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The Myth of “Eurabia”

LONDON – There is a powerful narrative today about how many young European Muslims are susceptible to terrorism, how Islam leads to radicalization, and how Muslims, because of their creed, choose to live in ghettos and therefore create swamps that breed terrorists. This narrative’s most extreme form is the idea of “Eurabia,” an incendiary term that purportedly describes a phenomenon by which Muslim hordes are now contaminating Europe’s very DNA.

From this narrative, fear of homegrown terrorism resonates the most, as does the impetus to deal with Muslims as a foreign foe. So, too, does the idea that accommodating religious differences is dangerous. A false dichotomy is created in which Muslims must choose between a Western and European identity or a supposedly separate Islamic identity.

But the relationship between European Muslims’ faith and identification with European nations seldom conforms to the “Eurabia” stereotype. A wide-ranging global Gallup study that culminated in the book Who Speaks for Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think , by John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed, includes detailed and sophisticated analysis of European Muslims’ attitudes. The results suggest that religious and national identities are complementary, not competing, concepts.

Muslims living in Paris, London, and Berlin are more religious than the general public, but they are just as likely as anyone else to identify with their nation and its democratic institutions, and just as likely to reject violence.