The Daily Telegraph blogs section runs an egregiously offensive post by Richard Landes titled, “Liberal intellectuals are frightened of confronting Islam's honour-shame culture”.
The article’s catalyst is a recent poll by ipsos MORI on ‘Global Views on Immigration,’ which surveyed popular views in nine European countries: Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden.
The poll shows “a close correlation between the views the natives of a given country have about immigration and the number of, and level of, integration of Muslim immigrants in their countries.
“For example, the poll finds that Belgians and Britons hold the most negative views on immigration; these countries also have some of the least integrated Muslim populations in Europe. The poll also shows that among Europeans, Poles have the most positive views on immigration and immigrants; Poland happens to have Europe's smallest Muslim community, which comprises less than 0.1% of that country's total population,” according to Soeren Kern, Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Strategic Studies Group.
Kern in an article cites a number of polls to bolster his argument that “the recent shift in public opinion on immigration may yet mark the beginning of the end of European multiculturalism.”
Glaringly absent from his string of polls is the Gallup Coexist survey of 2009, which showed that Muslims are more likely to identify with the UK and its national institutions than the rest of society, as well as a range of other surveys demonstrating the high level of Muslim integration across Europe.
Landes quotes Kern as follows:
“The findings – which come as Europeans are waking up to the consequences of decades of mass immigration from Muslim countries – point to a growing disconnect between European voters and their political masters regarding multicultural policies that encourage Muslim immigrants to remain segregated rather than become integrated into their host nations.
“The survey results mirror the findings of dozens of other recent polls. Taken together, they provide ample empirical evidence that scepticism about Muslim immigration is not limited to a “right-wing” political fringe, as proponents of multiculturalism often assert. Mainstream voters across the entire political spectrum are now expressing concerns about the role of Islam in Europe.”
Landes then goes on to develop his particular take on what he claims to be “one of the most worrying developments in Western culture over the last decade - between a elite that controls much of the discussion in the public sphere (journalists, academics, talking heads, mainstream politicians) and who fear being called Islamophobes and racists more than they fear Islamist racists, and a population of people who, whenever they voice concern about the behavior of the Muslim neighbors, are told not to be Islamophobic racists.”
Muslims, according to Landes, are “polite” not “civil” that is, they are careful with what they say so as not to cause offence that demands compensation for “dishonour” and therefore incapable of the “civil discourse” so instrumental to the foundations of modern society.
Landes argues, “In Dar al Islam, a Muslim’s contradiction/criticism of Islam was punishable by death, a fortiori did this hold true for infidels. Modernity has been a Nakba (psychological catastrophe) for Islam, and Islam in all its variegated currents has yet to successfully negotiate these demands of modernity.
“On the contrary, the loudest voices in contemporary Islam reject vehemently the kind of self-criticism modernity requires. Criticism constitutes an unbearable assault on the manhood of Muslims.”
He goes on:
“Indeed, global Jihad and the apocalyptic prophets who nourish it with genocidal rhetoric, represent a particularly virulent form of abreactive modernity, in which the powers of modern society (especially technology) are turned to the task of destroying a modern culture of public, free debate about what is fair.
“Secularism demands more maturity, it requires that religions be civil, that they not use force (the state) to impose their beliefs on others. Religious communities have to give up their need to be visibly superior as a sign of being right/true. This involves high levels of both self-confidence and tolerance for public contradiction.”
What then does Landes make of the state-imposed systems and culture of communism and socialism that so marred the moral conscience of Europe in the 20th century in its brutal violation of the dignity of man? Is it only religions that have been guilty of using the state apparatus to impose ideology?
Now this bit is important, apparently, since it is bold text in the article:
“Thus, Islam’s – Muslims – relationship with the “other” (kufr, infidel, lit. one who covers [the truth]), is the great problem to resolve in this coming generation, and at the heart of that problem lies the ability of Muslims to tolerate criticism from outsiders.
“We in the modern (and post-modern) West, who first forged these remarkable rules of self-restraint and created so rich, so variegated, so tolerant a culture, have a right to demand that Islam adopt these rules, certainly those who live in and benefit from the civil polities we have created. Indeed, if we treasure these values of tolerance, and freedom, and generosity towards the “other,” we owe it to ourselves and to the Muslims in our midst, to make this demand. Anything else, including the fantasy that this is not a problem, is cultural suicide.”
Well, Muslims will indeed be amused to read the bits about Europe trailblazing in creating “so tolerant a culture”. Indeed Europe developed “so tolerant a culture” that the continent’s worst examples of man’s brutality against fellow man, “the other” are blithely ignored by Landes. He completely casts aside the Crusades, colonialism and the forced expulsion or conversion of religious minorities. Minorities who, in turn, found security and succour in Islamic lands, such as the Jews who settled in the Ottoman province of Salonica when they were expelled from Spain in the 15th century. Not to mention the Nazi genocide of Jews during the Second World War and the genocide of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica during the ethnic cleaning wars in the former Yugoslavia.
Landes is an American and one may well ask what makes him think himself such an authority on multiculturalism in Europe?
Moreover, Landes would do well to acquaint himself more thoroughly with Islamic history and the verses of the Qur’an which command respect for the followers of other religious traditions and none; with the institutionalisation of criticism and difference through the development of the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence, and of the civility that permeates Islam:
“Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knows best those who have strayed from His Path, and those who receive guidance.” (An-Nahl: 125)
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