Rather than seeking to address the larger alienation of mainstream Muslims, European leaders often appear to do the opposite -- by challenging the culture of Muslims and defending gratuitous insults of Islam.[Link]
One recent but hardly isolated example came from Britain's House of Commons leader, Jack Straw, who criticized Muslim women for wearing veils and said he asked those who visited his office to remove them, on the grounds that they impede "communication." It's hard to believe that veils are the biggest obstacle to communication between British politicians and the country's Muslims; and it's even harder to imagine Mr. Straw raising similar objections about Sikh turbans or Orthodox Jewish dress. True, the Labor Party MP was reflecting -- or maybe pandering to -- the concern of many in Britain about the self-segregation of some Muslims. But veils -- which are also under government attack in France and Italy -- are not the cause of that segregation, much less of terrorism. Attacks on Muslim custom by public officials are more likely to reinforce than to ease the community's alienation.
Mr. Straw and other European politicians could contribute far more to combating radical Islam if they focused on those who actually foment intolerance among European Muslims -- as well as those in the mainstream community who promote prejudice against Arabs and South Asians and their descendants. Muslims in Europe should be invited to embrace the countries where they live on their own terms. They should be expected to respect laws and freedoms. But politicians would do better to work on dismantling the barriers Muslims face in getting educations and jobs rather than those that distinguish Islam from the secular majority.
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