Sunday, November 19, 2006

Strangers in Paradise

Ian Buruma reflects upon the sudden panic of multicultural Europe towards a rising Islamic identity in the UK Times and sees in it a case of unintended consequences; almost a black comedy of errors. His fundamental insight about the new "Islamic identity" is that it is largely a European parody of the real thing, bearing the same relationship to traditional Islam that the Fortune Cookie bears to Chinese cuisine. The first-generation Muslim immigrants, Buruma argues, were secure in the identity of the Old Country. But their European-born descendants fell into a kind of Limbo, unfamiliar with and fundamentally contemptuous of the village vices and virtues of their fathers yet unable to adopt new identities which had, in the meantime, been abolished.

When I grew up in the upper- middle-class part of the Hague during the 1960s ... The society I grew up in was riddled with social and religious barriers. People managed to rub along by sharing perhaps a keenness for over-boiled potatoes and the Dutch football team, but otherwise they stuck pretty much to their own kind. ...

All this began to change in the 1960s when the so-called “pillars” that held religious and class affiliations together crumbled under the assault of a generation that rebelled against traditional constraints on their sexual, cultural, social and political lives. ...

At about the same time that the young let their hair down, Muslims from Turkey and Morocco arrived to perform jobs that the prosperous Dutch no longer felt like doing. In the beginning people barely noticed these shadowy figures cleaning trains and the like. ...

The views of most Moroccan villagers and Turkish men who settled with their families in the shabbier parts of Amsterdam or central Rotterdam had little in common with those of the newly secularised and sexually liberated Dutch. But the progressive multicultural view was that this did not matter. Each to his own. We may not like the way Muslim men treat their wives and daughters, but who are we to say that our ways are better?

Until a succession of events starting ominously with the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the murder of Theo van Gogh in 2004 began to force hard reappraisals of the notion that "anything goes", when "anything" might include the ritual slaughter of Dutch infidels on Amsterdam streets. Yet the Islam the 'liberal progressives' had come to fear was precisely the product of their own cultural muddle. Faced with permanent membership in the underclass due to the immobility of the European labor market, lacking a new identity to adhere to and too worldly to retain the simple virtues of their fathers the new European Muslim simply "downloaded their ideological extremism from the Internet".

The Moroccan villagers in Holland, like the Bangladeshis who came to Britain, did stick to their old cultures. But they are not revolutionaries. It is their children or grandchildren, such as Mohammed Bouyeri, Van Gogh’s killer, born and bred in the West, who are attracted to revolutionary Islam.

The purist Islam of Saudi Wahhabism, or the even more radical Taqfiri sects which promote the killing of all infidels and apostates, attract some young European Muslims precisely because of their lack of cultural tradition. The appeal lies in the promise of an abstract religious utopia, as far removed from Moroccan or Bangladeshi village life as from the contemporary mores of Rotterdam or Birmingham. This is a godsend, so to speak, for those who feel at home in neither world.

Buruma's main worry is that Europe is responding the old and wrong way: by regulation. Banning burquas and "hate speech" represent a very alles in ordnung approach to the problem. What is essential, he argues, is to provide immigrants with something they can truly be loyal to. That in the case of America, Buruma says, is the notion of America itself.

The United States has many flaws but one thing that works is the idea of the hyphenated citizen: the Chinese-American, the Iraqi-American. Being a devout Muslim does not stand in the way of being a patriotic American. This works because citizenship is not a matter of culture but of loyalty to institutions, the law, the constitution, the political system.

The problem of course with Ian Buruma's prescription is that it amounts to recommending something out of character to Europe and perhaps alien to it's history. America began as a melting pot; fought a civil war over the principle that All Men are Created Equal and took in the Jew at the same time the Europeans were busy deporting them. Recent efforts to co-opt Islamic institutions by providing them with State funding are characteristic of the way Europe does things. Perhaps all that can be hoped for is that a European solution exists for these problems, remembering always how ambiguous the term "solution" on the Continent has historically been.


