According to various advocates of minority rights, there has been an unprecedented rise of xenophobia throughout Europe. Proof cited includes an increase in hate crimes, job and housing discrimination, and denial of religious rights, such as the minaret ban in Switzerland last November. U.K. MP Denis MacShane calls the ban "vicious xenophobia" in his recent Newsweek obituary, "The End of Switzerland." In their report, 'The 2008 Hate Crime Survey', Human Rights First (HRF) warns this may lead to “a climate of increased racism. If the climate of hatred rises, then racist violence and hate crimes tend to ascend too.”
The HRF report covers the 56 OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) countries. Unsurprisingly, the main transgressors are countries whose persecuted minorities are fleeing to Western Europe. France and Germany actually reported a 20-23% decrease in hate crimes between 2007 and 2008, while the U.K. had a modest increase of 3.7%. As for Switzerland, which doesn’t keep statistics since few such acts result in punishable crimes, HRF managed to find seven instances of aggression against asylum seekers, two of which were attacks on buildings where they were being housed.
On the other side we have the Swiss majority, whose motivation for any possible xenophobic tendencies is ignored. Can majorities never be victimized by minorities, then?
The Swiss don’t think so, and find a correlation between their 70.8% foreign prison population and an increase in burglary, rape, and muggings. Thus the right wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) mounted an anti-immigration campaign (with posters depicting two giant black crows gripping Switzerland in their huge beaks), opposing a 2009 referendum that would continue and extend the free-movement-of-labor agreements Switzerland has with 25 EU Member States to Bulgaria and Romania. The Swiss passed the referendum anyway, by a 59.7% majority, but this was barely noticed by the media. Not so the proposed minaret ban referendum, which was widely covered both before and after it passed as xenophobic at best, and a crime against humanity at worst. Is it any wonder that an increasing majority of Swiss feel their rights are ignored or invalidated?
Human rights advocates may point to genocides of the past to justify their fixation on minority rights. But attacking majorities who themselves feel threatened by their immigrants will only encourage more nationalistic manifestations like the Swiss minaret ban.