In Orban's rhetoric, Soros – and his alleged "co-conspirator" the EU – threaten the Christian character of Europe. "Europe is currently being prepared to hand its territory over to a new mixed, Islamised Europe. […] In order for this to happen, for the territory to be ready to be handed over, it is necessary to continue the de-Christianisation of Europe – and we can see these attempts," he said. Orban's Islamophobic accusations against Soros have been shared by far-right groups in Europe and the US which have attacked the Hungarian philanthropist for his perceived support for "Islamisation".

Leading Islamophobic voices polemicise against Soros. Some portray him as a Nazi sympathiser involved with Islamists, who are supposed to be "the last of Adolf Hitler's World War Two coalition partners that have yet to be vanquished"– as one right-wing website put it.

"Could it be that 'spooky dude' George Soros is playing god again? Is it really possible that the grand puppet master is pulling the strings on Europe's demise?", says an Islamophobic right-wing blog and goes on: "George Soros has all sorts of ideas – dictates, really – for how Europe must sign up for its demise by importing hordes of Muslims".

The anti-Soros campaign even managed to get into the US Congress. Six senators signed a letter calling on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to investigate USAID funding for Soros' Open Society Foundation and its activities in Macedonia and Albania. Apparently, the letter was based on a pamphlet sent to Congress by a Macedonian group called Stop Operation Soros.

Viktor Orban speaks at a press conference following a plenary session of the European Parliament at which he was criticised for his country's repressive domestic policies and poor human rights record (photo: picture-alliance/abaca/D. Aydemir)
Soros and the EU are out to destroy Christendom: in July 2017, Orban was quoted as saying that "the Soros Empire is using money, people and institutions to transport migrants into Europe... Europe is currently being prepared to hand its territory over to a new mixed, Islamised Europe. […] In order for this to happen, it is necessary to continue the de-Christianisation of Europe – and we can see these attempts"

That Soros has been dragged into this racist vortex of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia should not come as a surprise.

For centuries, the images of the Muslim and the Jewish "other" have gone hand-in-hand in Western racist thought. As Edward Said wrote in his magnum opus, Orientalism is "a strange secret sharer of Western anti-Semitism".

Historically, Jews and Muslims have faced similar accusations, racist tropes and persecution. Western Europeans used both as a projection surface to imagine itself as racially pure, white and Christian. In medieval times, Jews were accused of well-poisoning to kill Christians and Muslims – of inciting them to do so. During the Reformation, Jews were portrayed as the companions of the devil who had entered into a pact with the Muslim Turks.

Today, the "international Jewish conspiracy" has joined the "Islamisation conspiracy" in the minds of many followers of the far right. Once again, there are many who want a pure white and Christian Europe. And in the past few years that has proven deadly: Anders Behring Breivik's manifesto "2083 – A European Declaration of Independence" is full of twisted Islamophobic and anti-Semitic fantasies.

Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are not separate and unrelated. Both forms of racism go hand-in-hand today, as they have in the past and that needs to be acknowledged.

Neglecting Islamophobia as the sibling of anti-Semitism will only strengthen racist ideologues and far-right politicians, from the Breiviks to the Orbans.

Farid Hafez

© 2017

Farid Hafez is a political scientist and senior research fellow at the Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University.

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