Europe has, long before New York City was considered the melting pot of the world, been a place where strangers were frequently seen, where differences were cautiously tolerated overall.
America has been the jingoist nation, probably because it's so big and so difficult to get to and to get around in. The coasts are fairly heterogeneous, and so we tend to be accepting of differences, but the heartland has learned to fear differences. So today comes this story that America's southern states are infecting Europe
European Muslims worry about frank new Islam debateNot good. This does not bode well for any near-term settlement of the terrorism issue.
[...]Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw sparked off the British debate this month by saying the full facial veils some Muslim women wear hindered integration. Some Muslim leaders called his remarks offensive and accused him of whipping up Islamophobia.
"Intolerance is growing in Europe," said Dalil Boubakeur, president of France's Muslim Council, who saw the new mood as a response to security fears and the radicalization of a small minority of Muslims who do not accept European values.
"There is a sense we are living in a different time," said Dilwar Hussain, head of policy research at the Islamic Foundation in Britain.
"With all the security concerns, people feel they can be more frank," Hussain said. "The reaction from Muslims is to recede further and further into a sense of victimhood."
As we've seen in our own country, strident militancy and extremist positions do not make for good relations with anyone else or for good governance, for that matter. Partisanship has its place, of course, but the ability to reach out and hear the other side, and more important, to get the other side to hear you, is far more valuable.
A parallel circumstance, altho admittedly a bare parallel, occured in the time after the Civil War here, when blacks, because they stood out, were still challenged to show they belonged in our society. The polarization on this created such lovely testimonies to American tolerance as the KKK, the John Birch Society, and eventually, the Black Panthers (lest you think only whites were polarized).
European policies toward Muslim minorities have ranged from the tolerant British and Dutch "multicultural" path to France's strict ban on Muslim headscarves in state schools.Lest you think it's only the Euros who are polarized.
But the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh and the bombings in Madrid and London have deepened concerns about whether Europe's 15 million Muslims all accept European values.
"Europeans were stunned to see that even people who were quite integrated could do these things," Boubakeur said.
It took America nearly 150 years (and counting) to overcome this xenophobia. Europe is really only just getting started.