Europe's Demographic DisUnion

Europe's Demographic DisUnion

If anything, European-Muslim integration has become more important since Jyllands-Posten culture editor Flemming Rose published the infamous Danish Muhammad cartoons.


If anything, European-Muslim integration has become more important since Jyllands-Posten culture editor Flemming Rose published the infamous Danish Muhammad cartoons. Between controversial comments from the Pope, a blasphemous Mozart opera and Britain's to-veil-or-not-to-veil debate, it's clear cultural tensions are rampant across the pond.

Rose spoke Wednesday at The Nixon Center. He proposed a two-part solution: Europe must be clearer on what it demands of immigrants, and immigrants need to accept that non-negotiable constitutional principles govern European countries.


"It's about identity, answering the question that Samuel P. Huntington posed in the title of one of his books: ‘Who are we?'" Rose said.

Europeans have wavered over the years. Initially the pro-immigration argument went that countries had cohesive cultures, yet could absorb any number of immigrants since newcomers would adapt to their surroundings. As this proved untrue, the pro-immigration crowd switched to a new doctrine, "that we must accept all cultures on their own terms." Many in Denmark see themselves as living in a value-neutral society.

As a result, there is no pressure to become European. Whereas seven-year immigrants living in America often identify with the United States, foreigners in Europe normally identify with their home countries, Rose said. For example, in Denmark, 20 percent of Muslims identify themselves primarily as Danes, 40 percent do not identify themselves as Danes and 40 percent see themselves as both Muslims and Danes.

Rose argued that European countries should stand together to make the demand of integration more explicit. He believes Western media outlets could have reduced violence by reprinting his paper's cartoons, because such a move sends a strong message. He pointed to the French anti-veil law as a supporting example-the French population stood squarely behind the legislation, and no notable violence took place in protest.

Another specific step he mentioned was welfare reform. In America, the employment gap between immigrants and citizens is 2 to 3 percent; in Denmark, the difference is about 40 percent, despite labor shortages.

"In the U.S., the labor market is the most effective mechanism for integration," Rose said. "In our society, immigration has been an economic burden."

A radical cleric Rose referenced was even allowed into Denmark so his son could get medical care-on the taxpayers' dime. While in Denmark, the cleric did not learn Danish and made inflammatory comments in his mosque.

It will take some adjustments for Muslims to hold up their end of the deal, Rose said. He went through a litany of statistics revealing immigrants' mixed feelings.

The most telling numbers: 9.5 percent of Denmark's Muslims think freedom of speech should always take precedence over protecting religious sensibilities, while 51 percent think religious sensibilities are always more important. The general population reports opposite sentiments at, 65 and 8.5 percent, respectively.

Also important, more than a quarter of Muslims think a combination of the constitution and the Quran should govern Denmark, and 70 percent express "understanding" of the cartoon riots. The sole statistic Rose found encouraging was that two-thirds of Muslims said women should not wear veils outside their homes.

In Rose's view, Danish society, and European society more broadly, is built on notions of tolerance (listeners, not speakers, need to respect others' rights) and religious freedom (citizens may join or express disdain of any religion they choose) that must govern public life. Both natives and newcomers have to accept this if they are to live in peace.

Robert VerBruggen ([email protected]) is an apprentice editor at The National Interest.