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The European Extreme Right and Religious Extremism

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Abstract

The ideology of the Extreme Right in Western Europe is rooted in Catholic fundamentalism and Counter-Revolutionary ideas. However, the Extreme Right, like all other political families, has had to adjust to an increasingly secular society. The old link between religion and the Extreme Right has thus been broken and in fact already was when Fascism overtook Europe: Fascism was secular, sometimes even anti-religious, in its essence. Although Catholic fundamentalists still retain strong positions within the apparatus of several Extreme Right parties (Front National), the vote for the Extreme Right is generally weak among regular churchgoers and strong among non-believers. In several countries, the vote for the Extreme Right is stronger among Protestant voters than among Catholics, since while Catholics may support Christian-Democratic parties, there are very few political parties linked to Protestant churches. Presently, it also seems that Paganism is becoming the dominant religious creed within the Extreme Right. In a multicultural Europe, non-Christian forms of religious fundamentalism such as Islamism also exist with ideological similarities to the Extreme Right, but this is not sufficient to categorize Islamism as a form of Fascism. Some Islamist groups seek alliances with the Extreme Right on the basis of their common dislike for Israel and the West, globalization and individual freedom of thought.
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The European Extreme Right and Religious Extremism
Jean-Yves Camus
1
This article was written as a part of the Research project Political Parties and Representation of Interests
in Contemporary European Democracies (code MSM0021622407).
Abstract: The ideology of the Extreme Right in Western Europe is rooted in Catholic fundamentalism and Counter-Revolutionary
ideas. However, the Extreme Right, like all other political families, has had to adjust to an increasingly secular society. The
old link between religion and the Extreme Right has thus been broken and in fact already was when Fascism overtook
Europe: Fascism was secular, sometimes even anti-religious, in its essence. Although Catholic fundamentalists still retain
strong positions within the apparatus of several Extreme Right parties (Front National), the vote for the Extreme Right is
generally weak among regular churchgoers and strong among non-believers. In several countries, the vote for the Extreme Right
is stronger among Protestant voters than among Catholics, since while Catholics may support Christian-Democratic parties,
there are very few political parties linked to Protestant churches. Presently, it also seems that Paganism is becoming the
dominant religious creed within the Extreme Right. In a multicultural Europe, non-Christian forms of religious
fundamentalism such as Islamism also exist with ideological similarities to the Extreme Right, but this is not sufficient to
categorize Islamism as a form of Fascism. Some Islamist groups seek alliances with the Extreme Right on the basis of their
common dislike for Israel and the West, globalization and individual freedom of thought.
Key words: Antisemitism, Catholic fundamentalism, Extreme Right, Islamism, Paganism
Introduction
The Extreme Right in Europe is often associated with religious extremism, especially with
the theocratic ideas of the fundamentalist Catholic thinkers and, in parts of Eastern Europe and
the Balkans, with a blend of chauvinistic nationalism, xenophobia and Orthodox (Pravoslavie)
mysticism. Indeed, the counter-revolutionary school of thought that opposed the ideas of the
Enlightenment and the French Revolution of 1789 was deeply linked to the fundamentalist wing
of the Catholic Church in countries such as France, Spain, Portugal and Italy, at least until the
1960s. However, the growing secularization of Western societies and changes within the Church
itself after the Second Vatican Council have marginalized the political influence of Catholic
fundamentalism. The Extreme Right has become mostly secular, to the extent that, at least in
Western European democracies, those who vote for the populist, nationalist and xenophobic
parties are often those citizens who are not affiliated with any church and do not affirm
1
Author works at the Institut de Relations Internationales et Stratégiques, 2 bis, rue Mercoeur, 750 11 Paris; e-mail:
camus@iris-france.org
.
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themselves as observant/believing people. There is, therefore, a new phenomenon in the
emergence of “free-thinkingvoters and militants on the Extreme Right, with another new
phenomenon presented by the widening gap between parties/groups still influenced by
Catholicism and parties/groups claiming the Pagan heritage of Europe. A Pagan renewal is
a definite reality, although it is not clear whether the Extreme Right refers to Paganism as
aphilosophy or to Paganism as a religion.
Nevertheless, the imprint of Christian values (or rather, of those values as interpreted by
the extremists) is still strong on many European Extreme Right parties which, even though they
do not ground their policies in religion, refer to Europe as a “Christian, or Judeo-Christian”
continent. Therefore, one of the major (if not the major) topics of discussion and internal strife
within the Extreme Right today, is how to react to the presence of non-European” religions on
European soil. This is a complex problem simultaneously involving the pronounced hostility of
the Extreme Right to Islam and the long tradition of anti-Semitic prejudice in this ideological
family. As we shall show, the Extreme Right today is divided between a faction which first and
foremost promotes Islamophobia and even finds itself capable of supporting Israel and the Jews
as bastions of Western civilization”; another faction which, on the contrary, sees Islam, and
even political Islam, as an ally in the fight against US imperialism”, Israel and “Zionism”; and
a third faction, which does not take sides but combines a staunch anti-immigration and anti-
Muslim agenda with solid, if sometimes veiled, anti-Semitism. In any case, those who take sides
are often motivated by something other than ideology: several Extreme Right groups have
become tools of rogue statespropaganda, most notably of Iran, Syria and Saddam’s Iraq.
