Christopher Caldwell talks to Der Spiegel:
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Caldwell, Switzerland recently banned minarets in a referendum. What was your first thought when you heard the news?
Caldwell: The most stunning thing about it is the gap between the clear rejection of the ban in public opinion polls and the clear approval given in the actual vote. It means there is an official discussion of Islam and that there is a subterranean discussion. That should worry Europeans.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Are you suggesting there is no open discussion about Islam in Europe?
Caldwell: I think these things are getting much more openly debated than a few years ago. In the Netherlands and Denmark you do have a contentious debate. I think a lot of Danes and Dutch aren't really proud of the way their populist parties are discussing the issue of immigration, but it's generally much better if things are discussed openly.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Where, in your opinion, is it not possible to speak openly about it?
Caldwell: In countries like France there are laws against all sorts of speech. That has a very chilling effect. Many people are frightened about negative consequences if they say how they really feel. Sometimes even to the pollsters, as the Swiss example shows.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: In your book, "Reflections on the Revolution in Europe," you cast a skeptical light on Europe's relationship with its Muslim immigrants. In your view, do Muslim immigrants pose a threat to the Continent?
Caldwell: I don't speak of a threat, exactly. This is a very important distinction. The debate up until now has been marked by two extremes. On the one side you have the doomsayer extreme, the people who say Islam is "taking over" Europe. On the other, you have people with the point of view that there's no problem at all, except racism. I think both positions are wrong, and I have tried to set a new tone.