Minarets in Paris: a tolerance too far?

A cluster of far-right groups allied under the name Stop the Islamisation of Europe holds rallies in London, Copenhagen and Marseilles to demand an end to what they call “the overt and covert expansion of Islam in Europe”. Although the events attract only a handful of protesters, their message resonates widely. In October, the rightwing People’s Party, notorious for its virulent hostility to ethnic minorities and Muslims, emerges as the victor in the Swiss elections, taking 29% of the vote, the best electoral performance by a party in the country’s elections since 1919. What had been traditionally confined to the margins of dominant political discourse is progressively penetrating its mainstream, with parties of the centre absorbing much of the far right’s populist rhetoric. This underlies the complaint by Jean-Marie le Pen, leader of France’s explicitly racist National Front, that Nicolas Sarkozy has “stolen his clothes”. Across the Channel, the Conservative candidate in the contest for mayor of London, Boris Johnson, believes that “to any non-Muslim reader of the Qur’an, Islamophobia seems a natural reaction”.Soumaya Ghannoushi reports.

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