European Countries Face Dilemma of Muslim Integration Weekly Standard writer Christopher Caldwell talks with Robert Siegel about the continuing dilemma that European countries face with integrating their growing Muslim populations.

European Countries Face Dilemma of Muslim Integration

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It has become a daily routine in the news business this month, checking on the day's events related to the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Today, high level EU-Islamic talks in Saudi Arabia, protests in Pakistan, Hamas organizes 500 Palestinian children in stomping on the Danish flag, Iran says it didn't fan protests and demands an apology. This conflict simply does not go away.

Perhaps that's because it reflects some very hard and unpleasant truths about the relationship between Muslims and the West in the 21st century. Christopher Caldwell of the Weekly Standard has been writing about that relationship and joins us. Chris Caldwell, what do you think is the biggest single lesson the West should take away from this episode of the Muhammad cartoons so far?

CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL: Well, so far, it would be how differently Westerners and let's say native Europeans view these subjects from new Europeans, from Muslim Europeans. And, in that respect, this controversy bears a certain resemblance to our own O.J. Simpson case, where there was a gap between white and black Americans that was a shock to both sides, I think.

SIEGEL: There was a poll in the Sunday Times, the London Sunday paper, yesterday of British public opinion, that 86 percent of those polled thought the protests by British Muslims were a gross overreaction. By 56 percent to 29 percent, respondents to that poll said it was right to publish the cartoons in Denmark and to republish them elsewhere. Huge gap in perception of that.

CALDWELL: Yes. And, although those protests did not result in any violence, I think that it was the extremism of the placards which called for the extermination of the enemies of Islam, and beheading the enemies of Islam, that really frightened the British viewers.

I saw that poll, and there was a number in it that struck me as even a bit more depressing, which was that only 17 percent of Britains in that poll envisioned an eventual, peaceful, co-existence between Britains and their Muslim communities, if I remember that correctly.

SIEGEL: I want you to elaborate on something you wrote in the Financial Times that was a broader observation about Denmark. You wrote, "In recent decades, Denmark has been a haven for hard-core pornography, Nazi broadcasting, and movies flogging the dead horse of European Christianity. One did not notice global leaders rushing to condemn the Danes. Are the Muhammad drawings so much worse than these? Or is it that they have been met with a credible threat of violence?"

And you conclude, "The question ought to embarrass those western artists and intellectuals who style themselves as subversives."

CALDWELL: Well, there are a lot of opinions that were historically subversive. For instance, I think of J.M. Synge's play The Playboy Of The Western World, which caused riots when it was shown in Dublin, a century ago.

There are a lot of these, opinions like that, that are historically subversive, but they sort of cease to be subversive once the battle is won. I'm afraid we're getting a reminder of what real opposition to opinion looks like, and it's not as comfortable a world for artists and for opinion makers of all kinds as it was ten or twenty years ago.

SIEGEL: If somebody will in fact kill you for what you have published.

CALDWELL: Well yes, and, there's a very big difference between the sort that Salman Rushdie received for The Satanic Verses and the kind of protests you see outside movies that, say, the Archdiocese of New York finds anti- Christian.

SIEGEL: Does it seem possible to you that in the reaction to Muslim immigration, or to events like the French riots and the Danish cartoons, that Europe might actually turn increasingly to xenophobic movements, which have typically been, if not marginalized, certainly held at bay in recent years?

CALDWELL: Yeah, a lot is coming into the open in this immigrant discussion. And it's funny, you have a rough balance now between an increasing understanding that immigration is going to be economically necessary, and then increasing suspicion that it is not tolerable along the ground rules that have prevailed until now.

So there's going to be a lot of negotiation between those two sides over the coming years, and I don't think it's going to stabilize around either an absolute xenophobia or the same kind of absolute openness that was the case thirty years ago. But, Europe will work it out. I'm confident.

SIEGEL: Chris Caldwell. Thanks a lot of talking with us once again.

CALDWELL: Thank you, Robert.

SIEGEL: Christopher Caldwell, senior editor of the Weekly Standard.

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