From The Guardian, some food for thought -in excerpts-:
'Block thinking' about multiculturalism and the threat of Islam is leading us towards a clash of civilisations.
September 17, 2007 9:00 AM
"Multiculturalism" has become a suspect term almost everywhere in the world nowadays, and particularly in Europe. People say things like: "I used to be for openness and toleration of difference, but now I see where it's leading." But where is it leading?
Almost every reason for toleration's apparent fall into disrepute concerns Islam. Even simple requests, like that of schoolgirls to wear headscarves in class, are suddenly freighted with immense political significance and treated as issues that must be resolved at the highest level of government. People - and their elected leaders as well - often have the feeling that such seemingly innocent proposals are in fact part of an ominous "hidden agenda".
Block thinking is an age-old phenomenon, and we all do it to some degree. But, while in another age we might have been indulgent about its consequences, today it has explosive potential, because people who think in this manner are prime recruits for seeing the world in terms of Samuel Huntington's theory of the "clash of civilisations."
Block thought persists in part because its critics on each side are unknown to those on the other side. Indeed, how many times does a critic of European block thought meet this kind of response: "But where are the Muslims who are criticising extremist Islam?"
Of course, one isn't likely to meet them in the drawing rooms of Paris journalists or the wider European professional political class. But explaining that to block thinkers will never have the impact of a real connection to the multi-faceted discourse that is actually taking place on the other side.
The real question, then, is this: where are the crossover figures who can provide that urgently needed connection?