Islam, the American way

Posted on September 3, 2007

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The Economist

Aug 30th 2007
Why the United States is fairer to Muslims than “Eurabia” is

IN PITTSBURGH, a Turkish group, pious but peaceful, decides to rethink its plans for an Islamic centre after an angry public hearing. In Clitheroe, a town in northern England, a plan to turn an ex-church into a mosque wins planning approval after seven failed bids. In Austria a far-rightist, Jorg Haider, grabs headlines by proposing that no mosques or minarets should be built in the province of Carinthia, where he is governor. In Memphis, Tennessee, Muslims manage to build a large cemetery despite local objections to their burial customs.

On the face of it, there is something similar about all these vignettes of inter-faith politics in the Western world. They all illustrate the strong emotions, and opportunistic electoral games, that are surfacing in many countries as Muslim minorities, increasingly prosperous and confident, aspire to build more mosques and other communal buildings.All these stories show the way in which whipped-up fears of a “clash of civilisations” can inflame the humdrum politics of a locality.

But there is a big transatlantic difference in the way such disputes are handled (see article[1]). Although America has plenty of Islam-bashers ready to play on people’s fears, it offers better protection to the mosque builders. In particular, its constitution, legal system and political culture all generally take the side of religious liberty. [more]

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