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Monday, November 20, 2006

Europe: A young generation of homegrown Muslims is challenging the region’s self-image

The debate about where or whether Islam belongs in Europe has become a conversational genre. To ban or not to ban headscarves in schools? Terrorism versus civil liberties? Whither multiculturalism? All worthy questions, you may say, but what do they have to do with charcuterie?....

The search for an answer, still far from conclusive, has emerged as the most passionately debated issue in European life. Not so long ago, Europe’s Muslims were left to wrestle with their own identity issues. Their job, as native Europeans saw it, was to assimilate—or not. That’s changed, utterly. Today the specter of terrorism, fairly or not, looms over the Continent’s Islamic communities; last week’s bombings in Turkey only intensified the fears and suspicions prevalent in many countries. That makes the question of how to integrate Europe’s Muslims both more critical—and far more difficult....

As Muslims gain the political confidence to assert themselves, and the skills to forge alliances with other groups, their impact on European culture and society can only grow. Even the reluctant French government is realizing that life in a globalized world may mean that Muslims—and, indeed, religion itself—cannot be kept in purdah. Nor can the broad cultural identities associated with religion and ethnicity simply be denied. The devout and the doubting, the radical and the secular, all may think of themselves as “Muslim,” and more and more they will assume their rightful place in the arts and the media, in parliaments and on village councils, in board rooms and on military promotion lists. [Link]

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