Telling friend from foe: The Trump team is dogmatic on Islam, but Russia is more pragmatic | The Economist

Interesting Trump/Putin contrast – telling:

WITH every passing day, there seems to be fresh news about the Islamophobic sentiments harboured by people close to Donald Trump. It’s not so much that anything fresh is being said now. Rather, the ideological backgrounds of some senior individuals close to America’s new president are being studied ever more closely as they settle into power.

And at the heart of their declared ideology, it seems, is an essentialist view of Islam: in other words, a view that the religion itself, as opposed to some nasty misinterpretation, can push people to violence and is therefore to be treated as dangerous.

As one obvious example, Stephen Bannon, Mr Trump’s chief strategist, has spoken with utter contempt of the two previous occupants of the White House because of their optimistic insistence that Islam, in its heart, is a peaceful faith.

You would expect the former boss of Breitbart, a far-right news service, to be scornful of Barack Obama’s ideas about the Muslim faith. But as people are now recalling, Mr Bannon was equally dismissive of George W. Bush, who a few days after the 9/11 attacks insisted that Islam was “a religion of peace.” Such naivete, in Mr Bannon’s acerbic opinion, was to be expected from a “country-club” politician whose faint-hearted view of the world was little better than the Clintons’. In truth, Islam was a religion of submission and therefore it could not be a force for peace, he insisted.

One of Mr Bannon’s lieutenants, a former Breitbart writer who now has a job at the White House, takes a similarly Manichean view. That is Hungarian-born Sebastian Gorka, who will report to Mr Bannon as a member of his Strategic Initiatives Group. An ex-soldier and military lecturer, he was quoted by the Washington Post as saying he “completely jettisoned” the idea that the causes of terrorism were complex: on the contrary, what mainly inspired anti-American terror was the martial messages delivered in certain parts of the Koran.

To see a third strain of Islamoscepticism, take Ben Carson, an ex-presidential candidate and Mr Trump’s nominee for the job of housing secretary. A fundamentalist Christian with an apocalyptic streak, the retired neurosurgeon has espoused the view that Islam is not really a religion at all but rather a “life-organisation system”. It follows, he thinks, that no adherent of that faith should ever be president.

Whatever the intellectual merits of these arguments, one striking comparison immediately occurs. Although some of his Western admirers might be surprised to hear this, it is virtually unimaginable that Vladimir Putin or any of his well-disciplined team would allow themselves to make such a generalised critique of Islam or any other global faith.

If anything Mr Putin grows more insistent over time in following and even outdoing the Bush-Obama school: respectful of Islam as a religion, determined to give his own Muslim citizens a decent existence as long as they obey him, and open to geopolitical co-operation with Islamic countries. And in the regions of Russia where Islam prevails, loyalty to Mr Putin sits comfortably with an increasingly conservative religious culture.

In a news conference last December, Mr Putin firmly told a questioner he did not like to hear Islam “wrongly linked to terrorism”. Earlier last year, the president said that “in Russia, Islam will always find a reliable ally, prepared to cooperate in solving world problems.” Opening a mosque in Moscow in 2015, he excoriated the Islamic State terror group for “discrediting a great world religion”.

Does this mean that he or other powerful figures in Moscow have pored over the Koran and come to conclusions which are different from those of Mr Trump’s zealous advisers? Of course not. It simply means that the Russian state, like any confident geopolitical player in a diverse and volatile world, wants to keep its options open. To commit yourself unconditionally to supporting one global religion against another is an act of irrational self-limitation. Such a one-track approach would be, to use a favourite Russian word, netselesobrazno (“inexpedient”).

The same sort of flexibility (call it ruthless pragmatism if you like) characterised 19th-century Britain and France when they battled to support the Muslim Turks against Christian Russia. A similar approach was taken by American cold-war strategists who forged deep alliances with Muslim powers such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Indonesia.

By contrast, some of Mr Trump’s people talk as though they really do put religious or cultural differences above all else in the way they analyse the world and plan America’s course. Mr Bannon, for example, thinks present generations should be inspired by the example of their forefathers and their “long history of the Judeo-Christian West [and its] struggle against Islam.” But the truth is that those forefathers were often more utilitarian in their choice of friends and foes than we might imagine.

