Fundamentalism, East and West

Question: When did the Christian right become a serious factor\r\n in U.S. politics?

Ian Buruma: It's always been \r\naround, but I think it was under Ronald Reagan that it began to be a \r\nsort of serious organization. Before that these same people existed, but\r\n they weren’t politically so well organized and I think it was under the\r\n Reagan Administration that they realized that there was a vast source \r\nof voters to tap into and, from the point of view of the Christians, to \r\ninfluence policy.

\r\n Question:
Could a European conservative Christian \r\nmovement develop in response to Muslim immigration?

Ian Buruma: I don’t think it’s impossible that there will\r\n be a rise of Christianity in Europe as a reaction.  I don’t think you \r\ncan see great proof of it so far, although there is much talk now of \r\nsort of the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of western or European \r\ncivilization, which you didn’t hear so much about before as though the \r\nJews and the Christians have always been such brothers in arms, so there\r\n are signs that it could happen and but not yet on a very large scale.

\r\n Question:
Why hasn’t the U.S. reacted toward Middle \r\nEastern immigrants as Western Europe has?

Ian Buruma:  There are I think various reasons for that. \r\n One is that most immigrants from the Middle East in the United States \r\ntend to be more middle class, better educated, many of them are \r\nChristians and they’re not concentrated so much as the European cities. \r\n In the European cities the Muslim immigrants on the whole are from \r\nvillage cultures, not very well educated.  They came over as guest \r\nworkers and they’re very concentrated. So if you go even many provincial\r\n towns and countries like the Netherlands you’ll suddenly see a very \r\nlarge number of people in headscarves and beards and so on in a way that\r\n you don’t really see anywhere in the United States.  Here it is just \r\none minority amongst many.

Why don’t Western conservatives have more common ground \r\nwith Islamic traditionalists?

Ian Buruma: Well, if by conservatives you mean Christian \r\nconservatives I think because there is historical antagonism towards \r\nIslam, but it’s necessarily entirely true that there is no common \r\nground.  I think for example when the book, Salman Rushdie’s book, was \r\nburned there were actually conservatives in the West who had total \r\nsympathy with the Muslims and thought he had it coming and ran in favor \r\nof tightening up blasphemy laws, and so it’s not always true that there \r\nis no common ground.

Recorded April 21, 2010

Will fears about fundamentalist Islam spark a European version of America’s "Christian right?"

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