Tag Archives: europe

Islamophobia in Eurabia?

Yesterday, Swiss citizens overwhelmingly approved a ban on new minaret construction in Switzerland, and in the process, infuriated all the right parties—the BBC, the Muslim Brotherhood, and elites in the United States. The Swiss should feel shame, and Europe should be worried, according to the Guardian, yet this vote represents a popular trend—Muslim immigrants must meld into society, not attempt to alter it.

In taking a quick peek at the numbers, fifty-seven percent approved the ban, on a relatively high turnout of fifty-three percent. And while only five percent of the Swiss population are Muslim immigrants, and only four minarets hover in towns throughout Switzerland, a clear majority were galvanized into opposing any dramatic changes to the cultural landscape.

France is considering a ban on niqabs and any other face-concealing veils, and one mayor in Italy has erected a controversial sign along with a new policy—no burqas and niqabs in Varallo, Italy. The warning is also translated in Arabic.

“Throughout the city, we are applying the prohibition of wearing these clothes that, in the case of the burqa, prevent the recognition of the person. The signs signify the will “of the Administration to stop this practice of Muslim women that goes against our traditions and standards on safety.”

Some elites, progressives and academics might find this cultural preservation trend troubling for many reasons: it upsets their utopian view of European multiculturalism; it challenges their enlightened Europe as America’s role model argument; it shatters political correctness into pieces. Make no mistake—banning burqas and minarets isn’t politically correct, nor is it expedient.

Perhaps conservatives were wrong. Maybe Americans could learn a thing or two from Europeans. Culture is important, and it merits the fight.

“Going against our traditions…”

Imagine if we used that response to the current assault on Christmas or the English language taking place in America. It’s racist to take the position that Americans or legal residents should have a rudimentary command of the language, and it is offensive to say “Merry Christmas.” By contrast, Italians are picky about their culture, which is why schools were informed of possible penalties if they dared to remove any of the crucifixes the European Human Rights Court found so offensive.

Over time and under constant influence by elites in D.C and on TV, Americans have been influenced into behaving like robots, unable to voice concerns or fight for their culture out of fear for looking like rubes. They can’t voice concerns without incessantly couching their words or avoiding the subject matter altogether. But as they’ve morphed under the pc cloud, they have also exhausted their patience with the experiment.

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“The Absentee Ballot”

 

hammer_sic3aFor generations, Italy has inspired transplanted writers. From personal narratives to cookbooks, from history books to blockbuster fiction, its enchanting culture and historical legacy has helped to churn out manuscript after manuscript. Although I was fascinated by its history, transfixed by its culture and wowed by it cuisine, my Italian experience, as I write about in The Absentee Ballot, falls into an entirely separate category of “back from Italy” books: surviving liberalism and living to tell about it.

Unlike those who vowed to leave the U.S. if George Bush was elected, I had simply decided to follow my Italian husband who was returning home after spending several years in the U.S. My husband had motivated my move, and in chapter one, I explain what motivated my book.

Historically, there have always been hypercritical Europeans, but the shameless assault that I was seeing emanate from American leftists prompted me to give a broader perspective on a Europe that I found strikingly different from the one championed in their blogs, e-mails and newscasts. European attacks on U.S foreign policy and culture weren’t new, but the rhetoric that was spewing forth from American liberal circles had become unbearable.

More and more Americans jumped on the bandwagon, and the America bashing intensified. It became hip to be an Amerihater.  With the casualties rising in Iraq and no WMD to be found, they became bolder in their criticism.

Not only were these Americans blinded to the notion that they were living in the greatest country on earth, most of them hadn’t a clue about the practical effects of the policies which they advocated. George Clooney might have filmed a commercial for the former communist running for Prime Minister of Italy, but his Italian experience is quite atypical. His American paycheck, his reluctance to learn the language and his lakefront villa opulence keep him from grasping the frustrations of a typical hard-working Italian, so how is he qualified to comment, let alone recommend a candidate.  I wonder if he has ever attempted to reach the center of Milan on a train, bus or subway when strikers have shut them down. Because I used the train and the subway, I wasn’t as lucky. Then again, I was, because I was able to witness socialism at work.

Looking down, I watched impassioned hippies march through the otherwise car-packed streets, while flags and banners waved as thousands of people chanted and played music. The sea of red had the odd Soviet flag sprinkled here and there. Some protestors screamed into megaphones, while others sang the communist worker’s hymn. Not being a communist myself, I didn’t recognize what the song was until I watched the news later that night.

CGIL (ex-communist union) had turned out thousands of people, including children, to manifest in over one hundred towns across Italy.  The strikes varied in complexion from city to city, but the scioperanti, as they are called in Italy, used this occasion to protest a panoply of issues ranging from the war in Afghanistan to environmental policies. In Bologna, they took over a Benetton shop.  Elsewhere, anti-Big Mackers organized a three day event against McDonalds.

