An imam was killed in Belgium yesterday when his mosque was set on fire in the country's capital of Brussels, seen widely as the capital of the European Union. A suspect was seen throwing a Molotov cocktail at the Shia mosque in the city. The suspect is now in police custody; his name, and the name of the imam have yet to be released.
While this does appear to be an isolated incident, it's a sign of Islamophobia that's been on the rise in Europe due to the increased amount of immigration from North and West African countries. Current trends mark Europe's first time receiving a major migration of non-European peoples since the barbarian invasions of 5th century AD, and it's brought with it all the cultural issues that worlds colliding brings. At the heart of it is Europeans' identities of themselves being thrown into question and coming up against rival sets of identities from different backgrounds than their own. French President Nicolas Sarkozy framed it as “French civilization must prevail in France” in his re-election campaign. Similar rhetoric seems to be a rallying sentiment that many in Europe are drawn to, as more and more immigrants arrive at their shores from Africa and the Near East.
Complicating the affair is a centuries old rivalry with Islam, which is now entering into Europe in progressively larger waves. Islam may have been halted militarily at the Battle of Tours in 732 AD, and again in 1683 at Vienna, however it is now entering Europe peaceably. As a result, it's prevalence is leaving those who still see Europe as being Christendom itself, feeling under attack by Islamic jihad.
According to Anders Breivik, the man behind the July 2011 killings in Norway, European and Islamic relations are a constant struggle of Islam to enslave and subjugate Europe. Meanwhile the Crusades were a gallant war that took the fight to the Muslims in their own lands. It's these kinds of interpretations of history and sociology, that have helped galvanize anti-immigration and anti-Islamic sentiment in Europe, and have no doubt, contributed to yesterday's fire bombing of a mosque, in which one man, was killed.
Just consider our own selves fortunate here in America that we have such a long, if not imperfect, history of taking in new cultures and new peoples with relative stride.