Is Islam Endangering 'Europeannesess?'

German politicians warn that "Germanism" is being subsumed by people of Turkish origin, who make up a little over 2 percent of the population. French supporters of a hijab ban believe headscarves on schoolgirls pose a risk to the French ideal of laïcité, or secularism. And in Denmark, controversial new rules that strip children of immigrants of their right to automatic citizenship are drawing criticism from human rights groups, who say they are a breach of citizenship rights as well as the right to a family life.

Across the continent, the rhetoric of a threatened "Europeanness" is making its way from fringe far-right circles into mainstream national debates.

Europewide statistics on the extent of anti-Muslim attacks are hard to calculate. While Germany saw a 40 percent increase in reported racist crimes last year, and the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission has recorded a 13-fold increase in backlash complaints in Britain since the 9/11 attacks, such figures are difficult to collate in countries like France, where ethnic origins of complainants are not recorded.

Nevertheless, Europewide opinion polls show an alarmingly high level of intolerance toward Muslims within the European Union. One recent poll found 14 percent of EU citizens admitted to being "intolerant" of minorities, while another 25 percent said they were "ambivalent" toward them.

Desperately Seeking Homogeneity

Allegations of discrimination against Muslims are not exclusive to Europe. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the United States has come under heavy criticism for alleged civil rights infringements under the controversial Patriot Act. Rights groups have also recorded a dramatic increase in profiling complaints and backlash attacks against American Muslims.

And like Europe, immigration is at the front line of the anti-Muslim assault in the United States, where thousands of illegal immigrants have been indefinitely detained without criminal charges and summarily deported without access to lawyers.

But rights activists say that unlike Europe, the rights of immigrants to become naturalized U.S. citizens have not been compromised despite the domestic war on terror.

"I don't want to give the United States too much credit, but it is true that in the three years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. continues to have a citizenship program that is far more speedy and accessible for people who meet the requirements," said Julia Hall, senior researcher from Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia Division.

Right-wing European politicians such as Peter Skaarup, deputy chairman of the Danish People's Party, say it's unfair to compare U.S. and European cultural track records.

"It's very difficult to compare the United States with Denmark, because the United States is a country built on immigration, on being a multi-ethnic society," said Skaarup, whose party recently ran a campaign warning Danes their country was turning into a "Muslim-majority nation."

"Denmark," Skaarup said, "does not have a record of immigration. We've been quite a homogeneous society for many years, and for many of us therefore it comes as a very big challenge when suddenly there is a very large immigration."

No 'Melting Pot,' No 'Salad Bowl'

At the heart of Europe's rising Islamophobia is the debate between integration and multiculturalism.

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