Remember Theo Van Gogh, and Shudder for the Future

One year ago, the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh had his throat ritually slit by Mohamed Bouyeri, a Muslim born in Holland who spoke fluent Dutch. This event has totally transformed Dutch politics, leading to stepped-up police controls that have now virtually shut off new immigration there. Together with the July 7 bombings in London (also perpetrated by second generation Muslims who were British citizens), this event should also change dramatically our view of the nature of the threat from radical Islamism. A critical source of contemporary radical Islamism lies not in the Middle East, but in Western Europe.

Radical Islamism is as much a product of modernization and globalization as it is a religious phenomenon; it would not be nearly as intense if Muslims could not travel or surf the Web. This means that “fixing” the Middle East by bringing modernization and democracy to countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia will not solve the terrorism problem, but may in the short run make the problem worse. Democracy and modernization in the Muslim world are desirable for their own sake, but we will continue to have a big problem with terrorism in Europe regardless of what happens there.

The real challenge for democracy lies in Europe, where the problem is an internal one of integrating large numbers of angry young Muslims. Countries like Holland and Britain need to reverse the counterproductive multiculturalist policies that sheltered radicalism, and crack down on extremists. But they also need to reformulate their definitions of national identity to be more accepting of people from non-Western backgrounds.

Many Europeans assert that the American melting pot cannot be transported to European soil. This may be true, but if so, democracy in Europe will be in big trouble in the future as Muslims become an ever larger percentage of the population.

Excerpted from Remember Theo Van Gogh, and Shudder for the Future

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