As the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City and recent skinhead violence in Germany suggest, the potential for conflict between Muslims resident in Europe and North America with the indigenous Christian and Jewish populations is great and multifaceted. The list of actual conflicts is long, and almost every one of them seems to be growing. On the positive side, mechanisms for reducing or ending these conflicts are also numerous, and few of them have been thought through, much less applied.
The following account has two parts. Part One lists problem areas, analyses tensions, and considers the dangers they pose. Some of these arise predominantly from the minority Muslim population (both immigrant and convert), others from the majority Western side. Part Two recommends mechanisms for containing or eliminating these tensions, again with separate analysis of the Muslims and the native Western populations. We believe and hope that a thoroughly understanding the sources of conflict makes it possible to provide useful, realistic remedies.
To begin with, however, we present a few words by way of background.
More than thirteen million Muslims, both immigrants and converts, live today in Western Europe and the United States. In Western Europe, Muslims number about twelve million. Over 3 million Muslims live in France, about 2 million in West Germany, 1½ million in the United Kingdom, and almost a million in Italy. Half a million Muslims live in Belgium. Almost five centuries after the fall of Granada, Spain now hosts 200,000 Muslims. In many West European countries Muslims have replaced Jews as the second largest religious community; they also outnumber Protestants and Jews in France, Catholics in Berlin, and so forth. In North America the numbers are much disputed, with a low of one million and a high of ten; the largest-scale study to date shows a Muslim population of 1.4 million.
Muslim communities tend to concentrate in urban areas and especially in the center of cities, making them very visible. Some towns have a very significant Muslim elements; Bradford in England, the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denys, and Dearborn, Michigan.
This Muslim population came into existence during the second half of the twentieth century. Before 1955 negligible numbers of Muslims lived in Western Europe and North America; just the odd student, merchant, sailor, worker, exile, or convert. Their numbers began to swell in the 1960s as five major developments took place. The advanced industrial economies of Western Europe sought new sources of unskilled and semi-skilled labor. The Muslim countries experienced a demographic explosion, with attendant unemployment and poverty. Large bodies of Muslim students enrolled at universities in the West. Problems in the newly independent Muslim states (especially their internal repression and many wars) dispatched an unceasing stream of exiles to seek refuge in the stable, free Western countries. And several developments in the West (self-doubt, intermarriage, separatism) prompted significant numbers of native-born Westerners to convert to Islam.
Muslims in the West originate mostly from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, though smaller numbers come from other regions, such as the Indonesians resident in Holland or the Albanians in Italy. A single ethnic group of Muslims predominates in each of the three major European countries: Maghrebis (Algerians, Moroccans, Tunisians) in France, Turks in Germany, South Asians in Great Britain. American black converts dominate in the United States, joined by Iranians, Levantine Arabs and Sub-Saharan Africans. These seven groupings make up the great bulk of the Muslim population to be studied in the pages ahead.
Most immigrants arrived in the West intending to return home before long, then changed their minds. Workers got accustomed to higher incomes, students stayed on beyond their schooling, and exiles found that the troubles besetting their home countries did not pass. What started as migration a temporary sojourn in many cases turned into something permanent. Around 1980 especially, large numbers of Muslims went from migrant to immigrant status (the former expects to return home, the latter does not). This prompted worried European states to restrict entry and to offer financial incentives for long-time residents to return home, to little avail. Muslim numbers continued steadily to grow through reproduction, further immigration, and conversion.
Looking to the future, some Middle East politicians profess to see signs that the troubles in the Muslim world are on the way to solution, and so the emigrants will return home. Thus, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, has observed that "Some Arab communities in Europe are perhaps compelled to live there because their countries have problems. I believe that this problem will eventually be solved." It is difficult, however, for an outside observer to locate the source of the king's optimism. On the contrary, continued high rates of reproduction, immigration, and conversion will cause Muslim populations in the West to grow further in size. In particular, the French authorities fear that an Islamist (or fundamentalist Muslim; we use this term because it is increasingly how the protagonists refer to themselves) takeover in Algeria will lead to civil war and a mass exodus of that country's educated class to France. They fear the civil war will spread to Morocco and Tunisia and get transferred to French soil.
The topic here is recent Muslim immigration and conversion in the West; we exclude both the Christian Arabs in Detroit and the centuries-old Muslim communities in the Balkans. Because the circumstances of Muslims in Latin America and the Caribbean basin differ from those of Western Europe and North America, they are nearly omitted from consideration here. While all countries of Western Europe and North America with substantial Muslim populations are considered in the pages ahead, we emphasize four countries in particular: Germany, France, Great Britain, and the United States.
The conditions for strife are generally more ripe in Western Europe than in North America. In part, this has to do with differences in the societies; in part too it reflects that the Muslim presence in Europe began earlier and has grown larger. Accordingly, we expect that many of the problems found in Europe will eventually emerge in the United States too. The arrival of ever-larger groups of Muslim immigrants in the United States-Iranians, Afghans, Somalis, Kuwaitis, Kurds, Albanians, Bosnians-might bring European-style issues of culture and public safety here. With this in mind, the authors suggest that Americans learn European lessons in order not to replicate the European travails.
Marseilles is a time-bomb.
- Yves Lacoste
Tensions arise from both sides, the Muslim minority and the Western majority. On the Muslim side, Islamism is the major culprit; others sources of problems include violence, family issues, and financial scandals. On the Western side, nativism poses the deepest threat to comity.
Islamism calls for close adherence to the sacred law of Islam (the Shari'a), the voluminous set of laws formulated over a millennium ago which structures private and public life. This code regulates everything from ways to sneeze or yawn to the proper methods of concluding a business deal or waging war. Islamism attributes past glories to the Muslims' close adherence to the ancient law of Islam, recalling the Muslim wealth, power, and cultural achievement of the premodern period. God was in His place and society revolved around His commands. Westerners resented the medieval Muslim achievement and determined to destroy it; they did so in two ways, through military conquest and cultural infiltration. For Islamists, Western civilization represents the most profound threat facing Islam.
Islamism can be summed up in a single phrase: "Islam is the solution." Islamists differ on the details on that solution, but they all agree that Islam as far more than a religion; for them, it represents a political ideology. Anwar Ibrahim of Malaysia succinctly captured this spirit in announcing, "We are not socialist, we are not capitalist, we are Islamic." For Islamists, the end of history will take place when Islamism has vanquished its ideological rivals-liberalism, capitalism, and all the rest-and when Muslims have vanquished non-Muslims. Murad Wilfried Hoffman, a German diplomat and convert to Islam represents the views of many Islamists when he writes:
For as long as the Western world and Communism were opposed to each other, Islam could be regarded as a "third way," an option between the two philosophies. But today it sees itself as an alternative way of coping with life in a newly dualistic world. . . . Not only does Islam see itself as an alternative to post-industrial Western society. It is the alternative."
Islamists living in the West at a minimum seek to establish an autonomous zone in which to live their lives. More often, they seek to impose their views and ways of life on other Muslims and even on the non-Muslim majority. And in some cases, they hope to vanquish the West itself, purging its blemishes and making its strengths their own.
Pushing Moderates Aside
Evidence suggests that the Islamist leadership does not reflect the true views of Western Muslim communities. For example, Algerian institutions in France which receive no funding from Muslim governments-community organizations, broadcasting stations, and the like-take a staunchly anti-Islamist position. Turkish community associations in Hamburg and Hannover have taken a firm stand against Islamist extremism. Muhammad Salim Abdullah-German convert, former journalist with Radio Deutsche Welle, publisher of the Moslemische Revue, a chronicler of inter-religious dialogue-has publicly decried the Islamists as "a menace." In 1990, Helga Ehlers, a Cologne journalist, conducted an inquiry with regard to the popularity of four prominent Muslims in Germany and found that the one most critical of Islamism fared best in the evaluation.
Minority Muslim populations see Europe as a place to maintain their cultural traditions, long banned at home, and so migrate in disproportionate numbers. Berbers in Algeria, who constitute just 20 percent of Algeria's population but over 50 percent (possibly even over 60 percent) of the Algerians in France. Kurds make up 20 percent of the Turkish population but 25 percent of the Turks in Germany (a number that is the more impressive when one realizes how much more rural they are). Alevis (Turkish Shi'is) move more often to Germany and stay there longer. Both Berbers and Kurds tend to be ardently anti-Islamist.
Nonetheless, Islamists regularly emerge as leaders and spokesmen of Muslim communities in Europe and North America. Kalim Siddiqui, for example, runs the Muslim Institute in London, a substantial enterprise which represents the most radical faction of Khomeinists. Its mission seems to be the spreading of hatred against the West. The Muslim Institute couches attacks against the West in the style and vocabulary of leftist evolutionism. It openly called for the assassination of Salman Rushdie, and Crescent International, its bi-weekly journal, rejoiced over assaults on Rushdie's translators. The Islamic Foundation (Leicester) has more ambitious goals. Founded by Khurshid Ahmad, a former Pakistani cabinet minister and author of a particularly vile diatribe against the West, and staffed predominantly by Pakistanis, it seeks nothing less than to assume control over all Islamic activities in the West. The Islamic Foundation (Leicester) has gained such notoriety than an anti-Muslim spy novel portrays it as the command center of a surreptitious Muslim attempt to rule Europe.
Several factors explain the predominance of Islamists:
- Many Westernized Muslims who could serve as a counterweight prefer to get involved in mainstream Western activities, thereby abandoning the Islamic arena.
- Like Communists, Islamist dedication gives them disproportionate presence so that they appear stronger than they really are. For example, while virtually all newspaper reports in the days after Ayatollah Khomeini's edict against Salman Rushdie quoted European and American Muslims who supported the edict, subsequent polls showed that these were but a small minority of the total population.
- Again like Communists, Islamists infiltrate institutions by feigning moderation. In 1991, Mohammad Ali Elahi received a four-months visa which enabled him to inspect American branches of Hizbullah (Tehran's network of agents) and to reinforce Tehran's influence on Shi'ite communities. He attempted a reconciliation between two Detroit institutions, the Islamic Center of North America (moderate and pluralist Shi'ites in tune with the Lebanese Amal movement) and the Muslim Cultural Institute (which serves as a springboard for the Tehran regime's radical recruits). Elahi's apparent open-mindedness took in the Muslim Lebanese community, which installed him as the new imam (prayer leader) of their Islamic Center of North America.
- Ironically, some Islamists see Europe as a safe haven to begin reviving the sacred law; indeed, a sizable proportion of Turks-perhaps 10 percent-migrated to Germany with this in mind. Ironically, this arch-obscurantist segment of Turkish population exploits the pluralism of Western society to practice an anti-Western way of life illegal back home. Indeed, some Islamist Turks see the migration to Germany not as a way to increase their incomes but as a recapitulation of the Prophet Muhammad's flight from Mecca to Medina-the hijra (hegira). These ideologues hardly care that this modern-day hijra takes them from a Muslim country to the heart of Christian Europe; for them, the migration removes them from a land of apostasy to a temporary refuge with a people of a different faith who at least are not disbelievers. But as temporary sojourns turn into prolonged residence, Islamists find it increasingly hard to look at the West as a benign haven.
- The West is a perfect place for Islamists to organize. Governments pay them little attention. Money is located there. Communication and transportation links are first-rate. Muslim governments don't expect trouble to come from there. As a result, the United States has emerged as the headquarters of various Islamist groups, such as Hamas, the Palestinian organization, while an Egyptian article calls Germany "the international headquarters of fundamentalists."
- Defensiveness pushes even liberal Muslims into a radical corner. Getting tagged with Islamist vices immensely frustrates moderate Muslims. In times of stress, Islamism serves to ward off criticism; and Islamists appear to be the most stalwart defenders of community interests. When secularist laborers from Tunisia and Turkey see that European politicians blame Islam for their refusal to be culturally assimilated, they conclude that they live in a hostile milieu, and become hostile themselves. Some Iranians respond by turning into pro-Khomeini partisans. To take a specific case, Riffat Hassan, a Pakistani professor of religion teaching in Louisville, Kentucky, reacted to the pressure on her child in school by defending Khomeini's fatwa against Salman Rushdie and Saddam's conflict with the United States.
- Many Muslims arriving in Western Europe (Iranians, Iraqi Kurds, Bosnians) are traumatized by their recent pasts. In this state, they become easy marks for the well-funded Islamist networks.
Middle East State Support
But the most important reason for Islamist strength has to do with the Middle Eastern states which actively help this cause in the West. The Saudi and Iranian regimes provide the largest amount of funding, followed by those of Libya, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Iraq, thereby much increasing Islamist influence in the West. In so doing, they are merely extending their domestic practices; throughout the Sunni Muslim world, governments choose and fund religious institutions, then bend these to their will. They pursue the same practices in Western Europe and North America, hoping to control Muslim life there via international Islamic institutions. As a result, these institutions have proliferated and grown enormously since 1970.
While most of the above-mentioned states have funded their own organizations, the Saudi government has put the most energy and money into building a vast network of organizations. The Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Islamic Secretariat, and the Muslim World League are the mega-organizations which sponsor a host of specific institutions, including ISESCO (an Islamic version of UNESCO), the International Mosque Council, and the Muslim Students Association. Thanks to the Saudis' financial resources, these brand-new institutions have established an unprecedented Christian-style ecclesiastical apparatus for Sunni Muslims; they amount to a pseudo-church.
By extending the reach of Wahhabism ("Unitarianism"), the extreme form of legalist Islam predominating in Saudi Arabia and nowhere else, the pseudo-church reflects the interests of Saudi foreign policy, not local Muslim communities. While non-Muslims often accept this apparatus at face value, many Muslims see it as a willful, irritating intrusion in their affairs. Tellingly, they ignore the formal names ("the Muslim World League") in favor of "the Saudis," as in "the Saudis just built a new mosque." Muslims in Western Europe and North America widely suspect "the Saudis" of trying to control the leadership in their communities.
Middle Eastern money prompts some opportunistic changes of heart. Before he jumped on the Khomeinist bandwagon in 1979, Kalim Siddiqui of the Muslim Institute worked for the Guardian and the BBC and knew next to nothing about Iran and Shi'ism. He was a thoroughly anglicized Indian leftist of Muslim extraction who might have passed as Salman Rushdie's elder brother (indeed the two share the same ethnic, social, educational and intellectual background). But then, with the prospect of serving as an Iranian spokesman, he found religion.
Saudi funds go not to home-grown leaders but to outsiders favored by Riyadh who see their constituency in Riyadh or Tehran, not in their own locality. Further, in line with Wahhabi doctrine, Saudi-funded institutions discourage women from participating in religious life alongside the men, keep celebrations drab and dry, shun the artistic and folkloristic elements of Islam, and banish all Sufi (mystical) elements. Thus has the Saudi pseudo-church has created a clergy with no roots in history, a lay leadership with no moorings in society, and staffs with no mandate from the community.
