From: The xenophobic part of my mind To: European Muslims
I usually try to take a fair and balanced line in my posts, whatever the concrete issue may be, but the fact is that deep down inside I am quite xenophobic, just like everybody else, if they are honest.
This post started out as a reply for a comment to this post, but I had refrained from posting it, for I felt that it turned out far too one-sided and, well, xenophobic. But I think that it isn’t all that appropriate, given the current rioting in France. I do think that Muslims can be successfully integrated into Western society, but that can only happen when certain issues are properly addressed. Multiculturalism isn’t the solution, it is very much part the problem. At the same time we can rightfully demand from Muslims that they should be aware of the fears and resentments they raise in the populations they are trying to join, and behave accordingly. You want to join the club? Fine, but you have to follow the rules, and the onus is on you to prove that you deserve to be a member, and that the suspicions against you are unjustified. Some Americans seem to have an idealized idea about how the melting pot works – there was and is considerable pressure on new immigrants to fit in, and rightfully so. The same should go for people immigrating to Europe, and there is nothing wrong with social and economic pressure if it is applied fairly and equalibly, rather than being the expression of prejudice and racism.
The text below is written in this spirit, so please keep this in mind whenever you feel like letting out a howl of outrage, or want to tut-tut at my simplistic attitude.
I, too, have almost daily interactions with Muslims, and nearly all of them are pleasant and honorable people, same as everybody else. I also believe that we need to differentiate between Muslim sects.
Fact is, though, that if you leave the individual level it becomes trickier. Muslims, moderate or not, by and large believe that their faith is the superior one, and that they should enjoy preferential treatment. And why should they feel differently? They are, by their own lights, only demanding that different people should be treated differently. So if they have the superior faith, they should be treated like superior people – makes perfect sense to them. Maybe your and mine direct experiences with Muslims have been mostly positive because we haven’t, in our interactions and talks with Muslims, touched upon their fundamental beliefs, which are very likely less pleasing, and would be highly painful for us, if set into practice.
The same would go for many devout believers of other faiths, absent the rule of law. I don’t want to offend anyone, but by and large fervent Christians are only harmless nowadays because they lack the power and numbers to be dangerous, and there are so many competing denominations that keep each other in check. They didn’t leave everybody else alone because they wanted to, but because we others *made* them leave us alone.
That, too, isn’t an indictment of individual Christians, no matter how fervent. Read your history, though. Once again, if you go beyond the individual level, you get things like forcible conversions and the execution of recalcitrant agnostics, heretics and adherents of other faiths who didn’t feel like converting. And the people who did that felt that they did their victims a kindness, for they tried to save them from eternal damnation. Once those components of religious faiths dominate which go far beyond anything a human being can truly comprehend – like the conviction that heretics, non-believers and apostates will burn forever in hell if they aren’t shown the error of their ways – the most bestial brutality becomes downright mandatory in order to save them.
Very few present-day Christians are like that, least of all Pope Benedict, but a lot of Muslims are just like that even in the 21st Century, and the pieties of political correctness prevent us from taking appropriate action to keep them in line. That will encourage extremist Muslims, who can achieve one sense of achievement after another, whenever the the rest of us yield to them, no matter how small the issue in question. Building on these, for them, positive experiences they can grow in confidence, while at the same time moderate Muslims are ignored and sidelined – what incentive do they have to keep going, if the opposite behavior is rewarded over and over again?
Then again, there’s the question how useful the moderates are to us anyway. It’s not as if they staged huge demonstrations against the Islamists, and they also require our protection, lest they be all killed by those same Islamists. I also strongly suspect that the true ‘moderate Muslims’ have effectively stopped being Muslims at all, and they won’t own up to it, for apostasy means yet again death. And even if they still regard themselves as Muslims, they seem to have at the very least capitulated to our secular European culture – for every Muslim girl wearing a headscarf I see one running around in skimpy clothing, weather permitting. Never mind the religious aspect, I wouldn’t let my daughters leave the house like that, if I had children. Last but not least, the (hypothetical?) moderates won’t inform the authorities about the Islamists’ plans, even if they could do so anonymously and without danger to themselves. Islam seems to breed indifference and sloth, at least as far as social matters and the fulfilling of civic duties is concerned. One more reason to apply some pressure, so that they’ll at least bother to face the most most basic tasks for becoming full citizens, like learning the local language.
