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This is such an old fucking routine. Look, pluralism is a central tenant of democracy, which also means tolerating Islam. That doesn't mean that Islamists should be creating or shaping laws in Europe, but it does mean that, yes, Muslims are entitled to their faith. Underlying all this bullshit about creeping Islam is the same underlying xenophobia that characterized the "Jewish question."

See, back in the day, Central and Western Europeans felt inundated by Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe, who many right wingers in Europe associated with alien practices, and in the 20th century, Bolshevism and crony capitalism. Leftwing unrest tended to reinforce the idea. Say an anarchist or communist of Jewish origin was involved in a streetfight, riot, or sabotage- a lot of your right wing extremists and conservatives posited a link between Jews and eastern Bolshevism, using these isolated incidents as their "proof."

Granted, there are considerably more Muslims in Europe than there were Jews, but allow me to posit this simple proposition: I suggest that the percentage of violently radical Muslims exists in direct proportion to the percentage of violently radical Jewish leftists in the Wiemar Republic or elsewhere. And what the most paranoid of the anti-Muslim Europeans are doing it making the Muslims the new boogie man of Europe, pointing at a handful of actions, terrorist attacks, or protests (I contend most "Islamist" protests have their origins in the underclass status of Muslim immigrants, not unlike violent inner city riots in the states in the 1970s) in order to make the claim that Islam is the root of all these problems.

It's the Jewish Question all over again. "What are we to do with un-assimilating Muslims? They're alien and strange and a few of them occasionally commit violence! They're a creeping menace who wants to take away our rights!"

I don't like Islam, but I don't like any religion. I also don't like assuming assholes on the left and right who presumptuously assign themselves the same moral superiority religious people claim for themselves. But we live in a pluralist society, and everyone is allowed to have their ideas, however bizarre or alien. It's not a conspiracy- Muslims happen to immigrate to Europe and a small percentage of them would like there to be a conspiracy. But there isn't one. Live with the idea with the idea that you HAVE TO TOLERATE PEOPLE.

I'm tired of these stupid pseudo leftists, liberals, and Hannity watching fucks making the same stupid arguments the NSDAP used to advance, but under the guise of defending civil society and secular democracy. If a secular state is strong enough, its institutions should be able to withstand religious agitation from a minority group.

It's amazing how scared and cowed people actually are post 9/11. It's like bad satire.

Posted by Jay | May 22, 2007 7:02 PM

And please note that I'm not saying hurrah for religious zealots trying to alter the nature of secular society; I'm just saying the zealots and terrorists don't speak for everyone and that the population in general should not be demonized or dehumanized for the actions of a few. But I know that's how people will interpret what I'm saying because people have a tendency to read whatever they want to into things.

I don't like evangelical Christians at all and I don't like Bush and his cronies meddling with the secular state. But that doesn't mean I think all evangelicals are to be feared and hated on general principle either. And that's exactly what assholes like Bawer are trying to do: dehumanizing all Muslims by drawing tenuous associations.

Posted by Jay | May 22, 2007 7:12 PM

I completely agree, Jay. And lets all remember, those Irish in their tenements used to be much much worse.

Posted by Johnnie | May 22, 2007 7:19 PM

"Dhimmitude is bursting out all over." - Bruce Bawer, interviewed by David Horowitz's FrontPage Magazine. Ya picked a winner with this xenophobic lout.

Posted by Joshua H | May 22, 2007 7:21 PM

Jay, isn't the point that Bawer makes that the Islamic culture in Europe (and this is separate from faith, I feel) is by its very definition suppressive of an oppressed moderate majority? The zealots are surely a minority, but when their power prevents any dissention from within and indoctrinates their youth how can any change from within be expected?

Also, he does make the point that the other paramount reason to shed light on this problem is to prevent the kind of xenophobic response that we saw so many times before in Europe, and instead dissociate ethnicity from culture in addressing the intolerance found in European islamic society?

Posted by Phil | May 22, 2007 8:10 PM

The difference between organized European muslim society and the Aryan paradise that Bawer wants to defend:

- When Muslims disagree with the whites in charge (such as in the cartoon controversy), they peaceably protest (causing ZERO deaths in Europe and the Middle East).

- When the whites in charge of Europe disagree with the very small Muslim minority, they demonize them and institute widespread racial discrimination.

Posted by bawer=falwell | May 22, 2007 10:28 PM

Bawer wrote this about Falwell on his blog:

This was a man who, instead of challenging Christians to live up to the high calling of their faith by rising above their bigotry and educating themselves out of their ignorance, won adherents with a twisted, ugly message that exploited and affirmed their bigotry and ignorance.

