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March 28, 2004

It will be as you say....

I've complained about the conflation of race & religion before (or ethnicity and religion). Perhaps I should just give up? It seems the intersection between non-whites & Muslims in Europe is just a given, how else to explain this article in The Economist with the hyperlink Race and immigration in Europe-when the article is mostly about Muslims, not non-whites per se! It's an interesting article, as these quotes can illustrate:

The number of such recruits is tiny; however, a poll this month in the Guardian suggested that 13% of British Muslims would regard “further attacks on the US by al-Qaeda” as justified.
The majority of children under 14 in the four biggest Dutch cities—Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht—are now children of non-western immigrants, most of them Muslim.

But the author(s) treating race relations and religious relations interchangeably seems kind of weird to me when two large white European Muslim groups, Albanians and Bosnians, have made their presence felt in many countries over the past decade as illegal immigrants and refugees. As a practical matter it is obvious why it is so easy to conflate these two points of identification, but there is a reason that I object,genetic definition is permanent (for now), religious self-definition is voluntary. I accept that before the age of cheap & widespread individual genomic sequencing race might be used as a proxy in narrowing the scope of organ donation searches in light of scarce resources-there is no changing this reality before technology catches up to our hopes & dreams. But, the "angry Muslims" of today need not be the "angry Muslims" of the future as some essential aspects of their nature. He or she might be the Christian, liberal Muslim, secular Muslim, secular post-Christian, etc.

There is a joke I have heard among Muslims that "Islam is a one-way street," once you make the profession of belief, you can never go back. If Europeans keep mixing definitions, they will further validiate this unpleasant aspect of Muslim culture.

I guess my recent schtick has been to justify my tendency to give the finger to the prophet & co. without being socially ostracized because I have violated "Social Natural Law."

P.S. I've cut & pasted the full article below, you can only get it if you are a subscriber....

Multicultural troubles
Mar 25th 2004
From The Economist print edition

Terrorism's insidious effect on race relations in Europe

WHEN Muslims opened a mosque in Granada last summer—the first built in the city for over 500 years—it was hailed as a hopeful sign of reconciliation between Islam and Christianity. The Moors had, after all, ruled the southern Spanish province of Andalusia for 800 years, until they were expelled in 1492. Over the past generation a new wave of 500,000 Muslim immigrants have made Spain their home. The Granada mosque seemed to show that modern Spain had made its peace with Islam.

But the terrorist bombs in Madrid, apparently inspired by Islamist radicals whose rantings suggest that they seek revenge not just for the dispatch of Spanish troops to Iraq but also for the loss of al-Andalus half a millennium ago, have created fears for the future. Spain, previously notable for its relatively relaxed attitude, is now likely to join those European countries that are increasingly nervous about Muslims and immigration.

Signs of such anxiety have proliferated since September 11th 2001, even in countries that once prided themselves on their openness and tolerance. Pim Fortuyn, leader of a populist, anti-immigration party in the Netherlands, was assassinated in 2002 and his political party has since fallen into disarray, but many of his ideas have gone mainstream. In his base of Rotterdam, the local government is now explicitly trying to change the racial profile of the city, whose population is projected to be 57% of foreign origin by 2017. An all-party report to the Dutch parliament recently concluded that 30 years of multicultural policy had failed in the Netherlands, and that more energetic efforts should be made to oblige immigrants to learn Dutch and embrace local values. Even the Dutch Green leader has called for it to be made illegal for Muslims to import spouses for arranged marriages.

Efforts to force Muslims to assimilate are also under way in other European countries. The Danes have introduced restrictions on arranged marriages. The French are imposing a ban on the wearing of the Muslim headscarf in state-run schools—a measure that has enjoyed broad cross-party support. Even Britain, which until recently was congratulating itself on its successful assimilation of minorities, has become less complacent. The Blair government has just brought in civics lessons and an oath of allegiance for all would-be citizens.

Much of this new mood is undoubtedly linked to fears of terrorism. It took September 11th to make it legitimate for Fortuyn to attack fundamentalist Islam as “backward” and illiberal. Similarly in Britain, the revelation that suicide bombers and Taliban fighters had been recruited from among British Muslims caused alarm. The number of such recruits is tiny; however, a poll this month in the Guardian suggested that 13% of British Muslims would regard “further attacks on the US by al-Qaeda” as justified. France is on heightened alert for signs of al-Qaeda penetration among its Muslims, estimated at somewhere around 4.5m (7.5% of the total population).

It would be a mistake, however, to believe that tensions over the growing number of Muslims in Europe are simply a by-product of the “war on terror”. Anti-immigration parties such as France's National Front and Austria's Freedom Party were well-established long before the aircraft crashed into the twin towers. Europe is a rich, stable continent with an ageing population, surrounded by poor, unstable countries with lots of young people. Inevitably, many have made their way from north Africa or the Middle East to look for opportunities in Europe, whether as legal migrants, illegal workers or asylum-seekers.

The overall number of Muslims in the European Union is still pretty small in relation to the population as a whole: they make up perhaps 12m, out of a total EU population of 375m. Their concentration in particular cities, however, means that their impact can be more dramatic at the local level. The majority of children under 14 in the four biggest Dutch cities—Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht—are now children of non-western immigrants, most of them Muslim. Despite the anti-immigration policies of Rotterdam's council, Europe's largest mosque is now under construction in the city. Local politicians grumble that its minarets will rise higher than the floodlights of the neighbouring football stadium, a secular city's equivalent of the local cathedral. In Brussels, the capital of the European Union, Muhammad has been the most popular name for new-born boys for the past four years.

Assimilate, assimilate

Yet such facts are sinister or disturbing only if people choose to make them so. Walk around the Muslim quarters of Rotterdam or Brussels and there are plenty of signs of both assimilation and entrepreneurship. The hall of the local mosque for the Turkish community in Rotterdam is decked out with Dutch flags. The Madou district of Brussels may be run-down, but it is also full of small businesses—late-night groceries, cafés, second-hand clothes stores—that are run by people of north African origin. Belgians, Congolese and Moroccans mingle easily on the streets. The Lavapies district in Madrid, where the Spanish police have arrested most of the suspects in the March 11th bombings, is a similar sort of place, in which immigrants can make a start, find a job and join a community.

Such districts are the lifeblood of big cities across the world. But in the aftermath of the Madrid bombings, they are also now under scrutiny across Europe. The veiled woman or the bearded cleric, who might not have received a second glance in the street in happier times, may now attract suspicious looks, however unfairly. Newspapers and politicians have redoubled calls for greater surveillance of mosques and radical preachers. Prominent Muslims, in turn, worry about mounting “Islamophobia”. The havoc and misery wrought by the Madrid bombs have been followed by a secondary sad effect: rising mistrust between the Muslims of Europe and their neighbours.

Posted by razib at 09:03 AM