Finally, there is the problem of whether political movements grounded in non-Christian
religions, which were born in non-European contexts, may be labelled “Extreme Right”. In the
post 9/11 controversy on radical Islam, several authors have argued that Islamism is indeed
a new brand of Fascism, and coined the terms “Islamofascism” (Ruthven 1990, Hitchens 2001,
Schwartz 2001), or even Nazislamism. There are political groups today in Europe which
operate within their countriesimmigrant communities, and which retain several features of
Extreme Right movements: the Turkish nationalist “Grey Wolves”, the most radical faction of
the Hindutva movement or, arguably, small Jewish self-defence groups with a racist anti-Arab
agenda.
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The marginalization of the Catholic fundamentalist Extreme Right parties
In the years 19902000, parties of the “third wave” of national-populist movements
succeeded in coming out of the narrow political ghetto of fringe groups to which the rejection of
Fascism, National-Socialism and Right authoritarian models had confined them after 1945. In
order to do so, they were obliged to change their style and, at least in public discourse, their
ideology, since it was necessary for them to adapt themselves to the context of modern, post-
industrial societies. One of the major changes between the pre-World War II era and the post-
1945 era is secularization: the proportion of citizens affiliated with a Church and, more
importantly, the number of voters who cast their ballot according to the teachings of their
religious hierarchy, has been continuously dwindling. Therefore, parties which have an agenda
heavily influenced by an authoritarian, anti-pluralistic, theocratic or at least anti-democratic
version of Catholicism have been unable to emerge or retain their past glory.
Indeed, if one looks at the map of Europe in search of countries with no, or only
marginal, Extreme Right parties, the names Portugal and Spain are obvious, and those are places
where the nostalgic Extreme Right failed to jettison its outdated fundamentalist rhetoric at the
time of the “democratic transition” (19741976). In the two former dictatorships, the Extreme
Right has clung to the fundamentals of the Franco and Salazar era, eventually becoming no more
than “cult movements” worshiping the defunct national-corporatist State. In Spain, the strong
Catholic fundamentalist flavour of Fuerza Nueva, led by Blas Pinar, and of the so-called
bunker” Phalangists was totally out of tune with the expectations of the Spanish electorate, since
the more pragmatic former Franquists in the technocratic Right had the wisdom to accept
democracy and launch new parties such as Manuel Fraga’s Aleanza Nacional, which later became
Partido Popular. The same process took place in post-Salazar Portugal, where many supporters
of Estado Novo switched to Partido Popular and CDS (the Christian-Democratic Party). This
explains the bad fortunes of the Extreme Right in those countries: in the 2005 general election,
the Partido Nacional Renovador polled 9 374 votes and, in 2004, the five parties which took part
in the Spanish general election polled 0.18 %.
It is also clear from the experience of Ireland and Poland that, in those countries where
the Catholic Church retains a strong influence over the people’s daily life, the more conservative
and even extremist Catholic voters cast their vote for a mainstream conservative party, because
their vote was not a protest but rather an affirmation of values shared by many and supported by
an important part of the church hierarchy. Significantly, the 2007 general election in Poland saw
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the League of Polish Families losing its parliamentary representation, and the influential Radio
Maryja backed Prawo i Sprawiedliwo (PiS), not the LPF.
The fact that Catholic fundamentalism hampers the chances of a party to become
successful does not mean, however, that there are no voters for those parties who vote according
to their religious beliefs. There is an ongoing debate among political scientists as to whether
being a practising Catholic restrains citizens from voting for the Extreme Right or not, and the
situation seems to vary from country to country. For example, according to Jaak Billiet, in
Flanders, regularly practicing Catholics are less likely to hold pronouncedly negative attitudes
towards Muslim immigrants (Moroccans and Turks) than are marginal members of the Church
and some categories of non-Catholics(Billiet 1995). In France, a survey conducted by the
Catholic daily La Croix, showed that 20 % of Catholics said they would vote for Le Pen or
Villiers in the 2007 presidential election, against 14 % in the overall population (La Croix 2007).
However, Nonna Mayers research gives a much more balanced picture: according to her, the
relation between being a Catholic and voting for FN depends on the period of time (when the
Catholic hierarchy warns against the FN ideology, such as in 1988–1997, the FN vote among
Catholics drops to lower than average); the level of religious practice (regular worshippers are less
prone to vote for FN than irregular worshippers, and Fundamentalist worshippers, especially
those of the St. Pius X Fraternity, who vote heavily for FN), and the area of France (see Mayer
1999).