Replace the word "Christians" with "Muslims" and the exact same thing should be said about Bawer.

Posted by bawer=falwell | May 22, 2007 10:32 PM

Sorry Jay, you're off.

For shits and giggles read about the Hamburg Cell in the book Perfect Soldiers about the 9-11 hijackers. These guys were not the underclass victims no of your Bolshie imagination. They were solidly middle class zealots with a toxic ideology. Muhammad Atta was so consumed with jihad, he didn't even enjoy eating. It was a chore. His roommates girlfriend wore a sleeveless blouse and the guy bolted from the room.

Standing up to a toxic ideology doesn't require xenophobia at all, just some nuance and decency. But let's not pretend it's all irrational hysteria.

You make the comparison to the riots in the US in the 60s and 70s, but last time I checked the black communities of Newark, Detroit and Cleveland were never interested in establishing Sharia Law...
Huey Newton's 10 point platform maybe, but not stoning gays...

Posted by dicker | May 22, 2007 10:47 PM

I saw the interview and was both fascinated and depressed. I'd always liked to think that when I've had it up to here with the religious right, I could always move to Europe to escape. Now that isn't even an option.

Posted by Seattle Photographer | May 22, 2007 10:51 PM


It's very easy to argue with the Bawer in your head instead of the Bawer in reality. It is equally easy to claim that no one died because of the cartoons, but this is simply not true (of course, you specify Europe and the Middle East so as to conveniently weasel out of the fact that most of the deaths occurred in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and sub-Saharan Africa):

Cartoon-related deaths

That was hardly the only danger that developed in this case:
A plot to bomb two trains motivated by the cartoons.

I'm saying that any ideology that causes people to think it's okay to blow up trains or shoot somebody because of some damn cartoons needs to be met head-on. That doesn't mean Islam is evil (do you try to argue that Christianity is evil because of Eric Rudolph?), but it does mean that whatever is fueling this sort of behavior can legitimately be criticized and resisted at all costs. As strange as it seems, I would argue that government at once has no business controlling religion and yet has an interest in promoting the kind of--for lack of a better word--neutered religion that exists in Europe and the U.S. today. European governments don't seem to want to have a moderating influence on the extremist varieties of Islam that have settled there.

I think Bawer really made the point for me: what happens if radical, violent Islamists obtain a majority in a city and vote to impose sharia law? Everybody--including the moderate Islamic majority--would suffer. Do you accept that as a natural consequence of "tolerance"?

Posted by THobbes | May 22, 2007 11:04 PM

The hard right is ascendant throughout Europe and the US. This shit about multi-culturalism enabling foreigners to sap the strength of Western democracy is just part of that movement. The only political alternative being put forward to democratic pluralism right now is christian nationalism.

Posted by wf | May 22, 2007 11:16 PM

You're missing the point. He's not talking about moderates, he doesn't care about the private business of religion.

He's talking about public actions of extremists, who are a problem. To compare him to pre-Holocaust anti-Semites is just ridiculous.

He's not racist, it's not about race. He's not xenophobic, it's not about nationalism. It's about culture, and the value of a free society, and the fact that tolerance of intolerance is really just allowing the least powerful among you to be prayed upon.

I know the news didn't talk of it much here, but a filmaker, Theo van Gogh was killed in the Netherlands, assasinated for a film he made about fundementalist Islam. The bloody knife in his chest held a note threatening the life of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, his partner in the film, and a sitting Dutch member of Parliment. (AHA is a Somali born woman, raised a Muslim, but no longer a believer herself)

And to this the large demonstrations and the elevated crime associated with this cultural shift, and there's reason to fear. When women can't walk down the street safely, and gays fear violent crime for small public acts of affection, there's something wrong.

This isn't about Muhammed Q. Muslim, average guy on the street. A moderate Muslim, who values the open society, well, that's a good person, and a good citizen. But we cannot use his name to protect those who would destroy that same society. We must hold them to the same standards as everyone else, and stop excusing acts of violence, just ignoring them because the men who commit them come from a different culture.

