Buruma on Islam in Europe, Part VI

He makes two sensible points. First, he argues that European nations have no choice but to figure out a way to peacefully co-exist with minority populations which come from predominantly Islamic countries. Second, if 70s-style ‘multiculturalism’ isn’t working, it’s probably not a good idea to replace it with indiscriminate Islam-bashing:

Whether Europeans like it or not, Muslims are part of Europe. Many will not abandon their religion, so Europeans must learn to live with them and with Islam….

Even if all of Europe’s Muslims were Islamists – which is a far cry from reality – they could not threaten the Continent’s sovereignty and, by the same token, its laws and Enlightenment values….

We should distinguish carefully between different kinds of Islam, and not confuse violent revolutionary movements with mere religious orthodoxy. Insulting Muslims simply on the basis of their faith is foolish and counterproductive, as is the increasingly popular notion that we must make sweeping pronouncements as to the superiority of “our culture.” For such dogmatism undermines scepticism, the questioning of all views, including one’s own, which was and is the fundamental feature of the Enlightenment.

The trouble today is that Enlightenment values are sometimes used in a very dogmatic way against Muslims. They have become in fact a form of nationalism – “our values” have been set against “their values.” The reason for defending Enlightenment values is that they are based on good ideas, and not because they are “our culture.” To confuse culture and politics in this way is to fall into the same trap as the multiculturalists.

And it has serious consequences. If we antagonize Europe’s Muslims enough we will push more people into joining the Islamist revolution. We must do everything to encourage Europe’s Muslim to become assimilated in European societies. It is our only hope.

4 thoughts on “Buruma on Islam in Europe, Part VI

  1. It’s summertime—sort of—, the weather is hot – and so is the topic. Hence, there are no takers, and increasingly not so Happy Valley will have to do with yours untruly. Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate! Avete capito? Sebastiano? Va bene?

    > If we antagonize Europe’s Muslims enough we will push more people into joining the Islamist revolution

    If we antagonize Europe’s right-wingers enough we will push more people into joining the fascist revolution.

    Does the original make more sense then the mockery? Can’t we for once assume that Orientals (I know, I know…, but they’re not all Muslims, you know?) are able to more profound intellectual bowel movements than just anti-Western knee-jerk reactions? Possibly cutting off our balls and serving them on a silver plate is not likened to a gesture of respect, but to utter lack of it, both for them and us. Abject fear won’t stiffen wobbly spines. To quote Gilles Duhem, a Neukölln social worker not belonging to the wimp faction (and thus having had quite some success): “[we are fighting] archaisms, the patriarchate and a kind of ignorance, that almost defies belief”. Must we placate, instead of fight? Social workers will tell you that scorn is what you reap, a contemptible wimp being the one thing immigrant youth really, really doesn’t want to deal with.

    > it’s probably not a good idea to replace it with indiscriminate Islam-bashing

    Heck, no. Akzeptierende Sozialarbeit is it. That translates roughly as “accepting social casework,” i.e. don’t try to change your clients, make the best of what they are. Got a Skinhead, Islamist, whatever? So see if we find something in his ideological foundations that we can work on. He doesn’t mean it anyway, marginalised poor sod that he is. Ask an East German Bürgermeister …or you local mosque’s Imam, they both will tell you that it’s about essentially good boys just having difficult times.

    > For such dogmatism undermines scepticism, the questioning of all views, including one’s own,
    > which was and is the fundamental feature of the Enlightenment

    Makes you wonder what that undermining dogmatism is. Possibly the defence of what seems to be the better order for society following one’s best judgement – aka bigotry. Ian, should we take cues from “violent revolutionary movements”? No, of course not! …but what about “mere religious orthodoxy”? Hey, maybe they’re onto something? They’re surely not sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, and enterprises of great pitch and moment they endeavour. Possibly that’s a tad frightening, but somehow it’s …kinda cool, isn’t it?

