Is Islam Endangering 'Europeannesess?'

While countries such as the United States, Britain and Canada have rejected the social "melting pot" model for a "salad bowl" or "mosaic" metaphor, Fekete says the notion of multiculturalism in Western Europe is in jeopardy.

"Political parties have been introducing new 'integration measures,' and these enter into the highly public discourse about the limits of cultural diversity and a European fixation with social homogeneity that eschews pluralism," she said. "And the underlying theme is this is based on the Muslim community."

Noting that integration "is a two-way street," Fekete warns that by denying Muslim immigrants citizenship rights, European governments risk further alienating the community.

Indeed after decades of Muslim migrations -- mostly from former colonies -- Muslim representation in European parliaments is still low, with only two practicing Muslim members of Parliament in Britain, one in Germany and none in the French parliament.

Experts warn that the lack of political representation, coupled with a growing intolerance of Islamic culture, increases the risk of increasing extremism among Europe's young Muslim population.

Certainly, the existence of the Hamburg, Germany, terror cell -- which planned the 9/11 attacks -- as well as growing evidence that the March 11 Madrid train bombings were masterminded by Islamic extremists in Spain have increased security concerns in Europe.

But Muslim community leaders say it's unfair to castigate all of Western Europe's estimated 12.5 million Muslims for the actions of a few. They point that contrary to popular European belief, extremism among the continent's Muslims is not widespread. According to a report in the British magazine The Economist, for instance, out of about 1,500 mosques in Britain, only two were known to be run by extremists.

In the Name of Women's Rights

One of the chief complaints of Europe's Muslims is the manner in which Islamic fundamentalism is widely viewed as proof of the inherent patriarchy and cultural reactionism of Islam. Under this rubric, they say women's rights have now become the fulcrum around which European Islamophobia revolves.

The French hijab ban is meant to ensure secularism in public schools, but it's also aimed at protecting the rights of girls who, supporters of the ban say, may be forced by their families to wear the veil. Muslim women's activists warn, however, that the new law could cause families to keep their daughters at home, thus preventing many Muslim girls from getting an education.

And in the Netherlands, the current "clash of civilizations" furor was sparked Nov. 2, when controversial filmmaker Theo van Gogh was stabbed and shot to death in Amsterdam, and a man with dual Dutch-Moroccan citizenship was arrested. Van Gogh had received death threats after "Submission," his film about the abuse of Muslim women by Muslim men, was aired on national television. It included a scene in which four Muslim women wore transparent chadors -- or traditional gowns -- over semi-naked bodies inscribed with Koranic verses.

While he condemns van Gogh's killing, Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, notes that the subject of his film, violence against women, is not exclusive to the Muslim community.

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