Posted by RJ | May 23, 2007 5:46 AM

RJ: Right on. Those who defend those oppressed Muslims in Europe need to read up, and drop their less-racist-than-thou attitude. Look for info on Theo Van Gogh, honor killings, extremist/radical Muslim preachings within European countries, radical Muslims attempts to change laws to Sharia-inspired ones or to carve out religious exceptions for Muslims from laws which are too Western (like the ones that allow women to speak, for example), etc. etc.
This is a real problem, people, not a right-wing fantasy.
Remember when 9/11 happened, before Bush destroyed everything, when we *knew* that this was a problem, that radical religious extremism was recognized as a threat? Just because Bush did *exactly* what Al-Q wanted doesn't mean that the ideology isn't real and isn't a real threat to European liberalism and progress.

And I love the "they peaceably protest" BS. That's quite a surprise to the dead civilians and clergy who are killed whenever someone holds an immoral beauty pageant, for example.

Posted by torrentprime | May 23, 2007 7:01 AM

The problem--both here and there--is that we're so fucking afraid of offending someone's damned religious sensibilities. The late Falwell, Dobson, the killer(s) of Theo van Gogh, and al Sadr, et al, all have the same problem: They worship a god made up of the worst of their own internal fucked-upness, and hide that fucked-upness behind the cloak of piety. And we let them. There are many contributory factors at work, of course: economic inequality, shitty foreign policy, racism, etc etc ad nauseum. But those all get buried under the giant pious elephant in the room. Until we learn to call a fundotard spade a spade, we're just spinning our wheels.

Posted by Acolyte | May 23, 2007 8:57 AM

Bawer is an alarmist idiot. He is racist and he is xenophobic. And he's annoying as hell to watch on TV. I saw the interview and it just made my skin crawl, the way he spewed out the same old thing, as Jay says above. Which is not to say that I am saying there is no problem at all, but Bawer's depiction isn't helping things. All he wants to do is scare people into buying his book.

Posted by Xu-Tech | May 23, 2007 9:32 AM


Calling someone "an alarmist idiot" "racist" "xenophobic" is a lazy and cheap way out of an argument. It's great for righteous grandstanding, but I've seen all of Michael Moore's films so I've got my fill on that. Advance an argument or step off.

Posted by dicker | May 23, 2007 9:52 AM

Xu-Tech, Bawer notes in the interview that under the Sharia law called for by some groups of European Muslims, he could be jailed or executed. How does recognizing that make him alarmist, racist, or xenophobic? Those same groups have called for murdering people whose cultural imprint they find offensive--and some have even committed murder to that end (I'm talking about Theo van Gogh, of course). This isn't some right-wing boogyman, and anyone who draws attention to this real problem isn't automatically a xenophobe.

Bawer attacks that worthless shit Dinesh D'souza here on the pages of The Stranger. He recognizes Falwell for how worthless and dangerous he ultimately was (read his blog entry on the subject). He criticizes the US for its love affair with treating gays like second-class citizens. And he states quite clearly that he opposes "Islamism," which when you look it up, is not solely the religion itself, but its violent, political application. His positions are measured, logical, and eminently reasonable; what makes him a reactionary xenophobe?

Posted by THobbes | May 23, 2007 10:11 AM

Dicker, you're clearly a racist xenophobic apologist who is racist against strangers and uses clever lines like "advance an argument" to cover your racism and xenophobia.


Posted by torrentprime channeling Xu-Tech | May 23, 2007 10:11 AM

There are several important differences between the “Jewish Question” and the question of radical Islam. One is that Judaism is a non-proselytizing ethnic religious tradition while Islam, like Christianity, is a proselytizing non-ethnic religious tradition with an explicit history of promulgation through military conquest and economic imperialism. Islam, like Christianity, has a long history of creating and maintaining powerful temporal bureaucracies complete with an integrated civil infrastructure that includes taxation, education, torts, and an extensive body of case law-- which apply to both the Faithful and the dhimma. Nobody who knows anything about Judaism would be seriously concerned about Jews using an electoral plurality to force Jewish religious laws on the rest of the population (Israel being a particular exception)-- but that is a very real possibility with both Islam and Christianity. In point of fact, Christian and Muslim domination of government is an obvious and observable phenomenon in dozens of countries across the globe, including the United States. So no, this isn’t anything like the “Jewish Question.” None of this is to say that Bawer isn’t a xenophobe or a racist but, unlike people who advanced the “Jewish Question,” his concern does, at least, have a firm grounding in the history and present reality of Islam (and Christianity).

Posted by Judah | May 23, 2007 10:31 AM

Well Judah, it was never intended to be a perfect metaphor, just a useful analogy, and I think it serves at that capacity pretty well.

