When Will They Hit Frankfurt?

Why do terrorists strike more often in Europe than in the United States? Ask the experts:

Karl-Heinz Kamp, the security policy coordinator at Germany’s prestigious Konrad Adenauer research center, said it was easy to understand why. "The U.S. has a historical advantage; America is still the land of opportunity to the whole world. The people moving there believe the American dream of social mobility," he said. "In Europe, we’ve historically treated our immigrants as hired help, and waited for them to finish the work they arrived for and go home."

Bob Ayers, a security and terrorism expert with London’s Chatham House, a foreign-policy research center, thinks that immigrants to the U.S. actually become Americans, giving the United States a huge advantage in avoiding homegrown al Qaida terrorists. Europeans encourage immigrants to retain their native cultures, causing them to be ostracized more readily.

"The Islamic population in the United States is better assimilated into the general population, whereas here, in Germany, in France, they’re very much on the outside looking in," he said. "When people get disaffected, sadly, there’s not much loyalty to country in that sort of situation."

Another factor mentioned in the article: The U.S. is basically a gigantic island, making it relatively easier to control who gets into the country. A factor not mentioned in the article: American Muslims tend to be better-educated and more prosperous than the average American. Often, they’ve been specially invited into the country to fill particular highly-skilled jobs, or they establish a base in the U.S. to manage their own businesses or careers, which existed before they come Stateside. The United States offers income and opportunities to people who already have money, drive, and in-demand talent, regardless of their origins.

This helps explain why the debate over immigration is filled with much more tension and mutual suspicion in Europe than it is in the United States. There are three dynamics I’d name here off the top of my head, none of which are very original, but hey, it’s just a blog, people!

  1. The U.S. attracts more cosmopolitan and secular immigrants, who tend not to bring strongly characteristic cultural practices with them (such as wearing the niqab or building gigantic mosques with loud minarets). Because so many U.S. immigrants (or their children) are flexible, cosmopolitan sorts, stereotypes get eroded quickly. When you see an op-ed in the U.S. media written by someone with an Indian or Hispanic name, it could just as easily be about high-tech gadgets or tax policy as about ethnic issues. By contrast, in Europe, an article written by someone with an obviously foreign name virtually always deals with (a) politics or society in that person’s home country; or (b) their experience integrating into European society.
  2. Even when there are cultural conflicts, Americans tend to be more accomodating. First, because there’s less "provocation" from the side of the immigrants (see #1), second, because the "America’s a nation of immigrants" meme is deeply programmed into Americans’ way of thinking, and makes them optimistic that all new immigrants will eventually find a reasonable accomodation with the ways of their adopted homeland, since all the old ones have managed to do so.
  3. There is non-stop hand-wringing, pessimistic press reporting about problems with immigrants in Europe. There’s comparatively less of that in the U.S. Strongly nativist anti-immigrant voices are deliberately excluded from the mainstream U.S. media, just as, for instance, pro-death penalty voices are deliberately excluded from the mainstream European media. Regardless of the situation on the ground, this difference in reporting has real consequences.

22 thoughts on “When Will They Hit Frankfurt?

  1. I concur – in the end, it’s a no brainer: The US was founded by immigrants and has 250+ years of experience dealing with issues that immigration entails. Someone suggested American Muslim’s ethnic variance to be an moderating element, too: while most Muslims in, France are of North African origin, mostly Algeria, it’s Turkey in Germany, Morocco in the Netherlands and Pakistan/Bangladesh in UK. Most follow the same madhab, most are Sunnis. Nationalism, ethnic cohesion and Europe-born alienation get each other going. On the other hand, US Muslims come from different countries and belong to different religious ethnic groups – many are black Americans. It’s harder to gang up resentment driven, if I may say so. Then again, 25% of US Muslims support suicide attacks, some fully, some qualified, and the US’ 3000 dead didn’t add up yet in Europe’s many attacks by far.

    > There is non-stop hand-wringing, pessimistic press reporting about problems with
    > immigrants in Europe. There’s comparatively less of that in the U.S. Strongly
    > nativist anti-immigrant voices are deliberately excluded from the mainstream U.S.
    > media

    On the assumption that these reports are unfounded and Bernard Lewis and Walter Laqueur are Zionist hatemongering nitwits, the reports are nativist and anti-immigrant indeed. Else, that’s smear, isn’t it? Besides, we’re conveniently conflating voices on immigration and–horribile dictu–Muslim immigration. Anyway, here’s more hand-wringing – and it’s worse: it’s not about residing immigrants, it’s about mere potential immigrants – and they found a collaborationist native to do their bidding. How vile ist that?

