LONDON—It was less than genteel, not the kind of thing a Londoner liked to admit, but Matthew Pickard couldn’t help himself when drawn into a discussion about the recent bombings on the city’s transit system. There is an “undertow,” he said, a feeling of resentment toward ethnic communities that had long been welcomed.
“My friends, who are all educated and professionals, they’re saying, ‘What gives those people the right to come up from other countries and set up homes and set up families and then start bombing and maiming people?’ ” the 33-year-old engineering consultant said. “They just don’t move in and integrate with society. They move in and take over. I just think enough’s enough.”
Since the July 7 attacks that killed 52 commuters, an increasing number of Britons have become worried that their nation has been too tolerant of foreigners. Enticed by generous asylum laws, jobs, welfare benefits and a commitment to racial cohesion, millions of immigrants, many from nations once part of the British empire, have found a home here. But their presence is being challenged, especially in the case of people from Muslim cultures.
The frustration and anger in Britain resonate across a continent where deadly attacks in Spain and the Netherlands over the last 18 months have tested faith in multiculturalism. From Rome to Paris to Berlin, governments are rethinking the balance between civil rights and national security, proposing tighter immigration and asylum laws and drafting tougher measures against voices of hate.
Suspicion has widened such divides. Many apprehensive Europeans are taking the view that certain factions of Islam, including radicals seeking a worldwide religious caliphate, are at odds with multiculturalism and the principles of Western democracy.
This was reflected in a Dutch intelligence report following the Van Gogh assassination. The report’s less than politically correct tone reflected the larger Dutch sentiment that the state, which supports affirmative action and funds Muslim schools and Arabic-language TV stations, has been too soft for too long.
Puritanical Islamic groups “want Muslims in the West to reject Western values and standards, propagating extreme isolation from Western society and often intolerance towards other groups in society,” said the December report of the AIVD intelligence service. “They also encourage these Muslims to [covertly] develop parallel structures in society and take the law into their own hands. What they mean is that Muslims in the West should turn their backs on the non-Islamic government and instead set up their own autonomous power structures based on specific interpretation of the Sharia,” or Islamic law.
“England had its own single culture and a very homogeneous society,” Barkatulla said. “And then multiculturalism came with post-World War II. England had such a strong natural identity that it never thought the small pockets of immigrants would cause a problem . . . Because of multiethnicity and multiculturalism, the idea of sub-identities was allowed to flourish, and ghettos developed. Locality after locality was lost. They don’t seem to belong to England.”