2017/02/23 Leave a comment
Good long read by Christopher de Bellaigue, taken from his latest book, The Islamic Enlightenment: The Modern Struggle Between Faith and Reason (conclusion excerpt):
Even accounting for the new arrivals of recent years, Muslims amount to just 6% of Europe’s population, and 1% of that of the US. But proportionality of response is not considered a virtue among the new nationalists – and even if the Muslim immigration figures were to start to fall, and all fear of submergence under a Muslim tide was demonstrated to be empirically groundless, who’s to say the populists would allow the thrill of fear to abate?
What seems more likely is that today’s proponents of harsh anti-Muslim measures will find retroactive justification in any virulent reaction they excite, leading to even more and harsher measures against Muslims – much as the European powers whose interventions helped hasten the collapse of the Islamic Enlightenment at the start of the last century felt their actions were vindicated by the violence that followed.
For those whose primary concern is the perpetuation of cultural homogeneity, the pressing question is a simple one: what is to be done with the Muslims? The clashist version of history makes their antipathy to modernity indisputable; integration and assimilation are therefore impossible. This would seem to be the position of the 60% of Germans, for example, who have been found in surveys to agree with Frauke Petry’s AfD that Islam does not belong in their country.
This is the kind of polling that converts easily into action by a decisive commander-in-chief. And it is surely legitimate to observe that Islamism of a strident and intermittently violent sort has made inroads in European societies, bringing a combative intolerance to parts of the continent where the socio-economic indicators are in any case low.
But the question for anyone concerned for the overall health of society is a more complicated one; the answer will have to address the actual threat of jihadism, calm the fears of those who believe an intangible and precious part of their culture is endangered, and revive the dimming faith in the possibility of inclusive, multi-ethnic liberal democracy.
We already know what Trump’s reaction to the next atrocity will be. “I told you so,” he will say, and give the screws a turn. Electronic tagging; deportations; orders to shoot illicit refugees (a suggestion of the AfD’s Petry) – the menu of vengeful retributions before the clash-mongers is long and mouthwatering.
For those grappling with the second of the two questions, the options are already limited. The European refugee crisis has hardened the continent’s heart, probably forever, and sectarian identity has been placed at the heart of western political debate. All of this happened before Trump entered the White House; under Obama, it was already hard enough for anyone hailing from a Muslim-majority country to gain entry to the US.
But as Trump and his allies are eager to demonstrate, there is a vast difference between the existing regimes of stringent border security – which effectively served as a moratorium on any mass Muslim migration – and the new environment of official vilification. The scapegoating of Muslim communities in Europe and America is the road to pogroms, and it is that road that we are starting down, even if we can still turn back.
Relish for the clash is in the air. Bannon is up for it. So are the jihadis; Trump is doing their work for them, proving that the west hates Islam for xenophobic reasons, which is what they said all along. The entrenchment of clashism – as an observation presented to a few academics in 1957 becomes the creed of a new ruling class – will only draw more and more people into believing its truth. •