Thursday, December 09, 2004

Islamic extremism in Europe

Islamic fundamentalism is causing many Europeans to change their views on religious tolerance:

In Germany, with its three million — mainly Turkish — Muslims, and France, with its five million of mainly North African descent, television viewers were shocked when local young Muslims approved of Van Gogh’s murder. "If you insult Islam, you have to pay," was a typical response.

"The notion of multiculturalism has fallen apart," said Angela Merkel, leader of Germany’s Christian Democrat opposition. "Anyone coming here must respect our constitution and tolerate our Western and Christian roots." Italy’s traditional tolerance towards immigrants has been eroded by fear of Islamism. An Ipsos poll in September showed that 48 per cent of Italians believed that a "clash of civilisations" between Islam and the West was under way and that Islam was "a religion more fanatical than any other".

Similar views can be heard across traditionally tolerant Scandinavia — and no longer just from the populist rightwing party’s such as Pia Kjaersgaard’s People’s Party in Denmark. The centre-right Government of Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has equipped Denmark with Europe’s toughest curbs on immigration, largely aimed at people from Muslim countries. In Sweden, where anti-Muslim feeling is running high and mosques have been burnt, schools have been authorised to ban pupils who wear full Islamic head-cover, although the measure comes nowhere near France’s new ban on the hijab in all state schools.

In Spain, with a rapidly rising population of nearly a million Muslims, the backlash has been less visible despite the bombings, but thousands demonstrated in Seville this week against plans to build a mosque in the city centre. The Government has also won approval by sending 500 extra police to monitor preachers and Muslim associations.

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