Friday, May 16, 2008

Europeans and Euro-Islamism

Great Mosque of Paris
(Image from Wikipedia)

Note that I'm referring here not to the liberal Euroislam discussed by Bassam Tibi but to the 'fundamentalist' Euro-Islamism that has taken hold among some Muslims in Europe.

Robert S. Leiken, director of the Immigration and National Security Program at the Nixon Center and a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution, has an interesting, six-page article, "Europe's Angry Muslims," in the July-August 2005 issue of Foreign Affairs, in which he details the spread of radical Islam among the descendents of Europe's Muslim immigrants and the implications of this spread.

Leiken divides the blame, albeit unequally, between the immigrants and the Europeans:
In Europe, host countries that never learned to integrate newcomers collide with immigrants exceptionally retentive of their ways, producing a variant of what the French scholar Olivier Roy calls "globalized Islam": militant Islamic resentment at Western dominance, anti-imperialism exalted by revivalism. (Leiken, "Europe's Angry Muslims," first page)
This is the generation that Al-Qaeda and its ilk want to capture for their Islamist jihad. Even if the Islamist jihadis remain a tiny minority, a larger group of Islamist politicos -- to borrow two categories of Islamists from Quintan Wiktorowicz, "Anatomy of the Salafi Movement," Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 29:3 (2006) -- pose a potentially more significant problem for European politics as Muslim demographic power begins to express itself in votes not for the leftist parties that Muslims in Europe have heretofore supported but for Islamist parties that could attempt to utilize radical multiculturalism toward their ultimate aim of implementating shariah in Muslim-dominated districts.

This problem is exacerbated, as the Norwegian feminist Hege Storhaug notes, by the fact that the European political elite hasn't figured out that many of their partners in dialogue among the 'leaders' of the Euro-Muslim communities are not moderates at all:
Our politicians and intellectuals have to be aware of who they are collaborating with. Today the support is going to the political Muslims and organisations, not to the secular Muslims. Because most politicians don't have a clue who they are in so-called "dialogue" with. (Hege Storhaug, writing for "Symposium: The Death of Multiculturalism?", moderated by Jamie Glazov, (Friday, September 8, 2006)
European political leaders may be waking up, for some have become aware that many 'moderate' Muslim leaders in Europe speak out for moderation only when they are speaking to European non-Muslims in European languages. When they are speaking in Arabic and attempting to rouse Islamist sentiments, they do not sound moderate at all, as the Danes discovered during the controversy over the Jyllands-Posten cartoons satirizing Muhammad.

What should be done?

I'm no expert on practical affairs, but I would emphasize that radical multiculturalism ought to be vigorously rejected by Europeans, and perhaps they're now beginning to do this. Moderate multiculturalism is necessary in Europe, for the continent is intrinsically multicultural, as I've noted before. A moderate multiculturalism that appeals to universal human rights, presupposes the right to criticize cultures, insists on European legal traditions, and emphasizes free speech would definitely help Europeans learn how to talk about the Islamist problem.

They certainly need to discuss the problem openly, for the native European population is on a demographic decline, not reproducing fast enough to reproduce itself, whereas the Euro-Muslim population has, so far, maintained high birth rates and can expect its 15 to 20 million Muslims to increase significantly over the next couple of generations.

Labels: , ,


At 8:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


How's it going over there? At 4:40 AM last night, I finished my Masters degree. I proceded to lay in bed for a few hours, buzzing off of caffeine and the idea that I'M DONE!! After dozing off for about an hour, I woke up and called my friend Walter Scott (sic), and we drove up to lovely southwestern Michigan to do some wine tasting.

I got a job teaching English in Paris next year which starts in October! I am really looking forward to being able to read & write what strikes my fancy the next year or so.

By radical multiculturalism, do you mean the idea that Islamic communities should be allowed to make their own laws, even if the communities in question reside in Europe? If so, I guess I'm also against this. What's for sure is it is a very complicated situation. I can say I've met lots of Arabs & Muslims in France & during a trek I took across Tunisia a few years ago, and have never felt threatened. In fact, the people I met in Tunisia were **in general** warmer & more willing to enter into conversation with me about just about anything than Europeans. Once, on a train, a guy a few years younger than me sat down and we struck up a conversation, which ended up covering lots of religious topics. I was open about my atheism/agnosticism, and he never batted an eye. He had very firm convictions in his Muslim beliefs, but was very eager to engage me in open, friendly, & respectful debate. I suppose if I were a woman, my experiences might have been different.

I hope we keep in touch more often in the coming months. I don't know if I'll be writing on my blog, but I'll visit your blog more frequently now that I don't have professors breathing down my neck about matters scholarly.(<- exageration).

Best wishes,

At 9:24 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hey, Daniel, good to hear from you again -- and to hear that you have your masters degree (or is that a proper noun?). Congratulations, and good luck in Paris. You'll have to keep me informed on that.

Speaking of which . . . I've felt guilty about not visiting your blog recently. Somehow, life gets in the way . . . of everything.

I'm still blogging, of course, for I use it to practice my writing and to develop my ideas.

You ask: "By radical multiculturalism, do you mean the idea that Islamic communities should be allowed to make their own laws, even if the communities in question reside in Europe?"

