Last year I remember discussing the issue of Muslims in Europe with a friend, remarking that "If the Europeans do not figure out how to integrate these communities, it is going to eventually lead to the typical response many European nations have towards perceived outsiders." While one cannot take the acts of one lunatic like Anders Behring Breivik, the terrorist behind the recent tragedy in Norway, to in any way be representative of a larger whole, he does bring to the public discussion views that are not all that radical to "fringe" political elements around Europe, as evidenced by comments
from Italian and French members of the European Parliament. Many far-right parties in Europe are of the belief that they are under invasion from Muslim forces, and are advocating everything from banning minarets to trying to halt immigration from Muslim populations. The reaction of European leaders, particularly from Austria and France, to Turkish attempts to join the European Union shows a wider feeling towards the Muslim issue as well, though not as narrowly discriminatory as some of these political parties nor anywhere near as insanely violent as Brevik in Norway.
There are many problems with this issue. Except for some extreme cases now and then, many Muslims have not in the past had difficulty becoming Americans, for the same reason why most people do not have difficulty becoming Americans-- our nation is built around an idea that all men are free, and it is the philosophy of America that binds us. In Europe, this is much more of a difficult problem-- one cannot become French, or German, or Italian, even if your family has lived in one of those countries for generations. The European Union was supposed to help stop this by creating some sort of grand European identity, but it has largely failed in this regard because it does not accept the truths of human nature that America does. This means that Muslims in Europe are not being integrated into their nations, and are forming sub-cultures that are highly distinct and independent from the rest of society, hurting the entire cohesiveness of civil society in Europe.
And yet Europe has found a way to make this even worse. At the same time it is marginalizing and isolating its Muslim populations, and at the same time some nations are actively persecuting Islam, many European nations are simultaneously caving to political correctness in regards to Muslim sensitivities, leading to truly damning things like not teaching the Holocaust
because of anti-Semitic sentiments from Muslim students. If there is anywhere that people need the Holocaust rammed down their threats and hit in the head with, it is Europe. It also appears as if the European Union project may be leading to opposition nationalism within some nations to maintain national identities, which could in turn be unfriendly towards immigrant populations in general and Muslim populations in particular. You add to this some politicians and many individuals falsely blaming unemployment in Europe on immigrants from Turkey, the Middle East, and North Africa, and you just have a whole range of problems and frictions that will continue building. (It is worth noting as an aside that there is little difference between how Muslim populations are being treated and how Gypsies/Roma have always been treated in Europe).
It is hard to tell how to resolve or at least begin discussing this issue. Certainly a large part of the problem is the Muslim populations of Europe themselves, yes, but a great deal of the problem is just Europe itself-- the same sort of problems that Europe has always faced. I fear the knee-jerk reaction in Europe will be to clamp down on the religious rights of Muslims, clamp down on immigration, and continue to marginalize the existing populations-- perhaps even to the point of beginning deportations in the future. Anders Breivik is a madman, but he came from a pulse that is beating throughout Europe and needs to be addressed-- this is a seriously important matter that also has consequences for the United States, though our position is not as dire as Europe's. Their Muslim populations are more separate from civil society than ours, and their nationalistic tendencies are more severe than ours. The European Union is and will continue to be an ineffective way of discussing this issue, and I'm not sure if the individual European nations would be able to either-- but the roots of the problem need to be discussed. If they aren't, the threat of Islamic extremism will persist and the number of potential Anders Breiviks will grow in response. It's tough. In the mean time, prayers go out to all in Norway and respect for the resolve they are showing in the wake of these terrible events.