The Protestant faith and the Extreme Right
The common belief is that while there is a structural link between Catholic
fundamentalism and the Extreme Right, worshippers of the various Protestant denominations are
immune from voting for extremist, national-populist and xenophobic parties. But indeed both
history and political science suggest that the reality is more complex. As regards history, Armin
Mohlers seminal study Die Konservative Revolution demonstrated the presence of a strong
Protestant component, built upon a specifically Lutheran conception of the authoritarian State
and derived from the Two Kingdoms theory (Zweireichelehre) (cf. Lienemann 1996); a specific
tradition of social-Christian values and the movement of one segment of Protestant churches
towards a “German national” ideology (see Mohler 1993). The present situation in Western
Europe also proves that the Extreme Right is strong in several predominantly Protestant
countries, such as Denmark and Norway, in which the third waveof Extreme Right parties
started in the mid-1970s. One can also point to the personal background of the Schweizerische
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Volkspartei leader, Christoph Blocher, who is the son of a parish minister, or that of the vice-
president of the Hungarian MIEP, Lorant Hegedus, a Protestant minister. Nevertheless, these are
individual cases of militancy: the reality is that there is not a single case of a Protestant Extreme
Right political party anywhere in Europe. The only exception is that of the Ulster Unionist Party
in Ulster, whose Euro-MP, John Taylor, was a member of the European Right Group
2
in the
years 1987–1989, possibly because he was attracted to the strongly anti-EU stand of the Extreme
Right parties of which it was comprised,
3
under the guidance of the French Front National.
What is remarkable is not that Protestants as individuals can play a role in Extreme Right
parties, but that wide segments of the Protestant electorate can vote for such parties in
aproportion exceeding that of their Catholic fellow citizens. The explanation for this
phenomenon has been given by Bernard Schwengler (2005) in his study on the comparison
between the Catholic and the Protestant vote in religiously mixed areas of the Alsace region
(France), in Switzerland and in the land of Baden-Wurttemberg in Germany. Schwengler explains
that Catholic voters cast a kind of “group vote” for Christian-Democratic parties such as the
French Centrist parties, the Swiss Christlichdemokratische Volkspartei and the German CDU.
Protestant voters, on the other hand, do not have such a confessional party to vote for and
consequentially split their vote between various competing parties, which means that those who
support the Right are not restrained from voting for the Extreme Right. Schwengler shows that
in Alsace the Front National, in Switzerland the Schweizerischer Volkspartei and in Germany the
Republikaner are supported by Protestants more than by Catholics.
Finally, there are two mistakes that are frequently made regarding the relationship
between the Protestant denominations and the Extreme Right. The first one is to label
extremist” those arch-conservative parties which derive their ideology from a fundamentalist
reading of the Holy Scriptures. Such parties exist in the Netherlands, where the Staatkundig
Gereformeerde Partij (SGP)
4
is usually seen as representing the “ancient right” but not the
Extreme Right. The second misconception involves the few attempts at building Protestant
pressure groups in line with the ideology of the American Moral Majority. The Moral Majority
may be criticized as reactionary; part of it promotes a kind of bigotry which is certainly a problem
and may even at times lead to intolerance, but in America, it is more of a pressure group lobbying
the Republican Party than a faction of the Extreme Right.
2
The European Right Group existed in the European Parliament in 1984–1989.
3
On the anti-EU stand of the Ulster Unionists, see Picard 1992.
4
On the SGP, see Hippe, Kroeze, Lucardie, Walle, Voerman 2007.
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Is Paganism the new religious creed of the Extreme Right?
The decline of monotheistic faiths has created a vacuum partially filled by New Age
philosophies, the growth of conversions to Buddhism or Hinduism in a more or less
westernizedform and by the renewal of Paganism. This phenomenon is more visible in the
Extreme Right subculture, where Pagan creeds are often mixed with racist or at least ethnocentric
ideas, so much so that the major rift within the Extreme Right in Europe is perhaps that between
neo-Pagan “völkisch” nationalists and Catholic fundamentalist nationalists, the former
supporting the idea of a European federation of ethnic states, the latter clinging to the concept of
the multi-ethnic Nation-State.
The relationship between Paganism and the Extreme Right is a complex one. On the one
hand, not all Pagan movements are oriented toward the far right, and many of them are even
influenced by anarchism, ecology and alternative thinking. On the other hand, it is obvious that
many Extreme Right groups promote Paganism, mostly as an identitarian, anti-egalitarian outlook
on the world, which they see as a tool in their fight against the egalitarian and universalist ideas of
Christianity, described by many Extreme Right Pagans as “Jewish”. This is obvious in the
ideology of the Identity Churches or the World Church of the Creator, which were created in the
United States and later became popular among the European neo-Nazis, including the skinheads.