In contrast with America’s new masters, Mr Putin’s Russia is closer in mentality to Lord Palmerston, the British statesman who said in 1848 that in matters of diplomacy, “we have no eternal allies and…no perpetual enemies, [only] our interests are eternal.” Whatever their own affiliation, single-minded strategists usually apply the same principle to religious diplomacy too.

How to teach citizenship in schools | The Economist

Good discussion of what citizenship or civics education should entail:

IN 2012 David Souter, a retired justice of the Supreme Court, argued that the greatest threat to American democracy was neither a foreign invasion nor a military coup, but ignorance about how government functions. “An ignorant people can never remain a free people,” he said, referring to Thomas Jefferson, “and democracy cannot survive too much ignorance”. People become willing to hand power to a strongman who promises to solve all their problems. “That is how the Roman Republic fell…That is the way democracy dies, and if something is not done to improve the level of civic knowledge, that is what you should worry about.”

He was on to something. The World Values Survey, a global study by social scientists from over 100 countries, found that far fewer millennials object to autocracy than their elders. Only 19% of millennials in America and 36% in Europe say that if the government were incompetent or failing to do its job, a military takeover would still not be legitimate. Just a third see civil rights as “absolutely essential” to democracy. In America, more than a quarter dismiss the importance of free elections. In 1995 only 16% of American youngsters thought democracy was a “bad” system; by 2011, that number had risen to almost 25%.

One reason may be that long-standing democracies have forgotten the need for eternal vigilance. Worried about unemployment and global competition, governments and schools have focused on preparing young people for work, rather than to participate in democracy. Citizenship education, said Michael Gove, Britain’s education secretary from 2010 to 2014, was a “pseudo-subject”. In America, schools no longer bother testing it. When the subject survives, it is often recast narrowly, says Bryony Hoskins of Roehampton University, as a way to counter radicalisation or promote national values to recent immigrants.

In Britain, a positively regarded curriculum introduced by the Labour party in 2002 has been largely dismantled. There is much talk of “educating for character”, with the aim of developing “grit” and “resilience”. But it is narrow and instrumental, says Ben Kisby of the University of Lincoln, reflecting the government’s focus on pupils as future workers and consumers, rather than as voters. In Poland, a recent revision to the syllabus has thrown out all discussion of how the European Union functions; the focus is on Polish identity formation. “‘Nation’ is more important than ‘society’; ‘Pole’ is more powerful than ‘citizen’,” says Alicja Pacewicz of the Centre for Citizenship Education in Warsaw.

In America civic-education classes no longer cover what life is like in non-democracies. Schools used to educate their charges about life in the Soviet Union, points out Richard Kahlenberg of The Century Foundation, a think-tank, making the case for democracy by comparison. But when the cold war ended, that stopped. He thinks declining support for democratic values is a partial consequence. “It’s easy to be sceptical [about the value of democracy] when you don’t know anything different,” he says. Without context to help them appreciate the benefits and safeguards afforded by democracy, young people may be vulnerable to emotional appeals to nationalism and fiery rhetoric about seizing power from “elites”.

Laboratories for democracy
The best civic-education classes do more than impart knowledge about how government works. They create environments in which pupils get used to the tools of democracy, such as debating controversial issues and disagreeing respectfully. Parents may worry that schools are indoctrinating their children, and teachers can be wary of treading on thorny ground. But schools are more ideologically diverse than many other environments, making them ideal testing-grounds for such skills.

It is important to avoid crude propagandising, says Peter Levine of the Centre for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University. Pupils’ criticisms of their country’s politics and governance may be perfectly legitimate. Members of some minorities may be justified in distrusting arms of the state, such as the police; cheerleading in the classroom may alienate them further. Best to combine realism with discussions of practical steps pupils can take to bring about change, says Mr Levine. Rather than simply teaching about Martin Luther King Jr and the Voting Rights Act, for example, use the story to emphasise that social movements are driven by ordinary people, who can make a difference.