To European antisemites in the 19th and 20th centuries, Jews were actually seen as a state within a state. In many countries before the 19th century, Jews enjoyed a protected status and many prominent Jews had lucrative ties with governments who protected the communities- not in conspiratorial way of course. Jews were very much regarded as power hungry elites by those opposed to them. In the 20th century, many European antisemites claimed that eastern European Jews were Bolsheviks who very much wanted to seize control of the states they inhabited. So they were regarded as a potentially state building menace within Europe. Of course, the antisemites were wrong.

The Muslim problem is the same kind of perception issue. Because Muslims have mutual aid societies, sometimes operate as unified fronts, a history of imperial expansion (the Ottoman empire for example), and produce the occasional jihadist, those who are opposed to Islam in Europe can point at a grand conspiracy. Of course, Muslims are trying to build a caliph in Europe!

I look at the situation and I see immigrants behaving like an immigrant community. In this respect they're like many naturalized (and unnaturalized) Mexicans in this country, who have mutual aid societies, are generally Catholic, will come out in numbers in unified protests when they feel they're interests are on the line, and occasionally produce radical students angry as what they perceive as systemic racism and poverty. If we want to talk about historical precedents, fearing Islamic imperialism in Europe is like fearing Japanese Americans because they "stick together" and Japan has an imperialist background. Just because Ottoman Turks were expansionist (like Europe!), doesn't mean that contemporary Turks want to conquer Germany.

Those of you who have argued that Bawer is just talking about radical Islam, well on the surface you're right. But when language like "conquest" is used to describe angry immigrants and alarmist threats are leveled at Europe ("you better listen to Americans, because you're really in trouble!"), there's clearly a deeper xenophobia. For radical Islam to conquer Europe, they would need moderate Muslims to go long with them- the implication in Bawer's work is that these Muslims would jump in line to serve the jihadists. This is an claim that requires the same number of presuppositions that the Jewish question requires. It assumes that this grand demographic conspiracy serves the interests of the Jihadists, that the the growing Muslim population is at the beck and call of the Islamists. In essence, it indicts the whole community because its demographic growth is the source of Islamic power in Europe. In essence, what Bawer is afraid of, is too many Muslims in Europe, a kind of 5th column to be manipulated by Jihadists.

And he ignores the real source of the discontent, which is the kind of lives that immigrants are generally made to live in most corners of the globe. He doesn't understand how anger at xenophobia, racism, poverty, discrimination, etc. are the real causes of discontent, and that Jihadists simply attach their cause to it rather than the other way around. It's not like Muslims in France are suicide bombing police stations- they're simply rioting over their conditions just like African Americans in Watts (sure, the Nation of Islam would do a press release about race riots in the 70s, but that didn't mean there was a grand Muslim conspiracy underlying it).

Muslims get mad at nasty portrayals of Muhammad in major newspapers/magazines, sure. But if I published "Jesus is a cunt" or "Dirty Spic" cartoons in the New York Times of the Wall Street Journal, the reaction would be faster and the picture would be pulled within days and someone would have resigned. There wouldn't even need to be protests the reaction would be so fast. Muslims were perfectly entitled to the reaction they had.

A lot of dudes on here don't seem to have a clue how racist Europe is. If you're an African Muslim in France, you will literally face police who will openly harass you and your religion, you will probably live in the suburban projects, and you will have a president who openly dislikes you. Bawer likes to stay in Norway because it gives him a nice little vantage point on the immigration crisis. And everyone says "oh poor progressive Norway invaded by the Islamic masses," without realizing of course that a lot of Norwegians use words like "nigger" and worse to describe immigrants. Xenophobia is confused with legitimate fear.

Radical Islam, like ETA and the IRA, should be handled by tough as nails anti-terrorist task forces. It should not be loosely connected to demographic growth of Muslims in Europe and used as alarmist proof that Europe is being conquered from the inside. In fact, forget the IRA and ETA; Islamic terror should be handled (well, more effectively of course) like it was the first time around, you know, like in the 1970s.

Posted by Jay | May 23, 2007 1:47 PM

As for Islam being a proselytizing religion, that's absolutely correct. But I doubt Muslim immigrants are going door to door trying to convert secular Europeans to Islam, and I doubt many care for the idea of raising the sword to forcibly convert Christians. Worrying about them proselytizing is like worrying about Irish and Mexican immigrants forcing Americans to be Catholic, which of course is/was a fear of American nativists.

As a side not, I'm not defending Islam the religion, I'm only defending Muslims the people.

