My former colleague Jamie Kirchick, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, surveys the rise of Islamophobic far-right parties in Europe, and flays American liberals:
Anyone who has traveled throughout Europe knows that its image as an exemplar of progressivism, and ethnic and religious diversity, is a fabrication of the American liberal mind.
American liberals who ignore European bigotry while considering opposition to the Ground Zero mosque inexcusable bring to mind the mocking suggestion of German communist playwright Bertolt Brecht: "Would it not be easier in that case for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?"
I'm really having a hard time seeing how liberals should take the heat for the rise of the European far right. Now, it's true that Islamophobia is more potent in Europe than in the U.S. But Muslims now account for 5.2% of the population in Europe, dwarfing the 0.6% share in the U.S. You could likewise make the case that Europe is more tolerant than the U.S, because the anti-Latino backlash is much stronger here than there.
It's also true that you have some scary radical parties getting a fifth of the vote or so in Europe. That's not a very good apples-to-apples comparison with American politics, though. Our electoral system makes small parties non-viable. Anti-immigration sentiment in the U.S. has to exist within the confines of a two-party system, and within the GOP it's restrained by the business class's support for higher immigration along with the interest of party elites in wooing the growing Latino voter base. This has a dampening effect on anti-immigrant fervor, but it doesn't necessarily reflect something fundamental to the character of the people.
All that said, I agree that Europe is more xenophobic than the United States. European states tend to define identity in ethnic terms, while one of the great qualities of American has always been its inherently polyglot character. U-S-A! U-S-A!
But, again, why are liberals to blame for the rise of European Islamophobia? In the U.S., Islamophobia -- while, granted, less virulent than the European brand -- is almost entirely a right-wing phenomenon. Those Americans who express solidarity with European Islamophobes are conservatives, while those who express opposition reside almost entirely on the left.
I suppose you could wring a smidgen of justifiable blame out of the fact that some liberals parcel out their time focusing too much on domestic Islamophobes rather than somewhat worse European Islamophobes. But, by the same token, rather than condemn American liberals for failing to sufficiently condemn European Islamophobes, shouldn't Jamie just condemn Islamophobes himself? I'm sure he'd be glad to, though that op-ed wouldn't be published in the Journal.