In This Review

When Islam and Democracy Meet: Muslims in Europe and the United States
When Islam and Democracy Meet: Muslims in Europe and the United States
By Jocelyne Césari
Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, 280 pp
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Césari's focus is the interaction between an often distrustful and prejudiced West and the large populations of Muslims in western Europe and the United States. It is the mutual transformation of these societies that interests her, and she is fully aware of the differences between the United States, with its tradition of pluralism in a strong civil society, and Europe, where the tensions between the state and religion have been central to national histories. In Europe, she notes, the "conflation of categories of race, class and religion" have led to the segregation of the most vulnerable Muslim communities and the "resurgence of xenophobic and racist nationalism." Throughout the West, meanwhile, secularization has both encouraged "the more personal forms of Islam" and fostered a fundamentalism that embraces "a totalizing version of communal Islam." César also shows that the young Muslims attracted to jihadist movements and causes are not the poorest but those most affected by their displaced status; the jihadists "dream of an idealized community in opposition to the dehumanization of the post-modern world." She concludes that "global Islam is ... at crossroads," facing a crisis in religious authority and the rise of an ideology of intolerance and hate -- but that there are also hints at a renaissance in Islam. The tension between reformism and radicalism will dominate in the coming decades -- and be deeply affected by the policies Western governments forge in an effort to integrate and institutionalize Islam.