Schools in Nordic countries seek to ensure democratic values are developed right across the curriculum, and from the very start. Even the youngest children take part in age-appropriate decision-making: choosing the name of their group, for example, or what they will eat. Older pupils are expected to help develop school policy. They learn to make a case and cope with being outvoted—and that every choice, even that to abstain, has consequences.

Research suggests that these programmes work: pupils who have become used to discussing current affairs are much more likely to be politically engaged and involved in their communities, and to vote when they are old enough. Civic-education programmes also increase the likelihood that pupils will have more accepting attitudes towards people of different backgrounds. In Norway, where 95% of 14-year-olds participate in school elections, more than in any other country, nearly the same share participate in multicultural activities outside school.

A new programme, “Learning Democracy at Utøya”, has turned the Norwegian island where 69 people were killed by a far-right terrorist in 2011 into an education centre. Over three days pupils learn about the attack, as well as challenges to democratic values and how to respond to them. Much of the programme is interactive, prompting students to reflect on their values and argue their position. They then develop lessons to share with their peers back at school. Participants say it is an emotional experience: most of the victims were teenagers. In the words of Marianne Støle-Nilsen, a teacher in Bergen who took four of her pupils to the island, it is a place “where you don’t have to explain why teaching democracy and continuing to fight for it is important”.

Source: How to teach citizenship in schools | The Economist

Poor countries need to allow more immigration, too | The Economist

Good commentary on the self-defeating immigration policies in some developing countries:

All political leaders, even dictators, must take some note of how their people feel, and the citizens of poor and middle-income countries are often no better disposed to immigrants than are voters in the rich world. Besides, a government that threatens to shut its refugee camps or uproot millions of migrant workers from their homes might be able to extort some money out of Western donors. But the treatment meted out to immigrants in developing countries is nonetheless dismal—futile, illiberal and economically ruinous.

Even in rich countries, where most workers have formal jobs and are known to the authorities, illegal immigrants are hard to catch. In poorer countries, where the state is weak and almost everybody works informally, it is close to impossible. National boundaries tend to be porous. At about 4,100km (2,500 miles), the border between Bangladesh and India is longer than the border between Mexico and the United States. It is so thinly policed that cattle can be trafficked across it.

Like migrants everywhere, the people who cross into developing countries are nearly always trying to better themselves and their families. Unlike the migrants who make it to the West and the Gulf states, they are frequently very poor indeed. When America and Europe tighten their borders, middle-class Indians and Nigerians lose out; when India and Nigeria crack down, some of the world’s most desperate people suffer.

A populist boomerang

The astounding success of the south Asians who were booted out of Kenya and Uganda in the 1970s and ended up in Britain suggests that Africa would have done well to keep them. Migrants bring dynamism and fresh ideas to poor and middle-income countries as well as rich ones; the lump-of-labour fallacy is just as fallacious in the developing world. Sometimes governments realise this and pull back. In 2014 South Sudan unveiled a mad plan to force companies to sack their foreign workers within a month. It backtracked when firms and charities pointed out that they could not function without Kenyans and other immigrants. South Sudan is not exactly overflowing with skilled graduates who can keep the lights on.

It would be far better for the immigrants and for the countries where they fetch up if governments widened the legal routes for settlement. At present some of the world’s least appealing places have the toughest visa requirements and expect economic migrants to jump through the tiniest hoops. You would think their streets were paved with gold.

Source: Poor countries need to allow more immigration, too | The Economist

Protest and lose your passport: To silence dissidents, Gulf states are revoking their citizenship | The Economist

Western states that revoke citizenship are not in a position to criticize:

SINCE the small Gulf states became independent from Britain in the latter half of the 20th century, their ruling families have sought fresh methods for keeping their subjects in check. They might close a newspaper, confiscate passports, or lock up the most troublesome. Now, increasingly, they are stripping dissidents—and their families—of citizenship, leaving many of them stateless.