But it is also the core of the ideology of the so-called New Right”, a movement which has its
roots in the French think-tank, GRECE (Groupement de Recherches et d’Etudes pour la
Civilisation Européenne), launched in 1968, which later spread across Western Europe.
5
For the
New Right, the rebirth of authentic European values is only possible if the peoples of the
continent go back to their roots by refusing multiculturalism and dropping the Christian values
which were imposed upon them, without totally uprooting the pagan customs that still live
among the unspoiled “folk”.
Who exactly are the Extreme Right pagans? The ethnologist, Christian Bouchet (1998)
6
,
defines six sub-categories within Paganism: the denominational and non-denominational Pagans;
the reconstructionists and the creationists, the volkisch and the universalist. According to him,
5
For an example of an appraisal of the Pagan revival from a New Right point of view, see Marlaud 1986 (past
president of GRECE). However, the movements which are usually labelled New Right diverge on the issue of
religion. The German weekly newspaper Junge Freiheit echoes the activities of both pagan and conservative
Christian groups, and its Austrian counterpart, Zur Zeit, is conservative Catholic, as is the Portuguese sister
publication, Futuro Presente.
6
Bouchet is the leader of the national-revolutionary Réseau Radical.
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the radical Right wing of the pagan movement is to be found among the non-denominationalists,
that is, among those for whom Paganism is aphilosophy rather than a cult.
7
This finding is,
however, highly questionable: there are Pagan cults which are not far-right oriented, such as the
Asatrufelagid in Iceland, where it is an official religion; and there are non-denominational Pagans
who support a völkisch ideology and are active in Extreme Right politics, such as Pierre Vial and
the late Jean Mabire in France. In fact, there are extremists in all sub-groups of the Heathen
faiths, and the opposition between denominational and non-denominational Pagans lacks
substance simply because Christianity is so much the ground on which European identity is built
that Europeans can no longer revive the ancient Pagan cults except as a parody. Therefore,
Paganism nowadays is no more than the second religiosity” which Oswald Spengler saw as the
sign of “The decline of the West”.
This can also be said of another trend within the Extreme Right spectrum: the interest in
the occult, the paranormal and even satanism.
8
Among the ideologues of “occult neo-Nazism”
one may mention the names of such European activists as David Myatt in the United
Kingdom and Savitri Devi (aka Maximiani Portas, a French citizen), not to mention non-
European thinkers who have an influence in Europe like the Chilean diplomat, Miguel Serrano,
9
as well as two American cults, the Church of Satan (founded by Anton Szandor La Vey) and the
Temple of Seth (founded by Michael Aquino). These authors generally describe Adolf Hitler as
the Messiah of the white man’s natural religion, often called “Aryanism.
Finally, there is a long-lasting interest by many Radical Right activists, in the writings and
lifestyle of the British occultist, Aleister Crowley (see Pasi 2006). One possible explanation for
this is that the multiple failures of the Neo-Nazis to achieve any political significance in Europe,
have led them to move away from political activism and take refuge in some kind of a political
religious cult, which they think is accessible only to an elite of cognoscenti. The mix of occultism
and Extreme Right ideology also exists within the narrow musical subcultures of Black Metal/
Death Metal (see Dornbuch, Killguss 2005), Industrial Music/Dark Folk (see François 2006) and
skinhead “Oï” music, which in the last decades have enabled some extremists groups, most
7
A Pagan cult may be defined as a non-monotheistic religion, complete with a divinity, rituals and clerical hierarchy.
8
On this topic, see Goodrick-Clark 2001: 215-217.
9
Some books in this vein or of these authors: Serrano 2001; on S. Devi see: Goodrick-Clarke 2000; Bolton 2003;
Myatt.
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notably within the skinhead scene, to make money they would be unable to raise by other means,
and to use part of this money for political activities.
10
This same concept, that only a handful of gifted individuals can understand the real
motives ruling the evolution of the world, is shared by another subfamily within Extreme Right
culture: that of the Traditionalists, who usually refer to René Guénon and Julius Evola
11
as their
spiritual masters. Traditionalism, which is very popular among the national-revolutionaries and
some segments of the New Right, is a doctrine of the decline of the West. Traditionalists are very
critical of progress and democracy, which they despise as being the rule of the mob, which lacks
access to the knowledge of the hidden truths. They also think that the West is in a continuous
process of decadence since, at least, the period of the Enlightenment, and certainly since the end
of the Middle-Ages. In the religious sphere, they pursue the quest for the perennial “Tradition”,
that is, a set of beliefs which include the cyclical evolution of world history; the necessity of
a government of knights and priests; a caste conception of social hierarchy. The Traditionalists
usually repudiate Christianity as a religion infected by modernism which is the vehicle for a lower
spirituality. Instead they are fascinated by Islam and Hinduism to which many of them have
converted, while others promote various brands of theosophy. In all cases, the fascination of
a segment of the Extreme Right for those traditionalist philosophies can be interpreted as
a repudiation of political activism and as an isolation from the reality of a world they feel no
longer able to change by means of politics, or which they do not want to change yet, because they
believe that a New Order can only be established after the complete collapse of the present
order, a collapse they wish to hasten by way of the Umschlag” attitude so central to the notion
of the Konservative Revolution.
