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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Bruce Bawer Gets It

Toleration of intolerance is intolerable. Bruce Bawer has written a riveting essay on Western Europe and its Muslim dilemma. Excerpts from Tolerating Intolerance: The Challenge of Fundamentalist Islam in Western Europe:

...in America the U.S.-born children of immigrants are American citizens, in the Netherlands the Dutch-born children of immigrants are called "second-generation immigrants." (The same is true in Germany, where even "third-generation immigrants"–and, yes, they do use that term–aren’t automatically entitled to citizenship.)

To an American, such a generation-by-generation perpetuation of outsider status can only make one think of the enduring social marginality of many American blacks. Yet at least we Americans have been taught by our bloody history that "separate but equal" is not a viable democratic option, but a cruel delusion.

Moving among the native Dutch, whose public schools teach children to take for granted the full equality of men and women and to view sexual orientation as a matter of indifference, I felt safe and accepted. Yet many Muslim youngsters in the Netherlands attend private Islamic academies (many of which receive subsidies from the Dutch state as well as from the governments of one or more Islamic countries). These schools reinforce the Koran-based sexual morality learned at home–one that allows polygamy (for men), that prescribes severe penalties for female adulterers and rape victims (though not necessarily for rapists), and that (in the fundamentalist reading, anyway) demands that homosexuals be put to death. If fundamentalist Muslims in Europe do not carry out these punishments, it is not because they’ve advanced beyond such thinking, but because they don’t have the power.

Then, in September 2001 (only five days, in fact, before the destruction of the World Trade Center), the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet reported that 65 percent of rapes of Norwegian women were performed by "non-Western" immigrants–a category that, in Norway, consists mostly of Muslims. The article quoted a professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo (who was described as having "lived for many years in Muslim countries") as saying that "Norwegian women must take their share of responsibility for these rapes" because Muslim men found their manner of dress provocative. One reason for the high number of rapes by Muslims,explained the professor, was that in their native countries "rape is scarcely punished," since Muslims "believe that it is women who are responsible for rape." The professor’s conclusion was not that Muslim men living in the West needed to adjust to Western norms, but the exact opposite: "Norwegian women must realize that we live in a multicultural society and adapt themselves to it."

It is in such ways that freedoms begin to erode.

Then there’s the case of Denmark. In Norway, when people dare to discuss the issue of Muslim integration, they sometimes speak ominously of danske tilstander: "Danish conditions." What they are referring to is a state of affairs in which there exists not only de facto segregation between native and Muslim communities but also a routine and open expression of mutual hostility and distrust. Such a situation has existed for some time now in Denmark, where recent years have seen, for example, the movement of children out of integrated public schools and into private "white" and Muslim schools. After September 11, however, the tensions between native Danes and the Muslim community became more heated than ever.

"If you’re not with us, you’re against us," said President Bush soberly in the wake of September 11. Some European Muslims made it clear they were with us; some made it clear they were not. Faisal Bodi, the same writer who complained in the Guardian in 1999 about women’s shelters, returned to the pages of that newspaper on October 17, reporting with approval that since September 11 is imam had offered up Fridayprayers "imploring God to annihilate Islam’s enemies, to ‘rock the ground underneath their feet.’" Here in Norway, a child counselor talked on national TV about a grade-school class he had visited in order to discuss the atrocities. All the children were upset, he said, except for one little Muslim boy who was sincerely puzzled by his classmates’ reactions at his home, the boy explained, everybody was celebrating.

Finally, in a post-attack survey of Moroccan immigrants in the Netherlands, 21 percent openly admitted their support for an anti-American holy war. (A similar Sunday Times poll, reported in early November, revealed that 11 percent of British Muslims considered the attack on the World Trade Center justified.)

It was, at long last, a stunning–and welcome–affirmation of the Dutch people’s basic commitment to democratic values and to true integration. And it signaled that the Dutch, perhaps the most liberal people on the planet, have finally faced a crucially important fact: that there is nothing at all liberal about allowing one’s reluctance to criticize another person’s religion to trump one’s dedication to individual liberty, human dignity, and equal rights. Tolerance for intolerance is not tolerance at all.

Muslim immigrants should not only be taught the language of their adopted country; they should be comprehensively educated in the ways of democracy. They must learn–no small order–to think for themselves, to read critically, to question. Most important, they must learn to question those things they have been taught to regard as most sacred. And they must be encouraged to see themselves as free individuals in a free land rather than as members of a straitjacketing subculture whose religion obliges them to take their marching orders from autocratic community leaders.

As for those who, after a period in the West, make it obvious that they are unwilling or unable to adapt, they must be sent home and replaced by deserving individuals who can adapt. This may appear extreme, but there is no reasonable alternative. For at stake in all this, ultimately, are the basic freedoms of all Westerners–not only women and homosexuals, but everyone, including Muslims and former Muslims who wish to live in a place where they can be themselves. At stake, indeed, is Western civilization.

Amen, amen.


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