Saturday, August 14, 2010

Marquand -- European views of the Ground Zero Mosque

The above article was written by Robert Marquand from Paris, and is entitled "Ground Zero Mosque debate echoes Europe's fears of Muslims"

Those who were worried about European opinions about our invasion of Iraq may also be interested in European views of Bloomberg and the Ground Zero Mosque. Marquand doesn't become really interesting until he writes, "Yet striking among pundits, websites, and bloggers is an often articulate though sometimes churlish depiction of Islam as a single monolithic form of faith, inherently violent and extreme, and of Muslims as incapable of being moderate."

I don't know whether Marquand is being fair with his generalization. I can see how it might be largely accurate for the French because their Muslims, many of them, are Arabs who fled the Algerian war or came from other parts of the Maghreb. Arab Muslims often consider themselves Muslims of the highest order because Mohammad was a Muslim, and the spread of Islam was initially an entirely Arab affair. Other ethnicities entered into the mix as time went on, but today, Arabs seem to be in the first rank of Islamist aggression.

While Egyptians are not historically Arabs, they speak Arabic and like to think of themselves as Arab. Sayyid Qutb, the Muslim Brother who created the Islamist doctrine for Arabs, was an Egyptian. Saudi Arabians practice a form of Islamism derived from Wahhabi. I've read writers who see a connection between the Wahhabi Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brothers of Egypt. Pakistanis are not of the Sayyid Qutb tradition but from an equivalent Islamist tradition, one that preceded Sayyid Qutb's, that of Maududi. The Taliban were from his line of Islamism. There are other strains of Islam where Islamism hasn't made great inroads.

I was also interested in this statement of Marquand's: An essay on a French leftist website Agoravox spoke of incomprehension and shock that on the same week German authorities closed a radical Hamburg mosque New York approved the Islamic center: “The Mayor, instigated by an imam who is said to be ‘moderate,’ plans to build a mosque extremely close to Ground Zero, where stood the Twin Towers that Islamist fanaticism reduced to rubble…You rub your eyes and read again. No, it is not a look for the justification…but instead of understanding, you dive deeper into an impression of unreality.”

If I understand Marquand here, he is saying that the Germans and New Yorkers are in these instances behaving exactly opposite to the "types" the Agoravox has been used to. The French often surprise me by their strange views of what goes on over here. We are not a secretive people. I wonder why they so often get things wrong. Agoravox seems to think we in the U.S. are just as monolithic as Muslims. In actuality, while they may have a much higher percentage of Liberals than we do in the U.S., the Liberals do regularly win elections here. Thus, while I might oppose the Liberal stance New York City has taken in regard to the Ground Zero Mosque, I felt nothing drawing me "into an impression of unreality." They have a very "real" presence in the U.S. And while I might wish them to disappear, I see little likelihood of that ever happening.
Marquand makes a more insightful observation when he writes, ". . . the ground zero controversy plays out as a Europe long proud of its cosmopolitan tolerance is roiled by rising Muslim populations and now bans minarets and burqas, and is seeing populist anti-Islamic sentiment in its politics. The rise five years ago of “Islamophobia” here has not ended. Rather, it has become more comfortably settled. Social politeness and taboos on talking about Islam are eroding."

"Cosmopolitan tolerance" has worked very well in the U.S. as well -- as long as the immigrants coming here wanted to be assimilated. We have a better record than Europe of making our immigrants welcome, thus decreasing their need to pull away and settle into enclaves. Europeans here might observe that we have less to be proud of, less to want to preserve. Perhaps, but Europeans can't have it both ways. If they want to preserve their European traditions, they shouldn't accept immigrants unwilling to assimilate.

Marquand goes on, "The fact is, Europeans aren’t exactly sure what they think about Islam, analysts say. Educated classes here grew up in a multicultural world and imbibed values of getting along. But between the idea and the reality a shadow is falling. The French and Belgian government burqa ban is a symbolic pushback against growing numbers of Muslims not yet embraced by the country, but who the states want to assimilate. The burqa discussion powerfully hit Great Britain in July, before the new Conservative government put its foot down against such a ban. "

The French and Belgians see the problem caused by the Muslim unwillingness to assimilate, and they seem to be taking a Borg approach to this matter, telling Muslims, "You will be assimilated." That process wasn’t very attractive on Star Trek.  I doubt that it will be any more so in France and Belgium.  It would be simpler if they started earlier with immigration policies that allowed in only those who seemed willing to be assimilated.
I wouldn't have anticipated anything in this article to be amused by, but I laughed at the following: "Noam Chomsky, the MIT linguist and public intellectual, a Jew long critical of Israeli policies, recently stopped in France after being prevented from lecturing at an Palestinian university in the West Bank, and observed that, 'Europe has always actually been more racist than the US.' Now there is a monolith.

The French apparently didn't find his comment as amusing as I did. Marquand observed, "Such opinions are deeply unappreciated here. Yet in the past week of comment on the lively web site Rue 89, and on Le Monde, the majority of those choosing to express themselves on the Ground Zero subject, though a self-selected group, were expressed hostility to Muslims without much qualification. There were other views, including the humorous French position that a mosque or any other building would be fine on the site, so long as it was “not a McDonalds.” But a majority took the ground zero case as a chance to air a 'clash of civilizations.'"

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