Iran lacks the funds to compete across the board with Saudi Arabia, but it does invest its funds in select areas such as publications. It sponsors all sorts of periodicals-dailies, weeklies, and monthlies, for adults and children, in two dozen languages. Crescent International is probably Tehran's main publication in the West. Al-Fadschr (Dawn) is a well-produced religious journal in German published by the Iranian mosque in Hamburg and distributed at major newsstands while Al-'Alam is a political weekly published in London. Iranian agents also found front organizations, such as the "Anti-Apartheid League," and cultivate contacts with the media, academe, political parties (such as the Peronists in Argentina) and civic organizations. Some Khomeinist propaganda shows real sophistication.
Radical Islamists in Europe and America stress three themes, each of which leads to tensions with the majority population: separatism, anti-Westernism, and Islamic supremacism.
Separatism presumes that the minority stays outside the mainstream of society, living in protected enclaves where it speaks its own language and runs its own institutions. Islamists and traditional Muslims raise separatist demands which would establish cultural apartheid.
Like Khomeini who took refuge in a suburb of Paris for several months in 1978-79 but never set foot in the City of Lights, some Muslims opt for a completely insular existence in the West, remaining willfully ignorant of the cultures and societies around them, creating islands of Islamist piety as self-isolated and self-sufficient as possible. Muslim separatism takes ideological form, getting taught in schools and propagated in mosques and publications. Other factors-an intent to accumulate capital, low social status-reinforce this inclination.
Separatists make full use of the opportunities offered by Western liberal democracies without subscribing to liberal or democratic norms, nor applying them within the confines of their own communities. This situation creates many problems, of which three stand out: schools, Shar'i family law, and cultural exclusion.
Superficially, Islamist schools parallel the parochial schools of other religious communities, but they are characterized by a rigid authoritarianism far beyond that of even the most conservative Catholic institutions. Also, Islamist schools totally segregate the sexes after the age of nine, and sometimes as early as kindergarten. Islamists argue this point adamantly: Sayed Aziz Pasha, head of a Union of Muslim Organizations in Britain, has stated that "Schools specially for Muslims would strictly enforce Muslim codes-no association between boys and girls, no sex-education and no casual dress would be allowed." He then added: "But we are not trying to create Muslim ghettos-white children would be welcome at our schools-but taught the Muslim code."
At first, Islamists encountered indifference among indigenous Europeans, and this suited them fine. During the 1960s (the diaspora's "first decade"), Germans cared little about the curricula in Turkish schools or the contents of their journals. Only when corporal punishments in Qur'anic schools attracted the attention of teachers at public schools did Germans wake up to the problem of reactionaries in their midst. Islamists responded with fury at what they considered interference.
The demand to let Muslims be ruled by Islamic family laws would constrain women geographically: Mehmet Gaye, the chief imam of Stuttgart, holds that "A woman is not allowed to travel in the company of a stranger without the presence of her guardian. . . . Alone she may not travel a distance longer than 50 miles, as that would be a sin." Applying the Shari'a would permit men to effect divorce at will, keep the children, and deprive divorced women of alimony. It would also sanction polygamy for men. This raises a further question: if Muslims are subject to Islamic family laws, why not also their own penal laws, including the cutting of thieves' hands and the stoning of adulterers?
Culturally the Islamists remain outsiders, getting to know just low culture and street culture, and even those superficially. While this picture is hardly unique (Chinatowns from Amsterdam to San Francisco share it), Muslim communities do have a special quality; they alone have a profoundly anti-Western ideology to fall back on. No immigrant group has an institution to parallel the Islamist mosques which teach that the West is evil, Westerners unclean and unworthy-old, somewhat abstract doctrines which acquire new tangibility when Muslims live in Europe or America. The xenophobia of Europeans and the racism of Americans take on explosive qualities once made to fit into this frame of reference.
Separatism takes various forms. In the United States, the self-styled Nubians (or Ansaaru Allah Community) number some 10,000-strong, with well-organized and dedicated followers in New York City, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. The Nubians isolate themselves from the rest of society to follow a peculiar life-style. The women go heavily veiled and are generally not allowed to work outside the house. Nubian ideology sees whites as devils and condemns miscegenation as a pollution of the black essence. In the attempt to set up a community outside that of mainstream America, the Nubians draw heavily on American models. For example, their "Muslim Pledge" closely echoes the Pledge of Allegiance: "We pledge allegiance to Islam for the unity of all Black people; and to the Scriptures, for which it stands; one people, under Allah, indivisible, with equality and love for all."
Although the notion of racially and ethnically defined electoral districts for the U.S. House of Representatives has made progress, Muslims lack the requisite numbers (some 600,000 residents per district) and so have not sought assured representation. On a far grander level, however, the Nation of Islam demands a separate state for blacks on a huge tract of U.S. territory; indeed the community came into being principally to erect barriers against whites. While most adherents of the Nation of Islam (as Elijah Muhammad's movement is formally known) followed his son Wallace Deen Mohammad into mainstream politics, rump groups under Louis Farrakhan and Silis Muhammad continue to make territorial demands.
Separatist politics serve the leadership's interests much more than those of the community at large. Most Muslim immigrants have made great strides integrating into Western society; Moroccan and Turkish garbage collectors in Europe are working their way to the comforts of middle-class life, just like their Hispanic counterparts in the United States. The propagation of cultural apartheid may not be effective in the long term, for it runs counter to strong assimilationist trends; nonetheless, it disturbs the Muslims' development of harmonious relations with Christians and Jews.
Islamist separatism can be seen in two contexts. In European terms, the Islamists recapitulate the many centuries of Jewish cultural isolation from the mainstream society; a generation or so after Jewish ghettos disappeared from Europe, Muslim ones came into existence. In Middle Eastern terms, they implemented in reverse the millet system of the Ottoman Empire, in which the religious communities enjoyed cultural but not political autonomy. Armenians were led by their religious leaders, Jews judged according to Jewish law. In addition to its inherent drawbacks (including humiliation and fragmentation), millet notions utterly contradict the spirit of liberal democracy. European host societies are confused by millet ideas and reject them out of hand. The result is mounting aggressiveness on both sides.
II. Hatred of the West
Some Islamists openly espouse hatred of the very West that affords them political shelter, prosperity, and freedom of expression. They depict the West as pig-like and rotten to the core, controlled by Crusaders, Freemasons, Zionists, and other satanic forces. The West stands for self-indulgence, whether gluttony or promiscuity. "Aids, drugs, venereal disease, alcohol and tobacco abuse" are "plagues of the modern western society." To them, pluralism merely prettifies debauchery and perversion. Democracy represents but the latest trick of frustrated Christian missionaries in their age-old attempts to sap the energies of Muslim combatants.
But Islamists particularly fear secularism, which they interpret as the source of the West's evil (Muhammad Al-Bahiy, an Egyptian scholar and religious official, once likened secularism to the "lust of the belly and the vagina") and its chief instrument to sap Islam of vitality. This obsession leads to strange assertions, such as the claim that the U.S. Agency for International Development dispenses funds to Islamic educational institutions on the stipulation that these teach secularism. A Khomeinist correspondent wrote from London that "the remains of Muslim dead should be treated with respect and dignity . . . without needlessly being subjected to the degrading rituals of secularism." These are not the rantings of isolated individuals but the ideology of a movement. Further, some Islamists now feel confident enough to say things in European languages which previously they confined to Muslim languages.
In contrast, other Islamist groups act with circumspection. The Muslim Brethren make every effort to appear to non-Muslims as law-abiding, cultured, and responsible citizens. For example, Issam El Attar's wing of the Syrian Muslim Brethren said it never trespassed any German law or committed any offense. Further, it claimed to administer a program of Integrationshilfe (education toward integration) for Muslim newcomers. This mild approach permitted the Muslim Brethren to become entrenched in Germany, Britain, France, Belgium, Spain, and the United States. At the same time, Brethren educational programs and Arabic publications (especially the journal At-Tali'a) forward supremacist views no different from the Khomeinist and teach Muslims to despise the non-Muslim society around them.
Western converts often join in these ferocious tirades. This is not altogether surprising, for Islam has always attracted Westerners alienated from their own civilization. Lorraine Mirza, a television journalist married to a Pakistani Khomeinist based in Los Angeles, frequently addressed public meetings in which she used her knowledge of the United States to outdo the anti-American fanaticism of her gurus in Tehran.
Al-Murabitun, an association of white converts found chiefly in England, Germany, and Spain, matches her anger. Founded by a Scottish sheikh, 'Abd-al-Qadir Al-Murabit (Ian Dallas), the Murabitun enunciates a Muslim Herrenmensch that is Nietzschean disguised as Sufi; or Wagner in Middle East robes. In Murabit's obsessive view of the world, Miami is the heart of World Jewry and ought to be eliminated by a nuclear strike. A public lecture by the Scottish sheikh in Freiburg, Germany, in mid-1991, had to be cancelled because of a protest movement against his flagrant anti-Semitism. Murabitun are carved of the same wood as Neo-Nazi or Neo-Fascist extremists. Not surprisingly, the Murabitun received Libyan support.
III. Muslim Supremacism
Some Islamists, especially Khomeini's followers, go beyond separatism and hatred to portray the West as ripe for take-over, and imagine themselves its inheritors. The disparity in demographic rates of increase combined with ideological arrogance leads them to believe that they can eventually outnumber the Western autochthones in their own countries.
Islamists constantly accuse the West, especially America, of aggression; in private they consider it weak, soft, and decadent. The Islamist view of "the Westerner" resembles that of the Mexican image of the gringo as simple, gullible, and easily deceived. Bluntly put: large numbers of Middle Easterners consider "the Westerner" to be more honest than "the Muslim," and Western governments easier to handle than Muslim governments. Westerners being considered capable of contrition and prone to self-criticism, much anti-Western rhetoric aims to inculcate self-doubt. Besides, Islamists have taken to heart the Leninist notion that the West will sell the rope by which to hang itself. The Iran/contra scandal did much to reinforce this belief but Desert Storm counteracted it by showing an unexpected determination on the part of Westerners.
Muslim supremacists do not hide their intentions. Harunur Rashid Tipu, the editor of a Bengali-language newspaper in England, explained that the leaders of the Young Muslim Organisation, seek ultimately "to build an Islamic society here." And in his view, "With the speed with which they are building up their character, there is a high chance of their success." Fouad Salah, a Tunisian convicted of setting off bombs in France in 1985-86, killing thirteen, told the judge handling his case: "I do not renounce my fight against the West which assassinated the Prophet Muhammad. . . . We Muslims should kill every last one of you [Westerners]." A violent Algerian group, the GIA issued a communiqué with the following threats:
We are continuing with all our strength our steps of jihad and military attacks, and this time in the heart of France and its largest cities. . . . It's a pledge that they [the French] will have no more sleep and no more leisure and Islam will enter France whether they like it or not.
Though extreme, these views are hardly exceptional. A teacher at the Al-Ghazly Islamic School in Jersey City, near New York, offered a moderate version of this same ambition: "Our short-term goal is to introduce Islam. In the long term, we must save American society. Allah will ask why I did not speak about Islam, because this piece of land is Allah's property."
Some organizations espouse Muslim rule. In Great Britain, Khomeinists of the Muslim Institute set up a Muslim Parliament on January 4, 1992. (Belgian Muslims established an Islamic party just months later.) Its two hundred members proclaimed a "non-territorial Islamic State." Taking as a model the alternative Shi'i administration for Iraq which Khomeini established in Tehran shortly after his own ascent to power, the Muslim Parliament imagines itself as a future government of the United Kingdom. The seriousness of this enterprise is evident from the elaborate structure of Muslim Institute suborganizations, including the Muslim Women's Institute and the Muslim Business Group. While this Khomeinist exercise in political theater carries only modest weight among the (majority Sunni) Muslims in Britain, frustrations may cause the idea to catch on. In that case it could cause real mischief, especially if Tehran puts its full weight behind the scheme.
The Grey Wolves (latterly known as the Idealist Associations) began as a youth organization which engaged in a Shamanistic adoration of the Grey Wolf, a legendary ancestor. With time, the Grey Wolves grafted notions of Muslim supremacy to this base, eventuating in a highly chauvinistic brew. Headed by Alparslan Türkes, a retired colonel and a public admirer of Hitler's, the Grey Wolves maintains some thirty Islamic Cultural Centers (in reality, club houses with prayer rooms) in Western Europe and presents itself as a community organization of Turkish diaspora Muslims. It indoctrinates members with contempt and hostility for the Western host society, based on the assumption that an inherently superior Turkish race has a providential right to rule. However little this hate cult shares with traditional religion, it gets taught at Qur'anic schools in the Islamic Cultural Centers.
Some years ago, the National Salvation Party of Turkey set up in Western Europe the Milli Görüş Teskilatlari, usually translated as National Viewpoint Movement (sometimes Turkish Union of Europe). A 1981 leaflet typical of Milli Görüş polemics declares that "war has broken out between just Muslims and the West." Members of this militant Islamist organization refer to their revolutionary cells for the preparation of Islamic world revolution.
Curiously, Islamists have already attempted one Islamic Revolution in the West, on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. In July 1990, a group linked to the "Nubians" of New York City (followers of Isa Muhammad) tried to overthrow the democratically-elected government of that country. They succeeded in holding it hostage for several days before getting marched off to jail.
POLITICAL VIOLENCE, CRIME, AND FAMILY PROBLEMS
Imported Political Violence
Muslims in the West act violently, not because of a violent streak inherent to Islam but for reasons having to do with their countries of origins and their own circumstances. The many ideological and military conflicts of the Muslim world have a way of spilling over to Europe and America. The Arab-Israeli conflict, the Lebanese civil war, and the Iraq-Iran war cause the most incidents but other conflicts-Afghanistan, Kuwait, Azerbaijan, the Kurds, Cyprus, Yugoslavia, Somalia, Chad-also generate frictions which get played out in the West. Ideological thrusts, particularly those of Qadhdhafi and Khomeini, take a toll.
Immigrant Muslims at times apparently take up Middle Eastern political issues all on their own, without institutional direction. So too, solitary enemies of Middle Eastern regimes resort to violence on Western soil; while visiting Ottawa in 1992, Sudanese Islamist leader Hasan At-Turabi fell victim to the karate skills of Hashim Badr ad-Din, a devout Sudanese who accused Turabi of distorting Islam. If Kurds did have anything to do with the assassination of Sweden's Prime Minister Olaf Palme, it would appear to be a free-lance job.
At other times, groups initiate violence. Authorities have linked no less than two dozen assassinations of Turks in the West to the Grey Wolves. The organization also appears to have been involved in the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II, for Mehmet Ali Agca was a Grey Wolf who in his own confused way mixed Turkish nationalist sentiments with fundamentalist Islam. The Worker's Party of Kurdistan (Partiya Karkerana Kurdistan, or PKK) launched an all-out offensive against the Republic of Turkey in Europe in June 1993, on a single day assaulting its embassies and consulates in twenty-nine European cities. In the United States, a group centered around Shaykh 'Umar 'Abd ar-Rahman engaged in a variety of violent acts, including El Sayyid Nosair's shooting of Rabbi Meir Kahane in New York in 1991; the bombing of the World Trade Center in February 1993; and the attempted bombing of Manhattan tunnels a few months later.
