Introduction

Article excerpt

Multiculturalism is an accepted fact of life in the United States. Although it can be argued that this nation is comprised of a sometimes contentious "ethnic stew," the assimilation of every ethnic and cultural group inheres within the traditional concept of America as the "melting pot." This practice is relatively new in Europe. Since the end of the Second World War, the nations of Europe have grown economically and politically interdependent. They have opened their doors increasingly to each other and to outsiders. But the acculturation and assimilation of the most newly-arrived immigrant groups is proving far more troublesome than many ever anticipated.

Nothing embodies this more than the alarmist literature, fears of "Eurabia," and surreptitious xenophobia that now target Europe's Muslim communities. Stories of social problems that have been exaggerated by the immigrant presence, such as unemployment and youth unrest, and--of course--the fear of radical Islamist terrorism now regularly surface in the news media. Despite the benign self assurance of most Europeans that their modern, secular, and liberal societies would naturally absorb new members, a different reality is all too evident.

It is not the purpose of this collection to explore such fears. Rather we hope to cast some light on the inevitability of European change; the falling birthrates that compell the need to attract immigrant groups; the personal aspirations that drive recent arrivals; the contrasting Muslim experience in Europe and the United States; and the impact--in an increasingly agnostic Europe--of the presence of committed, traditionally religious, immigrant communities.

Thirty years ago, it was common for Europeans to assume that new immigrant groups would, over time, simply conform to their host nations norms and "become European. …