With their Muslim populations growing, Europeans are reassessing how well they integrate religious minorities.
By Shelley Emling
Sunday, October 12, 2008
LEICESTER, England — It’s just before lunchtime and women in body-covering garments are perusing a medley of markets filled with foods that comply with Islamic law. The surrounding streets are decorated with special lights — funded by the Leicester City Council — to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid.
There are more than 30 mosques nearby, as well as a public library with shelves of books in Punjabi, Arabic, Hindi and Urdu, along with newspapers from across Asia and the Middle East. The neighborhood Islamic schools receive state funding, just like Christian and Jewish ones.
This is Leicester, a former manufacturing city of 285,000 people in England’s heartland. It is home to large pockets of Sikhs, Hindus, Africans and Muslims; indeed, the latter group makes up more than 15 percent of Leicester’s population. At least in one large Muslim neighborhood, called Highfields, there’s not a white English face to be found.