Is Islamism a Fascism? Can Islamism be an ally?
As has been stated, since the start of the second Intifada in 2000 and the terrorist attacks
of September 11, 2001, a new polemical concept has emerged in the media and in would-be
scholarly research: that of “Islamo-Fascism” and “Nazislamism. It is not the subject of this
article to explain why the use of these terms are not relevant to describe the content of Islamist
ideology: let it be said only that Islamism, that is, the political project of fundamentalist Muslims
to build an Islamic State ruled by the sharia, lacks most of the criteria selected by serious scholars
10
The sale of CDs as well as the organization of concerts seems to bring huge financial resources to such skinhead
multinational groups as the Blood and Honor and Charlemagne Hammerskins networks.
11
On Gnon (1886–1951) and the Traditionalist movement, see Sedgwick 2004; on Evola (18981974), see Boutin
1992.
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in order to characterize a movement as “Fascist. Islamism does not strive to impose a State-
regulated economy and is not hostile to free-market economics, nor is it anti-conservative; it does
not match Stanley Payne’s definition (Payne 1980). It is not a palingenesic attempt at bringing in
the rebirth of an ethnic Nation, as characterized by Roger Griffin (1995), nor is it a “sacralization
of politics by totalitarian methods” as writes Emilio Gentile (1996). The list could go on and on.
However, this is not to say that Islamism is not a Totalitarianism: indeed, it is; nor does it mean
that Islamism has nothing in common with the Extreme Right ideology, in fact, quite the
opposite.
The similarities are quite a few: the Islamist parties want to build a State which although
not ethnic gives different and non-equal civil rights to people on the basis of their religion, and
discriminates against non-Muslims and women, who, in a sharia-State, are second-class citizens;
the Islamists refuse secularism and are very suspicious of democracy; they despise the West and
its values, to the extent that an Islamic thinker such as Sayid Qutb built his political system after
a stay in the United States, where he lamented the corrupt mentality, materialism and evilness of
everything non-Muslim (Qutb 2003). As a consequence, most Islamists share, to some extent, the
belief that Jews are especially evil and should be annihilated, along with other non-believers, by
way of jihad. Another feature shared by most factions within political Islam is the belief in
various conspiracy theories
12
which are used to explain the plague of the Palestinians; the terrorist
attacks of 9/11; the war in Iraq and even the spreading of AIDS. Those conspiracy theories are
built on prejudices also popular with the Extreme Right: anti-Americanism; opposition to
Freemasonry; belief in a “Zionist plot” in a fashion much reminiscent, and sometimes even
referring to, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. All in all, Islamism and the Extreme Right share
what Richard Hofstadter (1996) called “the paranoid style” in politics.
When one writes about the political situation in Europe, however, the problem of
Islamism is not at the forefront, because there are very few Islamist political parties. Where they
exist, they are groupuscules whose media notoriety far exceeds their significance. The Islamic
Party of Britain, formed by converts in 1989, disbanded in 2006 and never polled more than
a few hundred votes in a general election. In Belgium, three parties have competed for the
Muslim vote: Noor (the Light), the Parti Citoyenneté Prospérité (PCP) and its splinter group,
Parti Jeunes Musulmans (PJM). In the 2007 general election in the Brussels-Hal-Vilvoorde
12
Such theories are often shared also with the secular, Arab nationalist movement, including Christian thinkers such
as Michel Aflak and Antoun Saadé, who are quite popular within the European Far-Right because of their unabashed
anti-Semitism.
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constituency, PJM polled 0.51 %. What is interesting to note is that the party, led by a convert
who is close to Salafism, took part in a demonstration on September 17, 2005 against gay parents’
rights organized by the Catholic fundamentalist leader of Belgique et Chrétienté, who is one of
the major figures on the Belgian francophone Extreme Right scene. The same sort of joint
demonstrations have taken place in France, where a minuscule Parti des Musulmans de France
(PMF) exists. In 2003, a PMF delegation led by the chairman Mohamed Latrèche visited Iraq in
order to show its support for Saddam Hussein’s regime. Among the delegation were Hervé Van
Laethem, the leader of the Belgium neo-Nazi group, “Nation”, as well as French and Italian
members of the Réseau Radical (see Vick 2003). Recently, when the PMF organized the first
observation in France of al Quds Day, a worldwide demonstration set up by Imam Khomeini to
spread anti-Zionistanti-Semitism, the Holocaust denier Pierre Guillaume was among the
attendees.
