Whom young Muslims (may) vote for?

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God, Family, Fatherland – this threefold slogan has become the most appealing to European conservatives. In Italy, the landslide electoral success of the conservative, identitarian, and anti-migration party Fratelli d’Italia is instructive. These three words also seem to resonate (paradoxically?) among young Muslims in and beyond Europe. In the last midterm elections, more American Muslims have already shifted to the right side of the political spectrum. A US-like scenario may potentially manifest in the final stretch of the 2024 European Parliament elections. Emphasis on traditional values and economic instability can also boost such a phenomenon in Europe. However, whose traditional values young Muslims may speak in praise of?

Scholars have paid much attention to how the rampant growth of far-/alt-right grassroots radicalism can quickly equalize, if not replace, that of the Islamist hotbed in Europe. A series of ideological convergences can be found in the long-period fascination with Islam among the most spiritual branches of the right culture. The esoteric-gnostic intellectual René Guénon, and other traditionalist philosophers, such as Julius Evola, Titus Burckhordt, Fritjof Schuon, and Michel Valsan, have always been central in the philosophy of the alt-right in Europe [1]. Yet most right-wingers hold and nurture anti-Islamic or Islamophobic positions. Indeed, they represent today’s base of (ultra-)conservative Christians hostile to Islam.

Orbánesque democracies in Central Europe can count out a potential comparison of the convergences between conservative right-wingers and conservative, young Muslims. However, while conducting fieldwork in Belgium and Germany, many second-generation Balkan Muslims, primarily men, feel discomfort over post-modern identity dilemmas and criticize the lionization of multicultural policies in their places of residence. Anti-genderism and critique of liberal multiculturalism would not be differently verbalised by most conservatives in Europe. Additionally, the central place given to the family in society and a certain degree of mysticism over man’s role seem to guide both conservatives and young Muslims in taking a similar side over some ethical issues – from abortion to LGBTQI+ campaigns to reproductive rights.

In theory, Islam could represent a natural and complementary ally of the orthodox socialist forces to resist capitalist imperialism [2]. Also, pro-Palestinian stances and intense criticism for Western intervention in Muslim-majority countries have continuously circulated in the (radical) Left and Mulism minorities in Europe. The old and new forms of religious fanaticism inspired by old anarchist waves (especially in Italy and Greece), combined with the left-wing and anticolonial waves [3], have brought many intellectuals to praise a particular political manifestation of Islam. In practice, the (liberal) left seems no longer to win the hearts of most ordinary Muslims.

There is little doubt that Europe’s young Muslims are polarised around a wealth of socio-political and cultural issues, meaning they may reposition themselves accordingly. Critical Muslims divide politics from religion. The latter cannot dictate the former but only inspire societies [4]. Many young Muslims have embraced feminist theories and supported multiculturalism, while others have come to terms with the principle of laicism at the public level. Yet criticism toward “non-European” forms of Islam can lead them to self-reiterate the anti-migration rhetoric of most conservative European actors [5]. Those who assess “family” as pivotal, what type of family do they have in mind? Will all families be considered, or do they only prefer nuclear and heteronormative families as ideal for the future of Europe?

Suppose it is true that convergences and clear distinctions between Muslims and right-wingers are found in the extreme forms of political participation. In that case, it is also true that most young Muslims do not buy radical plots or follow Islamist voices in their places of residence. Yet, there may emerge a less extreme and more accessible public where values and opinions may converge and overlap at once. Underestimating this contingent space may not only overlook the already-present alienation of the youth from politics, especially concerning the second, third, and most soon fourth generations of descendants of Muslim families. But it may also take pundits and scholars by surprise in the same way they were puzzled by Europe’s working classes rallying and voting for ultra-nationalist and conservative actors. Soon, it may be the turn of young Muslims born and bred in Europe.

Main References

[1] Allievi, Stefano (2017) Conversioni: Verso un nuovo modo di credere? Europa, Pluralismo, Islam, Napoli: Guida Editori, p. 117;

[2] Bakic-Hayden, Milica (1995) Nesting Orientalisms: The Case of Former Yugoslavia, in: “Slavic Review”, Vol. 54, No. 4 (Winter, 1995), p. 925;

[3] Korenkov, Oleksandr, Balatska, Olena, Rashchupkina, Yuliya (2022) Separatism and Jihadism: Interaction in the Context of Terrorist Activity, in: “Studia Polityczne”, Tom 50, Nr. 2, p.114;

[4] Khankan, Sherin (2018) Women Are the Future of Islam. A Memoir of Hope. London: Penguin, p.61;

[5] Rexhepi, Piro (2023) White Enclosures. Racial Capitalism and Coloniality along the Balkan Route, Durham: Duke University Press.

*This short article is being written while conducting a broader research project on the “Civic Responses and Cultural Identity Dilemmas of Second-Generation Balkan Muslims in Time of Illiberal Democracy” (2021/43/B/HS6/00451) funded by the National Science Centre in Krakow, Poland, through the OPUS22 research grant. 
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