The Alternative for Germany is using centuries-old imagery of Muslim men molesting European women to get votes for the upcoming parliamentary election.
Germany’s third-largest party, the far-right and anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD), is using an infamous orientalist painting to campaign in the upcoming European Parliament elections.
On its Facebook page, the party which has previously called for “Islam-free schools”, posted a 19th century Orientalist painting of a naked European woman being inspected by Muslim-looking men wearing turbans and skull caps with the comment: “Definitely an eye-catcher.”
At the bottom of the the painting, by French artist Jean-Leon Gerome, the woman’s private parts are covered by an AfD ribbon with a caption that reads:
"So that Europe does not become 'Eurabia’...Europeans vote for the AfD!”
The use of the term ‘Eurabia’ mimics the rhetoric of Islamophobic activists, including Norwegian terrorist, Anders Breivik, who murdered 77 civilians, mostly children and teenagers, in Norway in 2011.
The term comes from a widely held conspiracy theory, which warns that there is a Marxist-Islamist "conspiracy against Europe", which aims to "mass import Muslims" into the continent, gradually changing its character from a secular Christian based civilisation to a theocratic Islamic one.
Germany’s far-right argue that this current ‘invasion’ is a continuation of previous historic conflicts between Islam and Christendom.
"Our motto: Learn from Europe’s history,” read one AfD poster in Berlin.
Orientalism informing today’s Islamophobia
Gerome’s painting, known as “The Slave Market”, comes from a school of art closely associated with European attempts to colonise Muslim lands.
European orientalist painters were known for their surreal, mythical interpretations of the “Orient” - and of its strange, sensual, erotic, and mysterious character. The imagery depicted was more often than not, a reflection of a painter’s fantasies, rather than an actual reality.
But for far-right activists, they serve as warning letters from history.
Experts, like New York University’s Isra Ali, has written that Orientalist imagery had little basis in reality, and often just perpetuated the very same tropes they were trying to counter.
“Women were depicted with a passive sexuality, while the men were depicted as violent and disrespectful towards women.”
The use of the image forms part of a broader trend to use female bodies to emphasise Europeanness in the AfD’s election propaganda.
“Burkas? We love bikinis!” read one a poster, during Germany’s parliamentary elections in 2017.