Most of the time, however, Middle East regimes sponsor violence in pursuit of their interests-to stop Arab-Israeli rapprochement, kill dangerous exiles, take revenge against a foreign government. Some Middle Eastern tyrants go further and try to use Muslims in the West as a means to get involved in the Western countries' internal affairs or see them as a fifth column. Mu'ammar al-Qadhdhafi once explained his efforts on behalf of Muslims of France:
There are hundreds of thousands of female pupils and students who have been barred from education because they wear Islamic clothes. I sent a cable to the French president drawing his attention to this issue, and he regarded that as an interference in the internal affairs of France.
More ominously, Tehran has warned that Muslims living in the United Kingdom may be forced "to seek ways outside the law to guard their rights." A month before his invasion of Kuwait, Saddam Husayn warned that if any Arab country is attacked by Western states, "you will find then that Arab citizens, even those living in the United States and Europe, will fight the war as if they are at the battle's frontline." That this did not happen has not quelled Western fears.
The states usually rely on their own citizens to carry out the operations, but sometimes resort to foreign nationals. Tehran, for example, staffs its large, firmly entrenched, and many-tiered terrorist network with Shi'ites from Lebanon, Iraq, and the Gulf countries as well as Sunnis from Pakistan, Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. It even draws on Western converts, especially Americans and Germans.
Iranian terrorism has been especially widespread, as indicated by a string of political assassinations, including several murders in Berlin, the assassination of two Kurdish leaders, a prominent exile living in Rome, and the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires. Other killings include former Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar in Paris and Kazem Rajavi, a lawyer and author, in Geneva. Middle Eastern intimidation of opponents has been particularly intensive in France and Germany, probably because the governments of those countries so eagerly pursued business deals with Tehran; in addition, the French authorities permitted some terrorist groups (including the PLO) free passage through their territory.
The threat to Salman Rushdie remains a minor but persistent threat to public safety throughout the West. The Ayatollah's edict has generated a dynamic of its own that will likely endure so long as Rushdie lives or The Satanic Verses remains in print. Assassinations connected to the case continue and provoke retaliation against Muslims resident in the West. On 12 July 1991, the Japanese translator of The Satanic Verses was assassinated, an event that caused much anxiety to the Muslim community in Japan, just as the attempted murder of Ettore Capriolo, the novel's Italian translator on 3 July 1991, proved harmful to the Muslim community's standing in Italy. When Dr. Munir D. Ahmed, a Pakistani scholar with the Deutsches Orient-Institut in Hamburg and an ardent admirer of Khomeini, failed to condemn Rushdie on a television interview, threats followed; after a period in hiding he publicly apologized in Al-Fadschr, the Khomeinist magazine in Germany.
Middle East-based terrorism has been rarer, though hardly nonexistent, in the United States. Why so? Perhaps because of the greater geographic separation, superior police work, and a less appeasing government. It may also result from the fact that Muslims who move to the United States are generally more educated and less Islamist than their European counterparts.
Several developments point to increased violence in the future. Saddam Husayn has yet to wreak vengeance for his 1991 defeat at the hands of the West. Europe hosts many groups disgruntled about circumstances in their homelands-anti-Islamist Iranians, Islamist Algerians, anti-Turkish and Iraqi Kurds, anti-Israel Palestinians, and the like. The Bosnian tragedy is bound to stimulate new terrorism. Many Muslims of all nationalities are convinced that Christian Europeans allowed this genocide to happen because Westerners could not tolerate a predominantly Muslim state in Europe. Some of the million displaced Bosnians and their Muslim sympathizers will surely seek vengeance.
In short, increased killings of and by Muslims in the West are in the cards.
Indigenous Political Violence
Some violence has nothing to do with the Middle East but develops out of circumstances in the West. Immigrants and Western converts to Islam have distinct patterns, and so need to be considered apart.
Immigrants. Of all the tensions considered here, riots by immigrants or against them (both commonly known as race riots) have the greatest potential for immediate trouble. In England, these mostly involve non-Muslim West Indians; but in Germany, France, Belgium, and several other countries, they nearly always concern Muslims primarily. Grievances leading to such riots may have nothing to do with Islam (often they emphasize discrimination or police brutality), but Muslim predominance usually means the quick adoption of Islamic slogans and symbols.
Violent incidents usually take place in the satellite towns that offer cheap housing and which have become ghetto-like suburbs of Muslims. Unemployment tends to be high and hope low. In 1991, France and Belgium witnessed communal riots which turned into mini-civil wars: on one side, the Muslims (North Africans, Sub-Saharan Africans), on the other side, the police and sometimes crowds of the indigenous (French, Belgian) population. Similar disturbances among Germany's Turkish population augur trouble in the future. As yet these "suburban problems" have taken few lives, but they take a high material and psychological toll.
Muslim immigrants also fight among themselves and with other immigrants. Despite the common bond of religion, the diaspora population consists of distinct groups with little common history, customs or culture. Black African Muslims have priorities different from those of white Bosnians. Intra-immigrant violence sometimes imports conflicts from the old countries:
- Muslim vs. Muslim within the same nationality (differing languages): Turks and Turkish Kurds (in Germany), Iranians and Iranian Kurds (in Austria).
- Muslim vs. Muslim within the same nationality (differing sects): Sunnis and Shi'is from India and Pakistan (in Britain), Sunnis and Ahmadis from Pakistan (in Britain, Germany and the United States). In some cases, as that of the Sunnis and Alevites from Turkey (in Germany), the groups have much more contact with each other in the diaspora than in the home country.
- Muslim vs. Muslim among different nationalities: some of this violence spills over from the Middle East, as in the case of Iranians and Iraqis, while the remainder originates in the West. Nationalities hitherto unfamiliar with one another develop strong antipathies and resort to force to settle disputes. In France, Moroccans and Turks clash over housing and women, as if in a battle over turfs. In Norway, Turks got furious over a television film about the local Muslim community that featured Pakistanis only; from their rather narrow perspective, Pakistani practices appeared weird, if not outrageous.
- Muslim vs. non-Muslim within the same nationality: Egyptian Muslims and Copts (in the United States), Muslims and Chaldaean Christians from Turkey (in Scandinavia), Muslims and Jews from North Africa (in France, Spain), and Muslims and Christians from Lebanon. Shi'is from Iran work against their fellow countrymen of Baha'i, Jewish, and Zoroastrian faith.
- Muslim vs. non-Muslim among different nationalities: Greeks and Turks (in West Germany, Great Britain), Armenians and Turks (in France, the United States), Hindu Indians and Muslim Pakistanis (in Britain).
In the United States, violence involving immigrant Muslims has fewer established patterns. Sometimes it replicates the European race riot, as in Chicago in 1992, when the city's basketball team won the championship and blacks celebrated with attacks on Arab-owned stores. (The scene was not repeated in 1993, when the store-owners prepared for a Chicago Bulls victory by purchasing guns.)
At other times, American violence involving immigrants concerns faith more than ethnicity, as showed by the tragic example of Rashad Khalifa, an Egyptian biochemist who settled in Tucson, Arizona. Khalifa studied the Qur'an in an effort to teach Islam to his wife, an American woman, and his children. Being a scientist, he turned his methodology to the Qur'an and found, though a numerological analysis by computer, that the number nineteen provides a key to its contents. (This was not new; computers had led other numerologists to the same conclusion.) Muslims initially received this conclusion amicably, indeed with considerable enthusiasm, but Khalifa then took his theory of nineteen too far when he calculated the exact date of the Day of Judgment using his formulae. Already, mainstream Muslims denounced his efforts as "a shoddily concocted hoax." Khalifa took his next step off the beaten path in concluding that the schema of nineteens excluded the final two ayats (verses) of Sura 9 and made this worse when he published a Qur'an without those two ayats. Finally, Khalifa declared himself a prophet (nabi), just about the most serious offense in Islam, which holds Muhammad to be the "seal of the prophets." On 27 February 1989, the 11th Majlis al-Fuqaha' (Council of Religious Scholars) met in Mecca and branded Khalifa an infidel (kafir). A year later he was dead, murdered by unknown assailants, presumably orthodox Muslims angered by his teachings.
Converts. European converts rarely resort to force, but American ones, especially African-Americans, have perpetrated considerable violence. Malcolm X, murdered in 1965, is the cause celèbre, but there were other assassinations within the Nation of Islam. Some gangs have taken up Islam as a cover for their criminal activities; El Rukn, the most violent street gang of Chicago, has the highest profile, at one time even receiving money from Libya.
Islam often provides little more than the cover for hate cults that bear little resemblance to the mainstream faith. While the main body of African-American converts to Islam has left behind the racist doctrines bequeathed them by their founder, Elijah Muhammad, some continue or even accent these teachings. Louis Farrakhan, a talented orator, leads the rump Nation of Islam, publisher of The Final Call. Hoping to follow Malcolm X as a leader of Black radicalism, he made his mark by providing anti-drug vigilante protection, particularly in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. When a Los Angeles police officer threatened by members of the Nation of Islam fired at one of them in self-defense in 1990, Farrakhan used this opportunity skillfully to build a media campaign highlighting his own importance.
Silis Muhammad in Atlanta leads another group, The Lost-Found Nation of Islam, Inc., which publishes the Muhammad Speaks newspaper and emphasizes the extreme racist strand in Elijah Muhammad's teachings. In one case, he refused to accept the white wife of a sympathizer, despite her conversion, her written declaration on the superiority of the black race, and the denouncing the deviousness of her own race!
Friction between black converts and immigrants occasionally erupts into violence, as the master-disciple relationship seems to carry with it expectations by converts which remain unfulfilled. Isa Muhammad's "Nubians" are as anti-Arab as they are anti-Caucasian, distinguishing between what they call "red" Arabs (or "pale" Arabs or "so-called Arabs") and black Arabs. Isa Muhammad denounces Middle Easterners as racists. "You can't tell me there is no such thing as Racism in Islam because I've seen it. . . . Pale Arabs look down their noses at Black Arabs." Nubians depict the Prophet Muhammad as a black Arab, cheerfully ignoring both his Arabian genealogy and the Islamic ban on images of the Prophet.
For an example of immigrant tensions with African-Americans, note this sign, "This store is being remodeled. No Arabs will be involved," put up in a predominantly Black area of Chicago in 1990.
A British convert: "Islam is valid for the whole of Britain. We want to rid it of its Asian culture, that of the immigrants." An African-American convert instigated the killing of two Islamist figures in Philadelphia out of vengeance and disappointment: Muhammad Aslam, a Pakistani, murdered in 1982, and Isma'il Raji al Faruqi, a Palestinian-born professor of Islamic Studies at Temple University, murdered in 1986 with his wife, likewise an Islamic scholar.
The Faruqi case bears some attention, for it touches on another theme, racism. Islam's color-blindness attracts many American blacks; at the same time, it leads to severe tensions with Middle East immigrants who, whatever theory holds, are endemically racist. Protracted encounters between immigrants and black converts sometimes causes this myth to explode, occasionally with tragic consequences. Slavic in appearance and married to an American of Scandinavian descent, Faruqi lived in an impressive house in a white neighborhood. Erstwhile black admirers of Faruqi's came strongly to resent his primary interest in the welfare of his immigrant students.
Faruqi's assassin, Yusuf 'Ali (Josef Young), once a close disciple, was instigated by another convert; both felt Faruqi had betrayed the cause of downtrodden African-Americans. Yusuf 'Ali voiced his xenophobic sentiments to Yushau Sodiq, a Nigerian student who was his friend and teacher of Arabic: "When you people come to our country, you know nothing and you have nothing, but within three years you have made it. We help you in your first moves, we teach you our language. After three years you have a good job, a car and a house. But we Americans are still where we were when you arrived. We tread on the spot while you foreigners race ahead."
Impressions to the contrary notwithstanding, Muslim immigrants of the first generation have a crime rate that lies, on average, 40 percent below that of the indigenous population. This pattern of law-abiding behavior results from the rural background of the vast majority of immigrants and their fear of expulsion if found delinquent. The second and third generations are another story, however, especially the beurs (second-generation Muslims in France) and German-born Turks. The latter engage in theft, wanton destruction of property, and murderous gang fighting. In Stuttgart, Germany, home to the Mercedes factories and a Muslim population of roughly 15 percent, the children of Muslim immigrants made up nearly 85 percent of the city's juvenile delinquents in 1991.
On arrival in the West, Middle Eastern and African immigrants tended to specialize in one or another type of criminal activity. In the 1960s and 1970s, Eastern Arabs established the notorious "Mercedes Route," transferring stolen cars from Western Europe to the Persian Gulf via Spain and North Africa. They also recruited-and sometimes even abducted-women for prostitution in the Middle East, the so-called white slave trade. Both these trades then declined; the police took sterner action when car thefts got out of hand, while South and East Asian women took the place of European females.
At times, the host society has abetted the choosing of criminal roles. Many of the first Turks in Germany found employment as strongmen in night clubs, establishing the near-tradition of hiring Turks for jobs involving physical violence (such as criminal hit jobs). During the 1950s, Algerians found a niche as pimps in France. These criminal careers then very much dropped off, less out of fear of spending time in prison than out of fear of expulsion.
In the United States, the majority of Muslim immigrants are well-educated and find employment; their children have many fewer runs in with the law than do other elements of the population, especially Blacks. A Saudi burglar caught in Virginia is more a curiosity than typical of a pattern.
While Muslims engage in their share of illegal activity, they have not created new organized criminal institutions, as have the Croats and Serbs in Germany or the Chinese "triads" in the United States. If Muslims have made their mark in criminal activity, it is in big business. Apart from the Paris-based Agha Khan, virtually every Muslim tycoon in the West has ended up prosecuted on account of fraud. 'Adnan Khashoggi and Ghaith Pharaon have been indicted in the United States, Rifat Sayed in Sweden, and Asil Nadir in Britain. (Nadir is now a fugitive from justice, hiding in Turkish Cyprus.) The less famous also have a way of getting in trouble. Muhammad Naviede, the owner of a trade finance company, Arrows Ltd, went into liquidation in August 1991 because of problems with the law. These major frauds have harmed the Muslim community's morale, held back its economic progress, and much damaged the unfolding of Islam in the West.
Much the worst case, in size, nefariousness, and notoriety involves the Bank for Credit and Commerce International. Agha Hassan Abedi, a Pakistani of aristocratic Indian origins (or, a Hindustani) established BCCI as a self-consciously Muslim bank. Muslims held most BCCI positions in Europe and Muslims deposited their savings disproportionately in this bank. Muslim employees and clients alike saw it as a Muslim bank, and took great pride in it. BCCI was also closely intertwined with the Muslim diaspora: most of its chiefs were Hindustanis living in the West.
