President Barack Obama irked European leaders by failing to send a senior official to a unity march in Paris after last week’s terror attacks. They’re going to like his comments Friday about the continent’s treatment of its Muslim minority even less.
“Our biggest advantage is that our Muslim populations, they feel themselves to be Americans,” Obama said at a White House press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron. “There are parts of Europe in which that’s not the case. And that’s probably the greatest danger that Europe faces…It’s important for Europe not to simply respond with a hammer and law enforcement and military approaches to these problems.”
His comments came as authorities in France, Belgium, Germany and Ireland together arrested more than two dozen suspects in anti-terror raids Friday.
Europe has struggled with integrating its Muslim immigrants and recent elections have pushed calls for stricter controls on Muslim immigration and more policing of their communities into the continent’s political mainstream. In 2010, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country has a large Turkish Muslim population, was one of the first European politicians to broach the subject, saying German multiculturalism had “utterly failed.”
Cameron, who is dealing with a right-wing surge from the UK Independence party, said he agreed that Britain can “help ourselves in this struggle” by better smoothing immigration and integration among religions and ethnicities.
But he stoutly urged his audience to “never lose sight of the real enemy here” — radical Islam. “Let us never lose sight of the heart of the matter,” Cameron said.
Isolationist parties around Europe have gained strength in elections and at demonstrations that in Germany alone have attracted about 25,000 protesters. In France, the leader of the Front National political party, Marine Le Pen, has used to the attacks to bolster her party’s anti-immigration and anti-euro agenda.
“We’ve been predicting this for a long time,” Le Pen said shortly after the shooting at the offices of Charlie Hebdo and a subsequent shootout at a Kosher grocery store in Paris. “It was to be expected. This attack is probably the beginning of the beginning. It’s an episode in the war that is being waged against us by Islamism. The blindness and deafness of our leaders, for years, is in part responsible for these kinds of attacks.”
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