Bahrain is an energetic stripper. Its Sunni royals have dangled the threat of statelessness over its Shia majority to suppress an uprising launched in 2011, during the Arab spring. In 2014 it stripped 21 people of their nationality. A year later the number was up tenfold. “Gulf rulers have turned people from citizens into subservient subjects,” says Abdulhadi Khalaf, a former Bahraini parliamentarian whose citizenship was revoked in 2012 and now lives safely in Sweden. “Our passports are not a birthright. They are part of the ruler’s prerogative.”

Neighbouring states are following suit. Kuwait’s ruling Al-Sabah family have deprived 120 of their people of their nationality in the past two years, says Nawaf al-Hendal, who runs Kuwait Watch, a local monitor. Whereas, in Bahrain, most of those targeted are Shia, Kuwait’s unwanted are largely Sunni. Ahmed al-Shammari, a newspaper publisher, lost his citizenship in 2014.

In 2015 a Saudi jihadist blew himself during Friday prayers in Kuwait, killing 27 Shias. A crackdown followed, targetting the many Saudi Salafists suspected of obtaining Kuwaiti nationality in the chaos that followed the ejection of Iraqi forces from Kuwait in 1991. “We’re looking for frauds,” says General Mazen al-Jarrah, a member of the ruling Al-Sabah family responsible for the emirate’s Citizenship and Residency Affairs.

The socially more liberal United Arab Emirates does it, too. Fearful of unrest orchestrated by the Muslim Brotherhood, the UAE has revoked the citizenship of some 200 of its people since 2011, says Ahmed Mansoor, a human-rights activist now under a travel ban.

The most enthusiastic stripper of all is Qatar. It revoked the citizenship of an entire clan—the Ghafrans—after ten clan leaders were accused of plotting a coup together with Saudi Arabia in 1996. Over 5,000 Ghafrans have lost their nationality since 2004. Many have since won a reprieve, but thousands remain in limbo, says Misfer al-Marri, a Ghafran who is now exiled in Scotland.

The consequences can be severe. Summoned to hand over their ID cards and driving licences, individuals lose not just the perks that come with citizenship of an oil-rich state, such as cushy jobs, but the ability to own a house, a car, a phone or a bank account. Those abroad are barred from returning. Those inside the country cannot leave. The stateless cannot register the birth of a child or legally get married. They might find a sponsor and apply for residents’ permits as foreigners, but if refused they are liable to be arrested for overstaying. “It’s a legal execution,” says one Bahraini, who still has his citizenship. “They’re left without rights.”

Rulers say they are waging war on terror. Among the 72 who lost their Bahraini citizenship in January 2015 were 22 alleged members of Islamic State. But by blurring the boundary between peaceful and violent dissidents, the authorities risk turning the former into the latter. Laws which once permitted the removal of citizenship only for treason (or if people acquired a second nationality) are now much broader. Defaming a brotherly country can cost you your passport in Bahrain. There too the penalty applies to “anyone whose acts contravene his duty of loyalty to the kingdom” or who travels abroad for five years or more without the interior ministry’s consent. Victims include academics, lawyers, former MPs, their wives and young children.

Westerners are in no position to lecture, retort Gulf autocrats. Most EU states revoke citizenship for reasons other than fraudulent applications, in particular for involvement in terrorism. Britain, for instance, allows it if it is conducive to the “public good”. Before becoming prime minister, the then-home secretary, Theresa May, did it 33 times. “Everyone has the right to a nationality,” says Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Sadly, not everywhere.

Economist Daily Chart: Measuring Well-Being

Interesting if somewhat predictable:

HOW do you measure the well-being of a country’s citizens? Looking at wealth alone is clearly not enough: oil-rich states in the Middle East may have the highest levels of GDP per person yet they lag behind the West in terms of civil rights, education and a host of other quantifiable (and desirable) measures. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) attempts to answer this question with its “Sustainable Economic Development Assessment” (SEDA).

This year’s report, published on July 21st, encompasses 163 countries or territories and looks at each country’s performance across three measures: economics, investment and sustainability. Economics is made up of income, stability and employment; investment comprises health, education and infrastructure; and sustainability includes income inequality, civil society, government and environment. Altogether, BCG crunched nearly 50,000 data points.

