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Old 02-27-2006, 05:59 PM   #1
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One Scholar's Solution to Europe's "Muslim Problem": American-Style National Identity

Quote:
Alarmist Americans have mostly bad advice for Europeans

By Francis Fukuyama
slate.com, Feb. 27, 2006


The riots that consumed the French suburbs last November, and now the uproar over the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, have underlined for all to see that the ongoing struggle with radical Islamism (aka the "war on terrorism") is if anything more of a problem for Europe than it is for America. For the United States, with a Muslim population of less than 1% of the total, radical Islam is an issue to be dealt with "over there," in dysfunctional areas of the Middle East like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. For Europe, however, it is a much more immediate and threatening crisis because it is domestic. In the Netherlands, 6-7% of the population, and as much as half the population of large cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam, are Muslim. In France, the percentage may reach to 12 or 13%. Many of the organizers of recent terrorist incidents—including Mohammed Atta, the Sept. 11 ringleader; the March 7 Madrid bombers; Mohammed Bouyeri, assassin of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh; and the July 7 London bombers—were radicalized not in the Middle East, but in Western Europe. Many, like Bouyeri and the London bombers, were second-generation citizens who spoke their adopted country's language fluently.

The European dimension of the Islamist problem has been under discussion in Europe itself for some time, a topic pursued by academics like the Syrian-born professor at Göttingen, Bassam Tibi, and the French Islamicists Olivier Roy and Gilles Kepel. But until the last 18 months or so, the level of political correctness on this issue has been so stifling that few politicians or journalists dared to speak openly about a subject that generates immense popular fear. Americans have not faced the same inhibitions, and there is now a burgeoning and markedly alarmist literature on the Islamic threat to Europe. The dire diagnosis of Europe's domestic situation is perfectly justified: Well before last year's riots, the French internal intelligence agency noted that there were dozens of neighborhoods where the French police dared not set foot. The problem is how to address the situation from here on out, and the basic issues are clear. Governments need to clamp down on extremists and jihadists in ways that do not risk further alienating minority communities; their aim must be to integrate moderate Muslims better while avoiding a right-wing populist backlash. Unfortunately, anyone looking for more specific prescriptions from America—where, after all, assimilation has a long history—will find more sound and fury than useful insights.

So far, shrill voices have dominated the field, with Pat Buchanan taking the lead several years ago with The Death of the West, and Tony Blankley, the op-ed page editor at The Washington Times, recently following up with The West's Last Chance. Bruce Bawer now offers a more balanced, if still highly gloomy, prognosis as he surveys the European predicament in While Europe Slept. A writer and critic formerly living in New York (he got his start at The New Criterion), Bawer happens to be gay. By his own account, he moved to Europe with his partner in the late 1990s because he found the atmosphere of conservative Christianity in the United States increasingly stifling. Living in both the Netherlands and Norway and learning to speak Dutch and Norwegian, he found that the real threat to his personal freedom came not from fundamentalist Christians, but from the intolerant Muslims who were both homophobic and increasingly vocal throughout the Continent.

Bawer's real spleen is reserved, however, for those European elites who up to now have ignored the growing threat to their democracy while blaming their problems on the United States and Israel. The Europeans he encounters remain heirs of the 1968 revolt, embracing anti-establishment politics that blame the world's problems on capitalism and America, even as Muslim youths attack Jews and gays in their own midst. National leaders cozy up to Arab authoritarians and ignore popular complaints about crime in immigrant communities in hopes of buying peace for themselves. Those like Pym Fortuyn, the gay Dutch politician who was the first to say clearly that Muslims were a threat to the central Dutch values of openness and pluralism (and who was assassinated by an animal-rights activist), are denounced by the media and academic elites as fascists and racists.

Denunciations like that are precisely what Buchanan and Blankley alas invite, rather than help deflect, with incendiary warnings and unrealistic proposals that only promise to fuel intolerance. Four years ago, in The Death of the West, Buchanan expanded upon the culture war he had made famous at the 1992 Republican convention, where he pitted a Christian, family-oriented, patriotic, protectionist, and isolationist America against one that is militantly anti-religious, cosmopolitan, globalizing, multicultural, and pro-gay. In his book he spends considerable time talking about the demographic crisis in Europe, which he ascribes to the latter's lack of the equivalent of red-state voters. Citing projections well known to demographers, Buchanan issues warnings about how Germany will lose a third of its population by 2050, how 52% of Italian women between 16 and 24 plan to have no children, and how these white Europeans will be outnumbered by Muslim immigrants in a few generations, thanks to the newcomers' higher birth rates. Buchanan attributes this demographic decline directly to Europe's loss of Christian values and embrace of feminism, multiculturalism, and internationalism.

