The Syrian refugee crisis boiling over this summer has left Europe reeling and provided ample opportunity for far-right political figures and racist groups on both sides of the Atlantic to push xenophobia rhetoric into the mainstream.
In the U.S., anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and white nationalist groups have also taken up the anti-refugee cause in recent weeks, mimicking the talking points of their European counterparts. The unifying message has framed the immigration crisis as a “Muslim invasion,” with many in Europe evoking the name of Charles Martel, the Frenchman who halted the advances of Muslims invading Europe in 732.
And in the U.S., the sentiment has come close to a call for action.
This coming weekend, a loose collective of activists are planning armed protests outside of mosques and other Islamic institutions in over 20 cities. And they have ample backing.
Fueled by the Syrian refugee crisis, a fractured European resettlement agreement, and GOP presidential candidates continuing to demonize Muslims on the campaign trail – and Muslims or those perceived to be Muslims are profiled or targeted for attack, anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S is in full swing.
It hasn’t helped that some of the leading figureheads in American racism have turned their attention to Muslims.
Jared Taylor, one of the leading American white nationalist ideologues, and editor of the American Renaissance website, released a video on September 11 about Muslim immigration, asking, “Hasn’t there been enough rape? Hasn’t there been enough sex-grooming? Haven’t enough European cities been turned into mosques? Aren’t there enough Shariah-controlled zones?” He went on to claim, “Islam has been Europe’s enemy for over a thousand years. Haven’t we gotten the message?”
Neo-Confederate leaders have also weighed in. Michael Hill, president of the neo-Confederate hate group League of the South (LOS) praised Martel, stating, “[T]oday he would first have to fight his own government (whether in Paris, Berlin, London, Brussels, or Washington) before he could turn his attention to the non-Western invaders.”
Similar pronouncements have been made across the Atlantic.
French white nationalist Guillaume Faye recently wrote, “[T]his unprecedented migratory invasion, which is 80% Muslim, is also part of a strategy (organized by ISIS and Erdogan’s Turkey) to conquer Europe by Islam. Invasive war from the bottom and by cunning, by moral disarmament.”
The phrase “national suicide” has been thrown about by large numbers of European and American white nationalists when discussing the crisis. The racist American online publication American Thinker published an article recently titled, “Expediting National Suicide with 'Refugees.’”
In a recent column on the refugee crisis, white nationalist Pat Buchanan – who has always equated immigration with the death of the West – quipped, “Liberalism is the ideology of Western suicide.”
English white nationalist Paul Weston, formerly of the extremist group English Defense League (EDL) also asked in a recent piece on the racist website Alternative-Right, “Why would any country with a non-suicidal ideology wish to import just one Muslim, let alone millions?”
But with many Western European nations finally making a meaningful effort to accept and care for refugees, the focal point of the issue has shifted slightly towards the U.S.. It is an ironic shift, considering the U.S. has accepted only a paltry number of immigrants in comparison to countries like Germany.
On September 10, the Obama administration announced plans to resettle a further 10,000 Syrian refugees within the next fiscal year. Naturally, the organized anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant movements reacted angrily.
Pamela Geller, head of the anti-Muslim hate group American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), called the announcement a Trojan horse, writing on her website, “The Islamic State threatened to send half a million Muslim migrants to Europe as a “weapon” against the West. Obama is bringing them here. What an appropriate message for the anniversary of September 11th.”
Ann Corcoran, founder of the anti-refugee and anti-Muslim website Refugee Resettlement Watch (RRW) also decried the Obama administration’s announcement calling it part of the “human rights industrial complex” and claiming the 10,000 “mostly Muslim” refugees are “many more than most Americans want to take care of.”
NumbersUSA, the largest grassroots anti-immigrant group in the country, recently circulated a petition for its members to sign and send to their elected officials calling for a ban on Syrian refugee relocation to the U.S., claiming “the risk is simply too great.”
Even before the Obama administration’s announcement, anti-Muslim groups had increased their anti-refugee rhetoric around anti-refugee activists.
Corcoran, especially, has been a key bridge between the anti-refugee and anti-Muslim movements. In March, Corcoran spoke at Islamophobe Frank Gaffney’s National Security Action Summit in Columbia, S.C., and a month later Center for Security Policy (CSP), Gaffney’s “think tank” published Corcoran’s “Refugee Resettlement and the Hijra to America.” The 78-page screed calls for Americans to oppose the opening of mosques in their neighborhoods and also calls for a ban on all Muslim immigration to the U.S. Corcoran has also solidified her ties with the largest anti-Muslim grassroots group in the country, ACT! for America.
At ACT!’s national conference earlier in September, Corcoran told audience members that efforts to block refugees is akin to “a battle to save Western civilization,” according to the national civil rights organization Center for New Community. At the Values Voter Summit last month, ACT founder Brigitte Gabriel told the crowd, "We are trying very hard to stop Syrian refugees from coming to our country."
The national battle cry has been echoed in small towns, too. In Twin Falls, Idaho, anti-refugee activists are continuing to target refugee centers and vocally opposing the relocation of refugees, often citing the spurious claim that most refugees entering the U.S. are Islamic extremists.
Even before the relocation process beings, the House and Senate Judiciary Committees have planned hearings to discuss the national security “threat” Syrian refugees pose. The House Judiciary Committee was set to hold a hearing on October 7, but the hearing has been postponed, while the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing last week titled, “Oversight of the Administration’s FY 2016 Refugee Resettlement Program: Fiscal and Security Implications.”
During the Senate hearing, certain committee members grilled the witnesses, all government officials, about the security screenings Syrian refugees undergo before entering the United States.