Saturday, February 16, 2008

Britain's Separate-But-Equal Treatment of Islam: Is the Idea Better? Or Batty?

That was Then

"We can learn so much from Europe/England/Denmark" was a common attitude when I grew up. At least, in the academic sub-culture I lived in. The phrase, "we can learn so much from...." was actually used sometimes. The idea was that all the best ideas were from
  • Europe in general, because of all that 'culture'
  • England, because of their socialized medicine
  • Denmark, because that country had legalized prostitution
    (thereby showing how open-minded and uninhibited they were)
'We can learn so much Sweden' was on the list, until word got out that the country was a world leader in suicide rates.

This is Now

We can learn so much from England: like how to promote humanism, multiculturalism, and, probably, terrorism.

That's what the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) said in a report yesterday.

There's probably still something to learn from England's well-intentioned effort to make minorities feel at home by exempting them from the rules that Britons had to follow, and letting them (forcing them?) to set up ghettos, where they could do things their way: 'Don't do it!'

The United Kingdom's experiment with a 'separate-but-equal' approach to distinctions between people isn't going too well. That should be no surprise. Remember how well "separate but equal" worked in America?

An "International Herald Tribune" article had interview extracts from one of the RUSI report's authors, Gwyn Prins, including these quotes:
  • "One reason that the United States does not suffer from homegrown terrorism is that it is the world's melting pot, where immigrants are Americans, salute the flag, and obey the constitution and the law."
  • "The U.K. should have the self-confidence to do the same, but we don't."
  • "We don't insist they learn English, that they fully and properly integrate into our society as a whole. So we have these ghetto societies where Islamist extremists can create a narrative of resentment and recruitment."
Prins is a specialist on international security at the London School of Economics. He's also good at pressing all the wrong buttons, at least for people in some circles.
  • "The safety and security of our citizens is the government's main priority and the government rejects any suggestion that Britain is a soft touch for terrorists."
    Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government
Britain's current Prime Minister is unquestionably aware that terrorism is an issue for the United Kingdom. The wisdom of his approach to the situation may be debatable. Last July, for example, he forbade government ministers from using the word "Muslim" and told his team to drop the phrase "war on terror."

I've got nit-picking problems with what the RUSI report writer said.
  • "Melting pot," for example, isn't a good metaphor for America. I've traveled around enough to know that there are very distinct regional and ethnic cultures here. "Crazy quilt" might be a better way to describe what we've got.
  • Saying that "the United States does not suffer from homegrown terrorism" is simply wrong. From the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, to a mosque-burning in Tennessee, America has had home-grown terrorists. The American terrorists, though, generally are people who don't like this country's habit of welcoming non-WASPs.
On the whole, though, I think that the British think tank identified an important point.

People moving to another country should expect to meet some qualifications. For example, I'd expect to learn German, if I decided to live in German, and expect that I'd have to learn German customs and obey German laws if I became a citizen there. In fact, I'd be a little disturbed if I found that I had to live in the "American quarter" of Düsseldorf, or some other area, and had "leaders" who discouraged me from learning German. I'm not talking about American military bases, with their transient populations, but what happens with individual immigrants.

That's not to say that ethnic neighborhoods are wrong: it's natural for people with preferences for, say, garlic or lutefisk to settle near each other.

But trying to be "multicultural" by allowing select groups to set up independent legal systems, and then maintaining de facto barriers to keep members of that group from getting jobs outside the ghetto, is crazy. It hasn't worked before, and I'd be astonished if it worked now.
More, about the RUSI report: Study criticizes UK's vulnerability to Islamic extremists "International Herald Tribune" (February 15, 2008)

Selected "Another War-on-Terror" posts about the 2007 Glasgow/London attacks in the United Kingdom:
"Arrests, Doctors and Terrorists: Keeping a Cool Head"
(July 2, 2007)
"Doublethink, Doctors, and Dumb Ideas"
(July 3, 2007)

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.