Last month saw a series of riots in Europe, not over the wobbly Euro, but instead over the integration of Muslim Europeans and immigrants. In Bonn, hundreds of German Muslims clashed with police in a violent reaction to a far-right political party’s anti-Muslim gathering. The angry young men who chanted “God is Great” while battling police in the streets have reignited the ongoing debate over Islam’s place in Europe, a debate which has risen to the top of many politicians’ concerns. The German president said in a newspaper interview that while German Muslims clearly “belong” to the country, it is less clear whether or not Islam does.
But something arguably much more meaningful, if less newsworthy, took place days later. Groups representing hundreds of thousands of German Muslims condemned the violence and called on constituents to fulfill the civic duty of voting in regional elections that month.
Extremists such as the Salafist sympathizers who rioted are a miniscule fraction of this minority population: security services estimate their number in the low thousands, out of around 4.3 million Muslims in Germany. But as the French Salafist murderer of Toulouse proved in March, even very few of them can have a ruinous effect. Above all, they are a painful reminder of an era when European governments – in denial that Muslims would settle permanently – ignored who was doing the teaching and preaching of Islam on their territories.