Will Europe put its foot down?
By Hege Storhaug
The Swiss vote against the construction of any more Islamic minarets has forced Europe, increasingly awash with Muslim immigrants, to ask itself some difficult questions: How many minarets can Europe tolerate before its strong sense of communal connection is dissolved? What will happen, then, to democracy’s liberal values?
Either Islam will be Europeanised, or Europe will be Islamised.” In recent years this prediction has been made by many major experts, among them the American Bernard Lewis, the Syrian-born German Bassam Tibi, and the French Gilles Kepel. This is, without question, an uncomfortable and sensitive topic, but it’s one that is very pertinent now that the Swiss have put their foot down and said that they will not accept another minaret within their borders.
In recent decades, Islam has exploded in Europe. You can see the changes with your own eyes from year to year —whether it’s the increasing presence of hijabs on the street in a city like Oslo, or the bearded men with ankle-high baggy pants, or the new and resplendent mosques that are under construction. For my part, I’ve noticed an increasing insecurity and unease among ‘ordinary’ people who feel like aliens in their own country. People ask: What is the purpose of this project? Don’t we, as a nation, have a right to pass our own cultural legacy, our traditions and values, on to our children and grandchildren? Should we, in the name of tolerance, give in to the demands made by ‘others’ whose influence is growing, and whose voices are becoming louder, as their numbers increase? Or as a Norwegian Labour Party politician said to me in a private conversation: “On the day that most of the members of the city council are Muslims, what do you think will happen to the right of Oslo bars to serve alcohol?” Another leading Labourite with over a couple of decades’ experience in politics put it more bluntly when I asked him “What you think about immigration from the Muslim world?” The answer was so crisp, merciless, and genuinely felt that I gasped: “What have they contributed?” Period.
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