chapter  18
Islamophobia and the quest for European identity in Poland
WithKatarzyna Górak-Sosnowska, Marta Pachocka
Pages 12

Despite an over 600 years long history of Muslim presence in Poland and the fact that Muslims constitute less than 0.5% of the country’s 38 million population, Islam and Muslims provoke strong and unfavourable feelings among Polish public opinion – both in absolute terms, as well as in comparison with the old EU member states. The aim of the chapter is to explain the reasons of this phenomenon. Out of a variety of many possible explanations, this chapter focuses on just one, but as we will argue crucial dimension, namely the European context. This chapter argues that Polish Islamophobic discourse is strongly linked to the way the idea of Polish national identity is managed vis-à-vis the European one. After the collapse of the USSR, Poland was able to shift to the West, and joined the EU in 2004. In this new political order it managed to occupy only a peripheral position. Thus, not by coincidence, Polish Islamophobic discourse is focusing on what is going on in the old member states, rather than e.g. in wider CEE. It serves as a tool to negotiate Poland’s European identity through participating in what is going on in EU’s ‘core’. Mobilising people around Islamophobia serves the political elites as means of strengthening Polish national identity, but at the same time indicates the troublesome and complicated attitude of Poland towards the EU, as on the one side Poland would like to join the core, but on the other to stay away as an ethnic and religious autarky. Both these dimensions will be elaborated and analysed in detail in this chapter.