The "West" that Buchanan believes is dying is not defined by universalist ideas of rights or dignity; it is defined by Christianity and ethnicity. If it were simply a question of having the right values, he should welcome Hispanic immigrants who share his Catholicism, or Muslims who are as socially conservative as he. But his conservatism is more the traditional European blood-and-soil type, where primary loyalty is to one's own tribe in a world of competing tribes. And the remedies that Blankley and Buchanan advocate are destined to make the problem worse by undermining the assimilationist model that saves America from Europe's crisis.

Blankley proposes closing the border with Mexico, issuing national ID cards, and using ethnic profiling without embarrassment. He goes so far as to suggest that Roosevelt was justified in quarantining U.S. citizens of Japanese origin during World War II, with the implication that we would be within our rights to do the same to American Muslims. Buchanan similarly looks back with nostalgia at Operation Wetback, which expelled a million Mexican guest workers in the 1950s, and chides President Bush for refusing to subject the 5 million to 10 million illegal immigrants to similar treatment today. Both Blankley and Buchanan have the same advice for the Europeans: Go back to church and have more babies. Lots of luck. Even if there were a revival of Europe's Christian identity, the Buchanan-Blankley vision spells only more militant confrontation with the millions of European citizens who are not Christian.

Yet the deeper source of Europe's failure to integrate Muslim immigrants, as Bawer recognizes, is not trendy multiculturalist ideas embraced by the left, but precisely Buchanan's blood-and-soil understanding of identity—a mind-set that until five years ago prevented a German-speaking third-generation Turk from acquiring citizenship because he didn't have a German mother. According to Bawer, "Europeans … will allow immigrants into their country; they'll pay high taxes so that their government can dole out (forever, if necessary) rent support, child benefits. … But they won't really think of them as being Norwegian or Dutch. And they'll rebel mightily against the idea of immigrants living among them as respected, fully equal professionals." American identity, by contrast, has from the beginning been more creedal and political than based on religion or ethnicity. Newly naturalized Guatemalans or Koreans in America can proudly say they are Americans. Pat Buchanan may not like it, but that is precisely what rescues us from the trap the Europeans are in.

The alarmist prognosis in these books has been taken much more seriously in Europe over the last few months as a result of Islamist violence. The Dutch speak of the van Gogh murder in November 2004 as their Sept. 11, and the political transformation since then has been astonishing. The government has cut off virtually all new immigration into the country and given the police Patriot Act-type powers to pursue potential terrorists. Old-style multiculturalism is now widely seen as a failure in Holland and is being seriously questioned in Britain. There is a huge backlash brewing among ordinary citizens in Europe, who last year voted in France and Holland against the new European constitution at least in part because they thought it affirmed Turkish membership in the EU.

The problem that most Europeans face today is that they don't have a vision of the kinds of positive cultural values their societies stand for and should promote, other than endless tolerance and moral relativism. What each European society needs is to invent an open form of national identity similar to the American creed, an identity that is accessible to newcomers regardless of ethnicity or religion. This was the idea behind Bassam Tibi's concept of Leitkultur (guiding or reference culture), the notion that the European Enlightenment gave rise to a distinct and positive universalist culture based on the dignity of the individual. Muslims coming to Europe would be minimally expected to accept this perspective as their own. There will be many missteps along the way: The state of Baden-Württemberg, for example, recently introduced a test that would require the respondent to support gay marriage as a condition for citizenship, something deliberately designed to exclude Muslims.

Time is getting short to address these questions. Europeans should have started a discussion about how to integrate their Muslim minorities a generation ago, before the winds of radical Islamism had started to blow. The cartoon controversy, while beginning with a commendable European desire to assert basic liberal values, may constitute a Rubicon that will be very hard to re-cross. We should be alarmed at the scope of the problem, but prudent in responding to it, since escalating cultural conflict throughout the Continent will bring us closer to a showdown between Islamists and secularists that will increasingly look like a clash of civilizations.
I don't know that this would really be any simpler to implement then Buchanan's Kinder, Kuche, Kirche approach, but it is an interesting idea. And Fukuyama and Bawer are certainly not the first to suggest it: the continental philosophers Habermas and Derrida suggested something similar in a dialogue published in, I think, a German newspaper a few years back.

