Struggling over the Mode of Incorporation: Backlash against Multiculturalism in Europe

Ethnic and Racial Studies, 36(4): 531-556, 2013

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Documenting the extraordinary potency and reach of the European backlash against multiculturalism, this essay provides a new theoretical model for explaining it. Rather than focusing primarily on demographic and institutional facts about Islamic immigration – such as education, wealth, participation and mobility – the author proposes a cultural-sociological approach that focuses on meanings and emotions as core issues for civil societies. As the demographic presence of Islamic immigrants has intensified, the anti-civil construction of Islamic qualities has led European masses, leaders and intellectuals, not only from the right but from the centre and left, to demand homogenizing assimilation. Representing public practices of Islam as threatening European democracy, newly restrictive citizenship tests have emerged alongside growing xenophobic political parties and newly threatening neo-fascist violence. Initially brought to Europe for economic and political reasons, the question has now become whether the children and grandchildren of Islamic immigrants can be incorporated into European civil society. The conflict is not over whether immigrants should be incorporated but over the grounds for doing so.