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  2. I concur – in the end, it’s a no brainer: The US was founded by immigrants and has 250+ years of experience dealing with issues that immigration entails. Someone suggested American Muslim’s ethnic variance to be an moderating element, too: while most Muslims in, France are of North African origin, mostly Algeria, it’s Turkey in Germany, Morocco in the Netherlands and Pakistan/Bangladesh in UK. Most follow the same madhab, most are Sunnis. Nationalism, ethnic cohesion and Europe-born alienation get each other going. On the other hand, US Muslims come from different countries and belong to different religious ethnic groups – many are black Americans. It’s harder to gang up resentment driven, if I may say so. Then again, 25% of US Muslims support suicide attacks, some fully, some qualified, and the US’ 3000 dead didn’t add up yet in Europe’s many attacks by far.

    > There is non-stop hand-wringing, pessimistic press reporting about problems with
    > immigrants in Europe. There’s comparatively less of that in the U.S. Strongly
    > nativist anti-immigrant voices are deliberately excluded from the mainstream U.S.
    > media

    On the assumption that these reports are unfounded and Bernard Lewis and Walter Laqueur are Zionist hatemongering nitwits, the reports are nativist and anti-immigrant indeed. Else, that’s smear, isn’t it? Besides, we’re conveniently conflating voices on immigration and–horribile dictu–Muslim immigration. Anyway, here’s more hand-wringing – and it’s worse: it’s not about residing immigrants, it’s about mere potential immigrants – and they found a collaborationist native to do their bidding. How vile ist that?

    Like

  3. “On the other hand, US Muslims come from different countries and belong to different religious ethnic groups – many are black Americans.”

    As far as I can tell many of the most resentful US Muslims come from the various Black Muslim sects which were not founded by immigrants but rather as a reaction to supposed oppression of negros by christians. Think Elijah Mohammed, Malcolm X, and Louis Farrakhan, not the Muslim Brotherhood. So a good deal of American muslim anger may derive from race and the legacy of slavery.

    “the US’ 3000 dead didn’t add up yet in Europe’s many attacks by far.”

    I don’t believe the 9/11 terrorists formed their attitudes about the US during the minimal time they spent in the US. The major terrorists to date seem to have have been radicalized in various bits of Europe. The ringleaders of 9/11 were from Hamburg, Richard Reid from the Finsbury Park mosque in London, etc.

    That is merely correlation of course – I don’t assume causation because events could overtake such a theory at any moment. But either there is not the volumn of terrorist cells amongst US muslims which are reported to exist in the UK – or they aren’t telling us about them. Hard to say….

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  4. “On the other hand, US Muslims come from different countries and belong to different religious ethnic groups – many are black Americans.”

    As far as I can tell many of the most resentful US Muslims come from the various Black Muslim sects which were not founded by immigrants but rather as a reaction to supposed oppression of negros by christians. Think Elijah Mohammed, Malcolm X, and Louis Farrakhan, not the Muslim Brotherhood. So a good deal of American muslim anger may derive from race and the legacy of slavery.

    “the US’ 3000 dead didn’t add up yet in Europe’s many attacks by far.”

    I don’t believe the 9/11 terrorists formed their attitudes about the US during the minimal time they spent in the US. The major terrorists to date seem to have have been radicalized in various bits of Europe. The ringleaders of 9/11 were from Hamburg, Richard Reid from the Finsbury Park mosque in London, etc.

    That is merely correlation of course – I don’t assume causation because events could overtake such a theory at any moment. But either there is not the volumn of terrorist cells amongst US muslims which are reported to exist in the UK – or they aren’t telling us about them. Hard to say….

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  5. Your “three dynamics,” Andrew, are persuasive. At least for the time being. If Muslim immigration into the U.S. expands and its quality changes, the outlook may change fundamentally (excuse the pun).

    The Europeans have made the greatest contribution to the radicalization of Muslims. First, by their history of colonialist exploitation–Sykes-Picot, and so on, the origin of the Muslim victimization syndrome (and many Muslims have grown as dependent on their image of Westerners as their alleged victimizers as Westerners on their oil). Second, by their totalitarian ideologies, including anti-Americanism, which have exerted such great influence on Arab intellectuals. Third, by their naive multiculturalism on the one hand, and outright racism and prejudice on the other, both contributing to formation of the urban islands of alienated Muslims that have become seedbeds of Islamic extremism.