The Hindustani decisionmakers at BCCI initially hoped to constitute a "bridge" between the Islamic world and the West. Then BCCI's phenomenal success made Abedi and the bank leadership aim higher and higher to the point that they eventually saw themselves engaged in something like a hostile takeover of the West by buying it up and undermining its moral fiber. It may sound preposterous, but the team at BCCI saw its commercial enterprise as an instrument for conquering the world. Toward this end it put such eminentos as Jimmy Carter and former British prime minister James Callaghan on the rolls.
BCCI's collapse in mid-1991, therefore, was an overtly Muslim scandal. Radical Islamists chose to interpret the problem not as Muslim bankers betraying their customers but as the West undercutting a Muslim institution. Gulam Sabdia explains this attitude:
The current campaign against the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) throughout the zionist-dominated part of the world is part of a larger scheme to control the 'third world' totally and to prevent the possibility of Muslims and the poor from taking control of their own wealth. Welcome to the new world order.
Like Saddam, the BCCI was not a threat to them, but they decided that while they are destroying the Muslim world politically and militarily, why not destroy all the other institutions as well.
The message that the zionists are sending is clear: Don't challenge our superiority from within our system.
This fits a pattern: Whenever a Muslim figure reaches a position of power and is toppled, radical Islamists exude a sense of hurt, not because the community was exploited and dishonored by a crook, but because, as they put it, "the West will not allow a Muslim to succeed." Depicting Asil Nadir as a victim found support in at least a faction of England's Turkish community. Occasionally Arabs and Pakistanis put the matter in an ethnic perspective, supposing that the West rejects their nationalities. In other words, the West is always to blame.
The immigrant Muslim treatment of wives, sisters, and daughters serves as a fertile source of dispute with host communities. Westerners commonly perceive Muslim practices as inhuman; some go further and consider Muslim women to lack basic human rights.
An array of problems arise. French public opinion was greatly agitated in late 1989 by a controversy over Islamist girls wishing to attend public school wearing a head-scarf and dressed in a kind of Islamist uniform of long gown or overcoat. The headscarf controversy in France opened old wounds and cut some new ones. The great domestic issue of nineteenth century France concerned the Church and State. In large part, the subject was played out in educational terms until, finally, a compromise was reached: state schools would be strictly secular, but the government would support Catholic institutions. This compromise survived decades of dispute and was reaffirmed in 1986. But the Islamist insistence on head-scarves for women tore it apart in late 1989.
In 1991 the same sort of controversy shifted to Germany, where it centered on whether Islamist girls be exempted from obligatory swimming lessons in school, or even from sports altogether. The press discussed at length a highly controversial court decision exempting Muslim girls from swimming lessons. This issue has not yet surfaced in the United States, but it bears noting that fundamentalist Muslim parents won permission from the local school board to separate boys and girls at the Salina Elementary School in Dearborn, Michigan during sports classes.
Thousands of Muslim girls run away from the severity of their homes to find shelter with government agencies or pimps. More than a hundred cases of suicide or attempted suicide add urgency to the problem. Fathers and brothers sometimes abduct Muslim girls from school or social welfare agencies to ship them home and marry them off by force. They have sometimes resorted to murdering the recalcitrant daughter or sister.
Intermarriage leads to enormous strains. While Islam allows men to marry non-Muslim women, and even for those wives to remain infidels, it requires that women marry within the faith. This means that Muslim girls often cannot marry the man of their choice. Liberal Muslim scholars might agree that marriage between a Muslim woman and a Christian or Jew is not to be ruled out categorically, but traditionalist Muslims and Islamists dissent sharply.
The prohibition on Muslim women marrying out has immense potential for conflict, contributing to a general hostility toward Muslims and resulting in gang fights and other acts of violence. East Berlin in the mid-1970s witnessed periodic brawls over girls between male Germans and Arabs, sometimes leading to riots of a sort otherwise unheard of in Soviet bloc countries. Groups working for Christian-Muslim understanding often take up the explosive issue of female choice in marriage; Crislam, a Spanish group chaired by Padre Emilio Galindo Aguilar, a White Father, has deliberated at length on this issue, but to little avail.
If immigrant Muslim women marrying Westerners remains scarce, their male counterparts have fully availed themselves of their freedom to marry out. Indeed, well over a million of them have married Western women since 1950, primarily in France and Germany. These many marriages have also lead to many divorces, partly because European and American divorce rates are anyway high, partly because of additional cross-cultural burdens. And divorce leads to monumental fights over children. Western laws favor the mother, Islamic law awards children to the father. Herein lies many a vicious battle over custody. To preempt the process in an unfriendly court, Muslim fathers regularly abduct the children to their country of origin, far beyond the reach of Western laws. The men see themselves exercising a traditional prerogative; in addition, they take the children back to be raised in a traditional setting and to save them from becoming street Arabs in the West.
French children abducted to Algeria alone number several thousand. Professional abductors take children from France to Algeria and vice-versa. The Association of the Mothers of Abducted Children, headquartered in Paris, exerts a political influence comparable to that of Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo in Argentina. Across the West, tens of thousands of children have been abducted; when family members are factored in, these cases touch hundreds of thousands of individuals in the West. Moreover, the issue reverberates far beyond the parents and families involved, touching a particularly sensitive chord in the Western psyche and ratcheting up emotions against Muslims. It has agitated public opinion for two decades and even riled diplomatic relations between the French and Algerian governments.
In this context, the autobiographical story of Betty Mahmoody, an American citizen married to an Iranian, had enormous importance. Mahmoody's husband lured her to Iran, then refused to let her or their daughter return home. To hold the two, he locked them in an apartment for long stretches of time. Mahmoody's 1987 book, Not Without My Daughter, dwells on her travails in Iran and her eventual escape. It received minimal attention in the United States until Hollywood produced a film starring Sally Field, finally becoming a best seller during the war with Iraq. Even then it sparked no discussion or controversy. In Europe, Not Without My Daughter resonated far more, becoming an immediate and much-discussed best-seller in Spain, France, Germany and Scandinavia. The German version, Nicht ohne meine Tochter, sold more than 4 million copies by 1993. It became fashionable for concerned friends to present a copy by way of warning to European women married to Iranians. In some cases, these women received 20 copies as gifts. When the film came out, the cycle began all over again, as it did a third time in 1993 with the publication of Mahmoody's For the Love of a Child, which quickly jumped on the German bestseller lists.
Even the most secularized Iranians perceived Not Without My Daughter as a defamation of their people and culture, and they responded with angry book-length retorts. Paul Loeffler, a Lutheran figure in Frankfurt long involved in Christian-Muslim dialogue, fears that the Mahmoody story harmed Christian-Muslim relations more than any other single episode.
Almost everywhere in Western Europe, a majority within the original Christian and Jewish population complains about being flooded by hordes of impoverished foreigners, and by Muslims especially. But a small number goes further and adopts nativist ideas. They disregard the individual in favor of the group, play up the importance of skin color, and promote an aggressive nationalism. Nativism has marked similarities to fascism.
Hostility toward Muslims derives in part from the universal antipathy to foreigners. Employment problems cause much tension, as Europeans hold foreigners responsible for the scarcity of opportunity and, therefore, want them out and sometimes even attack them. Germans especially feel that they have lost control of their borders, that anyone can land in their country and begin drawing welfare checks. A sense of siege sets in: Europe, it is said, has as many people as it can hold. "The boat is full" gets repeated from one end of the continent to the other.
Nativists stress the incompatibility of Islam with Western constitutionalism. They see a fundamentalist Islamic totalitarianism gaining in strength just as the communist version is losing its vigor. Economically, Muslim minorities are a liability who contribute more to overpopulation and unemployment than to productivity. Muslims invariably seek to impose their value system and lifestyle on others; where this advance meets with opposition, they resort to terrorism. Generations born in the West lack ties to their families' countries of origin, and so become deracinated and violence-prone.
In addition, the specifics of the Muslim presence fuel nativism.
The fact of being Muslim is in and of itself a reason for antipathy. The historic anti-Islamic legacy of the Christian world causes Muslims to be more disliked than most foreigners (perhaps not more than the Vietnamese in Eastern Europe). Africans and Black Americans may suffer more by virtue of being more conspicuous, but prejudices against them are actually less than those against Arabs, Turks and Pakistanis. As Judith Miller noted with reference to Western Europe, "for the most part, non-Arab Africans are neither feared nor despised." Similarly, a French magazine noted that "Everyone talks of the problem of immigrants when in truth they have in mind just one category . . . the Arabs." In sum, as Le Monde puts it, Europeans are convinced that Islam is not "a religion like the others."
Hostility often takes a visceral form. Günter Wallraff quotes a conversation between two middle-aged German construction workers in adjoining toilet stalls: "What smells worse than piss and shit?" "Work," replies the other. "No, a Turk," comes the retort. Reports on growing xenophobia in Scandinavia point out that Islam usually is the problem most frequently mentioned. "In Norway, a shopkeeper tells one reporter he still hates Germans for their occupation during World War II-but today he worries more about the influence of ethnic 'Norwegian Muslims'." Religious hatred sometimes underlies antipathy toward Muslims (as expressed in a graffito of Cordoba, Spain: "Jesus Yes, Muslims No!").
The situation in Europe is becoming ever more tense, as even those well disposed toward foreigners express outrage about the continuous influx of immigrants, most of them Muslims. Two vignettes from Germany may help to understand the tensions: On one occasion when Leonid Brezhnev visited Bonn, Afghans demonstrated against him yelling Russen 'raus, wir wollen nach haus! ("Russians out, we want to go home!"). By-standers did not sympathize but rather jeered, "Excellent, yes, go home, go where you belong. We too want you to go home. Leave us alone." In 1985, Khalid Durán was invited by the Protestant Academy (Evangelische Akademie) of Tutzing, Bavaria, to deliver two lectures on Muslims in Germany. His audience, sixty female agricultural specialists, attacked him for even broaching the issue of equal rights for foreign laborers. "They are here to work. They get their pay. That is all that there is to it. No rights, they are foreigners!"
Dislike of Alien Customs
Antipathies also result from differences in race, culture, and customs. A longing for uniformity, a yearning for a society less varied, less confusing, and less challenging leads to a rejection of pluralism and a desire for "purity."
Ritual washing causes problems, especially the use of water in place of toilet paper; because Western bathrooms are conceived differently from Islamic ones, a mess and a quarrel with the landlord often follows. Female teachers in Germany complain that the fathers of their Turkish pupils do not shake hands with them, which they interpret as a sign of disrespect toward women (in fact it signals precisely the opposite). Pakistani women are usually the most secluded and wear a type of veil that makes them look to Westerners like someone deeply ashamed of herself or playing ghost.
Holidays cause tensions. Some Muslims, especially overzealous Western converts, demand Fridays off (even though Friday is not an Islamic sabbath). Many European employers have by now accepted that a substantial proportion of Muslim workers take off Muslim holidays, but their American counterparts generally remain reluctant. That there are really only two major Muslim holidays a year ('Id al-Fitr and 'Id al-Adha) makes this easier to accept, though their movable quality makes them confusing and their length somewhat disruptive.
Right-wing politicians talk incessantly of these problems, but mainstream figures picked up the theme. Jacques Chirac, the Gaullist president of France, once expressed sympathy for his countrymen "driven crazy" by the "noise and smells" of immigrants. President François Mitterrand of France spoke ominously of "the threshold of tolerance," and was echoed when Chancellor Helmut Kohl warned that the Toleranzschwelle (threshold of tolerance) not be crossed.
The relatively happy experience of the quarter-million Bosnian Muslims in Western Europe points to the unimportance of religion. They caused the least offense of all the immigrant Muslim communities; in fact, they went unnoticed. Their mostly Nordic appearance and their European customs (in dress, food preparation, and the like) were critical to their higher standing, as well as their less formalistic practice of the Islamic rituals. By way of demonstrating this distinction, here is an episode that Khalid Durán witnessed on a Berlin subway (after which he engaged the two participants to learn their identities and attitudes): A German factory worker, slightly drunk and wholly unreligious, addressed the blond and blue-eyed man sitting next to her, "You are Yugoslav, yes, I can see that. You are all right. With the Turks we cannot get along, because of the religion, they are too different." The man, who happened to be Palestinian Muslim, kept his mouth shut.
For many in Finland, the arrival of some two and a half thousand Somali refugees in 1990-91 was a first encounter with Muslims. Finns tended to find Islam-related cultural differences shocking. Somalis refused not only to eat pork, but any meat from utensils they considered unclean.
Then there's the other level altogether, the world of Saudi playboys who flaunt their money and their lasciviousness. While small in number, the fame of their antics (such shopping sprees in London or painting the genitalia on statues in Beverly Hills) inspire considerable ill-will. Here's the sort of scene, in an American hotel witnessed by an American doctor:
I was ushered into the living quarters set aside for the princes. It had the atmosphere of a bordello. Loud music was blaring from all directions, and white-coated waiters were running back and forth, carrying trays of assorted drinks and snacks. The young princes and their friends were shouting to each other through the walls. There was loud, raucous laughter coming from the rooms, punctuated at times by a female scream. Semi-clad women could be seen darting from room to room, giggling, followed by Saudi princes who were unshaven and disheveled. Everyone seemed drunk to the gills. It looked as though the bacchanal had been going for some time.
Immigrants feel more at home in some Western countries than in others. First, several countries (notably France, Canada, and the United States) have old traditions of immigration. They know how to welcome people of other cultures and colors and do intermarry with them. Second, cultural and physical differences range in extent. France is a Mediterranean country, so the differences in mentality and physiognomy between a Maghrebi girl and a French boy attending the same school can be minimal. A Moroccan boy might be taken for a Spaniard and his Spanish girl friend taken for a Moroccan. The same will scarcely happen to a Bengali in Great Britain or a Kurd in Norway.
In the cosmic order of things, disputes over the building of mosques look banal. They represent, however, the single most important source of friction for many Westerners, and so deserve mention. Such clashes rarely reach the world press, but they do consume local attention.
In their first years, Muslim communities used abandoned factories, lofts, and other large but inexpensive halls as prayer buildings; by now, most seek to build proper mosques, complete with dome and minaret. These are not the pompous downtown projects executed by Middle East governments (such as the one recently finished on 96th Street in Manhattan) but the ordinary buildings in residential neighborhoods. After saving for a mosque for twenty or so years, communities found at the beginning of the 1990s that they had enough money to begin construction.
This aspiration aroused powerful nativist responses, especially in France and Germany. Some municipalities (Mannheim, for instance) welcomed these projects with enthusiasm, only to find their citizens in rebellion. Churches often sided with Muslim efforts to build, but to no avail. Grass-roots campaigns to prevent mosque construction sprung up in places as disparate as Iserlohn, Pforzheim, Lyon and Rome. In the French city of Libercourt plans for a bigger mosque were put to a referendum and 83 percent voted against. A bomb destroyed the mosque in Rennes and the mayor of Charvieu-Chavagneux near Grenoble "accidentally" had an unused factory hall pulled down by bulldozers, pretending not to know that the hall was used by Muslims for prayers.
