Islam, Liberalism, and Xenophobia in Europe

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Contribution to Book

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Xenophobia continues to be a significant problem in Europe, and the millions of Muslims living there are often its targets. This paper contends that the fear and anxiety Europeans exhibit toward Muslims stem ultimately from fear and anxiety regarding themselves and their beliefs. In dealing with lslamist Muslims in particular, the doctrine of liberalism has failed to make good on the self-verifying promise generated by its core assumptions as they have been handed down historically: namely, that all persons properly exposed to liberalism will in due time embrace it. Put differently, liberalism is supposed to deal with its opponents through conversion. But as large segments of Muslims residing in Europe refuse to convert, Europeans lose confidence in the universality and superiority of their cherished liberal values and turn to other, illiberal ideas. Ironically, it is liberalism itself that through its failure helps to give rise to the illiberal attitudes exhibited in increased xenophobia.


Samy Shavit Swayd


UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies

Publication Information

Islam: Portability and Exportability

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