Every drumbeat and bell struck in squares across Italy signaled new grievances. Ding: Global warming. Dong: Unfair layoffs. Bing: No War. Bong: More vacations. However serious or ridiculous the grievance, the habitual strikers used any and every excuse to march and complain. I guess Machiavelli was right: the power wears out those who don’t have it. Berlusconi and the right had worn them out just as Bush had exasperated leftist Americans.

Strikes were inconvenient and periodic monkey wrenches, but there were other more critical errors in the liberal utopia, namely multiculturalism which is fundamentally altering Europe’s cultural landscape. And because Italian isn’t a widely spoken language, their struggle with immigration doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Italians have struggled with illegal immigration and waves of refugees from Africa, because of their preference for multiculturalism over assimilation. The crisis has been compounded by the severe religious divide between the Catholic majority and those Muslims calling Italy their new home.

The battle between the leftists and those vying to preserve Italy’s storied culture is growing increasingly bitter.

It wasn’t just embarrassment or adding members to their roles that interested the communists. They also used the religion of the immigrants to beat back the dominant faith which they despised. Near Siena, well-known for the palio, a centuries-old horse race in the town square, religious tensions were stoked by a communist mayor, who, without seeking the approval of those living in Colle Val d’Elsa—a village just outside of Siena, brilliantly decided to provide public funds to build a mosque on a public park. The locals were outraged, not because of racism or bigotry toward Muslims in the town, but because they weren’t asked their opinion. There was no referendum.

Construction has begun and minarets will soon tower above the small cobblestone streets and medieval frescoes. Score one for those Marxists who would love nothing more than to snuff out the “opium of the people.”

At times, politicians on the far right utilized rather unorthodox strategies to affect the growing Islamic influence in Italian society.

Roberto Calderoli, a La Lega politician, planned a “pig day” to protest another planned mosque in Bologna.  “I place myself and my pig at the disposal of those who are against this mosque,” he said, offering to tour the construction site with his pig, after which the ground would be “considered infected and no longer suitable” for building.  Although the pig day proposal shocked many Italians, only 28% of the population supports any new mosque construction.

Immigration is a main concern of both Americans and Europeans; so is racism.  

It didn’t take long for me to recognize a peculiar connection between swastikas, old soviet flags and banana peelings. During European soccer matches, all were liable to end up littering soccer stadiums in appalling displays of racism.

At Milan’s San Siro soccer stadium, Zoro, a player for Messina, heard taunting so severe that he threatened to leave the field.  Other players convinced him to stay and play, but the next time he traveled to Milan for a game, he was greeted with a sign that read, “Peanuts and bananas are the price of your fame.”

I wonder how the elites, the self-loathers and the race-baiters would get along in Europe.  From human rights to UN resolutions, these folks are constantly in search of European approval. But how would they fair living inside their socialist utopia, and would they be surprised at the life they would find?  Would Jesse Jackson continue cashing in on corporate shakedowns and exploiting every race related issue to get mug time on television?  In Europe, he would have plenty of opportunities.

If Jesse and Al could help ease European racial tensions, then maybe Al Gore would be happier in Europe under its proactive environmental policy.  But, could Gore really last? He would have to alter his rather liberal use of electricity—reported to be twenty times that of the average American household.  Electricity in Europe, like fuel, is much more expensive

It would be costlier to operate his SUVs and private planes and then there are also the inconvenient “time outs” from driving in the city. When pollution levels reach a certain level inside the municipalities, the government bans city traffic and declares a pollution free zone.

If Gore lived inside an Italian metropoli, he’d have several options, starting with the many systems of mass transit. If the busses, trains and subways are not available because of strikes, there are always other viable alternatives, such as riding a bicycle or a horse.  Somehow I don’t see Al Gore riding the subway or a horse.

If it wasn’t striking workers grinding the transportation system to a halt, it was the ‘save the earth’ crowd’s efforts to ease smog in the cities and municipalities. But as inconvenient as those interruptions were, Italy’s outrageously high taxes had an even greater impact on the lifestyles of Italians, and me. Italians are known for their creativity, and their tax-evading maneuvers required every ounce of it.

I learned the routine rather quickly. If I requested a receipt for any labor completed, the bill was usually higher. Cash was always welcome and utilized more often than I was used to in the United States. My friends were refreshingly honest about their Swiss bank accounts, and would occasionally recount their tax escapades. One of my favorites was a friend who had made trips to Switzerland for years.