    As for the role of the U.S., well, need I say anything more? We’ve already heard so much about American sins and maladroitness in relations with Muslims, above all from Europeans who conveniently seem to have forgotten about their own contributions to the current mess.

    The best weapon against Islamic fundamentalism would be the successful integration of Muslims in Western societies. However, at this dreary juncture of history, it seems too much to hope for. One can dream, but perhaps one should also keep a weary, cynical eye on the realities of Muslim immigration and its consequences.

    Yes, at this point the vision of the The Three-Ring Parable has never seemed more remote.

    Like

  6. Your “three dynamics,” Andrew, are persuasive. At least for the time being. If Muslim immigration into the U.S. expands and its quality changes, the outlook may change fundamentally (excuse the pun).

    The Europeans have made the greatest contribution to the radicalization of Muslims. First, by their history of colonialist exploitation–Sykes-Picot, and so on, the origin of the Muslim victimization syndrome (and many Muslims have grown as dependent on their image of Westerners as their alleged victimizers as Westerners on their oil). Second, by their totalitarian ideologies, including anti-Americanism, which have exerted such great influence on Arab intellectuals. Third, by their naive multiculturalism on the one hand, and outright racism and prejudice on the other, both contributing to formation of the urban islands of alienated Muslims that have become seedbeds of Islamic extremism.

    As for the role of the U.S., well, need I say anything more? We’ve already heard so much about American sins and maladroitness in relations with Muslims, above all from Europeans who conveniently seem to have forgotten about their own contributions to the current mess.

    The best weapon against Islamic fundamentalism would be the successful integration of Muslims in Western societies. However, at this dreary juncture of history, it seems too much to hope for. One can dream, but perhaps one should also keep a weary, cynical eye on the realities of Muslim immigration and its consequences.

    Yes, at this point the vision of the The Three-Ring Parable has never seemed more remote.

    Like

  7. Usually posts hic are provocative. Rarely are they completely wrrrrongue, to try to paraphrase John Stewart. But a hat trick was pulled off, starting with acceptance of the experts’ premise that attacks are more likely in Europe, hardly an objective judgment. But to the three theses: the lads joining al qaeda et al are not peasants but highly educated, so US Muslims’ book learning is not the difference; the soft focus view of US attitudes towards immigrants misses the treatment of Chinese and Mexican laborers, who faired immeasurably worse than Turkish counterparts in Germany, and if that’s ancient history, there’s the vibrant English only movement, the Western states, which are vehemently anti-immigrant, and the glee with which US police force will swing the truncheon pin at provacative immigrants; only if FOX, the religious TV networks, and the entire AM frequency range, aren’t mainstream does the claim the media excludes anti-immigrant voices even deserve partial credence; finally, families of the ex pat population from the mid-east often benefited from comprador relationships with U.S., in particular the Iranians here. They’re no more likely to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City than Cuban exiles.

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  8. Usually posts hic are provocative. Rarely are they completely wrrrrongue, to try to paraphrase John Stewart. But a hat trick was pulled off, starting with acceptance of the experts’ premise that attacks are more likely in Europe, hardly an objective judgment. But to the three theses: the lads joining al qaeda et al are not peasants but highly educated, so US Muslims’ book learning is not the difference; the soft focus view of US attitudes towards immigrants misses the treatment of Chinese and Mexican laborers, who faired immeasurably worse than Turkish counterparts in Germany, and if that’s ancient history, there’s the vibrant English only movement, the Western states, which are vehemently anti-immigrant, and the glee with which US police force will swing the truncheon pin at provacative immigrants; only if FOX, the religious TV networks, and the entire AM frequency range, aren’t mainstream does the claim the media excludes anti-immigrant voices even deserve partial credence; finally, families of the ex pat population from the mid-east often benefited from comprador relationships with U.S., in particular the Iranians here. They’re no more likely to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City than Cuban exiles.

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  9. Sorry for appearing to be an automated robot incessantly posting posts, but I’ve got to add another two bits. The premise that terrorists attacks are motivated by resentment at being excluded from Euro society betrays a fundamental misunderstanding, not to mention conceit; that’s not it at all. Clearly, the reason is outrage at what is seen as the degredation and oppression of Muslims by, and enabled by, the West. Casting the issue in the false terms — is US or Europe a more likely target — is meant to avoid this central issue.

