Why the Clash of Cultures Won't End as the Cold War Did

Timothy Garton Ash, in the latest New York Review of Books, makes a point that should be obvious, but unfortunately is not: that reforming Islam is not like reforming Communism. At the end of the Cold War, there were very few communists left. The “clash of cultures” will not end by reducing the number of Muslims. This is a very different process…

A policy based on the expectation that millions of Muslims will so suddenly abandon the faith of their fathers and mothers is simply not realistic. If the message they hear from us is that the necessary condition for being European is to abandon their religion, then they will choose not to be European. For secular Europeans to demand that Muslims adopt their faith–secular humanism–would be almost as intolerant as the Islamist jihadist demand that we should adopt theirs. But, the Enlightenment fundamentalist will protest, our faith is based on reason! Well, they reply, ours is based on truth!