The usual suspects occupy the top spots, with Norway reaching the maximum of 100 in the normalised scoring system, as it has every year since SEDA was launched in 2012. It is followed by northern European states and other developed countries. Petro-states such as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, two of the wealthiest countries in the world, come in at 25th and 26th respectively. The United States’ relatively poor standing at 19th reflects its high income inequality as well as its low health and education scores.

BCG also compared financial inclusion (the percentage of individuals aged 15 or over with a bank account) against each country’s SEDA score, revealing a clear relationship.The report’s authors found that countries with higher financial inclusion generally had higher well-being than their peers at a similar income level. The relationship between financial inclusion and well-being is most closely connected to good infrastructure (telecoms and electricity), civil society (gender equality) and government (strong regulation and the rule of law).

Source: Economic Issues

Daily chart: A new ranking of every country’s citizenship | The Economist

Citizenship Comparison EconomistInteresting chart and comparison by Henley & Partners (the company active in citizenship investor programs). The higher rankings for Europe compared to Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand, in particular, reflect the Schengen treaty and related visa-free travel among European countries, an over-weighted factor in my view compared to other factors:

IF A baby is born in a rich country, she will have a longer, healthier life with more economic opportunities than one born in a poor, conflict-ridden nation. But quantifying the value of a person’s nationality compared with another is tricky. The number of countries that a person can travel to or settle in without bureaucratic restrictions may be one indicator, but the appeal of those countries is just as important. Russian nationals can travel to over 100 countries without a visa, for instance, but none are rich economies. Similarly the size of an economy may be a large factor, but it does not account for settlement opportunities elsewhere. Americans benefit from living in the world’s largest economy yet they can settle in only a handful of smaller economies. An inaugural “quality of nationality index” (QNI) by Henley & Partners, a consultancy, attempts to do just that by looking at the value of citizenship on two counts: to a person living in the country (the internal value) and the ability to live or work elsewhere (the external value). The internal value combines a nation’s economic heft, its score on the UN’s human development index, and its peacefulness and stability. The external value measures the number of countries that a citizen may travel to and settle in, and the weight of those in terms of economic strength and stability.

In 2015 all of the top 32 spots were European, boosted by economic integration and the right to free movement and work. Germany’s position at the top reflects its stability, economic strength and the ability of its citizens to travel and work in strong and stable economies elsewhere. The United States ranks behind European Union states for two reasons: a lower score on peacefulness (measured on the Global Peace Index), due to its nuclear arsenal and involvement in armed conflicts, and a low score on settlement freedom. And as Britons prepare to vote on whether to leave the European Union on June 23rd, another filip to the Remain campaigners. Dimitry Kochenov, creator of the index, calculates that Britain would fall from 11th to 30th in the ranking were it to leave, placing it behind Japan.

Source: Daily chart: A new ranking of every country’s citizenship | The Economist

Shakespeare and religion: Shakespeare’s complex views of the Islamic world | The Economist

Another part of the richness and insight of Shakespeare:

Shakespeare, as proven time and again in other fields, was ahead of his time in his sensitivity to the Islamic world and its inhabitants. Of course, his plays reveal his own set of prejudices, fascinations and contradictions, but over the course of his career the myth of the bloodthirsty Muslim is eclipsed by a more sensitive depiction in Othello—a change possibly influenced by the visit of Morocco’s ambassador to London in 1600. In our present day, where skewed misconceptions about Islam in Europe is the norm, there is much Shakespeare can teach us about who and what we identify with.

Source: Shakespeare and religion: Shakespeare’s complex views of the Islamic world | The Economist

Of two minds [the advantages of a second language] | The Economist

More on the advantages of thinking in a second language:

MORE and more of the world is working in English. Multinational companies (even those based in places such as Switzerland or Japan) are making it their corporate language. And international bodies like the European Union and the United Nations are doing an ever-greater share of business in the world’s new default language. At the office, it’s English’s world, and every other language is just living in it.