Posted by Jay | May 23, 2007 2:19 PM

Well damn, I was going to respond, but Jay pretty much did it all.

What I can say, however, is like others, Bawer did make my skin crawl. Resentment, anger and fear, the great triumvirate of paranoia, seem to be dripping right out of his loosely hanging pasty skin. It takes a quite a bit of narcissism to believe that Muslims (and not just individuals, but almost one sixth of humanity) are planning on taking over Rotterdam so they can decide how best to kill Bawer, as though European states didn't have constitutions to prevent such a drastic change in the use of law. The absurdity of the assumptions Bawer is making is shocking, but it's even worse that they are being promoted by moderately progressive sources.

Posted by johnnie | May 23, 2007 2:52 PM


European countries don't have the same kind of constitutional protections that we do. We have a pretty rigid Constitution that only allows for incremental change. Particularly since most European democracies have direct representation, change can happen much faster over there. They also don't have the same kind of free speech protections. Exhibit A: laws banning Holocaust denial. Exhibit B: the new push to outlaw criticisms or mockery of religion.

Bawer is more than a little hysterical, although he's at least as hysterical about religious fundamentalism in the United States, but he's not completely off base.

Posted by keshmeshi | May 23, 2007 3:05 PM

KM, I'm aware that European govts have more malleable constitutions; however, none of them have constitutions so malleable that a city can throw off all regard for basic human rights and return to the Middle Ages without first having to completely dismantle their government, withdraw from the EU and almost all interngovernmental organizations. Which just makes Bawer's xenophobic hysteria all the more creepy.

Posted by johnnie | May 23, 2007 3:11 PM

Jay sounds like a jay I went to school with in auburn in the 90s. Maybe better at writing though... I have to say, Bawer doesn't give me the creeps, johnnie. I can see the fear in his eyes as something very easy to sympathize with. Right-wing religious bastards are like the Army of the Beast to us liberal types, and it's very very very hard to separate the most vocal and apparent segment of an immigrant group from your view of them as people. They DO have some insular communities where some of them DO engage in criminally patriarchal and radical practices. The most vocal segments of these communities DO want to overthrow the governments of Europe. Pluralism was important at the beginning of our post-modern era, as we struggled to achieve true equality for all people. But you can only tolerate the psychotically intolerant for so long before they cut off your fucking head and put the shit on youtube. Mr. Jay may have not bothered to watch the whole interview, but at one point Bawer says a big problem with these radicals is they are helping foment racist nationalism and right-wing ideology in europeans - He IS sensitive to the rights of immigrants. But any hate groups with histories of bloody violence (like radical Islamists) need some level of sanction by law. Anything less, as we continue to see, is very dangerous.

Posted by christopher | May 23, 2007 4:47 PM

Yeah, Jay, I pretty much understood what you were saying the first time around. There really wasn’t any need to repeat it in greater detail. That said, I’ll just skip down to this part, which I think gets at the core of where you and I differ on this issue:

Worrying about them proselytizing is like worrying about Irish and Mexican immigrants forcing Americans to be Catholic, which of course is/was a fear of American nativists.

The significance of Islam being a proselytizing religion isn’t that Moslems are going to convert the dhimma to Islam. The significance of Islam being a proselytizing religion is that proselytizing religions apply their religious doctrines to non-adherents in a way that non-proselytizing religions are less likely to. So, for example, blue laws in the United States tend to prohibit the sale of liquor on Sundays; there is no exception for non-Christian vendors or purchasers. Jews, on the other hand, tend to regard their religious rituals as exclusive of the goyim and would be unlikely to, for example, pursue a law forbidding work on the Shabbat.

To put it another way, my concern about the influx of Mexican Catholics isn’t that they’re going to force me to go to Mass or that my daughter might marry a brown person; my concern about a massive influx of Mexican Catholics is that they may attempt to ban abortion, bring prayer to schools and, if they really prosper here, do things like limit divorce rights and restrict access to birth control. All those things are perfectly possible. Many of them have already happened, to one degree or another, because of the spread of evangelical Christianity in the United States. And this is why your use of the “Jewish Question” is a faulty-- and incredibly loaded --analogy: the prejudice being aimed at Jews in Europe was xenophobia: the charges against European Jews by European anti-Semites were patently false, and anyone who knew anything about Judaism would have recognized that.