13
What do these contacts between Islamists and Far Right radicals prove? Some authors
such as Alexandre Del Valle (2002)
14
have suggested that there exists a “Red-Brown-Green”
alliance of the Far Left, the Far Right and the Islamists, based upon a common hatred of Israel
and the Jews, of Liberalism and the United States, and of the West in general. Such a concept
contains some truth, if one is cautious enough to say that such an alliance does not include all
these groups and individuals belonging to the aforementioned political families, that it is not
a permanent alliance and that it is an ideological convergence rather than an alliance, for an alliance
means that the allies conclude a pact, set common goals and common means to achieve them,
something which is not the case here, unless one believes in conspiracy theory.
Nevertheless, relations with Islam have become a point of conflict within the Extreme
Right and are worthy of study for their own sake. Succinctly put, the European Extreme Right
today is divided into three opposing families”. One considers Islam to be an ally in the fight
against the West (but the ultima ratio of this attitude is in fact, opposition to Judaism, for the
United States and other countries are seen as Jew-controlled); another family is strongly
Islamophobic and therefore considers Israel and the Jewish communities in the Diaspora as allies
in the fight against the threat of what they imagine to be the Muslim take-over of Europe; and
a third group opposes both Islam and Israel/Judaism, calling both alien to the European culture.
This attitude is best exemplified by the French Bloc Identitaire, whose slogan is “Neither keffieh
13
The French “Journée Al Qods” took place on 6 October 2007 near Paris. During his speech, Latche proposed to
those present to visit Iran at a cost of about 450 USD a week. Source: author’s own observations.
14
For a more convincing approach to the problem, see Taguieff 2003.
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nor kippa” (see Lebourg 2004), a motto which does not mean those who adhere to it have
repudiated anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism.
15
The rift between those tendencies within the Extreme Right is certainly most acute in
France and the United Kingdom in the French case, because of the countrys colonial past in
the Arab world and the presence of important Jewish and Muslim communities. Today, most
Extreme Right political parties in Western Europe are more anti-Islam than they are anti-Jewish.
This is one of the themes which clearly separate the Italian Alleanza Nationale from its neo-
Fascist rival group, Movimento Sociale-Fiamma Tricolore or the Rome newspaper, Rinascita.
Other parties, such as the French Front National and the Flemish Vlaams Belang, still tolerate
anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli prejudice but at the same time, given the respective impact of anti-
Semitism and Islamophobia on their voting constituency, have chosen to approach the Jewish
community in their country with gestures of goodwill, with very limited success.
16
A few Extreme Right parties, which are not linked to the pre-Second World War fascist
movement, and which are on the fringe of the Extreme Right party family like the Norwegian
Fremskrittspartiet may even be said to be genuinely free of anti-Semitic prejudice. But the more
one moves towards the fringe of the neo-Nazi or National-Revolutionary Far Right, the more
one is likely to find parties which are totally committed to supporting militant Islam and anti-
Semitism, such as the German Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschland (NPD). In fact, one of
the lesser known aspects of the German neo-Nazi ideology is that it has likely broadly influenced
the current Iranian government campaign in support of Holocaust-denial. Support for this is
given by the fact that Mohammad Ali Ramin, president Ahmadinejad’s adviser in charge of
organizing the Holocaust-denial conference in Tehran in December 2006 was educated in
Germany, where he became friends with the NPD activist Benedikt Frings and frequently refers
to a pamphlet published in 1974 as source material. The pamphlet was written by the neo-Nazi
Hennecke Kardel, who rambles on about Hitlers alleged Jewish origin (Kardel 1974). This kind
of connection between the neo-Nazi Far-Right and the Muslim world is nothing new: in the
1980s, members of the Wehrsportsgruppe Hoffmann and independent German Nazis fought
alongside the Palestine Liberation Front, with the obvious motivation of hatred of the Jews.
17
15
For a good example of a racist and anti-Semitic formulation of the “neither keffieh nor kippa” political line, see
Vial 2006 (leader of Terre et peuple).
16
See for example Vlaams Belang leader Filip Dewinter’s interview to the American Jewish newspaper as reproduced
on Dewinter’s personal webpage.
17
For a fascinating account of such a militants life, see Winterberg 2004.
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However, what is new since the beginning of the Second Intifada, and the more so since
Hamas came into control of the Palestinian Government (in January, 2006) and Hizbullah
confronted the Israeli army (July 2006), is that the Extreme Right supports religious
fundamentalist movements, both Sunni and Shia, whereas before it supported secular, Arab
nationalist movements or States, such as Saddam’s Iraq, Ghaddafis Libya, the various factions of
the Palestinian resistance, the Baath party or the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.
18
There are
reasons to believe, however, that the Radical Extreme Right does not much care about the
subtleties of the Arab world: in its quest for alliances, it simply pursues the old goal of helping
whomever may contribute to the destruction of Israel, to harming the Jews and undermining the
Western world, which it sees as being ruled by a Jewish plot.
