It is Europe, not the United States, where the West and Islam exist in closest daily proximity. Some 20 million to 30 million Muslims live here, making up about 4 percent of the population compared with less than 1 percent in America. Mosques, once an urban phenomenon, are found in far corners of the Continent. Muslims are more visible on European streets, and most are not professionals, but work in retail, agriculture, food service, and labor.
In the US, the controversy over the proposed Islamic center near ground zero has brought some of the most visible instances of public Islam-bashing, mostly on the right side of the political spectrum – a departure from the line taken by President Bush after 9/11 not to equate Islam with terrorism.
But in Europe a pushback against immigrants, many of whom are Muslim, has been under way for much longer. A postwar Europe long priding itself on cosmopolitan tolerance is facing a population seen as different – at a time of concern about the economy, jobs, and when mainstream Europe isn't quite sure about its security and its future.