But concern about a new kind of religious radicalism invading a free secular society is perfectly valid. It may be pointless-- it’s not like there’s any specific legislation a religiously tolerant government can pass to oppose religious radicalism. And I certainly agree that many of the people who speak out against “radical Islam” and “Islamofascists” are racists and xenophobes. But the reality-- and I hope you’ll forgive me for saying that it’s a fucking obvious reality --is that there are reasons to be concerned about the spread of religious radicalism, the fastest-growing form of Islam (and again, Islam has this in common with Christianity) is the scary radical version, and that it is therefore reasonable to be concerned about the spread of radical Islam. Trotting out the old canards about Irish Catholics and European Jews, while presenting a tempting target, utterly fails to address this very basic point.

Posted by Judah | May 23, 2007 4:57 PM

Hmm... on second thought, I read some of Bawer's blog. I suspect in the pursuit of a fairly righteous cause (putting human rights and the truest liberal ideals ahead of multiculturalism), he may have allowed himself to get bent into a somewhat racist cat. Very sad. He put forth a very reasonable face in the interview and most of his writings I've seen at least.
Yeah, the world is all fucked up and reason never seems to prevail, anywhere ever. A lot of people in Red America dream of the liberal bastion of Europe, but it's just a dream. Why am I even involved in a conversation about something we can't do shit about anyhow? I cede the floor to the next guy.

Posted by christopher | May 23, 2007 5:17 PM

Let's say that Islamic radicalism is this fast spreading problem and that the Muslim masses, instead of assimilating, will decide to get on board and change the laws to fit their own religious beliefs, that is if they ever become a true majority. I will accept all these premises for the sake of argument.

First off, I don't think Muslims will ever become a big enough group to govern without forming coalition governments. So at best, at their most radical, they're still greatly limited by demographics- they'd have to accommodate moderate parties they would invariably have to ally themselves with.

The idea that Muslims are going to overtake Europe is akin to the fear that Anglos have that white people are going to disappear in a sea of minorities in this country, basically unfounded. The demographic theory doesn't take into account the fact that immigration isn't an endless tide but can and will ebb and flow depending on jobs and job demand. This idea of the Muslim swarms is baseless. Europe is simply not used to having considerable minorities, so their fear Muslims is not unlike the fear that caused white flight in the states after the race riots, a kind of siege mentality.

Secondly, if this is a problem then it seems to me that Europeans need to consider changing their way of life. For example, if they're so afraid of Muslim immigrants being radicalized, perhaps they should stop being so dependent on their labor and work the shit jobs themselves. Perhaps they should invite the immigrants to participate in their society instead of relegating them to substandard neighborhoods and poverty. Maybe they should make a few concessions to Muslims, like if they want to wear burqas allow them to. And perhaps major newspapers could refrain from printing cartoons designed to anger and agitate.

In other words perhaps they should nip radicalism's appeal in the bud by creating truly equal societies. But there's a double standard at work here. Racist cops in France can assault immigrant youths with impunity, Europeans can discriminate and even utter racist epithets without losing sleep. And then they can act surprised when the youths gravitate towards radical Islam.

At the risk of drawing another sketchy analogy, let's compare Europe's immigration problem with the U.S.'s immigration problem, forgetting for the moment that lack of out and out violent radicals among the Mexicans. Perhaps Mexican voting patterns will eventually move the United States in a socially conservative direction. But on shoulder's does this problem lie? Is it the Mexican "invasion," or is it with employers' needs and the fact Americans are unwilling to work for piece rate in the fields? If some Mexicans refuse to learn English, is it because they're simply unwilling to play ball, or is because American society doesn't invite low wage earners a place at the table?

So, suggesting that radicalism is fast growing and the Muslims are able to somehow form a coalition government, on whose shoulders should we lay the blame? In my experience with history, one thing has become clear. Radicalism is what happens when one segment of society is disenfranchised, abused, and left out of government. You can't cage someone like an animal, make every effort to parcel them out, discriminate against them, refuse them the right to carry on their customs, print offensive material about them, and then expect some of them not to turn to radicalism. What turned Malcolm X to a fairly radical strain of American Islam? Europe bears responsibility for this "crisis." As for right wing extremism, Muslims have been subject to it in Europe since the 1970s. But that's its own issue.

I'm saying all this with the assumption that Judah is right. I don't buy the demographic argument, but even if I did, Europe *still* needs to be critical about its own role in radicalization. It need to nip it in the bud not with alarmist rhetoric but with careful, intelligent, and critical care.

Posted by Jay | May 23, 2007 5:49 PM

All that said, I'm not in complete disagreement with Judah. Just partial.