19
In conclusion, it may be said
that the Extreme Right has little interest in Islam or Judaism as such: for it, supporting or
opposing one or the other is merely a way of taking sides in the two major battles its adherents
believe will shape the future of Europe: the fight against Muslim immigration and that against the
assorted variants of the Jewish conspiracy theory, be it the “One-World Government” scheme,
the fight against the “Zionist Occupation Government” or the domination of the United States.
Fascism within religious/ethnic minorities in Europe?
A panorama of the relations between the European Extreme Right and religious
fundamentalists would not be complete without asking this question: are there religious
fundamentalist movements other than Islamist and Christian which are active within the ethnic
and religious minorities now present in Europe, and which may be labelled “Fascist” or Extreme
Right? In other words, do we have reason to think that the old paradigm equating the Extreme
Right with Christian fundamentalism and the newer paradigm equating Fascism with Islamism
are only partially relevant? There are different answers to this question.
First of all, there are, within some of the ethnic immigrant groups now residing in (mostly
Western) Europe, imported ideologies with a distinct religious and totalitarian flavour, and which
have some Extreme Right connections. This is true of the Hindutva movement which is active
among Indian expatriates of Hindu religious/ethnic stock, and which is represented in Europe by
18
Movements which have a record of supporting those States are the British-based International Third Position, the
French Réseau Radical, the Italian publications Orion and Rinascita, the Libreria di Ar. This trend is mostly strong in
Italy and within the extra-parliamentary movements in Germany and also, to a lesser extent, in France.
19
This certainly explains the interest of many Right Extremists in the various conspiracy theories which have
blossomed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and which attribute them to a neo-Conservative, or Mossad-led (or
both) plot, the conspiracy theorists insisting on the Jewishness of many prominent neo-Conservatives in the US.
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the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), which are active
in the UK; the Netherlands and Germany. Both groups are nationalist, rabidly hostile to Islam
and follow a strictly communal, sectarian and religious agenda. Both have raised an interest
within the circles of the Extreme Right, mostly because of their anti-Muslim (not anti-Islamic)
agenda. One of the major propagandists of Hindutva in the Western world is a Flemish far-Right
activist, Koenraad Eelst, a neo-Pagan would-be scholar who is popular in India,
20
and who was an
editor of the New Right Flemish journal, Teksten, Kommentaren en Studies between 1992 and
1995.
Another much discussed topic, not only within the Extreme Right but also, from
a different perspective, within the pro-Palestinian Far-Left, is that of the existence of a Jewish
Extreme Right. In Israel, there exist several parties and movements that have several of the
characteristics of the Extreme Right, including an ethno-nationalist conception of identity and
the State, the use of violence, contempt for democracy and sometimes an outright racist agenda
calling for the deportation of Arabs. The outlawed Kach Party, founded by the late rabbi Meir
Kahana, fits exactly into this category.
21
However, the most extreme nationalist parties in Israel
have an ethnic conception of Jewishness that does not always carry a religious ideology: Avigdor
Liebermans Israel Betainu party, for example, is strictly secular, while the Ihoud HaLeumi
(National Union) party, led by Benny Elon, is a strange mix of national-religious Zionism and
secular nationalism, advocating the transfer by force of the Palestinian population to
neighbouring Jordan.
All the Israeli political parties have more or less permanently organized groups of
supporters in the European countries where a sizable Jewish community lives. The same alliance
between religious Zionists and secular nationalists does exist in the Diaspora: the National
Religious Party (Mafdal) have increasingly moved to the Right, and so has the Likud,
22
but small
activist groups that have emerged to the Right of those parties, as a result of the resurgence of
anti-Semitism after 2000, are mostly set up by secular Jews. For instance, the Jewish Defence
League, founded in the United States and which has achieved media fame in France under the
name Ligue de Défense Juive, is a self-defence organization led by non-religious people who have
20
Eelst’s magnum opus is undoubtedly The Saffron Swastika: The Notion of Hindu Fascism” (2001).
21
On Kach, see Epstein 1990.
22
The Likud party, which has sections in most European countries, is based on the Revisionist Zionism of Vladimir
Zeev Jabotinski (1880–1940). The myth of Jabotinski’s fascination for Fascist Italy is extensively used by the far-Left,
and sometimes by the Extreme Right itself, in order provethe existence of a Jewish fascism. However, the
Zionist Revisionist movement is more of a Jewish variant of the Konservative Revolution.
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left the youth wing of the Likud (named Betar) and whose only concession to religious
observance is that they do not stage activities on Saturday (the Jewish Shabbat).
23
This may not
seem very coherent, but it is very much an expression of the difficulty faced by Jews who are
active in communal life when it comes to defining themselves as either an ethnic/minority group
or a religion.
In any case, it must be remembered that in the context of the sometimes hysterical
controversy surrounding the debate on the Middle-East issue, the existence of very tiny
movements of Jewish Extreme Right activists, mostly in France, has been the excuse for the
Extreme Left and part of the pro-Palestinian movement to label the entire Jewish Right as
Fascist, and to equate Zionism with Fascism.