    > [Enlightenment values] have become in fact a form of nationalism – “our values” have been set against “their values”

    Oh dear, the dreaded “othering” discourse of loony sociologoid fame. This lala-land tune goes like so: we’re all human in the end — thus, if al-Azhar advocates, say, the apostates’ death, that just needs some exegetical finery, and we’ll see that there is compromise to be found. Oh yes, yes! There is balm in Gilead! And better yet, there is no “other!” – QED! In the meantime, let’s not bash them overly, as those ragheads are somewhat childish – they get unruly if they don’t have their little ways. We won’t say that to their face, as it’s understood and they’re brittle every so often. But in the end, they’re mere receptacles of our thought, essentially unable of original, possibly authentic and contrarian thinking. Let’s breast feed them with kindness and lull them with soothing waffle. Then again, who are we to know what’s good for us anyway? Uhm, couldn’t al-Quaradawi’s contrarian ways be just right in the end? Or maybe a little? Puhleazzzzze? Let’s not go the bigot’s way! Quite possibly foul is fair and fair is foul – let’s do away with pushy, arrogant Western concepts in the first place.

    > Even if all of Europe’s Muslims were Islamists – which is a far cry from reality –

    “mere religious orthodoxy” of Turkish, Saudi, Iranian, Maghreb extraction not being an issue, because, ugh, because, …we say so? Stockholm syndrome, anyone?

    > …they could not threaten the Continent’s sovereignty

    Says Buruma and what army? There’s a Danish (of ourse!) Prime Minister that informed us cruelly, that North Africa alone produces millions of jobless young people each year (while not being overly productive in other fields of enterprise – that’s me, not the PM). And know what? Due to their homelands’ repressive, authoritarian and highly corrupt regimes they’re disgruntled even before they reach our shore. Then they’re served a helping of racism, menial jobs and outright joblessness, as being disgruntled is not a sought after qualification per se. Come unto us, all ye that labour and are heavy, we’ll soothe you sorrows, that of the whole world, too – and—dammit!—we’ll get us one shiny sqeaky clean Karma! …so at least Europe’s netherworld will be a better place than the current project.

    Again, Timothy Garton Ash, al-Guardian’s poster child of enlightened relativism to the rescue: “So the Muslims have won the Battle of Poitiers after all! Won it not by force of arms, but by peaceful immigration and fertility.” Yummy. But that’s France, can’t happen elsewhere. A couple of ten thousands in Europe’s fifties? 15-20 millions now? 30-40% of pupils in Germany’s large cities being of migrant descent? Don’t worry, Germany harbours people from more than 200 nations, so this percentage is equally distributed among the Bolivians, Bhutanese, and the friendly folks from Tuvalu. Anyway, Ashboy knows what to do: “decide what is essential in our European way of life and what is negotiable.” “Negotiable,” gotta luv’im. Anyway, “it’s already five minutes to midnight—and we are drinking in the last chance saloon.” Cheers.

    > It is our only hope

    Aw mum! Isn’t there something else for supper? Have we lost the right to anything else than passivity, inherently stricken with colonialism’s original sin as we are, heirs and progeny of exploiters and slave traders? Or is it the non-arrogant, non-Western concept of Kismet, that Ian is trying to fill us up with sneakily, backside upwards, after having lubricated the way with noble phrasemongering, aided by assorted straw men so we look the other way in the operation’s delicate course?

    Earnestly, isn’t it a case of cognitive dissonance, denying any threat to the Continent’s sovereignty first, while speaking of our only hope later? The only hope? So, should our new won friends decide to move on with their, ugh, project, we are not to interfere? Defence being not only futile, but –shudder– illegitimate, as it would somehow contravene Hegel’s Zeitgeist or some other fancy sweet of dialectical materialism’s Quality Street selection? Dialectical materialism advancing pious reaction? Can’t be? The enraged loony is mixing metaphors, again? Better read what our nation’s best have to say about it, be it via Neues Deutschland, Junge Welt, or one of our poster boys of enlightened relativism, Roger Willemsen. Over here some call his ilk Salonmarxisten. In the course of this interview he’s sucking up so hard that it must have hurt even his trained uvula: islamische-zeitung.de. Here’s his stand on Islamism and capitalism:

    Was würde Ihnen mehr Angst machen, wenn Sie heute die Demokratie zu verteidigen hätten: die Horden des „Islamismus” oder die „Heuschrecken” des Kapitalismus? (What would you be more afraid of, should you have to defend democracy today: The hordes of “Islamism” or capitalistic parasites?)

