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November 18, 2004
How Europeans Resemble Radical Muslims

Irshad Manji writes a brilliant op-ed piece in today's New York Times giving her impressions of the difference between Europe and North America in how liberal Muslims are treated. She also includes her thoughts on the role of religion in Western life, one of the best rational answers I've yet seen.

Manji, who has traveled extensively between North America and Europe, and writes about the difference between the two in how they react to Muslims. For North Americans, she writes, the issues revolve around radicals who use Islam to justify terrorism. In Europe, they're much more concerned about headscarves than terrorists:

To get there, allow me to observe key differences between the debate over Islam in Western Europe and North America. In Western Europe, the entry point for this debate is the hijab - the headscarf that many Muslim women wear as a signal of modesty. By contrast, the entry point in North America is terrorism.

Some might say that difference is understandable. After all, Sept. 11 happened on American soil. But March 11 happened on European ground, yet the hijab remains the starting point for Europeans. Meanwhile, it makes barely a ripple in North America.

Why so? Manji writes that Europe is in the throes of a full-blown identity crisis, and that even the most liberal of Europeans -- actually, especially the most liberal Europeans -- see daily reminders of faith as threatening to their cherished secular humanism. In their own way, Europeans are every bit as paranoid about their identity as radical Muslims. This translates into policy decisions such as shutting Turkey out of the EU, even though it might slow up some Muslim immigration to Europe and even though Turkey has adopted all of the hallmarks of Western nations.

Manji also defends religion against the secular humanists of Europe who question her reliance on the belief in God:

Religion supplies a set of values, including discipline, that serve as a counterweight to the materialism of life in the West. I could have become a runaway materialist, a robotic mall rat who resorts to retail therapy in pursuit of fulfillment. I didn't. That's because religion introduces competing claims. It injects a tension that compels me to think and allows me to avoid fundamentalisms of my own.

Be sure to read Manji's essay in full.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 18, 2004 5:30 AM

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Tracked on November 18, 2004 8:26 AM

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