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Both Vladimir Putin, Russia's president and Yuri Luzhkov, Moscow's mayor, now take trouble to greet capital's one million Muslims on occasion of their Feast of Sacrifice. They also actively solicit votes of nationalist and elitist Muslims of industrialized Volga - mainly Tatars, Bashkirs and Chuvash. Even impoverished, much-detested and powerless Muslims of northern Caucasus - Chechens, Circassians and Dagestanis - have benefited from this newfound awareness of their electoral power.
Though divided by their common creed - Shiites vs. Sunnites vs. Wahabbites and so on - Muslims of Europe are united in supporting Palestinian cause and in opposing Iraq war. This - and post-colonial guilt feelings, especially manifest in France and Britain - go a long way toward explaining Germany's re-discovered pacifistic spine and France's anti-Israeli (not to say anti-Semitic) tilt.
Moreover, Muslims have been playing an important economic role in continent since early 1960s. Europe's postwar miracle was founded on these cheap, plentiful and oft-replenished Gastarbeiter - "guest workers". Objective studies have consistently shown that immigrants contribute more to their host economies - as consumers, investors and workers - than they ever claw back in social services and public goods. This is especially true in Europe, where an ageing population of early retirees has been relying on uninterrupted flow of pension contributions by younger laborers, many of them immigrants.
Business has been paying attention to this emerging market. British financial intermediaries - such as West Bromwich Building Society - have recently introduced "Islamic" (interest-free) mortgages. According to market research firm, Datamonitor, gross advances in UK alone could reach $7 billion in 2006 - up from $60 million today. The Bank of England is in throes of preparing regulations to accommodate pent-up demand.
Yet, their very integration, however hesitant and gradual, renders Muslims in Europe vulnerable to kind of treatment old continent meted out to its Jews before holocaust. Growing Muslim presence in stagnating job markets within recessionary economies inevitably generated a backlash, often cloaked in terms of Samuel Huntington's 1993 essay in Foreign Affairs, "Clash of Civilizations".
Even tolerant Italy was affected. Last year, Bologna archbishop, Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, cast Islam as incompatible with Italian culture. The country's prime minister suggested, in a visit to Berlin two years ago, that Islam is an inherently inferior civilization.
Oriana Fallaci, a prominent journalist, published last year an inane and foul-mouthed diatribe titled "The Rage and Pride" in which she accused Muslims of "breeding like rats", "shitting and pissing" (sic!) everywhere and supporting Osama bin-Laden indiscriminately.
Young Muslims reacted - by further radicalizing and by refusing to assimilate - to both escalating anti-Islamic rhetoric in Europe and "triumphs" of Islam elsewhere, such as revolution in Iran in 1979. Tutored by preachers trained in most militant Islamist climates in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Iran, praying in mosques financed by shady Islamic charities - these youngsters are amenable to recruiters from every fanatical grouping.
The United Kingdom suffered some of worst race riots in half a century in past two years. France is terrorized by an unprecedented crime wave emanating from banlieux - decrepit, predominantly Muslim, housing estates in suburbia. September 11 only accelerated inevitable conflict between an alienated minority and hostile authorities throughout continent. Recent changes in European - notably British - legislation openly profile and target Muslims.
This is a remarkable turnaround. Europe supported Muslim Bosnian cause against Serbs, Islamic Chechnya against Russia, Palestinians against Israelis and Muslim Albanian insurgents against both Serbs and Macedonians. Nor was this consistent pro-Islamic orientation a novelty.
Britain's Commission for Racial Equality which caters mainly to needs of Muslims, was formed 37 years ago. Its Foreign Office has never wavered from its pro-Arab bias. Germany established a Central Council for Muslims. Both anti-Americanism and more veteran anti-Israeli streak helped sustain Europe's empathy with Muslim refugees and "freedom fighters" throughout 1960s, 70s and 80s.
September 11 put paid to this amity. The danger is that brand of "Euro-Islam" that has begun to emerge lately may be decimated by this pervasive and sudden mistrust. Time Magazine described this blend as "the traditional Koran-based religion with its prohibitions against alcohol and interest-bearing loans now indelibly marked by 'Western' values of tolerance, democracy and civil liberties."
Such "enlightened" Muslims can serve as an invaluable bridge between Europe and Russia, Middle East, Asia, including China and other places with massive Muslim majorities or minorities. As most world conflicts today involve Islamist militants, global peace and a functioning "new order" critically depend on goodwill and communication skills of Muslims.
Such a benign amalgam is only realistic hope for reconciliation. Europe is ageing and stagnating and can be reinvigorated only by embracing youthful, dynamic, driven immigrants, most of whom are bound to be Muslim. Co-existence is possible and clash of civilization not an inevitability unless Huntington's dystopic vision becomes basic policy document of West.
Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, and eBookWeb , a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory Bellaonline, and Suite101 .
Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com