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– Twenty-First Century Crusades?
Prediction 1 -
tension and backlash against Muslims in Europe
Outraged Europeans Take Dimmer View of
By Jeffrey Fleishman, Ralph Frammolino and Sebastian Rotella, Times
LONDON — It was less than genteel, not the kind of thing a Londoner
liked to admit, but Matthew Pickard couldn't help himself when drawn
into a discussion about the recent bombings on the city's transit
system. There is an "undertow," he said, a feeling of resentment toward
ethnic communities that had long been welcomed.
"My friends, who are all educated and professionals, they're saying,
'What gives those people the right to come up from other countries and
set up homes and set up families and then start bombing and maiming
people?' " the 33-year-old engineering consultant said. "They just don't
move in and integrate with society. They move in and take over. I just
think enough's enough."
Since the July 7 attacks that killed 52 commuters, an increasing number
of Britons have become worried that their nation has been too tolerant
of foreigners. Enticed by generous asylum laws, jobs, welfare benefits
and a commitment to racial cohesion, millions of immigrants, many from
nations once part of the British empire, have found a home here. But
their presence is being challenged, especially in the case of people
from Muslim cultures.
The frustration and anger in Britain resonate across a continent where
deadly attacks in Spain and the Netherlands over the last 18 months have
tested faith in multiculturalism. From Rome to Paris to Berlin,
governments are rethinking the balance between civil rights and national
security, proposing tighter immigration and asylum laws and drafting
tougher measures against voices of hate.
Many Europeans' suspicion of Islam underscores deeper concerns about the
failure to integrate ethnic communities that are now seen as spinning
away from Western influence. Nations are confronting years of troubled
immigration policies that critics say have produced false portraits of
social harmony. Cities such as Amsterdam, for example, cast a veneer of
tranquillity over smoldering ethnic tensions. Late last year, a Muslim
radical with links to a terrorist cell fatally stabbed the Dutch
director Theo van Gogh on a city bike path. The killer was apparently
angered by a Van Gogh film that was critical of Islam.
The integration question is growing more complex. Many poor immigrant
neighborhoods are crowded with the children and grandchildren of people
who arrived half a century ago. These immigrants are full-fledged
European citizens, holding passports, speaking the languages their
parents never mastered and benefiting from generous welfare systems.
But many of them don't feel welcome. They have sought to define their
identity with a defiant brand of globalized Islam, a disturbing dynamic
that allows radicals to conceal their intentions in nations they are
adept at navigating. Londoners were stunned that three of the four men
accused of carrying out the July 7 bombings were born and raised in
Multiculturalism "was thought to be a source of strength, but it has
proved to be a source of rebellion," said Mufti Abdul Kadir Barkatulla,
senior imam of the North Finchley Mosque in North London, once a place
of worship for suspects in the failed July 21 copycat attack on the
transit system. "Diversity has its economic and cultural strengths. But
it has proven, security-wise, it is vulnerable."
No major European country has found the perfect answer to the question
of integration. Britain's liberal approach urged immigrants to blend in
while keeping their distinctive cultural backgrounds. This improved
relations but allowed radical clerics to flourish in ethnic
neighborhoods. France preferred that its immigrants mute their lineages
and adopt all things French, a policy that has contributed to the anger
of legions of Muslim men living in slums outside Paris. Germany opened
its borders to "guest workers," most of them Turks, beginning in the
1960s. But the nation didn't intend for them to stay, creating a
cultural limbo in which Germans kept their distance even as the Muslims
became citizens and severed ties to their native lands.
Suspicion has widened such divides. Many apprehensive Europeans are
taking the view that certain factions of Islam, including radicals
seeking a worldwide religious caliphate, are at odds with
multiculturalism and the principles of Western democracy.
This was reflected in a Dutch intelligence report following the Van Gogh
assassination. The report's less than politically correct tone reflected
the larger Dutch sentiment that the state, which supports affirmative
action and funds Muslim schools and Arabic-language TV stations, has
been too soft for too long.
Puritanical Islamic groups "want Muslims in the West to reject Western
values and standards, propagating extreme isolation from Western society
and often intolerance towards other groups in society," said the
December report of the AIVD intelligence service. "They also encourage
these Muslims to [covertly] develop parallel structures in society and
take the law into their own hands. What they mean is that Muslims in the
West should turn their backs on the non-Islamic government and instead
set up their own autonomous power structures based on specific
interpretation of the Sharia," or Islamic law.
Many Muslim leaders, however, say Europe has a historical prejudice
toward foreigners, especially its Islamic population, which has doubled
over the last decade to as much as 15 million. They argue that
multiculturalism sounds eloquent but lacks credibility on a continent
imbued with nationalism and skeptical of all that is not Christian and
white. Germany, for example, has 3 million Muslims in a population of 82
million, but only two of the 601 members of parliament are Muslim. In
its capital, Berlin, unemployment among Turks runs at about 45%.
Burhan Kesici, a leader of the Islamic Federation in Berlin, recounted a
recent experience during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan to illuminate
Europe's cultural divide. "We were attending a conference on European
integration. We couldn't pray because we didn't want to interrupt the
meeting," he said. "An imam I was with said to me: 'How can we Muslims
integrate any more than we have already? We didn't pray when we should
have prayed. We didn't eat right after sunset, and now we're in an
Italian restaurant that serves alcohol.' "
Relations had seemed less distant between cultures in Britain, or at
least London. Just days before the July 7 bombings, civic leaders had
lauded the capital's "unique multiculturalism" as critical to the city's
winning bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games. The selection was a
recognition, said the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality,
"that our capital offers the best real-world answer that humanity has to
the challenge of ethnic and religious diversity."
Many Muslims appeared to agree with the assessment. "The most important
popular food now is curry, not fish and chips," said Ahmed J. Versi,
editor of the London-based Muslim News. In 2004, "Mohammed" jumped more
than 15 places on the list of Britain's most popular names for newborn
boys, ranking behind Jack, Joshua, Thomas and James.
But by then questions about multiculturalism were being raised,
including in the prominent liberal magazine Prospect, which published an
essay titled "Too Diverse?" Some Muslim leaders were also worried about
rising extremism among Britain's 1.6 million Muslims, with mosques
echoing with fiery anti-Western rhetoric. Ten extremist clerics were
arrested recently and targeted for deportation under Prime Minister Tony
Blair's new anti-terrorism measures.
"There was a lax attitude on the part of British authorities to the
congregations of extremists here," said Barkatulla, the imam, who
recently took a break from evening prayers and sat in the mosque
basement. "They were far too diplomatic.
"England had its own single culture and a very homogeneous society,"
Barkatulla said. "And then multiculturalism came with post-World War II.
England had such a strong natural identity that it never thought the
small pockets of immigrants would cause a problem…. Because of
multiethnicity and multiculturalism, the idea of sub-identities was
allowed to flourish, and ghettos developed. Locality after locality was
lost. They don't seem to belong to England."
Such an atmosphere developed throughout much of Europe. Governments such
as that of Germany, where ethnic and religious hate produced the
Holocaust, wanted to avoid accusations of discrimination and did not
aggressively police immigrant neighborhoods. This allowed radical Islam
to exist against the stated, but undefined, goal of ethnic unity.