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Stereotypes apart, a great many European Muslims are neither young nor discontented; yet having said this, we must acknowledge that some issues are very sensitive, with the potential to stir deep grievances. Most fall into the general category of "family" and expectations about gender roles. As the experience of Christian churches indicates, powerful secularizing currents in European society work strongly against the survival of institutional religion, as opposed to personal spirituality, and against traditional cultural orthodoxies of any kind. One current, obviously, is the sexual libertarianism that arouses opposition to any form of religious-based regulation of moral conduct, in matters such as premarital sex or homosexuality. The other mighty force for change among Muslims is the changing role of women, as emerging feminist ideologies challenge religious assumptions concerning domestic violence, arranged marriages, or sexual freedom. Also divisive are controversies about the education of children within the bounds of acceptable Muslim standards, especially for girls. Not only is the personal political, to use the well-known feminist maxim, but the key political struggles within Europe's contemporary Muslim communities concern intimate issues of home and family.1
In the short run, fears about secularization serve as a powerful incentive to Islamist extremism, as changing ideas about gender and family subvert the most cherished social values. But a historical perspective is useful here. Given the vast gulf that separates western Europe from the Muslim home countries of its immigrants—a chasm at once social, economic, and cultural—it would be fantastic to expect much less conflict after only a few decades of close interaction on European soil. In future, the growth of individualism and feminism assuredly will promote much greater assimilation into European societies, changing demographic projections, with all that implies for cultural and religious orthodoxies.
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