24
What they do not understand is that the only
serious, although marginal, attempt at finding common ground between Jews and the Extreme
Right has come from ultra-Orthodox, anti-Zionist fringe groups, who think their belief in race
separation, in communalism and in opposition to the very existence of Israel will build bridges
between them and the Black separatist, Muslim fundamentalist and White supremacist
movements.
One key figure in this attempt is the American rabbi Mayer-Schiller, a teacher at Yeshiva
University in New York, whose first contact with the Extreme Right goes back to his association
with the British Third Way movement
25
at the beginning of the 1990s, and who summarized his
thinking in an interview with the Ulster Nation (no. 32, July 2000) national-revolutionary
magazine: “There are two things that threaten the West. One is liberalism, which is the
destruction of faith and values and culture. The other is multi-racialism or multi-culturalism,
which is essentially a peaceful invasion and take-over of these countries. Both of these things are
hard to turn back the clock on once they have been done.” Needless to say, this odd alliance has
never borne fruit, although some segments of the European Extreme Right presently have an
23
Interview with Eliahou N., leader of the Ligue de Défense Juive (LDJ), in October 2007, Paris.
24
For a critique of the Extreme Left, see Sarfati 2002.
25
Third Way described itself as a nationalist and separatist movement committed to the preservation of our
national and ethnic character. Third Way magazine 17, n.d. (1993). In June 1992, it organized a conference in
London, where a Black American supremacist, Osiris Akkabala, represented the Pan-African International
Movement; Mayer-Schiller shared the platform with him and an official of the Algerian Front Islamique du Salut,
Ahmed Mesai, was also announced.
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interest in the Neturei Karta sect, some of whose London- and Vienna-based dissident members
attended the Holocaust denial conference in Tehran, in December 2006.
26
Finally, the Extreme Right is also present within Turkish immigration in Europe. This is
a very interesting case of ethnic ultra-nationalism blending with religion (in this case, Islam).
There are two political parties form the Extreme Right in Turkey: the Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi
(MHP) and its youth wing, Bozkurtlar (Grey Wolves), and the Büyük Birlik Partisi (BBP), led by
Muhsin Yazicioglu. The former, which is very active in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany,
and to a lesser extent in France, is secular and mostly concerned about the ethnic essence of the
Turkish Nation, although some experts within the German Verfassungschutz believe that there is
one “Turkish nationalist” and one “Turkish-Islamist” wing within MHP.
27
The latter split from
MHP in 1993 precisely because it felt the party’s Islamist credentials were “weak”. It received
1.02 % in the 2003 general election and did not contest the 2007 election. It operates in Europe
under the name of Avrupa Tûrk Birligi, or Verband der Turkischen Kulturvereine E.V. in
Europa, and promotes a mix between the Atatürk tradition of nationalism and the Koran.
Although BBP seems to have failed politically, while its rival MHP has become Turkeys third
political force with 14.29 % of the vote, the movement is worth monitoring, because of its
extreme anti-Kurdish and anti-Armenian propaganda, and also because of its alleged involvement
in violent activities.
General conclusion
The Extreme Right, at least in Western Europe, historically takes its roots in the alliance
between the Roman Catholic Church and the counter-revolutionary ideology of opponents to the
Enlightenment. However, and despite the fact that this Extreme Right family remains active in
Latin countries, the Extreme Right in general is today a largely secular movement. Fascism, with
a few exceptions such as Falangism, the Iron Guard and Rexism, was secular. National-Socialism
was predominantly anti-Christian. And if one tries to find a connection between Christian values
and politics today, it is the tie between those values and the conservative, democratic Right, or
between progressive Christian thought and the Left.
The Extreme Right retains an interest in religion, because it sees it as one of the
components of national identity; the more so, since the presence of Islam in Europe has become
26
The Neturei Karta group is, however, mostly put at the forefront by the European Extreme Left, which shares
those Ultra-Orthodox Jewsextreme anti-Zionism and says that they represent the “authenticJewish religious
tradition.
27
On the MHP and BBP, see Verfassungsschutz des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen 2004.
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the major concern of most Extreme Right political parties with significant electoral success. So,
on the issue of religion, the present-day Extreme Right may be split into three families. One, best
exemplified by the Dutch politician, Pim Fortuyn, seeks to defend free-thinking and libertarian
values from what it perceives as the assault of Islam on the European tradition of separating
Church and State. Another, by contrast, promotes European civilization” against the threat of
Islamization and immigration, and although it is not theocratic, sees Christianity as a cultural
cornerstone of European civilization. This family, which lies at the crossroads of the ultra-
conservative Right and the Extreme Right, is opposed, within the Extreme Right, by another
family which has totally set aside any reference to religion and promotes a European identity
based upon ethnicity and “racial awareness”. This is just another formulation of the old
controversy between the pro-Western” and the “Third Way” families of the Extreme Right.
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