In This Review

The Islamic Challenge: Politics and Religion in Western Europe
The Islamic Challenge: Politics and Religion in Western Europe
By Jytte Klausen
Oxford University Press, 2005, 240 pp.

Klausen, a Danish political scientist who teaches at Brandeis, interviewed 300 European Muslim leaders in Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom in order to discover what European Muslim elites think about the issues raised by the presence of so many Muslims in those countries and the policies pursued by European governments in order to integrate or assimilate them. The best way of dispelling myths and prejudices is to confront them with facts, and what makes this thoughtful and honest volume so useful is its refusal to simplify an extraordinarily complex picture. Few of the results support the notion of a "clash of civilizations"; extremism is not a clear and present danger. But moderation and widespread acceptance of liberal principles are only a first step toward accommodation. Of course, the problem of accommodation can be solved only if European states and societies show a willingness to make room for Islam and, if necessary, adapt their "state-church policies and public philosophies" accordingly. This is especially difficult when the latter are, as in France, resolutely anticommunitarian or when ethnic and religious prejudices make Muslim integration problematic and perpetuate discrimination. By destroying bogeymen, Klausen forces us to face rationally and compassionately sensitive and difficult issues of great importance to Europe's future.