Europe thinks it has found a cogent way to spur the debate over the integration of its Muslim communities. Under the banner of free speech, Europeans have turned to satire and other forms of print and visual criticism to test Muslims’ willingness to accept Western values. But the re-printing of the Danish cartoons earlier this year, as well as the release of Fitna, a short film by a Dutch lawmaker about Islam as an inspiration to terror are inappropriate tests. In an already wary Europe, after the Madrid and London bombings, such methods only fuel mass perceptions that Islam and violence are interchangeable. They also oversimplify the integration debate by framing it in terms of a strict freedom of expression issue. Those who support such portrayals of Islam argue that Europe is only defending its democratic values against Islamic fundamentalism and Muslims who live in the West must understand that freedom of expression protects the right of the media to publish offensive material. Defenders of such “free speech” assert that they are not singling out Muslims, but in fact are integrating them into the tradition of satire. As such, Muslims are being treated like any other group. But findings from several Gallup polls reveal that Europeans’ acceptance of the cartoons correlates with their unfavorable opinions of Muslims and not with their general acceptance of offensive speech.

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