Blogger ledger said...

I don't know about Europe, but the new immigrants that come to America do so for economic advantage and usually have no intent upon assimilating.

Many of immigrants to America simply do not abide by American laws - because they can get away with it. Many new immigrants to America are net recipients of tax payer revenues. They are quite happy with the situation. So, are some politicians.

As for Islamic immigrants, there is plenty of evidence that they hold their "religious laws" above American laws.

There are many cases of slavery, abuse and extortion. When caught, they usually just say "It's in my religion. Do not I have the right to practice my religion?"

The answer is only up to a certain point. Just as there is a point where swing your fist which goes beyond American freedoms of movement and crosses into illegal conduct.

Quite frankly, a lot immigrants just ignore American law because there are few consequences and it pays (ie, drug dealing and failure to pay taxes). This only breeds more contempt for the law. This attitude is prevalent in the boarder states with large numbers of illegal immigrants.

From what I read about France and other European counties the same problem exist - but at a much higher level. The question is will European law prevail or will Islamic law prevail. I don't know the answer to that.

11/20/2006 01:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To co-opt Islamic institutions, Europeans have to first recognise that Islamic law is predicated on the basis that religion and state are synonymous with each other - diametrically opposite that of a secular Europe.

ledger, what you're suggesting is that European law and Islamic law are mututally exclusive and therefore incompatible.

That's what the fundamentalist ideologues want their moderate brethren in Europe to believe. Let us hope that Europe will seek some form of technical compromise over the exercise of both jurisdictions.

I say "technical" because personally, I feel that we have to find common ground in terms of the minute intricacies of common everyday law. Banning of the hijab is obviously a self-defeating measure, so work on these problems and seek compromise, not issue a diktat.

As for the Europeanic sentiment that Buruma aspires to foster and nurture among the Muslims, one has to realise that it cannot be foisted upon them without first assuring the Muslim communities that the intent to integrate them into the fold is genuine and borne out of the willingness to transcend ethnocentrism.

Only then will Muslims dispose of the scepticism that this sudden enthusiasm for integration is simply another ideological attempt to placate them into accepting their subjugated status in European society.

They need guarantees, so let's give them some concrete ones. No matter how tiny, at least it's a start, right?

11/20/2006 01:44:00 AM  
Blogger summignumi said...

Harrison, you have no idea about Islam and what being a Muslim requires! Harrison you must think that truly one day the Muslim would live in peace with Israel if Israel would only give a little more….Read your history man! Read the Kor’an, Read the Hadiath Please then name a time in world’s history that the Muslim did or can live in Peace with any other religion! Islam has killed more through history then all other beliefs, more then communist in Russia and China, More then what was done in the name of Christ. Wakeup Harrison! There are only peaks and valleys in the confrontations with Muslims.

11/20/2006 02:40:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Interesting article. At least the author has the guts to point out the obvious flaw in all the ranting about “multiculturalism”. The nebulous meaning of this term gives old Marxist clichés in comparison depth and substance. But I suppose chanting the same thing over and over again does bring relief in a scary and complicated world.

Since “multiculturalism” is bad what then is good? The obvious response would be monoculturalism, which only exists on this earth in Stalinist and Islamic societies. And these are the models we are supposed to follow? And the United States, the most multi-cultural place on the planet is then held out as a model of evil? I just don’t get it. It’s kind of like saying chanting the words “reactionary bourgeoisie”, it sure feels good but what the hell does it actually mean.

11/20/2006 03:54:00 AM  
Blogger Buffy said...

Islamism plus European leftism equals Eurabiao--the new Europe! Convert or be slaves, dhimmis. It's too late to wake up now.

11/20/2006 03:55:00 AM  
Blogger Snouck said...


one of the sons of immigrants to from North Africa to the Netherlands, chose to embrace Wahhabist Islam: negating democracy as Taghout: un-Islamic and therefore enemy.

In order to make his point he killed Theo van Gogh and pinned a letter explaining himself to the corpse of his victim.