What all this amounts to is that moderate Muslims are not much help. We also have to be discerning in whom we call a moderate and whom not – the Central Council of German Muslims criticized the Iranian president sharply when he demanded that Israel should be wiped off the map. Good for them, but almost simultaneously they demanded an apology for the Crusades from the Church, claiming that they were the equivalent of centuries of anti-semitic teachings and persecution.
There are other differences between Christians and Muslims. Christian zealots were reigned in by ourselves, and that has never happened with Muslims. Muslim Spain, aka Al Andalus, was rather tolerant and enlightened, but it was overrun twice by Islamic fanatics who declared jihad on their tolerant and enlightened co-religionists and slaughtered them wholesale. There is
no reason to think that moderate Muslims will fare better in the future. As it is, the only reason we have them around in numbers large enough to even mention is that *we* protect them against their fanatical co-religionists. Virtually all tolerant and enlightened, not to mention inspired and brilliant, Muslim authors live either in Europe or North America – that data point alone should give you something to think about. There are Muslim authors living in the Middle East who are pretty good to great practitioners of their craft, but they are mostly notable as far as technical ability is concerned. Especially telling was this incident: Najib Mahfuz, the only Arab author to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature was too sick to deliver a speech at the Frankfurt book fair 2004, so he sent a representative instead. As it turned out said representative, Mohammad Salmawy, is a notorious Holocaust denier – Gerhard Schröder looked damned stupid standing up with him up on that podium. I like to think that he blindly trusted Mahfus to send a trustworthy representative, instead of greeting a holocaust denier knowingly and opportunistically (but with Schröder you never know).
Another important distinction is that Christian institutions at their most powerful still opposed arbitrary punishment and prosecution, and did what they could to reign in excessively cruel punishment. Unlike the Spanish Inquisition, which acted in the nationalist spirit of Reconquista rather than Christianity, the Roman Inquisition indeed was an attempt to reign in the most extreme zealots, and to impose (religious) rule of law. They did not always succeed, for the Roman Inquisition, or the Roman church as such did not always have power and influence over all of Catholic Christianity. like Spain and parts of Germany and Switzerland, but they did at least try. Atrocities like witch hunts and pogroms against Jews took place exactly where the Roman Inquisition had no power, and also worldly authority and rule of law had broken down.
There were some cases when Islamic rulers did the same for their countries, but those were exceptions and only of a temporary nature. And last but not least, the West came up with a division between Church and State, and they didn’t, they can’t even conceive of it. To be sure, this division was a happy historical accident for us, but Muslims had plenty of time to learn from our example, and to recognize the advantages it provides. That they didn’t speaks volumes.
Yes, you can point to genocides perpetrated by western atrocities, especially Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, and the Soviet Union’s gulags, but it was the rest of Western civilization which put an end to them. By war in the former, and persistent efforts in the latter. It is also worth noting that both regimes had been ‘godless’, which had renounced Christianity altogether; secularization had worked altogether too well – much as it pains this committed agnostic to write down. As to the Muslim world: It had been a enthusiastic supporter of the former (minus Turkey, which gave refuge to all European emigrants that wanted in), and contributed only a couple of guerrilla fighters to defeating the latter.
So, now after overcoming western-style totalitarianism, we could finally enjoy the ‘end of history’, get down to business, and march off into an eternal capitalist heaven, if not for a new, or rather renewed Islamic totalitarianism. We can get rid of our multiculti, kumbaya idiots pretty quickly, but afterwards we’ll still be on our own fighting the Islamists – the moderate Muslims mostly won’t bother to show up, as always. I hope to be proven wrong, of course, but I’m not optimistic.