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Europe, Islam's New Front Line: Britain

Among Britain's 1.8 million Muslims, anxiety is growing over a sharp rise in what the British call Islamophobia. Post-Sept. 11 anti-terrorist legislation and proposals for even tougher measures have led to widespread disaffection, anger and isolation among Muslim youth. The result is a widening generational disconnect, as NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports from London in the third story in our series on Muslims in Europe.

Britain is unique in Europe: after the breakup of its empire, it became a haven for Muslims from around the world, and it nurtured a Muslim establishment, whose members include prominent doctors, lawyers, writers and journalists.

A recent poll showed that 33 percent of Muslims want more integration in mainstream British society. But Britain's Muslim upper crust -- whose size is difficult to measure -- is a leadership without followers. The vast majority of British Muslims live in poor, closed communities.

The men who live in these Muslim enclaves are keenly aware that they've become the prime targets of police scrutiny. According to a report issued last week by the Open Society Institute, young Muslim men are increasingly at risk of social exclusion; many feel they are "under siege."

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and events in Iraq have further fuelled the polarization and radicalization of young Muslim men. It's a source of anguish for British Muslims who still believe in what Egyptian-born author Ahdaf Soueif calls the "mezzaterra" -- the common ground between cultures.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's International Desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe, and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and how immigration has transformed European societies.