Why 'Islamophobia' is less thinly veiled in Europe
How anti-Muslim sentiment is different in European countries than in America.
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"Values of national identity and patriotism are starting to take shape over an older argument in Europe about tolerance, plurality, freedom of expression," says Edward Mortimer, vice president of the Salzburg Seminar in Austria, which helped launch the Muslim professionals network.Skip to next paragraph
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The past year has a brought a wide range of anti-Islamic measures. Switzerland passed a referendum to ban minarets on mosques. Belgium has prohibited the burqa, or full-length veil worn by Muslim women, and France is about to.
In June, voters in the Netherlands – whose second-largest city, Rotterdam, has a majority population of ethnic minorities – made the party of anti-Islam political figure Geert Wilders the third largest in Dutch politics. Mr. Wilders's platform calls for banning the Koran and new mosques, taxing head scarves, and ending immigration from Muslim countries. Wilders is now in negotiations to join the ruling coalition. He is also scheduled to appear on Sept. 11 alongside former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich at a ground zero commemoration in New York.
Such politics has engendered Muslim antipathy in parts of both the right and the left. Over the past five years, "Islamophobia" has become more mainstream and more comfortably settled. Social politeness and taboos on talking about Islam are eroding at a time when Europeans aren't exactly sure what they think about Islam.
The ground zero debate in Europe, for example, has brought a small geyser of anti-Muslim invective, even on websites like Le Monde's. They included an often articulate though sometimes churlish depiction of Islam as a single monolithic form of faith, inherently violent and extreme, and of Muslims as incapable of being moderate.
"Racism is the lowest form of human stupidity, but Islamophobia is the height of common sense," is the motto of a Danish group called "Stop Islamization of Europe," which somewhat typifies a broader sentiment.
An essay on a French leftist website, AgoraVox, spoke of shock that in the same week German authorities closed a radical Hamburg mosque, New York City authorities approved the Islamic center: "The Mayor, instigated by an imam who is said to be 'moderate,' plans to build a mosque extremely close to Ground Zero, where stood the Twin Towers that Islamist fanaticism reduced to rubble.... You rub your eyes and read again. No, it is not a hallucination ... you look for the justification ... but instead of understanding, you dive deeper into an impression of unreality."