It Can’t Happen Here

A point I have not seen mentioned in the discussion of the cartoon riots: the virulent ideology of Islamist extremism is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for violence.
As this discussion of meme propagation illustrates, the hearers must be inclined to act in certain ways. The message is the same in all cases, but its dissemination is not guaranteed.
There are at least 5 million Muslims in the US. Out of that number, there must be thousands who privately applaud the destruction and intimidation we have seen in the news. But none have attacked consulates or embassies. As far as I know, none have even staged public protests, certainly not with placards threatening our extermination.
Nor can this be attributed to isolation; communications technologies easily permit minorities of one in a thousand to link up and undertake coordinated efforts. Of the one million Muslims in California, a thousand could have taken to the streets of Sacramento with bloodcurdling slogans. But they didn’t.
And they won’t. Because they’ve got real jobs and real lives; because they can reasonably hope for attainment and enjoyment of the things that human beings find fulfilling: family, challenging and meaningful work, religion, prosperity … in coming to America, the evil seeds of extremism “fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.” Thank God.

UPDATE: There was a small, peaceful protest in Philadelphia yesterday morning.

21 thoughts on “It Can’t Happen Here”

  1. There’s no basis for the conclusion. Heck – the “evidence” isn’t even true. (Many of the folks protesting may well believe that they have real jobs, lives, and all the rest. That’s especially true of those in the UK and may well be true of many of those in “backwards” countries.)

    It would be just as sound to claim that US Muslims don’t rise up because they’re worried that they’ll be targetted if they do.

  2. You don’t know what you are talking about.

    Were that number reflective of 15% to 25% of the American populace, we would be seeing demands that aspects of the Shariaa be incorporated into our laws.

    Just give it a bit more time, and we will be surely experiencing the problems that Europeans are.

    Your analysis based on economics is entirely material, whereas the wisdom of the ages instructs us that man is spiritual, and that ultimately his actions will reflect his spiritual state. We see exhausted post-moderns in Europe that don’t have a clue, and we see kooks and fanatics acting out the sad severities of a badly, dated desert deity.

    And it’s coming this way too. So cut the American triumphalism, the ONLY thing that has spared us so far is their number, the fact they’re dispersed in our country, AND the fact that Americans are well-armed, and apt to resort to legal “self-help.”

  3. I’d have to agree in part with both Dan and Andy on this, but only in part. While true that we’d see more problems if the Islamic population in the US was greater, I think that the success the United States has had in assimilating people from other cultures would mean that we’re probably never going to have the same problems that Europe is experiencing.

    Please note that most of the recent trouble in France, for example, is caused by 2nd or 3rd generation “immigrants” that still haven’t been accepted by the mainstream culture.

    There’s another reason why the United States is extremely unlikely to see anything like Europe’s troubles, and Dan mentioned why when referring to the likely reaction that violent protests and riots would produce. ‘…Americans are well-armed, and apt to resort to legal “self-help.”‘


  4. James is right. It is both elements. First, people here are relatively successful and assimilated. The ones who come here rather than Europe are usually more sophisticated in general, to start off with. They have a lot more positive reinforcement for good behavior. Their relative success means they have a lot more at stake and less incentive to put themselvs and their families and their fortunes at risk for some gesture. On the other side, the American public has not generally bought into self-hating multiculturalism and would respond with anger to violence, or short of that, the kinds of threatening placards we saw in London the other day. Walter Russell Mead wrote that Martin Luther King’s genius was in seeing the way to get through to Jacksonian America — show courage by standing up for his convictions, which earned respect, but stop short of any kind of threat or ultimatum, which would have led to an annihilatory Jacksonian backlash. The muslims in America probably sense this same thing.

  5. Muslims don’t “rise up” here cuz they know private citizens will kick their asses and prompt the gov’t to revoke their visas.

    The American people are slow to anger, but we’re still the last people anybody wants to mess with. The same can’t be said of the European countries wehere muslims are demonstrating.

