Courtesy Reuters

Europe's Divided Muslims

In his article "Europe's Angry Muslims" (July/August 2005), Robert Leiken argues that European Muslims are "distinct, cohesive, and bitter." He later writes that Islamist terrorist groups should not be compared with marginal European terrorist groups because Islamist terrorists have a "social base" from which to operate. The implied claim that all European Muslims are or could be supporters of terrorists (if they are not terrorists themselves) needs to be answered.

European Muslims are far from a "cohesive" group sharing "bitter" anti-Western sentiments. The vast majority of Muslims who immigrated to Europe after World War II were from countries as diverse as Morocco, India, and Indonesia. Leiken overlooks the most recent British census data, according to which Muslims make up only 2.7 percent of the total population and are divided among the following communities: 43 percent Pakistani, 17 percent Bangladeshi, 9 percent Indian, 7 percent "Other White," 7 percent "Black African," and so on. In each European country, these Muslim communities remain largely separate from one another; moreover, within some of these communities, religious denomination, tribal or clan affiliation, and class create further divides. There is no British Islam, much less a European Islam.

Finally, European Muslims do not share a single political viewpoint. In the United Kingdom, for example, there were Muslim organizations that supported the Iraq war (such as the Iraqi Shiite Al-Khoei Foundation), Muslim groups that expressed their opposition to the war in meetings with Prime Minister Tony Blair (such as the Muslim Council of Britain), and Muslim groups that led street protests against the war (such as the Muslim Association of Britain). There was a similar diversity of opinion with regard to the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. European Muslims as a community are not a threat to either Europe or the United States.

Liat Radcliffe Ross, St. Antony's College, Oxford

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