Am I the only one with the weird sense that we'll one day see this same sort of documentary montage, replete with headlines like "Sarkozy Says Burka 'Not Welcome' in France" and "Belgian MPs Vote to Ban Islamic Burqa in Public" and "French Parliament Codemns Full Islamic Veil" in the buildup of Time-Life's 2050 offering "THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS: the European Tinderbox in the Great West-v-Islam Culture War"?
Oh, I am? Well, don't mind me.
(So long as we're on the subject, I should link to this interview in Globalia Magazine with the brilliant Olivier Roy. His first answer, which I'll reproduce here in full, deals with precisely this subject.)
The debate in Europe has shifted in some 25 years (a whole generation) between immigration and the visible symbols of Islam. Which creates a paradox: even people who were opposed to immigration acknowledge now that the second and third generation of migrants are here to stay and that Islam has rooted itself within Europe. So now the debate is about the status of Islam. And here we have a strange phenomenon: while anti-immigration feeling is mainly associated with the conservative right, anti-Islamic sentiment is to be found on both the left and the right, but for two very different reasons. For the right, Europe is Christian and Islam should be treated as a tolerated, albeit inferior religion. There is (unfortunately) no way to ban it (because of the principle of “freedom of religion”, inscribed in our constitutions, international treaties and UN charter), but there are means to limit its visibility without necessarily going against the principle of freedom of religion (for instance the European Court of Human Rights did not condemn the banning of the scarf in French schools). For the left, the issue is more generally secularism, women’s rights and fundamentalism: it opposes the veil, not so much because it is Islamic, rather because it seems to contradict women’s rights. Hence the debate on IslamTake a look.
disguises a far more complicated issue: what is a European identity, and what is the role of religions in Europe; and of course, on these two issues the left and the right take very different positions. But we are witnessing the rise of new populist movements (like Geert Wilder’s In Holland) mixing both approaches, basically siding with the right but using leftist arguments.