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November 7, 2004
Europe Reconsiders Muslims In Wake Of Filmmaker's Murder

AP religion analyst Brian Murphy reports that tensions are rising between mainstream European society and the growing Muslim community in its midst, especially after the brutal murder of Theo Van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker who criticized Islamic practices with regards to women. More Muslim threats against Dutch politicians followed the murder, and Europeans are beginning to ask themselves whether Muslims can ever be assimilated into their communities:

But those big issues fade on the streets of many European centers. Here even in places like tolerant Amsterdam it's often expressed as a gnawing feeling that militant factions in Islamic immigrant communities are gaining ground and chipping away at values such as free speech and secular politics.

"There is a general feeling that a social collision is becoming inevitable," said Jan Rath, co-director of the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies at the University of Amsterdam. "People think it's been building for years and now finally coming to the surface."

The landmarks along the way included the 1989 death threat "fatwa," or religious edict, against British writer Salman Rushdie for alleged insults to Islam in "The Satanic Verses," the rise of neo-Fascist movements, the assassination of Dutch anti-immigrant politician Pim Fortuyn in 2002 and France's ongoing showdown with Muslims over a ban on headscarves and other religious apparel in schools.

"My impression is the European voices that say, `Everyone is equal, but we are more equal than Muslims,' are growing," Rath said.

Curiously, we seem to have avoided the same kinds of confrontation with Islam in America that the Europeans have experienced, probably because the immigration levels have not been as heavy here. But I think there may be other reasons as well, having to do both with the relative lack of the nanny state and a tradition of religious freedom. For all of the talk about how Bush's election victory portends the establishment of Jesusland, the truth is that America has always been more welcoming of all religious faiths and has been less bound by religious traditions, and especially sectarian conflict, than Europe.

Europeans have faced off against Muslim invasions in centuries past, and Muslims still carry the memories of Islamic ascendancy on the Continent. That history drives the conflict in the Balkans to this day, and the long memory of Islam guarantees that any co-existence with Christian or secular Europe will necessarily be an uneasy one at best. With extremists and terrorists calling for the reconquest of Andalusia and Muslims agitating for their own European state in Kosovo and elsewhere, both sides have awoken to the fact that Islam is not about free assimilation with other cultures.

What lessons can America learn from this? Bear in mind that Islam never had any foothold in the Western Hemisphere, and so the historical issues that cause so much turmoil in Europe have no counterpart here. However, until mainstream Islam speaks out against such ambitions and tactics with a strong and clear voice -- which they have yet to do -- we should monitor our own immigration policies from Islamic nations and ensure that we do not have our own flood of agitators to band together and cause civil disruption.

The Muslims that emigrate here tend to do so because they work for a living, as we lack the vast social programs of Europe and survival requires hard work. That tends to turn people pragmatic instead of giving them too much time to radicalize and organize. It probably also attracts those Muslims more inclined to working hard instead of rabble-rousing. We need to maintain those policies while keeping a close eye on those we allow to migrate to the US. For Europe, that option closed many years ago, and now they have to decide whether to cut off immigration altogether or to surrender to the inevitable overwhelming influence of Islam in two or three decades.

The only long-term solution that ensures the peace and stability of all these regions, Southwest Asia included, is the reduction of radicalism through the introduction of truly representative democracies in Arabia. Only by reducing the radical fervor at its source will Europe be secure in the long run. Shortsightedness, America-envy, and a twisted sense of political correctness -- along with a healthy dose of plain, old-fashioned cowardice -- keeps the old guard of Europe from seeing this. Until Europe as a whole develops the political will to solve the illness instead of decrying its symptoms, the murder of Theo Van Gogh will just be the first in a long string of asymmetrical attacks on Europe's will to resist the ummah and the dhimmitude radical Islamists have planned for them.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 7, 2004 11:00 AM

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