Is this to the English-speaker’s advantage? Working in a foreign language is certainly hard. It is easier to argue fluently or to make a point subtly when not trying to call up rarely used vocabulary or construct sentences correctly. English-speakers can try to bulldoze opposing arguments through sheer verbiage, hold the floor to prevent anyone else from getting a word in or lighten the mood with a joke. All of these things are far harder in a foreign language. Non-natives have not one hand, but perhaps a bit of their brains, tied behind their backs. A recent column by Michael Skapinker in the Financial Times says that it’s important for native English-speakers to learn the skills of talking with non-natives successfully.

People working in a language not their own report other perks. Asking for a clarification can buy valuable time or be a useful distraction, says a Russian working at The Economist. Speaking slowly allows a non-native to choose just the right word—something most people don’t do when they are excited and emotional. There is a lot to be said for thinking faster than you can speak, rather than the other way round.

Most intriguingly, there may be a feedback loop from speech back into thought. Ingenious researchers have found that sometimes decision-making in a foreign language is actually better. Researchers at the University of Chicago gave subjects a test with certain traps—easy-looking “right” answers that turned out to be wrong. Those taking it in a second language were more likely to avoid the trap and choose the right answer. Fluid thinking, in other words, has its down-side, and deliberateness an advantage. And one of the same researchers found that even in moral decision-making—such as whether it would be acceptable to kill someone with your own hands to save a larger number of lives—people thought in a more utilitarian, less emotional way when tested in a foreign language. An American working in Denmark says he insisted on having salary negotiations in Danish—asking for more in English was excruciating to him.

All this applies regardless of the first language. But in the modern world it is English monoglots in particular who work in their own language, joined by non-native polyglots working in English too. Those non-native speakers can always go away and speak their languages privately before rejoining the English conversation. Hopping from language to language is a constant reminder of how others might see things differently, notes a Dutch official at the European Commission. (One study found that bilingual children were better at guessing what was in other people’s heads, perhaps because they were constantly monitoring who in their world spoke what language.) It was said that Ginger Rogers had to do every step Fred Astaire did, but “backwards, and in high heels”. This, unsurprisingly, made her an outstanding dancer.

Indeed, those working in foreign languages are keen to talk about these advantages and disadvantages. Alas, monoglots will never have that chance. Pity those struggling in a second language—but also spare a thought for those many monoglots who have no way of knowing what they are missing.

Source: Of two minds | The Economist

ICYMI – Islam, Europe and Belgium: Belgium’s dilemmas over Islam are common to Europe | The Economist

Hobson’s choice:

The problem of which partners to choose for co-operation (and how to avoid killing them with kindness) is especially acute in Belgium, which has a tradition, reflecting its Catholic heritage, of offering generous state help to religious institutions—above all, religious education. As explained in a recent article by Caroline Sagesser, of the Free University of Brussels, the Belgian state officially recognised Islam as one of the country’s religions, eligible for help, back in 1974. Ever since it has been trying to find a reliable Muslim body that can help certify mosques and schools (as deserving of official help) and is also genuinely representative of the community.

Only in 2007 did an “Executive of Belgian Muslims” start playing that role effectively, and it has been paralysed by internal quarrels, or by quarrels with the government, quite a lot of the time since then. The government’s need for a Muslim partner has grown more acute in the past couple of years since young zealots, mostly of Moroccan origin, began leaving for Syria. It recently earmarked €3.3m ($3.8m) to pay the salaries for 80 new imams; it still needs advice on where to find suitably moderate recipients of that money. (As of now, the country has around 300 imams, of whom about 160 are on the state payroll.)

The Executive has in recent weeks undergone some internal upheavals. An imam who had been president since March 2014, and complained that he was being undermined and threatened by hardline conservatives, stood down in favour of one who enjoys the formal backing of Belgium’s Moroccan community. The new president, Salah Echallaoui, has been serving as head of an association of Moroccans in Belgium which is also supported by the Moroccan state. In a sense, the Belgian and Moroccan governments are now co-managing Belgian Islam; that marks a big change from the Executive’s earlier days, when it was boycotted by Moroccans. Mr Echallaoui has been much in the news in recent days, condemning the terrorist attacks and insisting they had nothing whatever to do with the true message of Islam.

