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Europe: Integrating Islam

Introduction

Since 9/11, Western Europe's growing Muslim population has been the focus of debate on issues ranging from immigration policy to cultural identity to security. Several incidents in recent years have increased tensions between some Western European states and their Muslim populations: the 2004 Madrid and 2005 London attacks, the 2004 ban of the head scarf coupled with recent calls to ban the "burqa" in France, the 2005 Paris riots, the 2006 Danish cartoon incident, and several high-profile murders.

Despite signs that Muslims are beginning to succeed in business and academia in countries such as France and Germany, many analysts say most of Western Europe's Muslims are poorly integrated into society. They cite closed ethnic neighborhoods, high crime rates in Muslim communities, calls for use of sharia law in Europe, the wearing of the veil, and other examples as evidence of a conflict with European values. Fears over a possible major demographic shift toward Islam as well as ongoing Muslim assimilation problems highlight the continuing divide between Europe and its Muslim population.

Islamic Populations in Europe

After World War II, Western Europe welcomed a large immigrant labor force to help rebuilding efforts. Later more immigrants were admitted to meet rapid economic growth, allow family reunification, and provide asylum. At first, concerns over the influx of workers from other countries were "largely about race and ethnicity," notes Ceri Peach, a professor of social geography at Oxford University, in a 2007 report (PDF) from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The rise of Islamic regimes after the Iranian revolution in 1979--and more recently the increase in terrorism--has called attention to the fact that many of these immigrants were not only ethnically different but also Muslim.

Western Europe has experienced an increase in immigration from...

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