It is not surprising that anti-Muslim populism has found some of its most ferocious supporters among former leftists, for they, too, have lost their faith – in world revolution, or whatnot. Many of these leftists, before their turn to revolution, came from religious backgrounds. So they suffered a double loss. In their hostility to Islam, they like to talk about defending “Enlightenment values,” whereas in fact they lament the collapse of faith, whether religious or secular. There is, alas, no immediate cure for the kind of social ills exposed by the Swiss referendum. The Pope has an answer, of course. He would like people to return to the bosom of Rome. Evangelical preachers, too, have a recipe for salvation. Neo-conservatives, for their part, see the European malaise as a form of typical Old World decadence, a collective state of nihilism bred by welfare states and soft dependence on hard American power. Their answer is a revived western world, led by the United States, engaged in an armed crusade for democracy. But, unless one is a Catholic, a born-again Christian, or a neo-con, none of these visions is promising. The best we can hope for is that liberal democracies will muddle through this period of unease – that demagogic temptations will be resisted, and violent impulses contained. After all, democracies have weathered worse crises in the past.
more from Ian Buruma at The Guardian here.