    And whether they “rise up” or not, one more terrorist attack on US soil and muslims in the US will need to be careful.

    For the time being the Islamo-facists are content laying low, letting the lefties and the unions do their demonstrating for them.

  6. It’s also worth noting that we aren’t in the same poisition as europe relative to muslims.

    For Europe Arabia is in geographical position that Mexico is to us.

    Europe gets poor, uneducated, cheap labor from the arab world that we get from Mexico. I imagine if we traded all our cheap Mexican laborers for cheap Arab laborers we’d be in a bit of a pinch, but that’s not the case.

    Most of our muslims are here on hi-tech H1-B Visa’s.

    Remember the guys from Oregon that took off to fight for the taliban in Afghanistan? They worked at Intel.

  7. No one knows what the USA Muslim population is. The Wikipedia article cites surveys that give a range of between about 1 and 7 million, with the top three estimates coming from Muslim advocacy groups. (Where did “7-10 Million” come from?) The higher estimates sound like global-warming assertions or population figures for Palestinian refugees — both areas where activists tend to repeat the highest figure from multiple unsourced estimates, and then to repeat it until someone asserts a new high figure which becomes the basis for subsequent repetitions.

  8. Muslims in America have earned their living by their own sweat while those rioting in Europe have been handed out welfare. Clearly welfare does not nourish the soul but self-help does.

    I noticed some real cheap shots above at Muslim Americans but it is also worthwhile noting that it is only in America where Muslims in a non-Muslim country have decided to put their lives at risk and join the US armed forces. I personally know plenty of them, including many relatives, but their voices have been drowned in this media war when the microphone of the Islamic side has been hijacked by those sponsors of terror whose hand President Bush prominently holds in front of world’s media and from whose sponsorship of tyranny a lot of Muslims have emigrated to America: the Saudi Royal Family.

  9. “the microphone of the Islamic side has been hijacked” Sulaiman, I think a post on the blog from you about American muslims would be worth having. Also, what do you think can be done about this problem, that American muslims are not getting heard?

  10. I think it’s also important to take note of other factors:

    * The addition of three even more offensive cartoons to the group when certain extremist groups were redistributing the cartoons, and falsely claiming that all of them had been published in Denmark.

    * The role of the Moslem Brotherhood in formenting the unrest.

    * The complicity of governments in the area, like Syria’s. I suspect that if you decided to get a mob together in Syria and perform an unapproved arson of say, Iran’s or Saudi Arabia’s embassy, the security forces would shoot you and then start issuing warnings to you while you lay there bleeding in the street.

    (The other two countries were the protests turned burn-an-embassy-violent were Indonesia and Lebanon. Lebanon doesn’t quite yet have its independence from Syria, and Indonesia is sort-of an extremist hotbed, with local Jihadis both blowing up Australian tourists and supporting terrorist movements in the Philipines.)

  11. Lex –

    I hate to speak on behalf of any groups, especially that I am suspicious of all forms of organized religious life and I do not practice any faith. However, what scares me is that some sane Americans are falling for the trap of sectarian warfare/violence that Islamic fundamentalists are setting up here. In the US, despite market segmentation by politicians to garner votes, the lines of ethnicity and religion defining an individual’s identity have broken down. More and more members of this society judge each other by the content of character than anything else. Unfortunately, violence and warfare have a tendency of destroying this openness and trust and sending us back to what is atavistically familiar.

    As for the voice of moderates, I reiterate my point: as long as Saudi petrodollars finance terror and tyranny in the name of Islam (they withdrew their ambassador from Denmark!), moderate Muslims who are weak and lack resources will be absent from this discussion.

  12. Lex –

    Stephen Schwartz has written some good stuff on Islam and how Saudi Arabia is strengthening the worst elements of the Islamic world: Two Faces of Islam. I haven’t the read the book cover to cover but have watched SS on numerous shows and read his articles in various publications.

