One rhetorical trick that Timothy Garton Ash used to play that I always found annoying was the argument from equivalence in consumerism: Most Europeans might dislike US policy, but even as they speak these so-called refuseniks are buying frozen chips with a southern fried coating. They are buying Ben & Jerry's pathetic pun pomegranate flavour ice cream. Our differences are therefore illusory.
He’s stopped doing that since Bush got in again. But he’s still doing this:
We Europeans spend most of our time talking about America, a little time talking about Europe, and almost none of our time talking about the rest of the world.
He always says this, in some form or other, but never comes up with any evidence. If anything, last week’s horrible shambles was greeted with a weary shrug by those who didn’t happen to live in Germany and want to move about like normal human beings. But this on muslims in Europe is just barmy.
Liberal democracy requires a division of church and state and to some extent a neutral public sphere in which all faiths and ideologies can compete and intermingle. It doesn’t require secularism to be the dominant principle of society. The problem for many Muslims is not that they’re confronted with a secular state, or even a largely secular public sphere, but that they’re confronted with a deeply secularised society.
Society is secularized where people don’t draw their ethical or moral values from religion. Most of us ain’t going to be getting Jesus anytime soon, so that particular lump of toothpaste is unlikely to be squeezed back into the tube. I suppose we could all pretend to have an invisible friend and conspire to live our lives in a way that assumes he is central to our lives. But lets not tell the Muslims. We’re trying to make them feel better about their invisible friends, too.