What do you think? Is this an unfeasible pipe dream or a practical plan? Does it adequately address the "real" reasons (whatever you think those might be) for why so many European countries are having difficulty integrating their (not-so-)newly arrived Muslim citizens? Is this even a realistic portrayal of what national identity means to most Americans, for that matter?
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Old 02-27-2006, 06:13 PM   #2
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The conditions are different, Europe is not creating multi-cultural societies it has effectively created bi-cultural ones. I do not see any great solution to subvert the attraction towards Islamic fundamentalism, the "decadence" and "corruption" of the western way of life is alienating and will be a perpetual barrier, Buchanan is very conciliatory towards Islamic fundamentalists (for instance his stance over The Satanic Verses) because it's has a lot of common ground with his own beliefs.

I really would not be surprised to see some states in Western Europe become Muslim majority in the next century, it is either going to be peaceful transition, a very bloody and rejectionist affair or a mixture of both.
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Old 02-28-2006, 06:33 AM   #3
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Yet the deeper source of Europe's failure to integrate Muslim immigrants, as Bawer recognizes, is not trendy multiculturalist ideas embraced by the left, but precisely Buchanan's blood-and-soil understanding of identity—a mind-set that until five years ago prevented a German-speaking third-generation Turk from acquiring citizenship because he didn't have a German mother. According to Bawer, "Europeans … will allow immigrants into their country; they'll pay high taxes so that their government can dole out (forever, if necessary) rent support, child benefits. … But they won't really think of them as being Norwegian or Dutch. And they'll rebel mightily against the idea of immigrants living among them as respected, fully equal professionals." American identity, by contrast, has from the beginning been more creedal and political than based on religion or ethnicity. Newly naturalized Guatemalans or Koreans in America can proudly say they are Americans.



Good point.
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Old 02-28-2006, 06:39 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by A_Wanderer
The conditions are different, Europe is not creating multi-cultural societies it has effectively created bi-cultural ones.
Thats why we need to make the immigration and assimilation processes better and easier. Nationalist ideas don´t help, but only incite more hate between different ethnic groups. The Bi-cultural societies are created because immigrants have no access to the good jobs, live in "their own" districts etc., and also because they like to stay with their own folks - I can understand that,.. if I moved to Australia, I would also be looking for Austrians there.

Lets leave terrorism out of that for a minute, we all condemn terrorism.

I wouldnt have any problem with 20% Muslims here, the ones I know are good people and pray three times a day. I have a problem when Muslims want to impose their values on our societies.

But isn´t that also what the Western countries are being accused of by the Muslims? I think it works both ways. Traditional Muslims do not like some Western values (free sexual atmosphere, Mc Donalds, one central value of the Western society is to consume, they don´t like that). They accuse us that we ruin their youth, that our corporations have introduced these values in their societies (without asking them).

When Muslims complain about that, we use the argument of globalisation, hey all the world is opened and free now (and we want to trade with you!), and we accuse them of think backwards if they dont open their societies to our values.

But on the other hand, we accuse them of coming into our countries and introducing their values in our societies. Even if lots of Muslim women want to wear the Burka, we say it doesn´t fit well with our schools. When the Turkish sell Kebab, we consume it because its cheap and good, but certain racist fuckers will still giggle about the "stinky-onion-Turks".

If we want multiculturalism, we have to allow it everywhere and give the same rights to everyone. That would include that people who live in Austria can feel like Austrians, with all the rights. Reality is different - they pay taxes to finance our infrastructure, but they can´t vote. They gather in certain districts because they feel isolated when they´re surrounded by Austrians who treat them second class.

The argument of multiculturalism and globalisation works both ways. Its clear that WE would just like to get cheap oil, cheap workforce that we can kick out anytime, and well, for cultural issues THEY have to assimilate. But that´s not how it works. When you are for freedom of religion, you also have to build a mosque for 20,000 Muslims in a city of 1 mil - if not, the whole basic human freedoms and rights are just nice rhetoric.
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Old 02-28-2006, 09:57 AM   #5
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Very well said, hiphop.

Since America is the superpower in the current global econmy, does this mean we can all, citizens of the world, proudly call ourselves American one day?

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Old 02-28-2006, 10:04 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by AliEnvy
Since America is the superpower in the current global econmy, does this mean we can all, citizens of the world, proudly call ourselves American one day?




only if you're good and finish all your vegetables.
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Old 02-28-2006, 10:58 AM   #7
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Thank you, daddy

It's a semi-serious question worth contemplating though so indulge me.

In a world where economic borders practically don't exist, how does that affect multiculteralism? Do we all just assimilate?

When you think about the heirarchy of that economy, what responsibility do those at the top of the heirachy have to those below, and in particular, at the bottom?

In America (and probably elsewhere), the haves protect themselves from the have-nots with lovely gated communities and harsher punitive penalties. Eventually desperation causes the pot to boil over and you get revolt (think LA riots in 92 and the Oaklahoma bombing).