Several motivations stand behind this animosity. Opposing mosque construction gives the common European man or woman an opportunity to express a growing anti-Muslim sentiment. Here is revenge for Rushdie and Mahmoody against Khomeini, Saddam Husayn, Yasir 'Arafat, and Agha Hassan Abedi. It also offers a way for secularized societies to express their distaste for an overly-traditional religious group.
Tellingly, debates about mosques often (e.g., in Freiburg and Stuttgart) centered on parking issues. Either citizens objected to a mosque on the grounds that it would cause parking problems for the vicinity or they wanted to use the plot assigned for a mosque as a garage.
In the United States too, parking looms large. Indeed, it affects all houses of worship, not just mosques. Long before the Kuwait war, for example, five city councils rejected an Iraqi Shi'i group in Southern California. In Falls Church, Virginia, just outside Washington, the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque managed to avert shutting down by taking three steps: convincing worshippers to car pool, using a nearby Church of Christ parking lot, and hiring police to oversee parking. Many a mosque project had to be suspended or cede way to a garage. Thus did the ancient conflict between crescent and cross degenerate into a dispute about mosque and parking lot.
The efforts of European governments notwithstanding, Muslim immigrants continue to arrive from around the world, looking for work, education, family members, or refuge. As their numbers grow, so does the sense of alarm. The Bosnian tragedy will probably exacerbate these concerns. Although the Serbian massacres aroused great sympathy in Western Europe, a half million refugees fled to northern Europe where they added to the demographic weight of Islam. Germans felt tempted to help these Muslims more, but they did not give in, as a consul explained: "We can't handle someone differently because they [sic] have blue eyes."
Nativists put the highest priority on limiting the Muslim influx and reducing the millions of Muslims (especially the families accompanying the workers) already resident in Western Europe. Jean-Marie Le Pen tells his followers, "I don't want the French to become like the Red Indians-annihilated by immigration." O somos todos moros, o somos todos cristianos ("All of us are Muslims or all of us are Christians") was the motto of Spain's inquisition; skinheads have roughly the same fears, though emptied of religious content.
The prevention of illegal immigration has become a high priority throughout the West. Two countries, Austria and Switzerland, have deployed their armies along the frontier to keep immigrants out (not all of them Muslims, of course). The Italian army backs the police in keeping out tens of thousands of desperate Albanians, who are predominantly Muslims. Since 1987 a considerable number of Middle Easterners and South Asians have entered the United States via Mexico, and the number of Muslims among the "wetbacks" seems to be increasing. The Spanish government does not formally deploy the military for this purpose, but in actual fact the army assists the police in guarding the long coastline against another type of "boat people"-North Africans trying to set foot on European soil in the dark of the night. The Spaniards call these people (no kidding) espaldas mojades ("wetbacks").
In addition to immigrants, the Muslim birthrate in the West far exceeds that of native Europeans and Americans, so that one-fifth of all children born in France have a father from North Africa and Muhammad is one of the most common given names in the United Kingdom. Recognizing that low birth rates create a need for labor, the right seeks to adjust the policies of European governments to encourage more Christian children. Some Westerners compare birth rates and fear being submerged. Writing in The Spectator, Charles Moore recalled T. S. Eliot's caution of "hooded hordes": "Because of our obstinate refusal to have enough babies, Western European civilisation will start to die at the point when it could have revived with new blood. Then the hooded hordes will win, and the Koran will be taught, as Gibbon famously imagined, in the schools of Oxford." In perhaps the most apocalyptic version of this concern, Jean Raspail, a major French intellectual, wrote The Camp of the Saints, a novel depicting the end of Western civilization due to the uncontrolled influx of Muslims from Bangladesh. The British poet Philip Larkin wrote in 1985 that "In 10 years' time we shall all be cowering under our beds as hordes of blacks steal anything they can lay their hands on."
Beginning with Enoch Powell in England in the late 1960s (who predicted "rivers of blood" should immigration continue), the Muslim presence spurred the growth of right-wing parties in France, West Germany, Great Britain, several Scandinavian countries, and elsewhere. Often called National Fronts, these movements tend to speak the same language (warning against the "Islamization" of Europe) and employ the same tactics (setting fire to refugee shelters or stopping mosque construction). The membership ranges from respectable types alarmed by the influx of alien peoples to vicious skinheads and lethal neo-Nazis.
Le Pen's National Front in France is currently the most powerful nativist organization, garnering about 14 percent of the national vote, with some 32 percent of the electorate agreeing with Le Pen's views on restricting the number and rights of foreigners. In 1991-92 most other Western European countries too witnessed significant gains of the extreme right, notably the Republikaner in Germany. Despite their Nazi-type rhetoric, the Republikaner emerged as the third-strongest party in some two dozen municipalities. Its sister party, the Volksunion (People's Union) won 10 percent of the votes in Bremen, Germany's most liberal state and the one renowned for its openness to foreigners. (The influx of East Europeans into Western Europe, incidentally, exacerbates conflict, for if West Europeans have been reared on pluralism and cosmopolitanism, East Europeans have imbibed racial and religious prejudices.)
The Freiheitspartei (Freedom Party) clamored for an Austria "free of foreigners"; in the province of Styria it obtained over 15 percent of the votes. In Switzerland the Auto-Partei, whose first priority is the expulsion of immigrants, won 8 out of 200 seats; and the Swiss Democratic Party which campaigned with a similar anti-foreigner platform won 5 seats.
The United States has nothing comparable, but hints can be found of a similar trend. Pat Robertson, the televangelist and former presidential candidate, fulminated when Imam Wahaj Siraj of New York opened a session of the House of Representatives with a recitation from the Qur'an in late 1991. Robertson saw Muslims as representatives of either Khomeini or Qadhdhafi, and he used "Lockerbie" and "Islam" as rough synonyms. Patrick Buchanan, another former presidential candidate, explained his foreboding in a newspaper column:
For a millennium, the struggle for mankind's destiny was between Christianity and Islam; in the 21st century, it may be so again. . . . We may find in the coming century that . . . cultural conservative T. S. Eliot was right, when the old Christian gentleman wrote in "The Hollow Men," that the West would end, "Not with a bang but a whimper"-perhaps the whimper of a Moslem child in its cradle.
Anti-immigrant policies gain votes, and Muslims are the immigrants perceived as most threatening; so this demagogic trend is likely to increase.
Great dramas involving Muslims in the West-the Rushdie affair, the Mahmoody story, the BCCI scandal and the World Trade Center conspiracy case-are now unfolding. They represent both the symptoms of a profound malaise connected to the sudden emergence of a Muslim population in the West and the tensions between it and the majority population.
Cultural confrontation invariably raises difficult questions, for no one has the right to insist exclusively on his standards of right and wrong. History alone assures that the Muslim-Western face-off has more facets and tensions than most; a range of current issues then exacerbates the problem.
Where does one draw the line between the legitimate insistence on religious freedom and unlawful (bigamy) or even unconstitutional (the attempt to erode secularism) behavior? The majority community regards a number of Muslim practices not as rights but as privileges; Muslims see themselves discriminated against and unable to avail themselves of the full range of Western legal and social protections.
2: Resolving Tensions
We are French. Our ancestors are the Gauls, and we are also a little Roman, a little German, a little Jewish, a little Italian, a small bit Spanish, more and more Portuguese, who knows, maybe Polish too. And I wonder whether we aren't already a bit Arab.
- François Mitterrand
Having identified the main sources of tension, we now turn to ways to diminish or eradicate these problems. Not surprisingly, some issues lend themselves to compromise and solution far more readily than others.
The counsel provided here has three limitations. First, it is directed primarily to the authorities in the Western countries, but also to leading private institutions (churches, universities, the media). Muslims need parallel advice, but this is not our mission here. Second, the proposed remedies address the symptoms of the problem, not the causes: they cope with existing populations but say nothing about the underlying causes of emigration, either the need for low-cost labor on the European side or the drive for the good life on the Muslim side. Third, cultural confrontation necessarily takes a toll on all involved; the suggestions here aim only not to end all tensions but only to prevent the process from becoming too rough on the participants.
We follow the same order here as in Chapter 1, dealing first with Islamism, then with problems originating on the Western side. (Specific recommendations are in capitals to make them easier to locate.)
Pressure Middle East States to Desist
Given the dependence of Islamist leaders on outside aid, pressure on Middle East states to reduce aid to Islamists would diminish their position. Diplomacy should have effect with some states which seek good relations with the West, most notably Saudi Arabia, but less utility with Iran, Libya, and (when its oil sales resume) Iraq. In their cases, a quid pro quo needs to be established: continued funding of Islamist causes in the West will lead to reductions in trade, investment, and the like. Of course, to make this threat and make it stick would require a boldness not characteristic of European states in recent years.
At the same time, moderate states should pay more attention to their nationals living in the West. Some already do so: despite the Republic of Turkey's secularism, Ankara's Department of Religious Affairs appoints religious affairs counselors at fifteen Turkish embassies in the West as well as religious attachés at twenty-one consulates. These oversee the activities of some eight hundred imams, including 409 in Germany, 63 in France, and 26 in Australia. The Moroccan, Egyptian, and Indonesian would do well to take similar steps.
Help Moderate Muslims
Western institutions and governments should support Muslim moderates. By moderates, we mean individuals and organizations unambiguously committed to democracy, pluralism, and secularism. They explore alternatives to the rigid ritualism of legalist orthodoxy, emphasize ecumenism (fraternal relations with Christians and Jews) and equality of the sexes. Some are religiously committed, others are not. They come disproportionately from minority (e.g., Berber, Kurd, Alevi) Muslim populations.
Moderates have strengths in Muslim communities. Turkish teachers in German schools, for example, tend toward staunch secularism; the court decision to ban swimming for Turkish girls upset them considerably. Similarly, professionals prefer a modern-oriented version of Islam.
A strong lobby against the chador and other manifestations of Islamism exist, especially Germany, also in France. It consists of educated first- and second-generation Turkish women who use their influence to curb Islamist activities and to guarantee the freedom of Muslim women.
Moderates have intellectual firepower, for many of their most original thinkers have fled their repressive homelands and taken up residence in the West. In Europe and America, Muslim intellectuals work without the political oppression that reigns in so many Muslim countries; political stability, religious tolerance, cultural pluralism, and freedom of expression permit them to break new ground for the entire world of Islam. The Muslim debate over changing values is discussed more honestly and profoundly in the United States and Western Europe than anywhere else, certainly far more so than in Iran or Sudan. As a result, Kanan Makiya observes, "Europe has replaced Beirut as a haven for quality books in Arabic and on the Middle East."
A galaxy of outstanding Muslim scholars have found at Western universities the opportunity to research and teach denied them at home. Prominent names include Pakistanis Fazlur Rahman in Chicago and Ishtiyaq Ahmed in Stockholm, Algerians Mohamed Arkoun (Paris) and Ali Merad (Lyon), Egyptians Fathi Osman (Los Angeles) and Zaki Badawi (London), the Sudanese Abdallahi Ahmed An-Na'im (Washington), the Yugoslav Smail Balic (Vienna), and the Iranian Sayyid Hossein Nasr (Washington). Some Sufi spiritual masters and their disciples, including the Moroccans Khalid Bentounes (Belgium and France) and Jabrane Sebnat (Sweden and Germany), are decidedly modernist.
The Western public and its media must not lump Islamists and moderate Muslims together. In particular, they need to understand that Islamists constitute a minority of the Muslim populations in their midst. Not to recognize this undermines all those opposed to the Middle Eastern regimes. Although many Iranians fled Iran precisely to get away from the mullahs, Americans wrongly assume that the Iranians living in their midst are associated with the Khomeini regime.
To penalize all Muslims for the antics of a few extremists is deeply unfair. Indeed, this is a form of double jeopardy, whereby the moderates suffer from the outside world which sees them as extremists and the fundamentalists who see them as sell-outs. The powers in the Islamic world spurn them; the West perceives them as just another brand of Islamists; and Islamists attack them relentlessly, calling them Communists and Free Masons. (Their problem recalls the predicament of law-abiding blacks in the United States, punished once by whites, who see them as criminally-inclined, and a second time by black criminals, who prey especially on them.)
Tamp Down Radical Islamists
Islamists enjoy a prominence disproportionate to their actual support and authorities ought to take steps to reduce the Islamists' power.
Western governments have done little to curb Islamist activities. Only the French security services have taken steps to contain them, for example by monitoring sermons in Islamist mosques and investigating seditious activities in cooperation with non-Islamist Muslims (such as pro-Saddam types). The French government has special incentives to keep Islamist activities in check, fearful that Algerian civil strife will transfer to the more than one million Muslims of Algerian extraction living in France, but others should be able to do so too.
German authorities have an effective legal framework to block political extremism in the Radikalenerlass, a decree against political extremists, but they decline to apply it against Islamists. The formal reason has to do with Islamism being a religious phenomenon, not a political one. The real reason is commercial: a desire not to alienate rich Middle Eastern governments. For example, when an analyst reaches conclusions contrary to the wishes of the German government, his institution will hear about it from the appropriate ministry. Likewise, the city council of Aachen favored a Muslim Brethren plan to build an Islamist center for the whole of Europe in their city on the grounds that it would help attract wealthy clients from the Gulf countries to Aachen's famous medical facilities.
Local Muslim groups often ask for firm action against Islamists, usually to no avail. Assuming that a mosque is a mosque, authorities in Western Europe tend to ignore the views of local Muslims and promote the Islamists. When local anti-Islamists raise their voices in protest, the authorities at times let them understand that their activities jeopardize trade relations, and so are unwelcome.
In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) does seem closely to monitor activities of Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam and Silis Muhammad's plainly racist splinter group based in Atlanta, Georgia. But until the World Trade Center explosion, the U.S. government did not worry about foreign radical Islamists, even Khomeinist emissaries. These received visas easily, came and went as they pleased, and agitated against American values without feeling the need for any discretion. For example, Afzal Bangash, the Pakistani editor of Toronto's Crescent International frequently toured the United States, offering inflammatory speeches in mosques and Islamic centers. Not only did the U.S. government let these extremists in the country and allow them to agitate here openly, but on occasion it even welcomed them. Hasan at-Turabi, head of Sudan's National Islamic Front and secretary general of the Arab and Islamic Peoples Conference (an Islamist internationale) turned up on Capitol Hill in 1992 as the chief witness at a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on North Africa.
But the most spectacular case is that of 'Umar 'Abd ar-Rahman, one of the most sinister figures in the world of Islam today. As the spiritual mentor to the Islamic Jihad group in Egypt, from whose ranks the assassins of Anwar as-Sadat's came, this blind preacher spent time in an Egyptian prison; later he called for the execution of Nagib Mahfouz, Egypt's Nobel Prize winner in literature, paralleling Khomeini's edict against Rushdie. This background won him a place on a watch list of undesirable aliens, but he nonetheless received a U.S. visa and appeared in the New York area in 1990. Soon after he married an black American Muslim (adding to his two wives back in Egypt) to stay in the country.
