A European melting pot?

Watching mostly Muslim ghettos in neighboring France burn with flames and discontent, a leader of Spain's million-strong Muslims is posing this question: Can Europe be more like America in its attitude toward immigrants?

"Either Europe develops and supports the idea of a mixed culture, or Europe has no future," Abdelkarim Carrasco told the Associated Press. "Europe has to learn from what the United States has done. It is a country that has taken in people from all over the world."

In light of the antipathy toward the US in much of the global Muslim community, this look-to-America observation is an ironic one. But the time has come to seriously consider it.

Before the ongoing rampage of mostly Muslim youngsters from the French projects; before the London terrorist bombings carried out by Islamic extremists; before a Dutch-Moroccan fanatic shot and stabbed a controversial film director in Amsterdam and plunged the Netherlands into a soul-searching quest for what it means to be Dutch - before all these things happened, it was inconceivable to consider transporting the twin concepts of the American melting pot and the American dream across the ocean to Europe.

First of all, these have always been viewed as unique to US history and culture, and certainly their track record is full of bumps and potholes.

And second, who would ever have thought it possible to plant such seeds in Europe when citizenship there is still largely determined by bloodline, as opposed to place of birth (the US model)? When German politicians blindly maintain that "we are not an immigrant country," yet Germany's bursting with Turkish guest workers? When France claims liberté, egalité, and fraternité for all - except the millions of largely Muslim North and West Africans who suffer disproportionately high crime, joblessness, poor housing and education, and who are nowhere to be found among French elites?

Finally, how can a continent that can't even agree on what it means to be European possibly broaden its view to embrace non-Europeans?

It seems, however, that Europe has no choice now but full integration. About 5 million Muslims live in France; an estimated 15 to 20 million in the EU. It is a de facto land of immigration, and the involvement of second generation Muslims in all of the above mentioned tragic events would indicate that Europe has failed to integrate not only non-Western newcomers, but their children, too.

Surely, the severity and duration of the riots in France will prompt politicians to consider specific measures to visibly improve the living conditions in the ethnic ghettos.

But for France and Europe as a whole, a mental change must occur as well. Europe needn't adopt the melting-pot term, but it must accept its principle: that a mixture of cultures is an enriching plus, not just a welfare burden.

And while Europe doesn't have the equivalent of the American dream, it must create the kind of equal opportunity and encouragement of individual achievement that allows a Barak Obama to become a US senator, or an Arnold Schwarzenegger to become a governor.

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