One afternoon when it came time for him to cross into Switzerland, the border patrol directed him to pull to the side of the road. They needed to search the car, and they did.  They looked through his briefcase, his jacket, the car and in the trunk, but found nothing and let him pass through. The only place they hadn’t checked was underneath his hat, which was where the smuggled cash was hidden. His behavior might seem extreme and deceitful, but the strain and limitations of the tax system had forced him to find another way.

High taxes, multiculturalism, environmental treaties and overbearing unions were just a few of the many socialist surprises that I found had been misrepresented by socialist sympathizers in the American mainstream media. However, their most egregious propaganda—the one that prompted my book—is their suggestion that Europeans hate America.

Getting along was easy. Europeans hadn’t held it against me that I was American, just as I hadn’t held it against them that they were not.

My neighbors didn’t seem to mind having a Yankee in their backyard. As a gated country club community, Monticello wasn’t necessarily a typical Italian neighborhood, but it was almost bizarre to see how the American flag functioned as a brand. I was amazed to see kids wearing sweaters of old glory or shirts with “I love the U.S.A” scribbled across them.  None of them had “I love Germany,” or “I love China” t-shirts. It was America they were wearing.

Surely, part of this curious admiration was due to the great marketing of the flag by designers in the U.S. However, if Italians felt loathing or even indifference toward the U.S, they would avoid dressing themselves in red, white and blue.

The most recent U.S. Presidential election, provided voters a clear choice, perhaps the most unambiguous in decades. The background of candidate Obama enticed voters with a chance to make history, while his eloquence before the teleprompter invoked comparisons with Reagan. Since his presidency has begun, however, it has been his frightening policy proposals like healthcare that have functioned as a collective double espresso to the voters.

The triple espresso is The Absentee Ballot.

Politics of Meddling

turkey_euHe came to listen, not to lecture. Yet after yesterday’s push for Turkey’s acceptance into the EU, I wonder if Europeans Obama-glow has worn off. Aside from a few missteps, like his snooze inducing presser with Brown and his ‘French’ town hall, the President and his prompter had them weak-kneed and star-struck. So, they must have been taken aback when Obama continued the ugly American habit of minding other countries’ business.

“Turkey is bound to Europe by more than bridges over the Bosphorous. Centuries of shared history, culture, and commerce bring you together. Europe gains by diversity of ethnicity, tradition and faith – it is not diminished by it. And Turkish membership would broaden and strengthen Europe’s foundation once more.”

But according to a poll released by the German Marshall Fund and the Compagnia di San Paolo in late 2007, only 21 percent of Europeans believe that their culture would be enriched enough to support Turkey’s bid for EU membership. 21 percent. Merkel and Sarkozy strongly oppose EU membership for Turkey.

Imagine the outrage and furor if, during his speech before the United States Congress, French President Sarkozy had made a plea to legalize the more than 20 million illegals currently living in the United States? After all, they would enrich our culture, add to our diversity and benefit our commerce. It would have been a classic ‘mind your own bees wax’ moment.

We should let the EU member nations and their citizens decide Turkey’s fate. Controversial mosque construction, whether to permit ‘burkinis’, and attacks on free speech, are matters for Europeans, not Americans. And if the recent Turkish resistance to the Danish Prime Minister’s nomination to lead NATO is any indication of future battles in Brussels, well, then maybe the concerns of Sarkozy and Merkel have merit.

Maybe Europeans don’t believe that the old continent, “gains by diversity of ethnicity, tradition and faith.” The riots in Paris, the cartoon controversy in Denmark and the attacks on their freedom might have them a bit spooked.

Nigel Farage, the UK Independence Party leader, calls the idea “a disaster, and advises Mr. Obama to “remember that while he’s been elected President he’s been elected President of the United States only.” Good luck with that…

Pro-Palestinian or anti-Israel

Judging by the clashes and protests since Israel began it’s most recent war against Hamas, Europeans have chosen sides, and once again, it’s not Israel’s. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has expressed concern about the current wave of anti-Semitic attacks in various parts of the world.

“We have received with great concern and revulsion many reports of physical, moral, verbal and other manifestations of anti-Semitic attacks towards Jews and Israeli citizens in many parts of the world,” Whatever one’s opinion may be of this operation, it should never be used to legitimize hate and anti-Semitic incitement.”

Every day, a new protest occurs, and every day, the press coverage demonstrates an antagonism to Israel.

El Pais highlights an interview with the Palestinian Authority’s representative in Spain who condemned Israel’s operation in Gaza. “The Jews suffered the Holocaust at the hands of the Nazis and Israel now wants to repeat history against our people.”

Le Monde led with a story about a ‘new type of weapon’ being used in Gaza. Unfortunately, the story relied on well-established Hamas propagandists to make outrageous claims. Israel was using the war to experiment with weapons. One of the doctors happens to be an active Norwegian communist who sympathized with al-Qaeda after 9/11.