'Abd ar-Rahman spread a message of hatred around the United States, fulminating against Jews and Christians, America's government and culture. He inspired a varied group of immigrant and convert Muslims to take violent actions, some actualized (the assassination of Rabbi Kahane, bombing the World Trade Center), others not (bombing tunnels to Manhattan). 'Abd ar-Rahman's media prominence made him both an issue in U.S.-Egyptian relations and a symbol of Islamist aggression against Americans.
Islamist antagonism to the West demands severe responses. This means decisively punishing illegal activities; unflinchingly confronting Islamist hate-propaganda; monitoring publications calling for the subjugation of non-Muslims and the "conquest of the West"; excluding foreign Islamists; and watching preparations for a revolutionary take-over or other subversive actions. On the mundane level, law-enforcement circles must take Islamist transgressions more seriously. On the political level, Western leaders should publicly challenge Muslims to reconcile to the role of one among several junior partners in a pluralist democracy, foreswear supremacism, and desist from playing the numbers game (by resorting to extra procreation and proselytism in order to become a majority).
Totalitarian tendencies need to be nipped in the bud; prevarications only make matters worse. Extremists thrive on appeasement, as the experience of several Muslim countries demonstrates. Presidents Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan and Anwar as-Sadat of Egypt paid with their lives for their soft policies, Prime Ministers Bülent Ecevit of Turkey and Sadiq al-Mahdi of the Sudan narrowly escaped the same fate. Not to respond to Islamist provocations greatly increases the potential for conflict.
Appeals to religious freedom or threats about the reactions of important Middle Eastern states must not be allowed to deter enforcement of the law. Nor should the authorities fear that entire Muslim communities will be upset should one or the other Islamist agitator be expelled or jailed. On the contrary, such measures would meet with the approval and applause from Muslims, especially if done in consultation with them and if the authorities make clear that their goal is not to oppose Islam but to combat an extremist ideology.
To be true to themselves, Western societies must be reasonably open, tolerant and culturally pluralistic, even if the beneficiaries of these enlightened attitudes prove unappreciative. On the other hand, liberal governments are not obligated to commit suicide. The challenge, as with all civil liberties puzzles, is to find a prudent balance.
Officially Recognize Islam
EUROPEAN GOVERNMENTS NEED URGENTLY TO RECOGNIZED ISLAM, THE SECOND LARGEST RELIGION ALMOST EVERYWHERE. NOT TO DO SO ANTAGONIZES MUSLIMS AND MAKES THEM MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO ISLAMIST SUBVERSION.
While the United States is far more devout than most of Western Europe, the latter remains officially far less secularist. Government recognition of religion continues to make a difference in Europe. Lutheranism remains the religion of the Scandinavian states, just as is Anglicanism in England and Catholicism in Spain. Most other countries, including France and Germany, recognize Catholicism, Protestantism, and Judaism as official religions; in practice, these are quasi-state religions. Official recognition of Islam would mean its acceptance as part of the religious fabric of European life. This would facilitate the construction of mosques (including prayer rooms in public institutions like hospitals), the provision of land for Muslim cemeteries, chaplains in the armed forces, religious lessons in public schools, programs on radio and television, recognition of the two major religious festivals, and the provision of halal (properly butchered) meat.
In Western Europe, Islam has won official status only in Austria, Belgium and France. (Some German provinces recognize the Greek Orthodox Church, but none so far recognizes Islam.) The French government has proven the most forthcoming. Former Interior Minister Pierre Joxe prodded prominent Muslims to constitute a Conseil de Reflexion sur l'Islam en France (CORIF), an official 15-man council which serves as a consultative body for the French authorities. One of its principal tasks is to draft the operating rules of a truly representative body of French Muslims. French authorities took this step hoping to establish Islam in France as a religious community independent of directives from abroad; given that there are now more French citizens than Algerians among the Muslims resident in France, this seems highly sensible.
In Britain, the Islamist campaign for recognition which began in 1980 has had little success. Of course, the Islamists slowed its progress by making some peculiar demands: that Muslims be exempted from post-mortem examinations, girls not take part in sports activities in schools, and Muslim family law be applied (i.e., the Islamic law of divorce, which gives fathers custody of children and does not obligate them to pay alimony).
In Germany, radical Islamist groups (the Süleymanci Fraternity and the Milli Görüş Teskilatlari) impede official recognition by constituting themselves as religious communities and demanding recognition on their own. German authorities rightly suspect such groups of not accepting the country's secular constitution, an important matter because German law requires a certain representivity and organizational structure, precisely to prevent the type of adventurism presently flourishing among Muslims. The German authorities have since about 1980 eagerly awaited the emergence of representative Muslim spokesmen with whom to discuss community concerns in an efficient and orderly manner. While churches have worked harder with Muslims, governments have shown greater wisdom in their choice of Muslim partners.
Immigrant Muslims in the United States also complain about non-recognition, but their circumstances differ in three respects. First, the United States practices a consistent secularism and a separation of church and state unknown in Europe. Recognition by the state matters less than acceptance by the broad public. Second, the country expects and tolerates pluralism. Third, religious issues devolve to the local level. Not a few Muslims prefer the American challenge because it depends more on the public than the authorities: if a religious body has enough energy, it will not only survive but thrive. To the extent that the Federal government does recognize religion, Islam has rapidly advanced in recent years. The president congratulates Muslims on the occasion of Muslim holidays; Muslims have opened sessions of the Senate and House of Representatives with recitations from the Qur'an; and Muslim chaplains serve in the armed forces. In her poem celebrating Bill Clinton's inauguration, Maya Angelou specifically mentioned "the Muslim," "the Sheikh," "the Turk, the Arab."
AFRICAN-AMERICAN ISLAM NEEDS A DIFFERENT FORM OF RECOGNITION-NOT OFFICIAL AND LEGAL BUT SOCIAL AND CULTURAL. ELIJAH MUHAMMAD IMBUED THE NATION OF ISLAM WITH HIGHLY CONTENTIOUS DOCTRINES WHICH OFTEN LED HIS FOLLOWERS TO ENGAGE IN VIOLENCE, A FEATURE SOME OF THE BLACK MUSLIM SPLINTER GROUPS STILL RETAIN. THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY TO NEUTRALIZE THEM IS TO HELP WALLACE DEEN MOHAMMED BRING THE AMERICAN MUSLIM MISSION INTO THE MAINSTREAM OF AMERICAN LIFE. HIS FOLLOWERS ARE DIVIDED AMONG THEMSELVES, SOME SINCERELY FAVORING FRATERNAL RELATIONS WITH CHRISTIANS AND JEWS, OTHERS STILL REJECTING THE BASIC PREMISES OF AMERICAN LIFE AND MAINTAINING LINKS TO FARRAKHAN. THE AMERICAN MUSLIM MISSION STANDS AT A CROSSROADS AND RECOGNITION COULD HELP BRING THEM TO THE CENTER, WHILE REJECTION AND ISOLATION MIGHT PUSH THEM BACK TO THE RADICAL AND VIOLENT FRINGE.
Grant Voting Rights and Citizenship
EUROPEAN AUTHORITIES OUGHT TO EXTEND VOTING RIGHTS AND CITIZENSHIP TO MUSLIM MINORITIES, FOR REASONS OF PRINCIPLE AND EXPEDIENCY ALIKE.
Municipal voting rights. Should long-time residents who are nationals of another country have the right to vote in municipal elections? The issue was hotly debated in much of Western Europe throughout the 1980s.
Despite considerable opposition, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Holland permit foreigners to participate in local elections. The Swedes have even considered permitting foreign citizens participation in national elections. In Hamburg, Germany's most liberal state, the authorities granted permanent residents the right to vote, but a court overruled this on constitutional grounds. The ruling came as a rude shock to Germans proud of their pluralism and to Turkish professionals who settled in Hamburg to escape the discrimination rampant in southern Germany. This was not, however, the last word on a much-debated subject. The issue is beginning to arise in the United States, where it primarily concerns Hispanics rather than Muslims.
In the end, resident aliens will likely win the right to participate in municipal elections throughout the European Community, if for no other reason than to justify the closing of the gates to further immigrants. Speeding up this process would do much to diffuse tension. Permitting Muslims to vote has the benefit of letting them take part directly in the political process, thereby defusing some tensions, for example those concerning mosque construction.
Citizenship. Should long-time residents be granted citizenship? What about second generation Muslims? The situation is confusing, with Western governments adopting different, indeed contradictory, positions. Of the major European countries, France has been most open, Germany least so. Overall, the United States has been most generous in dispensing citizenship, Switzerland the most restrictive.
Until 1980, a child born in Germany of a German mother and a foreign father stood no chance of getting German nationality. Since then things have changed drastically and the trend toward further liberalization continues. For example, in 1981 the German authorities urged Turks to go for German nationality, only to complain a year later that Turks did not respond. In reality it took the Turks some time to realize that the change of attitude was serious, and by then German resistance had hardened again. At this time, fully six million individuals live in Germany without German nationality. The wavering on the question of citizenship in most of the major European countries causes needless misgivings and mutual suspicions. It needs a clear-cut solution.
Muslim states and organizations are ambivalent about migration to the West, sometimes deploring it as a dissolution of Islamic bonds and a drain of their best manpower, sometimes rejoicing over it as the creation of outposts in enemy territory and the gaining of needed skills.
If taking a European nationality requires renouncing one's citizenship of origin, most first-generation Muslims will decline the offer. This feels like an act of treason, akin to apostasy. Some may also fear reprisals. Ali Ben Hadj, a Islamist leader in Algeria, told Muslims that to become a citizen of a Western state is "sinful, impious, and against Islam." The Moroccan government strongly discourages its citizens from taking foreign citizenship, with King Hassan II repeatedly admonishing the Moroccan work force abroad not to be anything but foreign guests prepared to return home. "Immigration should not lead to integration," he tells them. The French, because of their close ties with Morocco, compromise their liberalism by not granting citizenship to Moroccan professionals, that being Rabat's condition for economic cooperation. Accordingly, immigrants request to be allowed to retain their original citizenship while adding that of the host country. The former becomes symbolic, the later operational.
At the same time, Muslims increasingly opt for European citizenship. Indeed, a kind of mass movement is building. Even the Islamists have changed their approach; at a large meeting of forty organizations in Germany in the spring of 1991, participants heard appeals for them to apply for the nationality of their respective European country of residence. In part, the Islamists feared a united Europe would impose more restrictions on Muslims than do individual states. This change of view among Muslims sets off alarms for European rightists and xenophobes.
Educate Immigrants for Citizenship
As Western Europeans (and, one day, perhaps Japanese too) adjust to multiethnic life, they may find it helpful to look at the experiences of Europe's daughter countries-the United States, Canada, and Australia. Grudgingly and haltingly, the leaders of these immigrant countries gave up the vision of racial or cultural purity and adopted a more open attitude. Initially, this meant accepting the Irish in America and the Greeks in Australia; more recently, it meant Vietnamese and Chinese. In the future, it will almost surely mean large numbers of Muslims.
Historically, these immigrant societies absorbed new peoples through three mechanisms: idealism, education, and secularism.
Ideals such as the pursuit of happiness and freedom of speech have been vital to all immigrant societies, making up for the absence of shared ethnic bonds by providing the population with a common purpose. The authorities ought to encourage Muslims to live harmoniously with their Western neighbors by absorbing the ideals of the host society.
Education of children is critical, for even if the adult immigrants cannot understand the ideals of their adopted country, it is imperative that these be communicated to the next generation. Ideals provide a substitute for lineage. Symbolic of this, George Washington is the symbolic ancestry of every American child, even if his parents arrived at the time of his birth. If the European states are to absorb the Muslim (and other alien) immigrants, they must move in this direction. It will not be easy for old societies, but education has to stress ethnicity less and principles more. The glorious history of France, for instance, needs to concentrate less on the victories over others and more on efforts to attain liberty, equality and fraternity.
Muslim leaders need to be convinced to inculcate respect for Western ways. Pubs and dancing are not merely decadent, but have long and established social functions. Muslims need to learn more about their host societies, and to honor the customs of the majority. Muslims must avoid provoking the majority community by thrusting their differences upon it as if they wanted to impose new norms on everybody.
SECULARISM NEEDS TO BE EXPLAINED AND ESTEEMED. MUSLIMS HARBOR MANY STRANGE IDEAS ABOUT SECULARISM (FOR EXAMPLE, THE QUOTE ABOVE ABOUT "THE DEGRADING RITUALS OF SECULARISM"). THEY SEE IT AS A MOVEMENT CREATED TO COUNTER ISLAM, A SIGN OF INDIFFERENCE TO RELIGION, AND A SOVIET-STYLE ANTI-RELIGION. IN FACT, SECULARISM GREW OUT OF A WEARINESS OF RELIGIOUS WARS; IT ENTAILS ONLY THE WITHDRAWAL OF RELIGION FROM PUBLIC LIFE; AND IT HAS NOTHING TO WITH ISLAM. THESE FALSEHOODS NEED TO BE CORRECTED FOR EVERYONE'S BENEFIT.
Further, Muslims need to be encouraged to adopt a secularist outlook themselves. Only secularism makes it possible to transcend the historic Christian-Muslim conflict and treat the other as an equal. But secularism has its costs; it means having to give up all notions of molding Western countries in the Islamic image. Instead, Muslim leaders in the West must push their followers to integrate into the larger society. This means, for instance, no pressure on the government to pay for Muslim schools, no attempts to get Islamic law accepted in courts, and no extension of blasphemy laws to cover Islamic topics. To integrate into the West, Muslims need not forego their faith, but they must accept the supremacy of civil law-and freedom of speech is a critical element of that law. Only if Muslims accept secularism can they fully integrate into society.
Muslims need not stumble over the premises of modern life. The problem lies not with Islam as such, but with the Islamist strain-the one which holds literally to the archaic rules of Islam and refuses to accommodate to the realities of modern life.
Re-Orient Church Efforts
Political parties make few efforts on behalf of Muslims and unions even less (in Germany, for example, foreigners get shunted into their own, separate divisions of leading trade unions). Ironically, churches have emerged as a key institution for Muslim-Christian relations. They make the greatest efforts to assist Muslim communities in their educational and social concerns, even mediating between them and the authorities. The churches have trained their own specialists on Islamic affairs who serve as liaisons to the Muslim communities and closely monitor developments therein.
These specialists have experience in the Muslim world, have university training in Islam, often speak one or more Middle Eastern language. Some church specialists have an outstanding sense of Islam and Muslims, for example Emilio Galindo Aguilar, a White Father who runs the center for Christian-Muslim Encounter in Madrid, and Jan Slomp, a Protestant who directs the Ontmoeting met Moslims Center in Holland. However well trained, the interest of these churchmen is sometimes sparked by simple human emotions. The Rev. Oddbjorn Leirvik, a young Lutheran clergyman whose downtown Oslo parish church abuts that city's densest concentration of Muslims, became intrigued by the Muslim family which cleaned his church; whenever they entered the holy building, they insisted on taking off their shoes!
