"Europe Confronts Islam," a Commentary by Andrew Tillman

August 7, 2007

Author: Andrew Tillman

Source: Center for American Progress


Germany is home to 3.2 million Muslims, yet last month a small but vocal group staged a protest in Cologne to try to block plans for a Mosque. This kind of Muslim exclusionism has become a disturbing but growing trend in Western Europe.

Leading opponents of the mosque in Cologne—Manfred Rouhs, leader of a radical right-wing citizen’s movement known as Pro-Cologne, and Ralph Giordano, a respected German-Jewish writer and Holocaust survivor—cite the mosque’s largely Turkish constituency as a primary cause for concern. “These people only speak Turkish,” Rouhs told The New York Times. “They see no need to learn German. We think that’s the wrong way, and because of this we are critical of the project.” In Giordano’s view, the mosque would be “an expression of the creeping Islamization of our land.”

The continued threat of terrorism may be part of what is making Europeans reluctant to embrace the Muslim community, but as USA Today notes, Muslims are essential to combating terrorism and securing global peace. Europe and the rest of the world cannot afford to continue to alienate this segment of the community.

Despite this warning, Germany isn’t the only one experiencing tensions. Former foreign secretary of Great Britain Jack Straw ignited an ongoing debate about the use of veils in British society when he wrote in The Lancashire Telegraph last year that he “felt uncomfortable about talking to someone ‘face-to-face’ who I could not see.” According to an Ipsos MORI poll conducted shortly afterwards, 59 percent of Londoners agreed with Straw’s insinuation that wearing veils is bad for race relations. And more recently, David Sexton, a columnist for The Evening Standard, wrote that the veil is “abusive, a walking rejection of all our freedoms.” It’s therefore unsurprising that some Muslim women who wear a veil report being the object of verbal abuse as well as legal action restricting their right to wear it.