Islam’s European Hope

Mohamed Merah’s killing spree in France in March, like the 2004 Madrid train bombings and the 2005 attacks in London’s Underground, has highlighted once again the dilemmas that Europe faces with regard to its growing Muslim minority. But is the picture really so bleak as those who despair of an emerging “Eurabia” would have us believe?

MADRID – Mohamed Merah’s killing spree in and around Toulouse in March, like the 2004 Madrid train bombings and the 2005 suicide attacks in London’s Underground, has highlighted once again the dilemmas that Europe faces with regard to its growing Muslim minority. No social-integration model has proven to be free of flaws. But is the picture really so bleak as those who despair of an emerging “Eurabia” would have us believe?

Neither the multicultural ethos (respect for “cultural diversity in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance,” as British Labor Minister Roy Jenkins put it in 1966), nor official indifference to religious identities (as in France, where the state, as the nineteenth-century historian Jules Michelet put it, “takes the place of God”) has worked as planned. Multiculturalism in Britain has entrenched almost self-contained Muslim communities and turned Islam into a badge of identity to counteract exclusion. Similarly, imposed laïcité(France’s strict republican secularism) seems to have deepened French Muslims’ attachment to their religious identity.

Devastatingly high unemployment rates among European Muslims (three times higher than the national average in most countries) aggravate their social marginalization and cultural self-segregation. Isolated, destitute, and in a state of permanent rage, the French banlieues and immigrant ghettos of British cities have turned into powder kegs where young Muslims easily fall prey to radical religious preaching and political extremism.

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