Many church specialists, however, succumb to three consequential fallacies, each of which prevents the building of trust and harmonious relations with Muslims.
Preference for Islamists. Church officials woo traditionalist or fundamentalist Muslims and make them partners in dialogue. They accept the version of Islam as presented by scholars of the law, with no accommodation to popular religion. They tend to be ill-disposed towards Sufis (whom the Islamists abhor and call subverters of Islam). Worse, Christian specialists of Islam often look at Muslim communities through the Islamist prism, and so apply fundamentalist criteria. The more orthodox a Muslim, the more they regard him as authentic. They see the less formalistic Muslims as Muslim no more, or as Westernized and diluted.
This choice may have something to do with a satisfying sense of challenge: working with liberal and Sufi Muslims offers no great accomplishment, but a working relationship with Islamists is something special, akin to taming a wild beast. It may also result from a deeply nourished antipathy for the Enlightenment, if not the European one then the one brewing within Islam. For example, in a beautifully written paper, the Reverend Gerhard Jasper presents the extremist element as the Muslim community per se. Jasper has his own image of Islam he insists that Muslims fulfill.
Too often, churches take seriously individuals of no standing. Take Mehdi Razvi, the imam of Masjid Ali, the Khomeinist mosque in Hamburg: so little respected by fellow-Pakistanis for having "made a fool of himself-and a laughing stock of Pakistan," he was excluded from the Pakistan Cultural Association as "a disgrace to his country." Despite this, Razvi for almost two decades has often appeared at church gatherings and public functions where he is accepted as a spiritual representative of the Muslim community.
Like Razvi, many Islamist leaders eagerly solicit church attention. Lacking acceptance as authentic representatives from their communities, they depend on legitimation by Westerners. As the same time, they suspect the ecumenism on the part of church bodies, seeing in this a covert mission. They complain about intensified missionary activity by the churches, and ascribe this to a resuscitation of a crusader ideology. Indeed, Islamist propaganda focuses more on the clergy as wolves in sheep's clothing than on skinheads or neo-fascists.
Clerical preference for the dour ones implicitly insults the majority of Muslims who resent the Islamists. This gives rise to much bitterness and suspicion of the Christian clergy among Muslims. "Birds of the same feather flock together," is an oft-heard comment. Conspiracy theories bubble up to explain the churches fondness of extremists cast out from their own community.
The conclusion is obvious: churches should avoid Islamists and cooperate with moderate and representative leaders.
Preference for Middle East-sanctioned leaders. Clergymen seem to crave hierarchy and structure in Islamic institutions, more or less along the lines of that in their own churches. This propels them toward institutions with ambitious names, however hollow the reality, rather than the well-grounded but local organizations.
Consider the Muslim World Congress of Inamullah Khan, a Pakistani businessman. The Congress is obscure in Pakistan and has scarcely any standing in the Muslim world. Even diaspora Muslims hardly know of it, although it operates primarily in Europe. Yet the Muslim World Congress has been singularly successful in operating as a partner of Church bodies such as the Geneva-based World Council of Churches and the World Conference of Religions for Peace. Inamullah Khan uses the organization as a vehicle for his own self-aggrandizement and even enrichment (for example, it got him a seat on the board awarding the prestigious Templeton Prize, which he promptly convinced to bestow the $150,000 award on himself!). Legitimization by Westerners has in turn permitted the Muslim World Congress to gain some support in Muslim communities.
Genuine Muslim leadership is rarely Islamist and not represented by self-aggrandizing organizations. Muslim communities have their own mechanisms of producing leaders. These may be amorphous and scarcely defined, yet they are worth tracking down and cultivating. Churches should seek out figures who emerge naturally from their communities, not imposed on them by foreign governments.
Preference for theologians. Christian clergy seem to find it hard to accept as equal partners Muslims who are not theologians proper. So long as they insist on finding their closest counterparts on the Muslim side, they will usually seek out the wrong partners. Instead, churches should deal with the non-theological leadership.
In the absence of a church, the leadership usually emerges from the professions. Learning has decisive importance here. Judges, lawyers, and others dealing with law and administration are ideally suited. Teachers, especially university professors, are next in line, together with medical doctors and other highly qualified personnel. Businessmen with charitable commitments and leadership qualities are good candidates. Any of these gain tremendously in the eyes of their fellow-Muslims if they officiate as imams, even if only occasionally.
In the natural order of things, these leaders will emerge as spokesmen for Muslim communities. Many parishioners prefer them to those who studied religious subjects only. A medical doctor from Egypt serves as director of the Islamic Center of Southern California, a very successful community venture, while most of the office holders and their wives are also medical practitioners. Members proudly refer to this flourishing mosque as "the doctors' center."
The indigenous population can take steps to reduce the threat of nativism. These include:
Accept Cultural Pluralism
For three decades, European politicians spouted that "England is not the United States" and "France is not a country of immigration." The Federal Republic of Germany went further and officially defined itself as a "non-immigration land" (kein Einwanderungsland). Some public figures and intellectuals, such as Heinrich Böll, argued against this notion, but with little success.
The time has come to close the debate. Clinging to visions of Ye Olde Englande is not just futile but profoundly reactionary, as are the like pastoral visions that exist in the other countries of West Europe. But Western Europe has changed in a fundamental way; its cultures include new languages, religions, and ways of life and its politics are subject to new influences. Multi-ethnic and multi-racial societies came into being in the early 1960s when Muslim laborers moved in by the hundreds of thousands, bringing with them rustic and exotic ways. Thirty years later, whole new communities exist, complete with grandchildren and grandparents, neither of whom have any intention of returning to the old country. Other than in Switzerland, the old notion of rotating workers is defunct, for permanent communities now exist. Nor can the idea (tried in Germany in 1983) of paying "go-home premiums" change the basic situation. Looked at from the long perspective of history, this development is enormously ironic: after fighting off Muslim warriors for so many centuries, Europeans invited in Muslim laborers. While the one eventually left, the other will not.
EUROPEANS NEED TO ACCEPT THE REALITY THAT THEY LIVE IN IMMIGRANT SOCIETIES. THEY ALSO SHOULD UNDERSTAND THAT INTEGRATION DOES NOT NECESSARILY IMPLY ASSIMILATION. THE WHOLE POPULATION NEEDS TO HEAR AND UNDERSTAND THESE MESSAGES. ANYONE WHO CAN HELP-POLITICIANS, PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS, PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS, JOURNALISTS, ADVERTISING COUNCILS-DOES HIS COUNTRY A SERVICE. BUT IT SHOULD NOT BE PROPAGANDA WHICH DROWNS OUT DISSIDENT VOICES; THAT MERELY MOVES THE DEBATE TO THE FRINGES. NOR SHOULD IT BE THE MULTICULTURALIST ASSAULT ON "EUROCENTRISM" THAT HAS EMERGED IN THE UNITED STATES IN RECENT YEARS. RATHER, A FULL DISCUSSION NEEDS TO TAKE PLACE, WITH ALL RESPONSIBLE POINTS OF VIEW EXPRESSED. COMPARED TO THE NEED TO ACCEPT CULTURAL PLURALISM, A PROFOUND AND IN MANY WAYS UNSETTLING TASK, OTHER MATTERS ARE RELATIVELY SIMPLE.
Educate Westerners about Islam
For Christians to accept Muslim newcomers and the two faiths to co-exist in harmony, requires overcoming a millennial tradition of mistrust and hostility. This can only be achieved by greater knowledge and understanding of Islam and Muslims.
Ignorance leads disparate groups of foreigners to be lumped together. Countries with similar sounding names (Iran and Iraq especially) blur. Arab becomes synonymous with Muslim. Westerners often wish for simple and clear-cut distinctions between enemy and friend, without having to bother about nuances. Differentiating between the toadies of a totalitarian regime and its democratic opponents in exile (as in the case of Iran) seems to demand too much of many in Europe and America. Nativists respond to these complications with a simple dismissal-"To hell with them all."
Avoiding conflict, however, requires that attention be paid. This does not mean studying Islamic theology or even becoming acquainted with religious practices, but it does mean that Westerners learn something about the civilization of Islam and about Muslim communities in the West. The task is hard, for Islam is a profound civilization with complex constituent parts. Realistically speaking, education about Islam and Muslims will not dig very deep; yet, real efforts should be made to promote awareness of Islam as religion and civilization.
It is not for Everyman to appreciate the composition, concerns, and attitudes of Muslim communal life, what with its sectarian divisions, conflicting political loyalties, and diverse national, racial, cultural and linguistic origins. But those who come into contact with Muslims must be aware of some subtleties. To a certain extent, they have no choice. French teachers find themselves caught between feuding factions of Algerian pupils: Islamists versus secularists. Turks and Kurds challenge their German teachers to side with them against the other. Dutch teachers have to keep peace between the children of pro- and anti-government Moroccans.
The positive effects of increased knowledge would go far beyond acquiring information; respect is implicit in learning, and that is very important for proud but marginalized peoples. Muslims in the West often complain about Western neglect, if not contempt, for their civilization. A sense of neglect spawns extreme grievances among Muslims. Even though such complaints are at times overstated, it would do much good if Westerners took Muslims and their cultures more seriously.
Muslim students show great satisfaction when European secondary schools provide lectures on Islam. Having their legacy presented in a positive and appealing manner before their non-Muslim peers creates a sense of joy: for once, they seem to feel, they are not portrayed as uncouth barbarians. While American universities offer programs in comparative culture which deal with many types of Americans (Asian, Black, Indian), almost all of them ignore Arab- and Iranian-Americans.
Study Muslims in the West
What changes in religious life are taking place among Muslims in the West? What are the observable trends? What attitudes are gaining strength? Integration sounds good, but what does it actually mean? Is it the golden mean between the extremes of assimilation (exchange of the old identity for a new one) and isolation (retreat into a self-imposed ghetto existence)? What generational differences are emerging? Will second-generation Muslims go moderate or radical? Integrate or isolate? Accept pluralism or turn to violence?
THESE KEY QUESTIONS NEED TO BE BOLDLY BROACHED AND THOROUGHLY DEBATED BY MUSLIMS AND NON-MUSLIMS ALIKE. ANSWERS CAN GUIDE POLICYMAKERS, MAKING IT EASIER TO ISOLATE RADICAL FRINGE GROUPS AND HELP AVOID FUTURE CONFLICT. SOME STUDY IS UNDERWAY. THE CHURCHES EMPLOY SPECIALISTS WHO CLOSELY MONITOR THE MUSLIM COMMUNITIES. POLICE AND INTELLIGENCE SERVICES KEEP TABS ON THEM. ALTHOUGH BASED IN SAUDI ARABIA, THE INSTITUTE OF MUSLIM MINORITY AFFAIRS PUBLISHES A JOURNAL OF HIGH QUALITY WHICH PAYS MUCH ATTENTION TO MUSLIMS IN THE WEST. THE CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF ISLAM AND CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM RELATIONS AT SELLY OAKS COLLEGES, BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM, FOCUSES ACADEMIC ATTENTION ON THE SUBJECT. IN ALL, A SUBSTANTIAL LITERATURE EXISTS, ESPECIALLY IN FRENCH.
If the quantity is abundant, the quality leaves something to be desired. Many efforts to study Muslims in the West suffer from the subject's novelty and lack of academic rigor. Studies either suffer from scribalism (documenting rather than thinking) or ideological distortion. To remedy these weaknesses, new intellectually rigorous, non-partisan institutions need to be established. They should employ independent scholars, Muslim and Western alike, who work together in close interaction with diaspora and convert Muslims.
Appreciate Foreign Labor
With the exception of Ireland, Albania, and Malta, the whole of Europe suffers from low birth rates and declining populations. In the 1980s Germany's population shrunk the fastest of any people in the world; some estimates see the country's Christian population declining 25 percent by the year 2015. Despite having taken in almost a million ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe, this decline continues apace. Musings about tourists in Germany after the year 2020 looking in vain for the last native village have become commonplace. The same pattern holds elsewhere too, though somewhat less dramatically. The French population has been decreasing for half a century. The population of little Austria is declining by about 15,000 a year; to "secure a slight expansion of the economy," the government proposes to take in up to 30,000 people a year. Belgium and Hungary face similar problems. Even Italy has a fertility rate of only 1.7 per woman (the replacement level is 2.1). After the economic miracle of the 1980's, Spain's population has started to decline too.
In contrast, Muslim countries have some of the highest birth rates in the world. Until recently, Morocco had the second-highest birth rate, with an annual increase of 4.1 percent a year. (It is now said to have dropped to 3.2 percent, but this may be overstated). The rest of North Africa has similar numbers, as do Egypt, Iran, and Bangladesh.
According to a study by John R. Weeks, countries with large numbers of Muslims have a crude birth rate of 42 per thousand; by contrast, the developed countries have a crude birth rate of just 13 per thousand. Translated into the total fertility rate, this means 6 children per Muslim woman, 1.7 per woman in the developed countries. The average rate of natural increase in the Muslim countries is 2.8 percent annually; in the developed world, it is a mere 0.3 percent. Demographically, Europeans and Muslims complement each other so well that the continued migration of Muslims to the West seems unstoppable. Europe needs people, the Muslim world has too many. Europe's salvation lies not in guest workers but in the importation of whole new populations.
To this, some Europeans might reply that they prefer their countries shrink in population rather than have their essential cultural features changed. In a poll conducted by the University of Göteborg, more than half of the Swedes questioned expressed strong reservations with regard to Muslims and supported the idea of restricting the numbers of especially Muslim immigrants, quite a few showed great enthusiasm for such a restriction. In a word: "Better die as Swedes than live as Turks!"
But do they really want to live (or die) as poor Swedes? Were foreigners to stop coming to Western Europe and staying there, that region's prosperity would be at risk. Immigrants may not be wanted, but they are needed. A 1991 study concludes that France will need 315,000 new immigrants a year to maintain its current work force. Today, Arabs constitute 60 percent of the industrial workers in Marseilles. Twenty percent of French doctors are Arab, 50 percent of the railroad workers, and 60 percent of the garbage collectors.
To maintain the highest standards of living in the world requires hard work, and this is what the Muslim immigrants offer. They usually take on tasks Europeans reject: assembly-line jobs, construction trades, street cleaning, small-shop retailing. And they excel at these positions, as shown by the interesting fact that the new immigrants from Eastern Europe have hardly affected the Muslims' employment. East Germans so lack the drive and the work discipline required in the capitalist West, they have taken few factory jobs away from West Germany's hard-working Turks. Despite considerable unemployment in France and Germany, gastronomy remains very largely the preserve of Moroccans. The implication is clear: fears of losing jobs are unfounded.
Hundreds of thousands of Western youngsters competing for too few jobs or vocational training opportunities might not be convinced of this argument; naturally, they do not want foreigners to add to their competitors.
