THE BLOG
08/29/2016 08:15 am ET Updated Aug 30, 2017

I Don't Want To Live In A Europe That Persecutes People For Their Beliefs Or Appearance

Neil Hall / Reuters

Europe has become unrecognizable in recent weeks. Its people seem small, narrow-minded, and mean-spirited.

The continent continues to shed itself of the values that made it great and gave it its status as the voice of morality in the world.

Europe is losing the values that made so many Europeans -- and especially young people -- proud to be European: Freedom and tolerance. These two values are pillars of an open and liberal society.

The most recent sign of this disintegration is the picture that was taken on a beach in Nice last week.

It shows four police officers gathered around a woman reclining on the sand. The officers are armed with nightsticks and guns. The woman is pulling a blue cloth over her head -- apparently a piece of a burkini or a garment of some kind.

According to media reports, the police officers wanted to give the woman a fine because burkinis and other religious coverings have recently been banned on city beaches.

This photo struck all real European like a nightstick to the face.

The continent's nations -- France in this case -- have reached a point where people from a particular faith, or people who have a certain appearance, are being persecuted. They have to pay fines because they're wearing the wrong clothes. Women on the beach are being forced to either strip or leave.

Europe is losing the values that made so many Europeans -- and especially young people -- proud to be European: Freedom and tolerance.

And Nice isn't an isolated incident: In the past few weeks, multiple Muslim women in coastal French cities have been fined.

It's not just France, either. Germany is also discussing a ban on full-body covering, and a similar ban seems possible in many other European countries. A night school in Osnabrück recently dismissed a female student with a full-veil from class.

The fact that the scene in question is taking place on a beach in France makes it that much more thought-provoking. The French have always set an example in Europe, with their lifestyle and their laissez faire attitude.

New York is often held up as the world's most international city, but in truth, Paris is one of the most cosmopolitan metropolises, and one of the most tolerant. Anyone who visits the Little Congo neighborhood near Montmartre, where people from dozens of countries peacefully interact, is familiar with that.

There's a reason why African-Americans who visit Paris are excited by the openness with which they're received. In some parts of the world and the U.S., they still encounter blatant racism.

That tolerance seems to be on its way out in France -- for Muslims at least. And not just in France, either.

Europe and its citizens are overcome with fear: A fear of scarves, a fear of men with long beards, and a fear of a book called the Quran.

Europe has been paralyzed by a fear of strangers, a fear of the other. This fear is placing Europe's courage and values at stake.

Anyone who's traveled in the Near East, or visited countries with a strong Muslim presence like Turkey, Indonesia, or Bangladesh, would know how hospitable, how open-hearted the people there are. They always greet visitors with a smile and with curiosity. Certainly, there are exceptions.

Europe on the other hand is retracting its hand and looking grim.

Europe and its citizens are overcome with fear: A fear of scarves, a fear of men with long beards, and a fear of a book called the Quran.

Intolerance used to be the exception, and now it's becoming the rule. Why is that?

One answer is terror, which has consumed people's minds. Another is the financial crisis that is devastating some European countries, leaving millions of people, especially young people, unemployed. But most Europeans are still doing OK.

In times like these, it's important to remind ourselves of the following: Poverty levels are still extremely low in Europe, freedom of expression is guaranteed, and people can take the pursuit of happiness into their own hands. Overall, Europe is still a very safe place.

But Europe has also lost its way. It no longer welcomes people from regions in which prosperity and freedom are lacking.

Many young people in Europe proudly consider themselves to be European rather than French, Spanish, or German. But the days when there was a Europe to be proud of are over. Europe is changing into an intolerant, narrow-minded place in which one doesn't want to live anymore.

This post first appeared on HuffPost Germany. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.