    (lacht) Keine Frage, der große globale Konflikt ist der der Heuschrecken! ([laughing] That’s easy, the great global conflict is the one of the parasites!)

    I didn’t rack my brains over the proper translation of “Heuschrecken des Kapitalismus” in this context, “grasshoppers of capitalism” wouldn’t cut it.

    Here‘s a video (G) of sociologist Gunnar Heinsohn relieving Willemsen elegantly of hot air (to be honest, Williboy doesn’t dare to say much), while philosophers Rüdiger Safranski and Peter Sloterdijk have astoundingly little to counter the professor’s doom-mongering. Heinsohn has more mongering in print over there (G). Attention: the professor’s being sarcastic – some commentators didn’t get that.


  2. Buruma means well, makes some good points, but isn’t he naive in some respects?

    Shouldn’t Europeans be allowed to assert and defend their Enlightenment-based values without being stigmatized as dogmatic nationalists?

    Who, exactly, is attacking whom? From Rushdie on, the answer to that should be obvious. If anything, Europeans aren’t doing enough to defend their social and cultural identity from Muslim fundamentalism.

    Granted, Islam-bashing is to be avoided. I abhor the instances of discrimination against European Muslims I have witnessed. That’s certainly part of the problem.

    And, along with Buruma, my hope is the so-called “Euro-Muslim.”

    But the pendulum shouldn’t be allowed to swing too far in the other direction.


  3. Back again, like a moth to the flame.

    While I don’t concur with French-Tunisian writer Abdelwahab Meddeb‘s stance on Turkey’s status as part of Europe—though I understand it, and wish it was true—, France’s vigour in defending its republican achievements, and some post-modern otherness related goodness, he refreshingly backs up my assessment, that sucking up might make for good sex, but not necessarily for efficient communication:

    What Europe must do – above all the Germans and the French – is to face Islam with solid convictions and to make clear to the Arab states what a danger the fundamentalists pose to the world. […] many countries have no idea of the unbelievable things going on in their schools.

    Some words on the pope, Islam, and violence, Mr. Buruma can’t be bothered to confront his partners in dialogue with, as Ian is too busy treating them with his suction cup:

    I would ask you to consider that the Pope used this quotation not as a historical reference but as an assessment of Islam today. Nonetheless, Muslims must recognise that the aspects of their religion addressed by the Pope are not a malicious invention, but something that has existed from the outset in spoken and written form. For far too long now, Islam has failed to openly discuss this dangerous dimension of its faith.

    Yep, wage war with words, to spare the swords. Antagonizing, sweeping, and bashing is part of the game. Let’s welcome them to the club, so they get accustomed and don’t feel excluded. Those who can’t stand that heat, should get out of the kitchen, and while we can’t enforce it with those with European passports, we should encourage that. Want niqab clad girls in segregated classes? You’ll get that in Peshawar. If that means goodbye to monk habits and kippahs in our schools – so be it, sorry folks, don that elsewhere. More fresh air and clear thinking:

    Sweeping our own backyard“: Meddeb examines the genealogy of Islamic fundamentalism. In the current climate, he believes that self-criticism is the surest way to lift the Muslim world out of the moral and political crisis it is plunging into.

    As for Mr. Burumas’ shivering wishes for “Europe’s Muslim to become assimilated in European societies,” let’s have an assessment right from the camel’s mouth (*):

    … The justified anxieties of many Muslims, that the result of integration should be assimilation, must therefore be cleared out by means of confidence-building measures within the framework of the process of integration.

    That’s confidence-building, dialogsimulation enhancing mumbo-jumbo for: no way. Our self styled Central Council of Muslims sucks big time. If Ian’s spine is flabby, a broomstick might be an option. Yes, scepticism is a virtue, and questioning all views is a good idea, but don’t do that sceptical questioning bent over backwards. If a broomstick is all that keeps you upright, it might break in the process.

    *gratuitous, uncalled for, telling, sweeping, offensive, etc pp – I know, I know.


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