METAPHORS OF INVASION Imagining Europe as endangered by Islamisation

Estrella Gualda

Metaphors and discourses on the invasion of Islam: between the discourse of hate and the discourse of fear

Discourses on the ‘invasion’ of immigrants have been commonplace in the Western world in different countries and at different times from the twentiethcentury to date and, likewise, public messages around a hypothetical invasion of Europe by Islam or Islamophobic conspiracy theories about the Islamisation of Europe have spread.1 These discourses argue that Muslims are trying to ‘Islamise’ and conquer Europe, leading to a Europe that, from this perspective, would metaphorically mutate into Eurabia (see Bergmann in this volume). In the pages that follow, with a focus on the invasion metaphor represented through the idea of Eurabia or the Islamisation of Europe, we try to highlight some of the core ideas of this conspiracy theory, paying attention to the decisive role of the metaphors deployed to spread them.

Narratives about the invasion of Islam connect with the perception of threats coming from different spheres and relate to identity, culture, religion, ideology, politics, demographics, economics and so on. In more recent times, especially after the fall of the Twin Towers on 11 September 2001, narratives in the media seem to warn of the links between immigration and Islam and between immigration and terrorism. As noted by Aly (2007), the media has played a key role in shaping the contemporary discourse on terrorism. More recently, the so-called refugee crisis has been joined by a succession of terrorist attacks across the world. Remarkable examples in some European cities are, for instance, the attacks in Madrid (11 March 2004), London (2June 2017), Turku (18 August 2017) or Lieja (29 May 2018). These events have also contributed to the consolidation of some anti-immigration, anti-Islam, anti-Muslim and, more recently, anti-refugee discourses accentuating the idea of security threats arising from the conjunction of terrorism and Islam. These kinds of discourses are quite widespread today in the Western world and are easy to identify. In recent years, in Europe, they have also been associated with the development of far-right positions (Garcia, 2018), sometimes combined in political discourses with other aspects such as Euroscepticism, as has been the case with Brexit (see Krowel, van Prooijen and Madroane in this volume). As a clear example of this connection, a tweet by @axelmojave (riddled with very significative hashtags) could be recalled: ‘#Germany is ruining Europe! #IStandWithViktorOrban #Hungary #Polska #Brexit #leaveEU #Syria #ISIS #Refugees’ (22 December 2015).

On this particular issue, Swami et al. (2018) have suggested, based on a survey, that the perception of Islam as a threat and as an out-group confronted by the ingroup and also the belief in Islamophobic conspiracy theories and Islamophobia are some of the variables that enabled intentions to vote for Brexit or to leave the EU. Bhatt’s article (2012) about the ‘new xenologies’ (or how strangers are constructed mentally, see explanatory note) in Europe, explores the trends of the European far-right through a study of the ideologies of the counter-jihad movement and the new European right.2 Bhatt describes the importance of the narratives of Europe’s political decline in the context of these xenologies. These xenologies manifest themselves as inconsistent ideologies through which, nevertheless, the presence of Muslims in Europe illustrates an apocalyptic catastrophe as well as the existence of an ‘existential enemy of Europe’ (Bhatt, 2012: 323) that seeks to colonise and to enslave Europeans.

In the public discourse, the narratives about the invasion of Islam and its threats, concreted as ‘Eurabia Conspiracy’, are structured around the core and simplistic views that we exemplify below. In language, arguments against Islam are expressed frequently through tropes as metaphors. Figure 4.1 shows the idea that these discourses and metaphors commonly tie together or overlap, sometimes conceptually, presenting an unfriendly and very stereotyped and essential-ist image of Islam and Muslims.

Subsequently, to make more clearly visible the principal ideas that develop around the diversity of dimensions found in the metaphors about the invasion of Islam, we introduce a series of examples taken from Twitter, without pretending to be exhaustive. Twitter is an open social network that the reader can

Cultural & Identity


FIGURE 4.1 Metaphors of the invasion of Europe: the trajectories of discourse Source: Author. Adapted from Gualda (2011).

easily access to find other examples. Some significant hashtags and tweets are mentioned or displayed through the chapter to obtain a global view of this topic. Metaphors of the threats of Islam or Muslims are also found on the institutional websites of some political parties, in their accounts on social networks, in numerous blogs and on platforms such as Facebook (Avaaz, 2019; Awan, 2016).

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