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Some good news about Muslims in Europe
by Erik Bleich and Rahsaan Maxwell
It is easy to believe that Muslims are having trouble integrating into European societies. Media reports these days are full of stories of young men traveling to Syria or Iraq and coming back radicalized, about acts of violence against military or Jewish targets, or both. Scholarly studies reinforce this narrative by focusing on fundamentalist elements in the Muslim community, on Islam as a "barrier" to inclusion, or through sensationalist titles like "Europe's Angry Muslims."
There is no denying that some Muslims feel alienated from their societies, or that a very small number veer into violence. According to recent research, these facts stick with us for two reasons. Stuart Soroka has argued that we tend to remember negative over positive information, creating a "negativity bias." Making matters worse, work by Brendan Nyhan shows that incorrect information is difficult to dislodge, especially if it is tied up with the believer's personal identity; if so, corrections may even further entrench false beliefs.
Under these circumstances, we are likely to forget that Muslims hold important leadership positions in European politics, for the most part lead quite normal lives and reject terrorism in large numbers. What we need are more systematic studies that can help us understand how Europe's Muslims are integrating, by which measures, and why.
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