Orientalist Hans Jansen wrote an analysis of the letter by Mohammed B., Theo van Gogh’s assassin shows the incompatibility of the presence of Muslim communities in Western democratic societies. Not only is the liberal dream of Bush anf his neo-conservative advisiors of remaking Islamic societies as free and democratic an impossible one, simultaniously opening one’s own country to invasion by tens of thousands of Muslims will have the effect of rendering Freedom of Speech, essential to the working of democracy, difficult. Read more here.

Mohammed B. was born in The Netherlands and went to good schools here. He choose the Wahhabist version of Islam which tells him that those who criticise and ridicule Islam have to be killed and that this is a duty of a Muslim and a key to Paradise.

Why must Europe or The Netherlands do something to make the Muslims or whoever else feel a part of Europe? Of us? I am Dutch and I do not feel a part of them and I want to keep it that way.

But Ian Buruma does not even contemplate the idea of denying anything to non-westerners. He is fully prostrate for the Multicultural Left and Islam.


A previous poster wrote that immigrants to the USA come here for economic advantage.

Who dares to ask the question "what is in it for us?"

11/20/2006 03:57:00 AM  
Blogger Snouck said...

Ian Buruma basically says: "facilitate Islam or you will be in for big trouble, European".

What a lovely message.

11/20/2006 04:04:00 AM  
Blogger Goesh said...

Harrison, there are many ways to placate. Shariah law functions best in chaos-I don't know what they are waiting for. It would be relatively easy to destabalize any number of European nations - they know people like you, Harrison and your ideology, can't and won't fight, and I mean no offense or personal insult in saying that.

11/20/2006 04:55:00 AM  
Blogger Kirk Parker said...

Sure, the hyphenated-American things works pretty well, for most people. But surely we've all noticed incidents that show some Muslims, at least, have a harder time fitting into this model.

11/20/2006 05:39:00 AM  
Blogger dla said...

Remember that hyper-violent, ultra-conservative Wahhabbism is a tiny spinter of Islam, Isolated to the oil-rich Arabian peninsula - mostly Saudi-Arabia and Osama bin Laden.

Wahhabbism has an allure to the young not-so-bright under-achievers, teeming in Europe's welfare state. Ignorant and childish, they view their Sunni and Shiia brethern as going to hell, and they alone possess the "pure" Islam. Kindof sounds like the Aryan Nation.

Appart from oil to fuel the spread and the welfare state to culture the converts, Wahhabbism would die out.

11/20/2006 06:53:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

If a frog had wings
it would bounce it's belly as it hopped.

The Wahabbists and 12yh Imamers have plenty of oil revenue, they will for the observable future.

11/20/2006 07:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now certainly I did not mean to contextualise the multicultural dilemma of Europe with that of Israel adopting the policy of disengagement and placation with Palestinian terrorists, Hizbollah and the like.

summignumi, I believe you are mistaken if you think that my "ideology" is in favour of naively putting my faith in the non-existent good will of the Palestinian terrorists as well as the scourge of Hizbollah, Syria and Iran. You couldn't have been more wrong.

So we seem to agree that mulitculturalism can't work. Then what? The French have been the most active in terms of re-nationalising peoples of various ethnicities and cultures, yet still the spectre of Jihad looms over the nation. If assimilation can't work, and the British faith in religious pluralism combusted along with the London bombings, then what are we looking at?

The allure of fundamentalism stems partially from institutionalised racism and internal colonialism - in that Muslims are segregated such as those in the ghettoes of France. We should tackle such issues of economic inequality and seek to root out disenchantment and disenfranchisement with the government.

11/20/2006 08:25:00 AM  
Blogger Dave H said...

Islam is less credible than Communism as a "Religion", in America the same ninnies are embracing it. It needs to cease to be recognized as a legitimate form of worship of a creator or group of creators. Islam as a whole is inimmical to the idea of western civilization, the only logical responses that western civlization has are extemination or isolation.