    SS himself, I believe originally a Jew, has converted to Islam and is a practicing mystic (sufism). The petrodollar-financed Salafist/Wahabi branch of Islam views the sufis as a bunch heretics who are no better than infidels. When I was growing up as a child in Afghanistan there was tremendous amount of respect for sufis but today nobody hears about these people for whom religion is a deep personal, rather than a political, issue.

  13. The best estimates of the number of Muslims in the U.S. are not over 3 million.

    By the way, the size of the Muslim vote in the U.S. has been exaggerated. In the last two exit polls, the number of voters choosing Islam as their religion was in the neighborhood of 0.4%.

    Further, a large fraction of Muslim immigrants to the U.S. came in as students of higher education or because of specific advanced job skills, such as doctors. The people who are causing most of the trouble in Europe are typically the sons or grandsons of uneducated laborers brought in to “do the jobs Europeans just don’t want to do.”

    My article “French Lessons” at
    explains a lot of the common mistakes made by Americans when discussing European troubles with Muslim immigrants.

  14. Sulaiman, I do not ask you to “speak on behalf of any groups” but to speak of your personal experience with, as you mentioned, Americans who are muslims and have served in the military, or others who are NOT sympathetic to the craziness we are seeing these days. America is a big place and a lot of people have money or access to media. I think American muslims should become alert to the problems that are being generated for them and push back against this apparently Saudi-led propaganda. Their wellbeing and the wellbeing of the country call for a serious response.

  15. I heard that a lot of the numbers counting American Muslims included Arab Christian immigrants with ‘Muslim’ sounding names. Thus inflating the actual number of Muslims.

  16. On those Muslim numbers: There are a whole set of estimates at the Adherents web site. Looking at them, I would say it is quite unlikely that there are 5 million Muslims in the United States, even by the broadest definition.

    I think Jay is right about the difference between the the Muslim populations in the US and in some European countries, but I also think it depends on the immigrant group. I think, for instance, that we are going to have serious crime problems with our Somali population. And the very disproportionate number of Muslims in our prisons should be a tip about the problems many converts cause.

  17. I think it’s asymilation. The people up in arms about this are embarrasing themselves. Muslims here are less willing to humiliate themselve like that.

  18. Lex –

    Bernard-Henri Levy had an op-ed piece in WSJ today. You may want to read his article which concludes, “moderate Muslims who know that the honor of Islam is far more insulted, and trampled under foot, when Iraqi terrorists bomb a mosque in Baghdad, when Pakistani jihadists decapitate Daniel Pearl in the name of God and film their crime, or when an Algerian fundamentalist emir disembowels, while reciting the Quran, an Algerian woman whose only crime was to have dared show her beautiful face. Moderate Muslims are alone these days, and in their solitude they more than ever need to be acknowledged and hailed.”

  19. There’s another factor to consider when assessing an immigrant population: when did they get here? Specifically, what were relations like between the US and the nation in question when the first generation of the immigrants in question arrived?

    Thomas Sowell illustrates:

    [D]uring the war, Japanese-Americans, overwhelmingly, remained loyal to the United States and Japanese-American soldiers won more than their share of medals in combat. But in Brazil, the Japanese were overwhelmingly and even fanatically loyal to Japan. You cannot explain the difference by anything in the environment of the United States or the environment of Brazil. But if you know something about the history of those Japanese who settled in these two countries, you know that they were culturally different in Japan, before they ever got on the boats to take them across the Pacific Ocean– and they were still different decades later.

    These two groups of immigrants left Japan during very different periods in the cultural evolution of Japan itself. A modern Japanese scholar has said: “If you want to see Japan of the Meiji era, go to the United States. If you want to see Japan of the Taisho era, go to Brazil.” The Meiji era was a more cosmopolitan, pro-American era; the Taisho era was one of fanatical Japanese nationalism.

    Muslims in the US represent a lot of countries, so the portrait of their relationship with Americans is quite complex.

  20. Oops, the passage leaves out one critical fact, which you probably guessed: Japanese of the Meiji era was far more pro-Western than the Taisho era.

    These points are raised on page 107 of Sowell’s Migrations and Cultures.

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