Posted by Jay | May 23, 2007 6:22 PM

I'm sorry, but I simply don't agree with your interpretation of events. The whole, "white people aren't willing to do the shitty work they make brown people do," thing is a compelling riff, but I started life as a homeless teen and I worked my way up through at least two jobs that involved, literally, being up to my knees in shit. There are plenty of poor Americans and plenty of them willing to do shit work, and that's just as true in the UK as it is in Seattle. The reason migrant workers can undercut natives isn't that natives won't do the work, but that employers aren't willing to follow their own country's labor laws to pay a basic minimum wage for the work. In the current immigration debate, it's not the workers who want "guest laborers" in the US-- it's the businesses.

The situation in France is completely fucked up but neither is France's attitude in any way unusual among successful industrialized nations with a large native population. I mean, imagine if me and some other white people snuck into Japan, had some kids there, and then demanded that our kids be given the full rights and privileges of Japanese citizens. How do you think that would go over? I have a feeling it'd be an enormous cluster fuck, but the question doesn't really come up because it's impossible to sneak into Japan, and Japanese society is so homogeneous I'd get pinched before you could say, "Look, a big fucking gaijin!" So while I basically agree that there is a great deal of shocking racism in Europe, I have to call bullshit on the implication that this is some principle sin that Europe deserves to be punished for. No country responds favorably to colonization and economically successful countries less so than most.

In my experience with history, one thing has become clear. Radicalism is what happens when one segment of society is disenfranchised, abused, and left out of government.

Sure. But so what? You started this comment thread with an allusion to the "Jewish Question", so let's take it back to that: how did the Nazis come to power? Germany lost a war, they were brutally oppressed by the victors of that war, and the fruit of that oppression was a radical right-wing political philosophy that eventually took control of Germany and led us into a second World War. And yes, the League of Nations was responsible for creating that radicalism. But so what? Should we have just rolled over and let the Nazis have us because we helped create them? Of course not.

Posted by Judah | May 23, 2007 11:55 PM

1. The main point of my argument was that Americans have caused their own economic problem with immigration. Whatever the motivation of employers, the fact is they're not willing to pay minimum wage and they will continue to hire illegal immigrants, and most European Americans, unless they're out and out desperate, are not going to work 12 hours in the field or minimum wage. US economic policy is the root of whatever problem immigrants are purportedly causing by simply meeting demand. And as person who wrote my MA thesis on migrant labor in Washington state, I can say with some certainty, that Anglo Americans are not willing to work for low wages, even minimum wage, in the fields. European Americans used to be the main migrant laborers, and you know what happened? They gradually abandoned the work for higher wages in industrial jobs or used the lack of discrimination against them to set up their own farms. Your own personal Horatio Alger story, while great, is not an empirical basis for economic history. Maybe Americans would work the fields and live with months of unemployment in the off season, while moving from substandard home to substandard home. I dunno, but somehow I don't see it happening.

2. France can be racist and reactionary all they want, but like I said it's the result of their own economic policy, which drew on immigrants to occupy certain segments of its economy. The native French, even by their own admission, have lived pretty well off the fat of the welfare state while giving away sectors of their economy to the foreign born. The French can choose to treat this new minority with the respect afforded by pluralistic, accommodating societies, or they can be a multi-tiered, two class, discriminatory society- I think ultimately, they chose the latter. Either way, they left their doors open. And now they expect the underclass to play by their rules.

3. Extending the analogy to Nazi Germany falls flat, because the historical crimes they committed far outweigh anything Muslims, a minority group, have ever done. It's like drawing an equivocation between murder and a dirty look. The Jewish question analogy makes some sense because:

a. Jews were and Muslims are disenfranchised minorities, disliked by the majorities who regard them as alien, relegated to undesirable sectors of the economy.

b. Antisemites thought that Jews were involved in a conspiracy, either to retain power or to install Bolshevik governments. The anti-Muslims Europeans think there's a conspiracy to install Islamist government in Europe.

c. Both reactionary factions point to isolated incidents or the radical actions of a few to build their cases. "Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky are Jews and radicals, Marx was a Jew and a revolutionary," versus "Muslims get mad when Mohammad gets made fun of, some Islamists are revolutionaries."

Beyond that, there aren't many similarities. But there's more of a connection there than between Nazi Germany (a nation that specialized in anti-pluralism and oppressive tactics against its minority populations) and Muslim immigrants. It's strange when people advance arguments like "we have to deport or otherwise neutralize a minority to prevent fascism," since that kind of paranoid nationalism is the very root of fascism.