Anti-Semitism in Europe might not be a sexy topic for the American press, but it’s something that should be explored. When bands of anti-Semites desecrate graves in France, the story doesn’t seem to make our 6 o’clock news. Maybe, it should.

President Sarkozy Fears Obama Victory

It’s a shame that the French President can see what fifty percent of Americans cannot: An Obama victory would radically undermine current efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

 

From Israel’s Haaretz:

Sarkozy has made his criticisms only in closed forums in France. But according to a senior Israeli government source, the reports reaching Israel indicate that Sarkozy views the Democratic candidate’s stance on Iran as “utterly immature” and comprised of “formulations empty of all content.”

 

Until now, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany have tried to maintain a united front on Iran. But according to the senior Israeli source, Sarkozy fears that Obama might “arrogantly” ignore the other members of this front and open a direct dialogue with Iran without preconditions.

Following their July meeting, Sarkozy repeatedly expressed disappointment with Obama’s positions on Iran, concluding that they were “not crystallized, and therefore many issues remain open,” the Israeli source said. Advisors to the French president who held separate meetings with Obama’s advisors came away with similar impressions and expressed similar disappointment.

I understand the fury and frustration directed toward President Bush; however, it would be irresponsible to elect a candidate as arrogant and naïve as Obama. He has used the power of persuasion and soaring rhetoric to woo a self-interested American public, but surely he won’t persuade the dwarf or the Mullahs in Iran.

 

For sure Obama can look forward to sharing something of significance in common with Ahmadinejad. They both believe that God has sent them to save the world.

Obama’s Silent European Majority

Presuntuoso. Arrogante. Even if you don’t speak Italian, you can probably guess their English equivalents. Those were the first words my in-laws used to describe their reaction to the Democratic nominee for President. You won’t hear regular Europeans interviewed or their impressions discussed in the American press, but I can tell you, there are many more anti-Obamans present and unaccounted for in the old continent.

Presumptuous and arrogant. He already talks like he’s the President.

Their hunch is spot on. By finishing his world tour at a pep rally in front of 200,000 mostly German Berliners, Obama demonstrated his ability to tear down more than just racial walls. Apparently, protocol is another target. In the past, no other candidate for President has ever given a campaign speech in front of a foreign audience, called himself a ‘citizen of the world’, or lamented America’s misdeeds world-wide.

While most of the American press is drooling over the groundbreaking aspect to Obama’s run, in terms of race, and generalizing Obama’s European reception, they should instead focus on his revolutionary assault on what is acceptable conduct by a candidate for President of the United States.

Obama’s European Vacation

The site of the planned Obama speech in Berlin is generating a significant amount of buzz in the German press. The Obama folks and their socialist admirers wanted the Brandenburg Gate, a controversial choice for both Americans and Germans. As a symbol of German unification, many natives wondered how Obama had helped tear down the wall; after all, he was still a law student at Harvard. And as the site of one of the most historic addresses ever by an American President, many devoted Reaganites felt the mere idea was tantamount to sacrilege.

The Brandenburg uproar forced Obama’s posse to settle on the Victory Column, yet another controversial choice. Deputy leader of the free Democrats argued (from der Spiegel)

“The Siegessäule in Berlin was moved to where it is now by Adolf Hitler. He saw it as a symbol of German superiority and of the victorious wars against Denmark, Austria and France,” the deputy told Bild am Sonntag. He raised the question as to “whether Barack Obama was advised correctly in his choice of the Siegessäule as the site to hold a speech on his vision for a more cooperative world.”

Historical ignorance aside, the most disturbing part of the speech, is the speech. When has an American Presidential candidate ever given a campaign address in a foreign country? But more importantly, when has a foreign presidential candidate ever addressed an American audience? I can’t think of one, which makes me wonder why Obama has thought it prudent to stand before a European audience to rally admirers, most of whom aren’t eligible to vote.

And memo to the American press who will cover this speech, and who continue to mischaracterize Obama’s European support as widespread and sweeping: Europeans aren’t monoliths. Just because you might have spent two months at a foreign bureau, presumably sharing croissants with American journalists, doesn’t qualify you to make a judgment about Obama’s messiah status in the old continent. Just because Germans are disturbingly obsessed with Obama, doesn’t automatically correlate to an Italian fervor over a McCain defeat. There are many plausible explanations for the German-Obama swoon:

  1. Perhaps as the most racist European country, Germans are suffering from ‘white guilt’
  2. They hated Bush more than other Europeans, so they view an Obama victory as a Bush rebuke.
  3. They heard rumors that Obama likes wienerschnitzel.
  4. The largest portion of Obama admirers are former East German communists and recognize a fellow comrade when they see one.
  5. They fell in love with Michelle Obama after she admitted to not previously being ‘proud of America’.