The accident of Oil renderers the second logical response untenable. The first option is Hitlerian, it is forgotten that the Nazi's were merely carrying out their logical solutions to problems they they had.

We seem to be left with non logical solutions. This is the realm of the soft sciences, their track record is not good.

Muslims seem to lay great store in the inviolability of certain sites, Mecca, Medina, Dome of the Rock etc. Maybe it would help if we disrespectfully dismantled these sites plus most of the Mosques, to demonstate the falsity of their beliefs. Then impose some heavy taxes on "religions/cults" which promulgate the death and destruction of Western Culture.

11/20/2006 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger charlotte said...

The problem with most diagnoses of why Islamism in Europe versus not so much in America is that they’re long on social-economic causation, which is debatable on the merits, and short on the allure of tribal group identity and that of the radical fight, and, in so arguing, miss the obvious that the US does, indeed, have an Islamist problem that will only worsen with time. Islamism is not spreading just on the energy of resentment, but on the attraction of belonging to a strong world-wide group and with the passion to dominate. The difference between Islamism there and that of over here is that in Europe Islamists are now engaging in Euro-style in-your-face protest in countries that have sanctified grievance, especially the shouted out and spittle-flecked kind; here, Islamism has dispensed with most open rancor in favor of both insinuating itself into and working around the system with the help of special interest groups and politicians.

And hyphens aren’t going to be America’s saving grace. When it comes to Muslim-Americans, do we really believe that especially fundamentalist ones will choose their American identity over their Muslim one? Muslim-Americans may have less cause to feel alienated in a society that gives opportunity and usually judges results over who the doer is, but they are still tied ideologically and emotionally to the world community of believers and to the Islamic goal of dominion. Moderates may not push for that day to come, but the growing numbers of fundies and radicals are already engaged in trying to make it happen. We have too many Wahabbists busy preaching here on Saudi funding, Muslim enclaves growing and self-segregating, and Islamists doing underground business and terror coordination on American soil. Increasingly, Muslim women are covering their faces to set themselves apart from the rest of us. The niqab is no longer an exotic sight, but a worrisome trend in a country that prides itself in its openness and equality for women.

Our melting pot only works for those immigrants who want to join with this country and not for those who come here to exploit it for our excellent economy or to protest it from within. Perhaps some Islamists are getting co-opted by American values and affluence, but I think it a dangerous notion to believe that most M-A’s are happily assimilating into our Yankee Christian-Judeo secular government stew. Most seem to be getting along with our way on the surface, but undercurrents of unhealthy advocacy, denial of problems, fundamentalist mosques, and illegal activity within their communities are deceptively strong.

Traditionally, America assimilated immigrants where the Europeans shuffled them around, but our melting pot is being politically corrected by ethnic group fetishists and being ignored by new immigrants not wishing to become “Americanized.” Instead of engaging in civil unrest, (although riots in Detroit and elsewhere down the line don’t seem all that far-fetched), Muslim-America may simply go the route of becoming a powerful voting bloc in a democracy it would Islamicize and bend to its religious-political convictions and domestic and foreign policy sensibilities. America is not immune from Europe’s sickness; it may take a different form but one day become just as openly virulent and subversive to the national character. Perhaps we’ll address this problem better than the Europeans are currently doing. Perhaps.

If it were up to me I’d vote to ban the niqab if KKKers can’t walk the streets with white hoods over their heads and other clothing restrictions apply throughout society. Who could ever identify a miscreant who’s covered head to toe in fabric and looking exactly like thousands of other black shrouded females, or do Muslim women get a pass on security issues? The veil isn’t prescribed by the Koran and, even if it were, religious practices aren’t immune from being declared illegal. The Mormons should know this. Also, Muslim girls in public schools should be required to wear the gym outfits that other American girls must. How can we pretend that Muslim-Americans are assimilating if we make special exceptions and exemptions for their otherness that doesn’t accord with our civic values and regulations?

11/20/2006 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger Pieta said...


A most compelling and lucid commentary.

11/21/2006 01:41:00 AM  

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