But hey, maybe that's just me.

Posted by Jay | May 24, 2007 12:41 AM

If it's true that pluralism and multiculturalism doesn't work, and maybe they don't, you can count democracy among the ideological failures of the twentieth century. It democracy requires homogeneity to protect itself it's not much of a system for this world. It's just another road to authoritarianism. You don't save tolerance by eliminating it.

Posted by Jay | May 24, 2007 12:52 AM

Er, "doesn't" should be "don't." Bleh, I'm drunk and tired and going to bed. :)

Posted by Jay | May 24, 2007 12:54 AM
Is it the Mexican "invasion," or is it with employers' needs and the fact Americans are unwilling to work for piece rate in the fields?

You're over-generalizing the situation involving migrant agricultural workers to account for all illegal employment of immigrants; if you did your thesis on migrant workers then I expect you know that something like ten percent of illegal immigrants in the U.S. are employed in the agricultural sector-- they don't like doing that job any more than anyone else does. But much of the nature of that job is due to who's been working it for most of the last 100 years. Jane Jacobs pointed out that economic and technological innovation tends to skip over work done by oppressed people. There are solutions to the problem of seasonal agricultural labor demand; we just haven't been motivated to find them because big agribusiness has been able to maintain a supply of disposable people to serve that need.

Meanwhile, there are other jobs-- food service, janitorial, construction labor, and so on --that American citizens are basically willing to do for minimum wage that are increasingly dominated by undocumented workers employed below that standard.

The main point of my argument was that Americans have caused their own economic problem with immigration.

And I say to you again: so what? We're not talking about economic problems, we're talking about social and political problems. At the end of the day, I'm basically willing to let people who shop at Wal*Mart lie in their beds when it comes to economic considerations. I'm much less willing to stand by for certain social and economic shifts (though here I should say that, while Latino Catholics have several social agenda items, like abortion, that I find kind of alarming, I actually think their particular brand of Catholicism is pretty benign-- I just started out using them as an example so I'm sticking with that model).

Extending the analogy to Nazi Germany falls flat, because the historical crimes they committed far outweigh anything Muslims, a minority group, have ever done. It's like drawing an equivocation between murder and a dirty look.

Now hold on. You're saying that comparing radical Islam to Nazism is like comparing a dirty look to murder-- but comparing the way Muslims are being treated to the way Europe treated the Jews "makes some sense"? Bullfuckingshit.

Jews were and Muslims are disenfranchised minorities, disliked by the majorities who regard them as alien, relegated to undesirable sectors of the economy.

I can't speak to France, but the Muslims in my neighborhood in Cardiff were fully enfranchised. They owned property, ran businesses, and were able to walk safely throughout the city. They lived closer to High Street than I did.

Antisemites thought that Jews were involved in a conspiracy, either to retain power or to install Bolshevik governments. The anti-Muslims Europeans think there's a conspiracy to install Islamist government in Europe.

The word "conspiracy" is a problem. If a basic tenet of a certain religion is to establish a religious state, or a secular state dominated by religious dogma, adherents to that religion aren't exactly involved in a "conspiracy". American evangelicals have this goal, and they're hardly involved in a "conspiracy." Some European Muslims have a similar goal. That's a fact: their religious leaders are on record with that goal, and those leaders have followers. I'm not even saying that's the dominant thread of European Islam, but your utter refusal to recognize it as a significant trend is patently disingenuous.

Both reactionary factions point to isolated incidents or the radical actions of a few to build their cases. "Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky are Jews and radicals, Marx was a Jew and a revolutionary," versus "Muslims get mad when Mohammad gets made fun of, some Islamists are revolutionaries."

And here's where your wheels really leave the road. The things you're comparing exist on completely different scales. The system of government that Europeans are concerned about exists in several countries around the world, complete with a number of truly horrifying human rights violations that are practiced on a regular basis and condoned by the governments of those countries. Those countries are held up as models by some European Muslims. Less restrictive versions, where stoning is illegal but women still aren't allowed to be doctors, are much more widely accepted among European Muslims.

It's strange when people advance arguments like "we have to deport or otherwise neutralize a minority to prevent fascism," since that kind of paranoid nationalism is the very root of fascism.

Yeah, that is strange. When I advance that argument, you go ahead and shoot me down. But I haven't advanced it, so for now how 'bout you stop trying to straw man me.

Posted by Judah | May 24, 2007 8:37 AM

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