What to do with European Muslims?

The comments below about Muslims in Europe have continued to come in, so I figured I would put a new post up and allow further comments here on the front page. On my other blog I have another post on the veil. Two points:

1) It seems like "New Labor" has decided to drop the PC-veil, so to speak, and take a hard line on Islamic separatism. This is somewhat rich since the government itself in the 90s helped give succor to "community groups" like the Muslim Council of Britain which were retarding the process of assimilation (in fact, they had an interest to perpetuate separation since it increased their power as "mediators").

2) This shows that Muslims should be cautious of assuming that any given majority political faction will always "support their side" in any principled manner, as opposed to a tactical alliance.

As I have outlined below, the "problem" with European Muslims, and the relative lack of problem with American Muslims can be decomposed into several issues:

Synergistic identities - In the United States Islam is a multi-ethnic religion, with large numbers of black American converts, South Asian Americans, Middle Eastern Americans as well as numbers of Africans, Southeast Asians and converts from other races (e.g., Latinos). In Europe Islam tends to have an identification with one ethnic group. In Norway Pakistanis, in the Netherlands Morrocans, in Germany Turks, in France North Africans, in England South Asians. In this way religious and ethnic identity are coupled together, and any ethnic revival or affiliation naturally implies a Muslim identity. Additionally, organizationally the Muslim community has an easier time in keeping up a "common" and insulated front because there is no ethnic diversity to contend with. In fact, Muslims in England might be ethnically diverse insofar as they are separated into "Pakistani" and "Bangladeshi" groups (the vast majority), but even these two clusterings are regionally biased within their own source localities: the Mirpur district of Punjab/Kashmir and the Syhlett district of Bangladesh. I have relatives in the UK and they attest ot the insularity of Syhlettis vis-a-vis those from other regions of Bangaldesh.

Class bias: In the United States Muslims tend to have a diverse socioeconomic profile, with education and income just above the American mean. The 2000 election displayed this insofar as immigrant Muslims were wooed by, and to some extent won by, Republicans, while black American Muslims remained staunch Democrats. The issue here were differences of class interests. There wasn't one page that the Muslim community was on because there were a multiplicity of interests. Additionally, it seems that higher socioeconomic groups tend to by their nature assimilate and acculturate more easily into an alien society. As examples, compare the East African Indians with other Indians in the UK, they arrived with social capital and now dominate the commanding heights of British business. Similarly, in Sweden the Iranians tend to have a better socioeconomic profile (many fled the Shah) than the Kurds and also tend to be less of a social problem. European Muslims were recruited to work in factories and perform unskilled labor, the decline of the former and the lack of dignity of the latter means that there are sharply diminishing returns in both of these fields.

Numbers: Some European nations now have rather large Muslim communities. In the UK it is at 3%. In France it is likely around 10%. In the Netherlands around 5%. In the United States it is likely no greater than 1%, though Muslim groups routinely tout numbers like "6 million" (which would be 2%), most surveys by scholars (e.g., American Religious Identification Survey) tend to yield aggregates closer to 2 million. The "ghetto" mentality is difficult when you are a small community, and the ethnic diversity alluded to above also mitigates against the formation of "Muslim ghettos."

The host nation: The United States has had multiple waves of immigrants, and its attitudes toward race are probably more liberal than most European nations. Even in Leftist Sweden the term for non-whites is "black skulls," which seems to me a bit dehumanizing. Many European nations have a sense of their nationhood in racial terms, you are born a German, you can not become a German (the French Huguenot who settled in Berlin after being expelled from France might beg to differ, but that is another tale). The cultural and racial difference between the immigrants and the host nation is large and unlike the United States the European cultures don't have a natural system and methodology for assimilation, and so are prone to simply erecting walls of political correctness to plug the dam of societal rejection.