A chasm exists between popular perception of immigrants' labor and its reality, so combating erroneous perceptions helps diffuse tensions. The vigorous agitation by ultra-rightist parties requires a massive educational campaign to understand the benefits immigrants bring. Indeed, the correct picture does get to some extent publicized. German readers learn that "foreigners need not be a burden, the German boat is far from full." A Swiss politician speaks of "a somewhat irrational fear" vis-à-vis foreigners (some 90 percent of whom are Muslims). Günter Wallraff, the ace German investigative reporter, did for the Turks what John Howard Griffin had done for American blacks and Yoram Binur would do for Palestinian Arabs: he disguised himself as a member of an outcast group and voluntarily submitted to the indignities that followed. The resulting report, with its minute details about the dangers and unfairness of Turkish life in Germany, caused a sensation in that country and much of Western Europe.
But some leaders find it hard to tell it straight. The French authorities appear to be afraid to tell the populace that it needs more foreigners, not less. Martine Aubrey, the French Minister of Labor, toned down her statements about the future French reliance on more foreign workers by stressing that this was "merely a working hypothesis."
Raise the Analogy of Anti-Semitism
Middle Eastern Muslims bear many resemblances to Jews. The more a Muslim lives by the Shari'a, the more he lives like an Orthodox Jew. Both are surrounded by infinite numbers of minute details of ritual observance. Further, the two groups share much in the ways they dress, greet, speak, gesticulate, celebrate holidays, and the like. The Islamic requirements for halal food resemble those of kosher food. Like Jews, Muslims open butcher shops and restaurants primarily for their own good, whereas Italians and Greeks open ethnic restaurants because those are a fashionable business, catering for non-Italians and non-Greeks.
Not surprisingly, Muslims have inherited some of the Western prejudices built up over the centuries against Jews. The current reaction against Muslims recalls what Hitler described in Mein Kampf as the reason for his hatred of Jews. When a young man in downtown Vienna he chanced one day upon "a strange appearance with black curls dressed in a long caftan." Looking intensely at this orthodox Jew and furtively examining his every trait, he asked himself: "Is that, too, a German?" North Africans and Turks fill today's streets, with hair blacker and curlier, with caftans more unfamiliar, and speaking languages "stranger" than Yiddish. Or, as a French psychologist put it after a particularly gruesome anti-Semitic crime: "I always said that Le Pen started with the Arabs in order to end with the Jews."
Anti-Turkish resentment in Germany continues earlier anti-Semitic stereotypes. Turks in Germany are called by the same names Jews used to be called, such as Knoblauchfresser ("garlic mouths"). The two religions' somewhat similar methods of slaughtering animals often raise similar distempers. Already in 1982, on the eve of the Sacrificial Feast, Islam's major holiday, the German government's Commissioner for Foreign Workers, Liselotte Funcke, anticipated new outbreaks of anti-Muslim violence provoked by the ritual slaughter of so many sheep. She even referred to the Qur'an when she appealed to the Turkish community to allow the animals to be numbed before slaughter. During a campaign against the Muslim methods of animal slaughter in Bradford, the English city with the largest percentage of Muslim population, one telephone caller claimed that Muslims dance stark naked round the animal and prod it with sticks. Those hostile to Muslims need to be made aware that their prejudice parallels anti-Semitism.
JEWS AND MUSLIMS WOULD BOTH PROFIT BY LINKING EFFORTS. JEWS WOULD GAIN A GREAT NUMBER OF ALLIES, MUSLIMS WOULD GAIN INSTANT STATURE. EUROPEANS STILL TEND TO REGARD CIRCUMCISION AS THE WEIRD CUSTOM OF A SMALL PEOPLE; THEY SEE THE MATTER VERY DIFFERENT ON LEARNING THAT CIRCUMCISION IS UNIVERSAL AMONG FIVE HUNDRED MILLION MUSLIM MALES. THE SAME APPLIES TO OTHER PRACTICES SIMILAR IN JUDAISM AND ISLAM, SUCH AS THE PROHIBITION ON PORK AND THE METHOD OF RITUAL SLAUGHTER.
Contrarily, as Jewish practices have come to be more widely accepted in the West, this offers a way for Muslims to win tolerance for their customs. Also, Jews have well-established and widely accepted institutions for combating prejudice from which Muslims could much benefit.
Jewish-Muslim reconciliation and cooperation does exist. Some organizations work toward this end, including La Fraternité d'Abraham in France or the Standing Conference of Jews, Christians and Muslims in Europe, headquartered in England. The Martin Buber House in Heppenheim, Germany, frequently invites Muslim speakers. In the United States the Detroit Round Table (a branch of the National Conference of Christians and Jews) actively brings Jews and Muslims together. These endeavors deserve to be highlighted and projected as models.
On occasion, Jews and Muslims discover the common bond of their Middle Eastern religious origins, rites, and customs as well as a certain identity of interests, if not a kindred destiny. In France, most Arabs and Jews share a common Maghrebi culture and life-style which allows them to go beyond the Arab-Israeli conflict. In the United States, immigrant Muslims (not converts, who share Black nationalist biases) and Jews constitute two comparable units that could conceivably form a powerful bloc. In Argentina, Jews and Muslims tend to see themselves foremost as descendants of Middle Easterners without too much concern for current politics.
But these efforts are the exception. Despite the evident benefits of a common endeavor, Muslims and Jews rarely join together to battle prejudice. Indeed, thanks to the intense emotions generated by Middle East politics, they more often treat each other as opponents. Other obstacles also exist: for example, in Western Europe, Judaism enjoys official recognition, Islam does not, and Jews show little enthusiasm about a change in Islam's status. Contrarily, quite a few Muslims blame Jews for stirring anti-Muslim resentment among Christians. Worse, the virulent anti-Semitism of Islamists (one of them, Ahmed Rami, spent six months in a Swedish jail, for broadcasting excerpts from Mein Kampf) blocks most efforts at alliance.
Engage in Inter-Religious Dialogue
INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE OFFERS ONE OF THE MOST EFFECTIVE MEANS TO DEFUSE THE POTENTIAL FOR CONFLICT. IT SERVES SEVERAL PURPOSES.
Most simply, the personal encounter, getting to know one another, usually has the beneficial effect of reducing prejudices. Psychological barriers disappear. Seeing oneself in the mirror of the discussion partner corrects both ones own and the partner's errors.
At its best, inter-religious dialogue brings together erudite intellectuals from various religious communities to discuss intricate theological issues (e.g., revelation, absolute truth). Although inaccessible to laymen, these learned discussions foster understanding and fellowship among the leaders, thereby legitimizing a fraternal spirit which then trickles down to the wider communities.
At a less abstract level, representatives of different religions can discuss such issues of common concern as abortion, artificial insemination, women's rights, human rights. Relations improve, sometimes dramatically, the moment they deliberate. Inter-religious dialogue began between Christians and Jews, and has developed a number of well-established groups, associations, and publications. Christian-Muslim and, especially, Jewish-Muslim dialogue are much newer and more experimental. Jewish-Christian-Muslim encounters, known as trialogue, has also begun. Pride of place belongs to La Fraternité d'Abraham in France; Crislam in Spain; and the Standing Conference of Jews, Christians and Muslims in Europe. The Christian-Muslim Encounter groups at Germany's Kirchentage (with its annual mass meetings, alternately Catholic and Protestant) reach out to the grassroots. The International Council of Christians and Jews has held several meetings with Muslim teams to discuss the broadening of the organization into an International Council of Jews, Christians and Muslims.
In the United States this has already come about in all but name, in the sense that the National Conference of Christians and Jews now has a first Muslim office holder and it sponsors occasional meetings with Muslim speakers. The NCCJ sponsors what may be the most significant of all these ventures, the Annual JCM Scholars Dialogue, an association of eight Jewish, eight Christian and eight Muslim university professors, most of whom also hold important religious positions in their communities.
When trialogue begins, the notion of the Judeo-Christian tradition induces some Jewish leaders to see themselves more closely tied to their Christian counterparts; others see the existence of Jewish and Muslim sacred law creating special bonds between these two faiths. A quite different division quickly replaces these notions, as religious leaders see that each community is divided along similar lines of temperament. Traditionalists of all three religions line up on one side and the liberals on the other. A new sense of belonging cuts across the denominational lines and demonstrates the human condition as a category transcending confessional confines. Even more profoundly, the pious realize how much they have in common in a secular age.
Trialogue need not be restricted to the lofty heights of theology; practical issues may serve even better. Thus, German Protestants were well-advised to choose for their bi-annual Church Day (Kirchentag) in May 1991 the topic, "How shall we live together-women and men?" The Dortmund mosque where the meeting took place was overcrowded and the angst of many participants, especially the Muslim ones, was palpable. Yet there is no topic closer to the heart.
While the results of inter-religious fraternization have been encouraging, the process needs boosting. Muslim participation remains meager and public awareness nonexistent; the impact of trialogue has been very limited. Publicity is crucial if it is to counter the potential for conflict and promote peace among the communities.
One warning, however: While Islamist organizations despise inter-religious dialogue with non-Muslims, they eagerly engage in it. The Islamist press is replete with diatribes against dialogue, calling it "nothing but the latest trick of Christian missionaries to wean us away from Islam," yet the Muslim World League and the Islamic Foundation (Leicester) are the first to appear at international conferences to meet Jews and Christians. Why? To prevent other Muslims from emerging as spokesmen; to gain legitimacy and status by officiating as equals of church leaders; to present themselves to Muslims as defenders of the faith; to use the opportunity to proselyte; to enforce a party line on the Muslim side; and to keep liberal Muslims out. For radicals, inter-religious dialogue has nothing to do with dialogue and everything to do with self-aggrandizement. Therefore, Islamists need to be kept out of dialogue.
CONCLUSION: BLOCK EXTREMISTS
In the final analysis, the question boils down to this: who will control the European-Muslim relationship, extremists or moderates? Unless the latter take hold, the former will dominate.
Extremists. Radical Islamists and nativists feed off each other's words and deeds. It works both ways. On June 14, 1979 in the city of Recklinghausen, Harun Reshit Tuyloglu, the town's chief imam, repeatedly referred to himself as the "Conqueror of Europe" and offered to sacrifice his life and that of his followers to build a chain of mosques under a Turkish banner "from Cyprus to Oslo." He called upon the audience to "break the horns of those who tried to prevent this public function and to tear out the tongues of all our opponents. I shall point out to you who our enemies are, and you know what to do with them." Over a decade later, Franz Schönhuber, head of Germany's Republikaner Party, still routinely quoted Tuyloglu, then asserted his determination to fight this impulse of "world-dominating Islam."
Conversely, Islamists revel in the crude, even harrowing jokes told among nativists, finding here the incendiary materials they need to rouse their followers. Here is a witticism reproduced in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "What is the difference between a Jew and a Turk?" "Well, the Jew got his lesson, the Turk has yet to get his!" Islamists like Kalim Siddiqui use this kind of joke to raise the specter of "Hitler-style gas chambers for Muslims." Nor is he alone. Shabbir Akhtar, a member of the Bradford Council of Mosques, holds that "the next time there are gas chambers in Europe, there is no doubt concerning who'll be inside them." Hanif Kureishi has a character is his novel, The Buddha of Suburbia, casually preparing for the guerilla war that would follow "when the whites finally turned on the blacks and Asians and tried to force us into gas chambers."
Just as rhetoric breeds rhetoric, so violence breeds violence. Half a dozen killings of Arabs in France in 1991 were justified as reprisals for acts of Muslim terrorism. In the United Kingdom, "The Voice of Britain," an anthem-like song of that country's National Front makes this motive explicit. One stanza notes that "Our old people cannot walk the streets alone," while another promises "we're going to stand and fight."
Left to their own devices, extremists will turn an economic partnership and cultural challenge into violent confrontation.
Moderates. Moderates speak an entirely different language. On the Western side, a body of opinion sees Europe gaining from the Muslim presence. The influx of Muslims serve as an indispensable addition to the work force. Beyond willing hands, Muslims inject vigor into aging industrial societies by upholding faith and family values. They also add color and spice to a Western life threatened with uniformity. The Muslim stranger even bears witness to Biblical traditions about to get lost, thus imbuing Christianity with a new lease on life.
The Reverend H. J. Brandt of Hamburg argues that Muslim emigration offers a wonderful opportunity for Western renewal. A few reactionaries even prize Muslims as stalwarts of tradition, and therefore as useful allies in the battle against modernity. For example, Thomas Molnar writes admiringly of the Islamist program in Algeria, contrasting "victoriously progressing Islam" with "decadent Europe." Maxime Rodinson, a leading French scholar of Islam and a Marxist of Jewish origins, enjoys the sight of mosques adorning the panorama of western cities. He notes Europe's fierce resistance to Christianity many centuries ago and concludes that Christianity is no more natural to the West than Islam. He sees exchanges between the faiths and civilizations as useful and believes that Muslims have a cultural contribution to make. This leads him to regret that Muslims get so rapidly absorbed into Western life; he would prefer them to affect the West more strongly.
Will Muslims be integrated into European life? Alfred Dregger, former parliamentary leader of the Christian Democrats in Germany, believes the Islamic element in their way of thinking and mode of living will permanently prevent them from integrating. But Christian Jelen argues that the present trouble as nothing but growth pangs and that Muslims "will make good Frenchmen."
Some well-meaning idealists determinedly celebrate Europe's impact on Islam and envisioning a Europeanized Islam effecting a religious reformation which gives the religion a new lease on life. Pierre-Patrick Kaltenbach, former head of France's National Institute of Demographic Studies, sees the Muslim diaspora offering an opportunity for Islam to acquire new force by becoming secularized and adopting the principle of laïcité.
On the Muslim side, moderates acknowledge positive values of the West. Some recognize them as specifically Western, others aver that those values are originally Islamic. In either case, they believe in mutual enrichment: Muslims stand to gain from Western achievements (democracy, science, rule of law) while the West would benefit from the more humane life-style of Muslims whose pre-industrial mores prize neighborhood ethics, concentration on children, and care for the elderly within the extended family. Such ruminations about mutual enrichment might be romantic, but they have obvious advantages over the alternative-Muslims bewailing the dilution of their faith because of the impact of a degenerate host society.
Traditionalists assure Westerners that Islam poses no threat to the West, so they need not regard Muslims with suspicion. Muslims seek only to have the same rights as everyone else, including the right to pursue their own way of life. This requires some adjustments, but everything can be achieved amicably. They dismiss talk about Muslims wishing to take over Europe as nonsense.
Who will control the axis of Western-Muslim relations? Muslims who despise the society and culture around them, joined by Westerners warning against degradations of their culture and the loss of identity? Or Muslims and Westerners of goodwill intent on making the best of their forced cohabitation? Much depends on the answer.
Feb. 26, 2014 update: A new "Drop the A-Word," campaign urges Arabs to stop calling African Americans "abd" or "abid," which in this context are slurs.