The emergence, and the government’s acceptance, of a leader with official Moroccan backing reflects a wider European trend. A decade ago, the talk in many countries was of fostering a “European Islam” which would put down local roots and gradually reduce the influence of migrant-sending countries like Algeria, Turkey and Morocco. But in the current situation, European governments are concluding that they need all the help they can get in keeping extremism under control; and if the governments of other countries can assist, so much the better. The Belgian government used to compete with Turkey’s religious affairs directorate, the diyanet, for influence over Muslim newcomers; more recently it has welcomed the diyanet‘s help in preparing imams to work in Europe. The situation in other European countries with Turkish minorities has shifted in a similar way.

Another strong Muslim institution in Belgium, much heard in condemnation of the terrorist attacks, is the Ligue des Musulmans de Belgique (League of Muslims of Belgium) which in recent years has organised a high-profile exhibition of all things Islamic in Brussels. But the government is under international pressure to keep it at arm’s length. The United Arab Emirates, as part of its broader campaign against the global Muslim Brotherhood, has denounced the League as a “terrorist” organisation under Brotherhood influence. The League rejects that allegation, calling itself a peaceful organisation of mainly Moroccan-born Belgians which has no connection with Egypt (the homeland of the Brotherhood) or the Gulf. But the government keeps a careful eye on the speakers invited to the exhibition and it has banned at least one.

The problem is that any Muslim who wields enough clout to be a useful partner to the government is probably getting backing from somewhere, be it the governments of Morocco or Turkey, the Brotherhood or some other international network. And whenever the government starts grooming its own favourite Muslims, whose distinguishing feature is impeccable moderation, they can rapidly come to be seen as stooges by their own community. Many European countries, including Britain, face just that dilemma. But governments will keep trying to find the right partners because they feel they have no choice.

Source: Islam, Europe and Belgium: Belgium’s dilemmas over Islam are common to Europe | The Economist

The great melting [less segregation, more diverse communities]| The Economist

Good piece on how racial segregation may be being replaced by economic segregation in the UK and USA:

OAK PARK, just outside Chicago, is known to architecture aficionados as the home of Frank Lloyd Wright, who built some fine houses there. This small suburban village also has another distinction: it is racially mixed. In the 1970s it vigorously enforced anti-segregation laws; today the “People’s Republic of Oak Park”, as it is sardonically known, is 64% white, 21% black and 7% Hispanic. “Oak Park stands out so much,” says Maria Krysan at the University of Illinois at Chicago. But it does not stand out quite as much as it used to.

America remains a racially divided country, and Chicago is one of its most segregated cities. The south side is almost entirely black; northern districts such as Lincoln Park are golf-ball white; a western slice is heavily Hispanic. Yet the Chicago metropolis as a whole—the city plus suburban burghs like Oak Park—is gradually blending. For several reasons, that trend is almost certainly unstoppable.

When it comes to race, appearances often deceive. Streets can appear black or Asian when they are actually full of black or Asian shoppers who live somewhere else. Statistics are more reliable, and the best measure is known as the dissimilarity index. This reflects the proportion of people of a given race who would have to move out of their census tract—an area of a few thousand inhabitants—and into another one in order to spread themselves evenly. In 1970 the black-white dissimilarity index for Chicago was above 90, meaning that more than 90% of blacks would have had to move in order to become integrated with whites. By 2000 the figure had fallen to 81. William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, calculates that it now stands at 76.

In 45 of 52 big American metropolises with sizeable black populations, black-white segregation has fallen since 2000, according to Mr Frey. Southern cities, which many blacks fled in the first half of the 20th century, are now less segregated than northern ones such as Chicago and New York; sunbelt cities such as Las Vegas and Phoenix are more mixed still. In 1980 the average black urbanite lived in a district that was 61% black. Now he or she lives in a place that is 45% black (see chart). Asians and Hispanics are neither more nor less segregated than they were, probably because two trends are cancelling each other out: as some members of those fast-growing groups move out of ethnic enclaves, they are replaced by new immigrants. Still, both groups are far more integrated than blacks: the Hispanic-white index of dissimilarity was 44 in 2010, and the Asian-white score just 40.

