Question: When did the Christian right become a serious factor
in U.S. politics?
Ian Buruma: It's always been
around, but I think it was under Ronald Reagan that it began to be a
sort of serious organization. Before that these same people existed, but
they weren’t politically so well organized and I think it was under the
Reagan Administration that they realized that there was a vast source
of voters to tap into and, from the point of view of the Christians, to
Question: Could a European conservative Christian
movement develop in response to Muslim immigration?
Ian Buruma: I don’t think it’s impossible that there will
be a rise of Christianity in Europe as a reaction. I don’t think you
can see great proof of it so far, although there is much talk now of
sort of the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of western or European
civilization, which you didn’t hear so much about before as though the
Jews and the Christians have always been such brothers in arms, so there
are signs that it could happen and but not yet on a very large scale.
Question: Why hasn’t the U.S. reacted toward Middle
Eastern immigrants as Western Europe has?
Ian Buruma: There are I think various reasons for that.
One is that most immigrants from the Middle East in the United States
tend to be more middle class, better educated, many of them are
Christians and they’re not concentrated so much as the European cities.
In the European cities the Muslim immigrants on the whole are from
village cultures, not very well educated. They came over as guest
workers and they’re very concentrated. So if you go even many provincial
towns and countries like the Netherlands you’ll suddenly see a very
large number of people in headscarves and beards and so on in a way that
you don’t really see anywhere in the United States. Here it is just
one minority amongst many.
Question: Why don’t Western conservatives have more common ground
with Islamic traditionalists?
Ian Buruma: Well, if by conservatives you mean Christian
conservatives I think because there is historical antagonism towards
Islam, but it’s necessarily entirely true that there is no common
ground. I think for example when the book, Salman Rushdie’s book, was
burned there were actually conservatives in the West who had total
sympathy with the Muslims and thought he had it coming and ran in favor
of tightening up blasphemy laws, and so it’s not always true that there
is no common ground.
Recorded April 21, 2010