Perhaps the most surprising about-turn came in Britain, a country that has long considered itself among the most immigrant-friendly in Europe until a series of coordinated bomb attacks in London six years ago. In one of his most noticed speeches, Mr. Cameron told the Munich security conference in February that the country’s decades-old policy of multiculturalism had encouraged “segregated communities” where Islamic extremism can thrive.
France, a fiercely secularist state where all religion is banned from the public sphere, was long isolated and berated for its staunch opposition to the laissez-faire of multiculturalism. Girls who show up in public schools there with the Muslim headscarf are suspended, as are teachers or any other employees in the public sector.
If Mr. Sarkozy appeared to soften his understanding of official secularism, or “laïcité” earlier in his political career, even toying with the idea of affirmative action, he has recently scrambled to backtrack. He held a nationwide debate on “national identity” last year and earlier this year banned Muslim full-face veils like niqab, as well as the burqa.
That hasn’t stopped the far-right National Front, now led by Marine Le Pen, the daughter of its founder, to surge in opinion polls, with some surveys predicting that she might make it into next year’s presidential runoff. She compared Muslims praying in the streets outside overcrowded mosques to the Nazi occupation, and decries the European Union and the euro.
Earlier this month the daily newspaper Berliner Zeitung reported that neo-Nazis were attacking the offices of the far-left Left Party with increasing frequency. In the former East German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, statistics showed that there were 30 such attacks in the first half of 2011 compared to 44 attacks in all of 2010.
Due to its Nazi past, Germany keeps a watchful eye on right-wing extremists, and the parties of the far right have a hard time gaining traction, with no representatives in Parliament. In Finland, the True Finns, a populist nationalist party founded in 1995, became the third largest party represented in the Finnish Parliament after winning 19 percent of the vote in April. And Norway’s Progress Party, a right-wing populist party, is the second largest in the country, winning 23 percent of the vote in the last parliamentary election in September 2009.
“The Norwegian right-wing groups have always been disorganized, haven’t had charismatic leaders or the kind of well-organized groups with financial support that you see in Sweden,” said Kari Helene Partapuoli, director of the Norwegian Center against Racism. “But in the last two or three years our organization and other antifascist networks have warned of an increased temperature of debate and that violent groups had been established.”
But neither does Norway exist in a vacuum. Its right-wing scene is connected to the rest of Europe through the Internet forums where hate speech proliferates and through right-wing demonstrations that draw an international mix of participants.
“This may be the act of a lone, mad, paranoid individual,” said Hajo Funke, a political scientist at the Free University in Berlin who studies rightist extremism, referring to the right-wing fundamentalist Christian charged in connection with the killings, “but the far-right milieu creates an atmosphere that can lead such people down that path of violence.”