ACCORDING to one American stereotype, Europe is somewhere on the road between lazy godlessness and mass conversion to Islam. Does it have any kernel of truth? This much is true: in most European countries there is no obvious equivalent of the American religious right in which a large standing constituency spoils for a fight over hard ethical issues. Those kinds of issues arise in Europe of course, but it is hard for European politicians to build a career by claiming the traditionalist ground; they would generally lose more votes than they would gain.
What does exist in Europe is the politics of identity, including religious identity. In this area Europe's parties and politicians always think carefully about the signals they send and getting it right or wrong has consequences.
(...)The trick in European politics is to appeal to some religious and cultural constituencies without alienating others.