In an update and expansion of a WSJ piece he wrote more than a year ago (which I discussed here), Francis Fukuyama recommends that Europeans take a look at the traditional American example of civic education:
America may have something to teach Europeans here as they attempt to construct post-ethnic forms of national citizenship and belonging. American life is full of quasi-religious ceremonies and rituals meant to celebrate the countrys democratic political institutions: flag-raising ceremonies, the naturalisation oath, Thanksgiving and the 4th of July. Europeans, by contrast, have largely deritualised their political lives. Europeans tend to be cynical or dismissive of American displays of patriotism. But such ceremonies are important in the assimilation of new immigrants.
He suggests that European corporatism--which recognizes different publiccly-supported and semi-autonomous religious communities (or, in the Dutch case, "pillars")--makes it difficult to resist Muslim demands for similar treatment.
While the traditional groups may have arrived over time at a peaceful and mutually respectful modus vivendi, its not clear that recent Muslim arrivals have come to the same place. And its perhaps not insignificant that in most cases, the different communities have something significant in common (e.g., language and, broadly understood, religion [though Fukuyama does note that the French treat the Jewish community through the Consistoire Israelite, which has provided Nicolas Sarkozy a template for dealing with Muslims]).
Id raise a further issue as well. To the extent that the U.S. has what some have called an "Anglo-Protestant monoculture," can American means readily be adapted to circumstances where that doesnt obtain? And while I can see how American Catholics and Jews have in many cases adapted a kind of "protestantism" for themselves, does that mean that others will as well?
Im also at least somewhat conflicted about this whole approach, since I think that a watered down "Anglo-Protestantism," without more, tends to subjectivize and individualize us in ways that are ultimately antithetical to moral, political, and religious (not to mention philosophical) seriousness. Is this the price we have to pay for getting along peacefully, or is it possible to insist upon some more robust and serious moral, political, and religious identities can coexist peacefully without giving up what matters. I think in this respect of the late proud orange-wearing Scottish-American Calvinist Wilson Carey McWilliams, some of whose best friends were similarly proud and serious Catholics.