Europe must find a home for its Muslims
In the wake of the Muhammad cartoon protests, comes another cultural assault in Europe. An anti-Semitic, anti-US film from Turkey has filled German cinemas with crowds of applauding Turks, a large Muslim minority there. An uproar, leading to the pulling of the movie, underscores continuing incendiary events in Europe.Skip to next paragraph
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The caution is this: While a series of violent and nonviolent Muslim-European clashes since 9/11 has alerted Europeans to the necessity of better integrating sizable, socially isolated Muslim populations, this mounting number of incidents also has the potential to harm that process.
Some early signs of that are visible. Anti-immigrant parties are gaining in countries such as Denmark (the source of the toon turbulence) and the Netherlands (where an Islamic radical murdered a Dutch filmmaker).
Even before the toon explosion, Denmark last year tightened its immigration laws, increasing from three to seven years the time it takes to get permanent residency - slowing the process of full integration for newcomers.
The British Parliament, meanwhile, just passed a law making the glorification of terrorism a crime (an unnecessary step because inciting violence is already a crime).
And an interior minister from one of Germany's southern states is pushing a series of guideline questions for citizenship applicants that appears to target Muslims. For instance, parents would be asked whether they would allow their daughter to join school sports or swimming classes. This goes way beyond the federal citizenship requirement of accepting the German Consti- tution and its equal-rights provisions.
At a European Union summit in 1999, heads of state agreed to build a common immigration policy among EU members. That harmonizing idea became more of a priority after the Islamic terrorist attacks on Madrid and then London, but the underlying demographics make it a necessity. Estimates range from 20 million to 56 million migrants, many of them Muslim, living in now borderless Europe - which needs immigrants to replace and support its aging workforce. While more tightly controlling entry is an option, Europe has no choice but to integrate legal immigrants already there.
At the EU level, Europeans need to agree on a few common immigration parameters: family reunification standards, the right to work, and the amount of time it takes to become a citizen, for instance. That still leaves much leeway for individual countries and communities - where the hard work of integration actually takes place.
In the wake of last year's riots in France's immigrant suburbs, for example, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, a presidential candidate, is advocating the unthinkable for a country that sees itself as secular and egalitarian. One is affirmative action, shown to be working in university experiments. The other is mainstreaming Islam into French society, such as allowing for Muslim burials.
The trick here is for Europe not to let accumulating bombings or culture clashes or extremists fostering division distract it from integration. It can't ignore those incidents, of course, but Europe's postwar history of tolerance - and its religious heritage that includes the Golden Rule - must mark the way ahead.