On a global scale, that revolt looks like 9/11 and subway bombings in Spain and UK.

Would assimilation be ok if it means that locally and globally everyone can celebrate their uniqueness and have a fair economic deal?

Or does assimilation mean taking advantage of the weak, doling out praise and pennies for good behaviour and punishing them when they're naughty?
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Old 02-28-2006, 11:15 AM   #8
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How do you measure a "fair economic deal"? Some will always have more than others - at what point to we accept disparity between income & wealth in a global society?
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Old 02-28-2006, 11:31 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by nbcrusader
How do you measure a "fair economic deal"? Some will always have more than others - at what point to we accept disparity between income & wealth in a global society?
When people aren't dying en masse from poverty and disease and then violence because of it.
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Old 02-28-2006, 11:38 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by AliEnvy
In America (and probably elsewhere), the haves protect themselves from the have-nots with lovely gated communities and harsher punitive penalties. Eventually desperation causes the pot to boil over and you get revolt (think LA riots in 92 and the Oaklahoma bombing).

On a global scale, that revolt looks like 9/11 and subway bombings in Spain and UK.


wow. you might maybe have a bit of a point with the LA riots, but to view the Okalahoma City bombing, 9/11, the Madrid and the London Underground bombings as expressions of economic greivances is hugely flawed and an insult to those who were murdered.

as for the rest of your post, it strikes me that you've already given yourself answers via the questions you've set up -- either/or statements ... i'd suggest that words like "globalization" and "assimilation" are infinitely complex and can't be reduced to two competing choices.
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Old 02-28-2006, 11:53 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511

wow. you might maybe have a bit of a point with the LA riots, but to view the Okalahoma City bombing, 9/11, the Madrid and the London Underground bombings as expressions of economic greivances is hugely flawed and an insult to those who were murdered.
I guess my stance is that cultural and ideological grievances are inherently economic and political.


Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511

as for the rest of your post, it strikes me that you've already given yourself answers via the questions you've set up -- either/or statements ... i'd suggest that words like "globalization" and "assimilation" are infinitely complex and can't be reduced to two competing choices.
You may have noticed I like framing ideas for discussion on extremes and contradiction lol. Challenging your own discomfort about something is good brain exercise.
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Old 02-28-2006, 12:01 PM   #12
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I guess my stance is that cultural and ideological grievances are inherently economic and political.


i can't quite agree with that -- the willingness to blow someone up, and yourself as well, has more to do with a murderous religious pathology and a strong sense of historical humiliation than with economics. if it were to do with economics, most terrorists would be, like, Ugandans.

i suppose i'm very resistant to the idea of any episode of nihilistic violence as an expression of a Marxist narrative of class struggle.
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Old 02-28-2006, 12:08 PM   #13
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going back to your original question ... it's not that everyone is going to become American, but that American citizenship is predicated upon not having any sort of myth of origin, there is no blood-and-soil component to American identity except amongst the most extreme racist nationalists -- American identity is divorced from common race, common religion, and common ethnicity, and it always has been. while i despair at how my country continues to conduct itself in the world as we suffer through the most embarassing presidency in history, i remain very proud to be part of a country where citizenship is more about the sharing of a common set of ideals and principles and where the words "the pursuit of happiness ..." is as central an ideal as anything else.

what the article is arguing, i think, is not that everyone should become american, but that citizenship in the modern era must turn away from blood-and-soil and embrace values and ideals -- it seems to me that the process of forging the EU, especially on a Continent that has lived through so much war fought along ethnic lines, is a step in this direction.
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Old 02-28-2006, 12:29 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511

i can't quite agree with that -- the willingness to blow someone up, and yourself as well, has more to do with a murderous religious pathology and a strong sense of historical humiliation than with economics.
Where does "murderous religious pathology" and historical humiliation come from though? It comes from rebelling against an authority with the power to affect your economic position.

Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511
if it were to do with economics, most terrorists would be, like, Ugandans.
What makes you think that won't happen? The effects of globalization are still pretty new.

Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511

i suppose i'm very resistant to the idea of any episode of nihilistic violence as an expression of a Marxist narrative of class struggle.
Fair enough, but why?
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Old 02-28-2006, 01:32 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511

citizenship in the modern era must turn away from blood-and-soil and embrace values and ideals
Ok, but whose values and ideals? That approach may draw different lines and borders than blood-and-soil, but they may not be any less dividing.

In a practical sense, it will be the values and ideals of whoever has the most economic power.

Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511
-- it seems to me that the process of forging the EU, especially on a Continent that has lived through so much war fought along ethnic lines, is a step in this direction.
Right....but the EU was formed for economic reasons.
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