Thursday, September 06, 2007


Chris Dillow commented recently on a paper(pdf) from the US Institute for the Study of Labor that suggests:

Muslims integrate less and more slowly than non-Muslims. A Muslim born in the UK and having spent there more than 50 years shows a comparable level of probability of having a strong religious identity than a non-Muslim just arrived in the country. Furthermore, Muslims seem to follow a different integration pattern than other ethnic and religious minorities. Specifically, high levels of income as well as high on-the-job qualifications increase the Muslims’ sense of identity. We also find no evidence that segregated neighborhoods breed intense religious and cultural identities for ethnic minorities, especially for Muslims. This result casts doubts on the foundations of the integration policies in Europe.
The report itself comments, inter alia:
Religious traits tend to be very resilient. Historical examples of religious groups mistakenly singled out for their “inability to assimilate” abound. Between 1815 and 1860, for instance, the large inflow of Catholic immigrants in the U.S., and their “clannishness and separatism” aroused anti-Catholic and anti-foreign resentment among large fractions of the Protestant majority (see, in particular, the essay on “American Identity and Assimilation”, in Thernstrom et al., 1980).
So though Muslims seem unusually resistant to assimilation, such resistance isn't in itself unique. One thinks of Orthodox Jews, for example, who have not really mixed at all in many western cities, but there has been little hand-wringing over this. Why the debate about Muslim integration?

It's reminiscent of the controversies over "faith" schools. Christian and Jewish schools have operated for centuries and nobody has been very concerned by them. But now there's been a fuss over Muslim schools. Why?

The answer in both cases is, of course, lies in the word "Muslim". People aren't really so concerned about integration, they are concerned about Muslims. And rather than being concerned about faith schools, they are concerned about Muslim schools. Is this Islamophobia?

Well, no. That's a dishonest word designed to stifle criticism of Islam. And there's plenty to criticise in the week that saw major terrorist plots uncovered in Frankfurt. But even without the terrorism we have racism, justification of slavery, a history of aggression and invasion against all other peoples, second-class status for women, appalling prejudice against homosexuality, justifications for paedophilia, second-class status for non-Muslims... the list is long and horrific. The two main Islamic states, Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and Iran (Shia'a) are nightmarish places with - literally - dead bodies hung on display in the streets.

The concerns about integration and education are really concerns that these attitudes have come into our midst, and that centres have been set up in which children are indoctrinated into them. They are specifically concerns about Islamic ideas and practices.

Cultural relativism that says a religion is just a religion, like any other, is to blame for this debate by proxy. It would be much better if we were to address the problem directly.

If we do so, we can stand with those people, many of them Muslims, some ex-Muslims, in Islamic countries and from Islamic backgrounds, who are trying to stand against these appalling legacies of the Iron Age. And if we do that, recognising that while we are targets for Islamists, the biggest victims are those who have to live under Islamic laws in Islamic countries, we can stand shoulder to shoulder with people like the Egyptian academic and blogger Nah�det Masr, who felt moved yesterday to break a long silence with a post entitled "Today, I'm ashamed to be Moslem". He wrote:
It's not enough anymore to say that these thugs don't represent us or the great values of Islam! for one thing, our voices in condemning these heinous acts are very low, and for another thing, our hate spreading Imams are still spreading their venom in many corners or the Moslem world and beyond.
I wouldn't blame any westerner who becomes prejudiced against us Moslems. We were complaining about the Popes speech which mentioned how violent Islam teachings were, yet, we don't let time pass without reminding the whole world that we are the most violent bunch!
His voice has been raised, although that places him at some risk in Egypt. He campaigns for an Egyptian Renaissance. Such a rebirth would mean the confinement of Islam to the realm of the personal, not the public or political, and the outright condemnation, contextualisation and rejection of its more archaic and revolting doctrines.

Muslims are trying to achieve this all through the Islamic world. By supporting maniacs, even the more "moderate" maniacs, from that religion, Western politicians like Ken Livingstone and George Galloway are making the lives of reformers more vulnerable and difficult, and making the eventual (and inevitable) success of their work more remote.

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