In this lengthy article in Partisan Review, Bruce Bawer contrasts the relative success of the United States in assimilating Muslim immigrants with the disaster that is unfolding in Western Europe. His description of the European situation is, I think, accurate and depressing, notwithstanding recent events that Bawer sees as grounds for optimism. He notes the fundamental difference between the American and Western European attitudes toward immigration–anyone born in America is an American citizen, whereas in Europe, children and grandchildren of immigrants are not automatically granted citizenship, but are generally referred to as “second-generation immigrants” or “third-generation immigrants.” Bawer makes the obvious point that the US is a nation of immigrants, but while he hints at the more important underlying truth, he doesn’t really articulate it. The most basic difference between America and any of the Western European nations is that America is a country “dedicated to a proposition”–not dedicated to an ethnic group or a hereditary empire, but to a proposition. And the proposition is that all men are created equal. This basic reality is so familiar to us that it is easy to overlook its importance and to forget that it is unique, not universal. France is where the Frenchmen live, Denmark is where the Danes live. No wonder it is hard for Muslims to feel at home in those countries and hard for Europeans to accept immigrants as full citizens. No wonder that America’s counter-ideology has been more successful at weaning Muslim immigrants away from militancy and intolerance. Still, Muslim immigrants pose a challenge very different from the immigration challenges that we have successfully faced in the past. Calling radical Muslims “fundamentalists” and implying that they are similar to the fundamentalist Christians that constitute a considerable portion of the American population is willfully misleading. It remains to be seen whether it will ultimately be possible for America to assimilate a large Muslim population.
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