The Ummah: The discovery of oil in the Gulf in the domains of traditionally Salafi nations (Saudi Arabia, Qatar) might very well be the great disaster for Islam in the 20th century because money was now no object for the most narrow of traditions in any given region. There have always been "reformist" movements in Islam, the Deobandis in South Asia for example, but the Salafi international now put its monetary weight behind all the most regressive groups in their battle for the social space. European Muslims have foreign exemplars to emulate, and what they see in places like Saudi Arabia or Pakistan is more and more fundamentalism and intolerance. Feeling alienated from the societies of their birth they see as the City on the Hill the theocratic jewels of Araby. Modern communication technology makes this mental association and affinity oh so easy. The centripetal pull of the Ummah is I think a real issue.

Finally, I do want to point to something important: not all immigrants to Europe are Muslim. I think focusing on any one issue then is problematic, in particular, the idea that racism is the sole cause of Muslim rejection of European culture. In the United Kingdom non-Muslim South Asians, and groups like Christian Indonesians and Hindu Surinamese in the Netherlands, serve as contrasts to the Muslim community in their attitude toward the majority. This is not to say that tensions do not exist, but, the extent seems to be dampened. In the UK Indian children in fact supersede whites in educational performance, and the community is relatively prosperous. Difference of race is a visible character, and we tend to focus on it, but it is important to note that Turkish Muslims are less physically distinct from Germans than Hindus and Sikhs from India are from the majority of white British, and yet the latter tend to prosper more. Of course, Britain is a more open society than Germany, but one tends to get the impression that there is greater tension between North Africans and white French than blacks and white French (though the former are more likely to be Christian than North Africans obviously). Pinning the problem on one variable isn't really going to be a good model of what's going on.

So what do we do? Well, I don't have time to put my "plan" out there in great detail right now, so that will be for later. But, I will offer some general points

a) Stop more immigration (or, skew it toward higher SES elements to induce class diversification)
b) Encourage repatriation if the groups are amenable, or if they are seditious (i.e., if visible minorities claim that they would be happier abroad, enable them)
c) Demand conformity with universal laws
e) Loosen labor markets
d) If the group/individual is amenable to assimilation make citizenship a viable option

i-f3e725c2d26f6265a5b6807e513f1956-vendela.jpgA big issue I think is that the groups who arrived did not come with much social capital, nor will be easy for them to accumulate that capital. There are long standing white poor and working classes throughout Europe, so it isn't as if poverty can be wished away even when race and religion are not barriers to acceptance. The French intermarriage rate between people of Muslim origin and non-Muslim origin is rather high though, and this I think is a possible avenue toward a modus vivendi. Consider Vendela Kirsebom to your left, the product of a Turkish father (biological) and a Norwegian mother who is a Swedish supermodel. The longer these problems are put on the back burner the more the final due bill will compound the interest of "benign" neglect.

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The Swedish term "black skulls" ("svartskalle") isn't mainstream at all; it is quite offensive and has similar connotations and social standing in Swedish as terms like "nigger" or "raghead" has in US English. It's used in much the same way, the same kind of situations and by the same kind of people, and just like the English terms is frequently prefixed with a swearword to strengthen it.

There are far more Pakistanis than Bangladeshis in Britain. The 2001 Census gives the figures as 715,000 Pakistanis and 281,000 Bangladeshis. The Bangladeshis nearly all live in East London, while the Pakistanis are more widespread, but with a concentration in the old textile areas of the North of England.

I think the freshness of muslim immigrants could also be a factor. I am told that the 2nd generation Turks in Germany are a lot less religious.

koray, two points

1) the problem isn't often the whole community, but a subset that goes off the deep end. so the average religiosity could drop, but an increase in variance could be problematic.

2) in britain is the more well established second gen. community, pakistanis, that are the problem, not the FOB bangladeshis (the latter will i suspect become a problem as they become more 'assimilated' to british cultural norms).

Vendela's husband was mixed-race too (French-Swedish) and the practitioner of an exotic religion (Catholicism).

By John Emerson (not verified) on 22 Oct 2006 #permalink

If a religious/ political ferment is already in place, the FOBs will not need to fully "assimilate" before they are touched by the fever. Especially, if the welcoming committee brings with it the message of mischief.

BTW, Tony Blankley, the right wing warmonger, has been sounding the alarm bell on Bangladesh for some time. I heard him predict dire developments there on last Friday's McLaughlin Group on PBS. Here is his latest editorial in the Washington Times.