwollen@binghamton.edu).

  • [1] Writing in the conservative Canadian newspaper The National Post, Jonathan Kay argues that Breivik is psychotic, not right wing: ‘Breivik isn’t a right-wing ideologue who strayed into murderous radicalism: He is a crazy person who was biologically pre-destined to lose his mind in a violent way — and who justified the violence by latching on to whatever stray bits of politics, technobabble, and spiritual gobbledygook that he chanced upon.’ Conservative London mayor Boris Johnson wrote an op-ed piece in the Telegraph dismissing the significance of Breivik’s manifesto, arguing that it has no scholarly value and ought to be ignored rather than studied. This despite Johnson’s admission that it is to a great degree ‘rooted…in the political discourse of the Anglosphere,’ especially ‘blog-post threads that you will find in the media, especially the “conservative” media in Britain.’ See Kay (2012) and Johnson (2012).
  • [2] Further critiques of the term ‘Judeo-Christian’ can be found in Neusner (2001) and Cohen (1970).
  • [3] The Islamophobic provocateur Robert Spencer warns that if the West hopes to fend off Sharia law it must ‘reclaim our cultural heritage and defend the Judeo-Christian civilization that has given us the freedoms we enjoy’ and that it is only through the Judeo-Christian tradition that ‘we can build a moral alliance against Islamic supremacism’ (Spencer, 2007, 204). In the early 1990s, the French politician Pierre Lellouche bluntly declared that ‘Europe’s past was white and Judeo-Christian’ but that ‘[t]he future is not,’ lamenting that ‘our very old institutions and structures’ are in danger of being ‘overwhelmed’ by non-Europeans (quoted in Miller, 1991). Far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders believes that ‘Western nations should add an amendment to our constitutions stating that our societies are based on Judeo-Christian and humanist values’ and that ‘we owe nothing to Islam’ (Wilders, 2012, 213).
  • [4] Leon Wieseltier writes that although many ‘of our brothers and our sisters are still trapped in the old terms – in Argentina, perhaps also in Russia, and in certain precincts of Europe…we must immediately remind ourselves that no anti-Semitic atrocity that was committed in Europe in recent years can responsibly be compared to the murder of a quarter of a million Muslims in the Balkans a decade ago: Europe has moved on to another other’ (Wieseltier, 2005, 7).
  • [5] Lewis and Huntington are sharply critiqued in Bottici and Challand (2010) and in Qureshi and Sells (2003, 1-50).
  • Notes

    21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 1. Writing in the conservative Canadian newspaper The National Post, Jonathan Kay argues that Breivik is psychotic, not right wing: ‘Breivik isn’t a right-wing ideologue who strayed into murderous radicalism: He is a crazy person who was biologically pre-destined to lose his mind in a violent way — and who justified the violence by latching on to whatever stray bits of politics, technobabble, and spiritual gobbledygook that he chanced upon.’ Conservative London mayor Boris Johnson wrote an op-ed piece in the Telegraph dismissing the significance of Breivik’s manifesto, arguing that it has no scholarly value and ought to be ignored rather than studied. This despite Johnson’s admission that it is to a great degree ‘rooted…in the political discourse of the Anglosphere,’ especially ‘blog-post threads that you will find in the media, especially the “conservative” media in Britain.’ See Kay (2012) and Johnson (2012).

    22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 2. Further critiques of the term ‘Judeo-Christian’ can be found in Neusner (2001) and Cohen (1970).

    23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 3. The Islamophobic provocateur Robert Spencer warns that if the West hopes to fend off Sharia law it must ‘reclaim our cultural heritage and defend the Judeo-Christian civilization that has given us the freedoms we enjoy’ and that it is only through the Judeo-Christian tradition that ‘we can build a moral alliance against Islamic supremacism’ (Spencer, 2007, 204). In the early 1990s, the French politician Pierre Lellouche bluntly declared that ‘Europe’s past was white and Judeo-Christian’ but that ‘[t]he future is not,’ lamenting that ‘our very old institutions and structures’ are in danger of being ‘overwhelmed’ by non-Europeans (quoted in Miller, 1991). Far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders believes that ‘Western nations should add an amendment to our constitutions stating that our societies are based on Judeo-Christian and humanist values’ and that ‘we owe nothing to Islam’ (Wilders, 2012, 213).

    24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 4. Leon Wieseltier writes that although many ‘of our brothers and our sisters are still trapped in the old terms – in Argentina, perhaps also in Russia, and in certain precincts of Europe…we must immediately remind ourselves that no anti-Semitic atrocity that was committed in Europe in recent years can responsibly be compared to the murder of a quarter of a million Muslims in the Balkans a decade ago: Europe has moved on to another other’ (Wieseltier, 2005, 7).

    25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 5. Lewis and Huntington are sharply critiqued in Bottici and Challand (2010) and in Qureshi and Sells (2003, 1-50).

    References

    26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 Asad, T. 2002. Muslims and European Identity: Can Europe Represent Islam? The Idea of Europe: From Antiquity to the European Union, ed. A. Pagden. Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press.

    27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 Bar-On, T. 2011. Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite. Patterns of Prejudice 45(3): 199–223.

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