Yes, that's the logical conclusion to radical multiculturalism, namely, the ideology elaborated from a strong cultural relativism that holds all cultures morally equal in every aspect and that forbids criticisms of other cultures. I don't know that many people actually support radical multiculturalism when they hear what it entails, but it nevertheless seems to be the default position of multiculturalists.

As for your experiences of the friendliness of European Muslims, I've noticed this as well, but I suspect that there is also a minority of Islamist European Muslims who would be less friendly. I encountered one of them in London on a train. Not dangerous, but a bit stern.

Well, I'd best get to work . . . grading ahead.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 10:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been able to put up a post here and there, about once a month, but it was mostly a tool for procrastination. Guilty? Jeffery, you should know better than to think I don't understand how busy academic life can get. The last two years, and last semester in particular, have been nightmarish for me. I took three incompletes during past semesters, and had six papers to write. I didn't get to them until about a month ago- comprehensive exams were this semsester, and I had an enormous reading list to get through, which prevented me from getting to all the work I had stacked up from previous semesters. It was awful. I won't even tell you how many pages I've typed in the past few weeks, because it's embarrassing. Anyway, if you're able to put a message on my blog every few months or so about what you're up to, I'd be a happy camper. Until the next!

At 10:27 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for being understanding. I remain interested in your blog and impressed by your creative writing.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 9:56 PM, Blogger jeanie oliver said...

I popped over to your blog---going to add you to my funny, brilliant, but maybe grumpy list!

Totally off the subject of this serious blog, but I've gone 48 years with no one to "jabber" with and now you and Malcolm in the space of 3 months speak the same language!

At 10:12 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I always unpack my portmanteau words with Malcolm.


Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 2:15 AM, Blogger John B said...

My concern is that "moderate Muslim" and "secular Muslim" are becoming code words for "Muslims who don't bother us".

Its also worth remembering that much of the early pan-Arab and pan-African, as well as general Eastern empowerment movements were secular -- but we Westerns still didn't like them because they were strongly anti-imperialist.

The first secular Islamic discussion of East-West coexistence that came to my mind was the Baku Congress, one of the early international Communist projects.

Also, there was Franz Fanon's socialism. He was embraced by the Algerian FNL because he gave a Western-ish intellectual justification for the anti-colonial struggle, but he never had a great deal of popular support amongst the Muslim body of the FNL, mostly because he made secular socialist arguments. He had a lot of academic influence in the West, but he's still pretty reviled by the people in power.

In short, there are numerous examples of secular or religiously moderate speakers from the Muslim world, but they were nonetheless ideologically unsavory, and they did stir shit up.

The problem may not specifically be the radically religious Muslim figures, but that there is a significant problem of representation for a population that are outsiders at pretty much every economic and social level.

At 5:51 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Europeans don't seem to have had especial difficulty speaking with secular Muslims of the left, nor have they had difficulty accepting the anticolonialist and anti-imperialist critiques that such secular Muslims have constructed. Perhaps the Europeans even too readily accepted these one-sided critiques and forgot that Islamic civilization had also been powerfully imperialist.

From Islamists, Europeans face a different critique of the West, one that harkens back to more distant past than the secular Muslims of the left did and that openly extols the old, Muslim imperialism whereby Islam, within about 100 years of its foundation, spread as far west as Spain and as far east as India.

Islamists are happy to adopt the anticolonialist and anti-imperialist critiques aimed at the West, but these aren't what truly motivate them. They're not just reacting to the West, they're acting, motivated by visions of a utopian society founded on Shariah and imposed by a religiously guided political apparatus.

I think that by "moderate" Muslims, most people mean Muslims who reject Islamism and advocate democracy, human rights, the separation of religion and state, and other such things.

Some such moderates may be politically radical, of course, and thus not moderate in other ways, but I think that most people can live with those sorts of 'moderate'.

With the Islamists, however, we 'infidels' will find life hard to live.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 12:18 PM, Blogger John B said...

Its true that many religious Muslims name-drop anticolonial and anti-imperial projects when they're speaking to Western audiences, but they usually do so pretty casually. "Adoption" may be an overstatement. For example, Said continually complained that his ORIENTALISM was never given real consideration in the Islamic world, despite being frequently referenced to. I think you mentioned earlier the problem of the discussion having two very different sides due to the language barrier.

Likewise, radical and secular Muslims have gotten quite a bit of acceptance among European academics, but it's hard to say that they had much of an impact outside of intellectual circles. I would request some specific examples before I really accepted that. (It's not my area of study so I know I'm probably wrong).

Also, it bears mentioning that hard-line elements of Western society tend to categorize moderates as radical given any excuse. CAIR in the US, for example, has been accused of supporting terrorism. When moderates try to engage religiously radical or fundamentalist elements within their community, they become radical simply by association, in they eyes of many outsiders.

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, I don't know much about this stuff either, but I think that it's important, and I'm interested.

In the case of CAIR, I think that their problem is that some of their own members have problematic views -- or so, I've read. Moreover, the organization defended Bin Laden up until he was proven to have been behind 9/11, despite his infamous 1998 Declaration of War Against Crusaders and Zionists (or whatever its title) and his call for jihadis to kill Americans wherever they might be found.

So, I'm rather suspicious of CAIR's motives.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


Post a Comment

<< Home