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  10. Sorry for appearing to be an automated robot incessantly posting posts, but I’ve got to add another two bits. The premise that terrorists attacks are motivated by resentment at being excluded from Euro society betrays a fundamental misunderstanding, not to mention conceit; that’s not it at all. Clearly, the reason is outrage at what is seen as the degredation and oppression of Muslims by, and enabled by, the West. Casting the issue in the false terms — is US or Europe a more likely target — is meant to avoid this central issue.

    Like

  11. But wouldn’t being excluded by Europeans be part of oppression by the West, and if Muslims in the U.S. are simply less excluded, more part of the general society, which I think they are, then this would give one less reason to get resentful and decide to make a bomb? “Oppression by the West” is such a vague and general term – what are you referring to exactly? One thing I read about the recent attempted attacks in Britain is that one of the doctors and his wife had to move because she was being picked on for being obviously Muslim – there’s a personal element that could increase his feeling of rage. It seems to me that personal factors must also be important in who decides to engage in attacks like this – obviously (thankfully) not every (or even the vast majority of) Muslim decides to blow things up.

    Another thing about the American Muslim population – the African American Muslims are generally not part of separatist groups like the Nation of Islam. After the death of Elijah Muhammed, who had led the Nation of Islam for many years, his son took over, and eventually decided to leave the separatist movement and join Sunni Islam. This movement, led by Wallace Deen Muhammed, is now in that sense mainstream Sunni Muslim.

    And about immigration and anti-immigrant sentiment. There is currently a great deal of political shouting about immigration in the U.S. The president tried to push through a law to fix the immigration situation (we have 12 million illegal immigrants in the country, most of them from Mexico and Central America) – a combination of a plan to legalize the illegal immigrants plus much better enforcement of border controls. It failed in the Senate and nothing will happen for a couple of years because of the upcoming presidential election. Around this there has been a great deal of immigrant bashing, and not only from the extreme right – Lou Dobbs, who has a daily show on CNN, constantly beats the drum about the dangers of illegal immigrants from Mexico. Most of the anti-immigrant sentiment that I hear in the U.S. is about Mexicans – it’s not about Arabs or Muslims at all.

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  12. But wouldn’t being excluded by Europeans be part of oppression by the West, and if Muslims in the U.S. are simply less excluded, more part of the general society, which I think they are, then this would give one less reason to get resentful and decide to make a bomb? “Oppression by the West” is such a vague and general term – what are you referring to exactly? One thing I read about the recent attempted attacks in Britain is that one of the doctors and his wife had to move because she was being picked on for being obviously Muslim – there’s a personal element that could increase his feeling of rage. It seems to me that personal factors must also be important in who decides to engage in attacks like this – obviously (thankfully) not every (or even the vast majority of) Muslim decides to blow things up.

    Another thing about the American Muslim population – the African American Muslims are generally not part of separatist groups like the Nation of Islam. After the death of Elijah Muhammed, who had led the Nation of Islam for many years, his son took over, and eventually decided to leave the separatist movement and join Sunni Islam. This movement, led by Wallace Deen Muhammed, is now in that sense mainstream Sunni Muslim.

    And about immigration and anti-immigrant sentiment. There is currently a great deal of political shouting about immigration in the U.S. The president tried to push through a law to fix the immigration situation (we have 12 million illegal immigrants in the country, most of them from Mexico and Central America) – a combination of a plan to legalize the illegal immigrants plus much better enforcement of border controls. It failed in the Senate and nothing will happen for a couple of years because of the upcoming presidential election. Around this there has been a great deal of immigrant bashing, and not only from the extreme right – Lou Dobbs, who has a daily show on CNN, constantly beats the drum about the dangers of illegal immigrants from Mexico. Most of the anti-immigrant sentiment that I hear in the U.S. is about Mexicans – it’s not about Arabs or Muslims at all.

    Like

  13. “Clearly, the reason is outrage at what is seen as the degredation and oppression of Muslims by, and enabled by, the West.”

    True, Muslims have been degraded and oppressed by the West; but much of that is now colonialist history. The degradation and oppression Muslims now experience have more to do with the structure of their own societies, as well as with their taking certain aspects of their faith too seriously and literally, than with purported Western oppression.

    I think Andrew posed a legitimate question. Just why has the U.S. not been hit as hard and frequently (except for 9/11) as the Europeans?

