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There are reasons to be concerned about Europe’s ability to integrate its Muslim citizens. But the subject is too important to be guided by religious stereotypes. The riots in France’s suburban ghettoes in 2005 were a testament to the failure of social policies, not to a resurgent Islam.
It is worth noting that the Swiss referendum against minarets was supported mostly by rural voters, whose fear of Islamic aggression comes more from ignorance than experience: it’s a safe bet that many have never seen a minaret, except on alarmist campaign posters where they are depicted as comic-book missiles.
A minaret, by contrast, is no more and no less than a symbol. Other religious symbols draw protest -- a nativity scene in front of City Hall, say, or a cross on a mountaintop -- but they, unlike the minaret, are not part of a house of worship.
In this view, disputed by church leaders, the contest becomes a kind of atavistic zero-sum game. Why else would leaders from Italy’s xenophobic Northern League party propose to put a crucifix on the Italian flag?
There is no excuse for stigmatizing any religion. That goes against the very values of tolerance Europe claims to stand for. It also marks a discouraging setback for the further integration of Muslim citizens, which has to be the goal of every European country. There is no other choice.