Why fears about Muslim integration into Western society—propagated opportunistically by some on the right—misread history and misunderstand multiculturalism.
In the United States and in Europe, politicians, activists, and even some scholars argue that Islam is incompatible with Western values and that we put ourselves at risk if we believe that Muslim immigrants can integrate into our society. Norway's Anders Behring Breivik took this argument to its extreme and murderous conclusion in July 2011. Meanwhile in the United States, state legislatures' efforts to ban the practice of Islamic law, or sharia, are gathering steam—despite a notable lack of evidence that sharia poses any real threat.
In Blaming Islam, John Bowen uncovers the myths about Islam and Muslim integration into Western society, with a focus on the histories, policy, and rhetoric associated with Muslim immigration in Europe, the British experiment with sharia law for Muslim domestic disputes, and the claims of European and American writers that Islam threatens the West. Most important, he shows how exaggerated fears about Muslims misread history, misunderstand multiculturalism's aims, and reveal the opportunism of right wing parties who draw populist support by blaming Islam.
John Bowen, Dunbar-Van Cleve Professor in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, is the author of Why the French Don't Like Headscarves and Can Islam Be French? He was a 2005 Carnegie Scholar.
An illuminating look at Western perceptions of Islam.