The new face of Islamophobia

A study of the far-right in Europe has found that supporters are young, male, and anti-Islam.

The far right in Europe is on the rise and supporters are disproportionately young, male and concerned with Islam and immigration.

A study by Demos has collated information on the demographics and attitudes of supporters of the far right online. Given the wide range of groups involved -- ranging from France's long-established National Front to semi-organised street movements such as the EDL -- it is difficult to make generalisations.

What most of these groups do have in common is that they have significantly more supporters online and that social networking sites such as Facebook are an important tool for members to swap ideas.

The report looks at 14 parties and street organisations in 11 countries. Using Facebook's data on around 450,000 supporters of these organisations, Demos found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that more than two-thirds were under 30, while three-quarters were male.

Over 10,000 supporters filled in detailed questionnaires about their attitudes. The main reasons listed for joining the groups were Islam and immigration, which cropped up far more frequently than economic worries. Interestingly, these concerns were often framed as a belief that Islam was incompatible with the traditions of liberal democracy. This marks a shift from the crude racism of the earlier generation of populist, far-right movements. Such an argument has the capacity to appeal to more people than out-and-out racism; this is evident in Holland, where Geert Wilder's Party For Freedom has become the third-largest party. In contrast to most other surveys, anti-Islamic and anti-immigration feeling rose with younger supporters.

Thomas Klau from the European Council on Foreign Relations, who is chairing a conference on the rise of the far-right today, noted the implications of this trend:

As antisemitism was a unifying factor for far-right parties in the 1910s, 20s and 30s, Islamophobia has become the unifying factor in the early decades of the 21st century.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, supporters are deeply pessimistic about the prospects for their respective countries. Only 10 per cent thought their country was "on the right track", compared with an average of 28 per cent across EU countries.

While the report highlights the importance of the internet and social media to the spread of these populist movements, most supporters are not simply armchair activists -- for political parties, 67 per cent of respondents said they voted for the party at the last election.

The anti-Islamic sentiment that runs through the ideology of supporters is disturbing, yet it is not difficult to see where it has stemmed from -- it merely echoes the actions and arguments taken by mainstream parties in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

The Guardian quotes Gavan Titley, co-author of The Crises of Multiculturalism:

Racist strategies constantly adapt to political conditions, and seek new sets of values, language and arguments to make claims to political legitimacy. Over the past decade, Muslim populations around Europe, whatever their backgrounds, have been represented as the enemy within or at least as legitimately under suspicion. It is this very mainstream political repertoire that newer movements have appropriated.

Today's report sets out some of the identifying features of the far-right in Europe; it remains for governments to tackle this trend.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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As Donald Trump once asked, how do you impeach a President?

Starting the process is much easier than you might think. 

Yes, on Friday, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. And no, you can’t skip the next four years.

But look on the bright side. Those four years might never happen. On the one hand, he could tweet the nuclear codes before the day is out. On the other, his party might reach for their own nuclear button – impeachment. 

So, how exactly can you impeach a President? Here is our rough guide.

OK, what does impeachment actually mean?

Impeachment is the power to remove an elected official for misconduct. Here’s the relevant clause of the US Constitution:

“The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Impeachment is actually a legacy of British constitutional history, and dates back as far as 1376, but according to our own parliamentary website, in the UK “this procedure is considered obsolete”. 

It’s up to the US Congress to decide whether to impeach and convict a President. Both houses are controlled by the Republicans, so impeaching Trump would mean turning against one who is – technically at least – one of their own. Since he’s already insulted the neighbouring country, supported discrimination against Muslim immigrants and mocked a disabled reporter, their impeachment threshold seems pretty high. But let’s imagine he surpasses himself. What next?

The impeachment process

Members of the House of Representatives – the lower chamber of the Congress – can start the impeachment process. They in turn may be encouraged to do so by voters. For example, there is a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to people who tried to impeach Barack Obama. One Impeach Obama supporter simply gave his reason as stopping the President from “pushing his agenda”. Another wanted to do so on the grounds of gross incompetence...

But for an impeachment attempt to actually work, the impeacher needs to get the support of the house. If a majority agree with the idea of impeaching the elected official, they nominate members to act as prosecutors during the subsequent trial. This takes place in the Senate, the upper house of Congress. In most impeachments, the Senate acts as judge and jury, but when a President is impeached, the chief justice of the United States presides.     

Two-thirds of the Senate must vote for impeachment in order to convict. 

What are the chances of impeaching Donald Trump?

So if Trump does something that even he can’t tweet away, and enough angry voters email their representatives, Congress can begin the process of impeachment. But will that be enough to get him out?

It’s often assumed that Richard Nixon was kicked out because he was impeached for the cover up known as the Watergate Scandal. In fact, we’ll never know, because he resigned before the House could vote on the process.

Two decades later, the House got further with Bill Clinton. When it emerged Clinton had an affair with Monica Lewinsky, an intern, he initially denied it. But after nearly 14 hours of debate, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives decided to impeach him on grounds including perjury and obstruction of justice.

In the Senate trial, Clinton’s defenders argued that his actions did not threaten the liberty of the people. The majority of Senators voted to acquit him. 

The only other Presidential impeachment took place in 1868, when President Andrew Johnson, removed a rabble-rouser from his Cabinet. The guilty vote fell short of the two-thirds majority, and he was acquitted.

So, what’s the chances of impeaching Trump? I’ll leave you with some numbers…


Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.