    Part of the answer must be the Muslim parallel societies now existing in Europe and the anger and resentment of the young and alienated in those societies. Growing up with the mentality of us-and-them surely must play a role in recruitment of young Euro-Muslim terrorists.

    Like

  14. “Clearly, the reason is outrage at what is seen as the degredation and oppression of Muslims by, and enabled by, the West.”

    True, Muslims have been degraded and oppressed by the West; but much of that is now colonialist history. The degradation and oppression Muslims now experience have more to do with the structure of their own societies, as well as with their taking certain aspects of their faith too seriously and literally, than with purported Western oppression.

    I think Andrew posed a legitimate question. Just why has the U.S. not been hit as hard and frequently (except for 9/11) as the Europeans?

    Part of the answer must be the Muslim parallel societies now existing in Europe and the anger and resentment of the young and alienated in those societies. Growing up with the mentality of us-and-them surely must play a role in recruitment of young Euro-Muslim terrorists.

    Like

  15. “the soft focus view of US attitudes towards immigrants misses the treatment of Chinese and Mexican laborers, who faired immeasurably worse than Turkish counterparts in Germany”

    James, methinks you compare apples and grapefruit rather than apples and apples. The Turks in Germany are legal immigrants many of whom were born in Germany. It is valid to compare them to legalized Mexicans or Muslim immigrants to the US who are often Iranians or Palestinians.

    A general observation is that second-generation (and even first generation) Iranians and Palestinians in the US are oftne solidly middle-class. The Turks in Germany have been treated as second-class inhabitants for a couple of generations (though that may be changing?).

    Welfare benefits available to German Turks may be more generous, but the opportunities available to legal immigrants in the US seem much better than those available to Turks in Germany.

    Then there are the illegal immigrants in the US and Germany. In this case I’d say it’s likely that German welfare is more generous than in the US. Opportunities are similarly poor – except that children born to illegals in the US are US citizens and have the opportunities thereof. Their ability to exploit those opportunities may be constrained by poor schooling however – as seems to be the case with most Turks in Germany regardless of legal status….

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  16. “the soft focus view of US attitudes towards immigrants misses the treatment of Chinese and Mexican laborers, who faired immeasurably worse than Turkish counterparts in Germany”

    James, methinks you compare apples and grapefruit rather than apples and apples. The Turks in Germany are legal immigrants many of whom were born in Germany. It is valid to compare them to legalized Mexicans or Muslim immigrants to the US who are often Iranians or Palestinians.

    A general observation is that second-generation (and even first generation) Iranians and Palestinians in the US are oftne solidly middle-class. The Turks in Germany have been treated as second-class inhabitants for a couple of generations (though that may be changing?).

    Welfare benefits available to German Turks may be more generous, but the opportunities available to legal immigrants in the US seem much better than those available to Turks in Germany.

    Then there are the illegal immigrants in the US and Germany. In this case I’d say it’s likely that German welfare is more generous than in the US. Opportunities are similarly poor – except that children born to illegals in the US are US citizens and have the opportunities thereof. Their ability to exploit those opportunities may be constrained by poor schooling however – as seems to be the case with most Turks in Germany regardless of legal status….

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  17. One more thing: There are much more muslims in Europe than there are in the US. The numbers alone may be enough to explain everything.
    Commonwealth citizens also have easier access to UK citizenship. To get a US green card is a very expensive business these days if you are from Iran or Pakistan.

    By the way: I didn’t know there where any Turks involved in any of the recent Terrorist plots.

    Like

  18. One more thing: There are much more muslims in Europe than there are in the US. The numbers alone may be enough to explain everything.
    Commonwealth citizens also have easier access to UK citizenship. To get a US green card is a very expensive business these days if you are from Iran or Pakistan.

    By the way: I didn’t know there where any Turks involved in any of the recent Terrorist plots.

    Like

  19. One more thing: There are much more muslims in Europe than there are in the US. The numbers alone may be enough to explain everything.
    Commonwealth citizens also have easier access to UK citizenship. To get a US green card is a very expensive business these days if you are from Iran or Pakistan.

    By the way: I didn’t know there where any Turks involved in any of the recent Terrorist plots.

    Like

  20. One more thing: There are much more muslims in Europe than there are in the US. The numbers alone may be enough to explain everything.
    Commonwealth citizens also have easier access to UK citizenship. To get a US green card is a very expensive business these days if you are from Iran or Pakistan.

    By the way: I didn’t know there where any Turks involved in any of the recent Terrorist plots.

    Like

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