European Intifada? Cultural Divide Is Splitting the Continent

Article excerpt


VENICE, Italy. - Amid the architectural gorgeousness and the fabulous shopping of Europe, the feeling comes easily that reality is suspended here.

Europeans live in a state of denial about the looming immigrant crisis closing in on their world, despite signs growing harder and harder to miss. Even after the Madrid bombing of a year and a half ago, even after the London subway bombing of last summer, even after last month's riots by disaffected Muslim and other immigrant youth in the suburbs of France, there is a prevailing sense here that bad things happen to other people.

But not everybody is so complacent, and a few voices have begun to articulate strongly the continent's problems. At the annual meeting of the Venice Colloquium, a gathering of conservative and free-market organizations from Europe and the United States, Ferdinando Adornato, head of Fondazione Liberal and a member of the Italian Parliament, issued a wakeup call for his fellow Europeans: "We want to give out an alarm," he said. "The elite underestimate the crisis in Europe, economic and spiritual. To deal with a crisis, first you must recognize it."

The malaise also leads to widespread failure to muster the courage to deal with Europe's immigrant problem. The riots in the French suburbs, in which thousands and thousands of cars were set ablaze along with schools and other official buildings, should not be considered a temporary crisis, in Mr. Adornato's view. "As a continent we have a wrong attitude toward integration. We are scared of immigrants. Social fears are the wrong attitude towards global challenges," he said. The result is a society that produces no opportunity: "Young immigrants have no dreams."

Getting Europeans to deal with the problem of integrating the millions of immigrants in their midst is not going to be easy, judging by conversations with Europeans. "It can't happen here" is the repeated response in discussions about the rioting in France, a head-in-the-sand reaction that will not serve them well.

Germans (whose country has 3.2 million Muslims) insist "it cannot happen here" because they don't have ghettoes of immigrants. This despite the fact that schools in inner-city neighborhoods are overwhelmingly immigrant, and despite the fact that the post-unification era in Germany saw ugly racially motivated violence. …