Europe can feel at home with 16m Muslims

“When Italians immigrated to France in the late 19th century, many French be­lieved these often under­educated, religious newcomers would never integrate. Some Italians were killed in race riots, write Jonathan Laurence and Justin Vaisse in their book Integrating Islam. Later, Portuguese, Polish or Jewish immigrants were deemed ‘unable to integrate’ into France, but they did.

“Now the European Union’s 16m or so Muslims are often considered unassimilable. Fifty years after they began arriving in Europe, their rates of joblessness and incarceration remain high. A very small number are fundamentalist terrorists, as in the recently foiled plot in Germany. Muslims also traditionally have more children than native Europeans. Hence the American neo-conservative Norman Podhoretz, in his new book, predicts that western Europe will be ‘conquered from within by Islamofascism’.

“Yet the Financial Times’ recent series of articles on Muslims in Europe showed nothing of the kind. We found that most concerns about Europe’s Muslims were overblown – despite the terrorists – and in time may fade like those ancient fears of Italians.”

Simon Kuper in the Financial Times, 17 September 2007