Issue #14, Fall 2009

Islam at the Gates

Are Muslim immigrants to blame for their isolation from European society? Or is Europe?

Indeed, moderate Islam remains a viable, healthy alternative in such places as Bosnia-Herzegovina, where–despite efforts by Saudi Arabia to build Wahabi mosques throughout the country–the vast majority of the Muslim population has embraced secularism and tolerance. Moderate imams have denounced terror and become forces for assimilation, from the United Kingdom to Belgium to France. Moreover, the failure across Europe of xenophobic political movements, such as Haider’s Freedom Party, to gain momentum suggests that either most Europeans are blind to the Islamic “plot,” or Caldwell has wildly exaggerated it. (I covered the backlash against Haider in the spring of 2000, when tens of thousands of young Austrians poured into the streets of Vienna to denounce both his anti-Semitic background and his anti-immigrant platform.)

To be sure, Europe has compiled a largely dismal record in integrating its Islamic populations, and that sense of second-class status can, as the Paris banlieues riots attest, make radical Islam seem, to many, an appealing choice. But to equate this with the violent tendencies of an entire religion or an entire population is reductivist and inflammatory, and undermines the many insights of Caldwell’s provocative book.

 

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