America is unusual, both for its obsession with race and for its superb statistics. Poor countries lack the means to collect precise data, and many rich ones choose not to. Some, like France, are so high-minded that they hold race to be irrelevant; in others racial censuses smell uncomfortably like fascism. A few countries distinguish foreigners from natives, though, and there the trend is mostly the same as in America.

In Sweden migrants from outside Europe have become less segregated since the 1990s, calculate Bo Malmberg and others at the University of Stockholm. By one measure, desegregation is happening fastest in Malmo, a city with lots of immigrants. In the Netherlands Sako Musterd, a geographer, calculates that foreigners have become less segregated from the native Dutch in Rotterdam. Amsterdam grew more segregated until the late 2000s, but now seems to be going the other way.

The European country that stands out is Britain. Like America, Britain collects excellent data on race and ethnicity; also like America, it is becoming steadily more mixed. Gemma Catney at the University of Liverpool has shown that every ethnic minority became less segregated between 2001 and 2011 (the two most recent British census years). Black Africans, who had been among the most clustered, are spreading out especially quickly.

…Perhaps Britain and America will become more segregated over time, with ghettos in new places. Perhaps many cities in countries that refuse to collect race data are quietly dividing. Perhaps—but probably not, because the forces driving integration are both powerful and widespread.

The first is the drift of non-whites from city centres to suburbs and commuter towns. British and American suburbs are still mostly white, but less so than before. In 1990 just 47% of American Hispanics and 37% of blacks lived in suburbia; by 2010, 59% of Hispanics and 51% of blacks did. Cook County, which includes the city of Chicago, has lost 140,000 black inhabitants since 2000, while the surrounding rural and suburban counties all gained them. Whites are moving into some cities, including Chicago, though rarely as quickly as blacks are leaving.

Some old suburbs have become heavily black or Hispanic—or, in Britain, south Asian. But for the most part suburbanisation leads to mixing. Ethnic minorities who leave city centres tend to be better-off and neither need nor want to live in enclaves. If they choose to move to a newly built suburb, as they often do in America, they will be blocked neither by racist housing laws, which have been abolished, nor by bigoted assumptions about the character of the neighbourhood. That is why the swelling, sprawling cities of the American south and west are so mixed.

A second force for integration is immigration. In Newham the churn caused by immigrants arriving and then moving to better districts has thoroughly dissolved old colour lines. The same is true of parts of America, too. John Logan of Brown University says that whites often stay when Latinos and Asians move in to a district. After a while blacks move in too, taking advantage of the path paved by the Latinos and Asians—and whites mostly continue to stay. Logan Square, a handsome district in north Chicago with wide boulevards and big, stylish houses, seems set to become such a “global neighbourhood”. Its population is 42% white and 46% Hispanic.

A powerful third force is love, which integrates families as well as places. In London whites and black Caribbeans marry or cohabit in such numbers that there are now more children under five who are a mixture of those two groups than there are black Caribbean children. Marriages between whites and Asians are growing, too. America is mixing just as quickly. In 2014, Mr Frey calculates, 19% of new American marriages involving whites and 31% involving blacks were mixed-race. The share for both Hispanics and Asians was 46%. The children of such unions can be hard to deal with statistically. So in the future the numbers will probably underestimate the speed of desegregation.

All this is most welcome. But there is a fourth driver of racial and ethnic integration in cities, which is not so benign. Because big cities are such desirable places to live, and have failed to build enough new homes, they are now so expensive that people can barely afford to segregate themselves. In London property prices have risen so steeply that the average first-time buyer needs to raise a deposit equivalent to about 120% of annual income, according to Neal Hudson of Savills, an estate agent. In the 1980s it was enough to raise just 20-30%.

Increasingly, people just buy property where they can. And along with the great weight of evidence showing that countries are becoming less segregated by race and ethnicity, there is also growing proof that they are becoming more segregated by income. One kind of separation might be replaced by another.

Source: The great melting | The Economist