Welcome Doug Saunders  (The Globe and Mail) and Host Siun (FDL)

The Myth of the Muslim Tide: Do Immigrants Threaten the West?

Doug Saunders is a journalist of the rare kind these days. He actually researches, explores, investigates and only then reports on the major trends of our global community. His earlier book, Arrival City, explored “the final shift of human populations from agricultural life to cities… —from Maryland to Shenzhen, from the favelas of Rio to the shanty towns of Mumbai, from Los Angeles to Nairobi. “ His new book The Myth of the Muslim Tide addresses the fearful response of so many Americans and Europeans to one key constituency of that shift, Muslim immigrants.

While explicitly addressing the extreme views of a Geert Wilders or Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann about Islamic immigrants, Saunders points to so many of the attacks on those communities that also resonate – without acknowledgement – in much of “liberal” society. For all the claims of openness and tolerance, so often the comments and attitudes we hear are reminiscent of the “liberal” racism embodied in the old “some of my best friends are ….”

In responding to either school of bigotry, Saunders sensible, fact-driven book is especially helpful. The Myth of the Muslim Tide begins with a section titled “Popular Fiction” which profiles the right-wing Eurabia myth as well as the various groups and parties allied to it. The author shows us just how very close the writings of “legitimate” politicians can be to the manifesto of an Anders Breivik – and how widespread such attitudes are in Europe, Canada, and in the US.

Once Saunders has laid this out, he begins to methodically tear down the myths used to support those attitudes. In The Facts, he takes us through the standard “beliefs” about Islamic population, integration and extremism, framing each as a series of statements followed by detailed, research based rebuttals. It is marvelous to see a book like this shift away from the polemical to social science and very effectively. Here’s one example:

When a terrorist attack occurs in the West, it’s sometimes hard to avoid wondering if our Muslim neighbours might be watching in silent approval…

It is chilling to learn that 7% of American Muslims say that acts of violence against civilian targets, such as bombings, are ‘sometimes justified’ if the cause is right, and that an additional 1% say they are ‘often justified.’ … Taken in isolation, such poll results have become fodder for a widespread belief that that ordinary Muslims condone terrorist violence. But those numbers leave out the larger context. When the same question was asked of Americans in general, an astounding 24% said they believe bomb attacks aimed at civilians are ‘often or sometimes justified’ and 6% feel they are ‘completely justified.’ In other words, American Muslims are between four and six times less likely than other Americans to endorse violent acts against civilians.

In addition to this debunking of the Myth, Saunders reminds us of the popular fears common during the height of Catholic and Jewish immigration and assimilation. I’m old enough (and Irish Catholic enough!) to remember well the comments heard in the 50s and the arguments against electing John Kennedy since he would obviously be beholden to the Vatican rather than the American people. And the more one explores the information about those times – including the history of terrorism and violence – the more one can begin to view the current bigotry as the latest wave of a social problem we need to work to overcome.

European bureau chief for The Globe and Mail, Doug Saunders has won the National Newspaper Award, (Canada’s Pulitzer) four times and you can follow him on twitter @DougSaunders. Happily today we can discuss this fascinating book with him here and learn what steps he hopes we’ll see to counter the hysteria of the Muslim Tide myth.

 

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

91 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Doug Saunders, The Myth of the Muslim Tide”

BevW August 26th, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Doug, Welcome to the Lake.

Siun, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

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Siun August 26th, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Thanks Bev and a warm welcome to Doug and thanks for a fascinating book.

I’m sure we’ll have much to talk about today.

To get us started, I’m interested in learning a bit Doug about what started you reporting on immigration and urbanization issues?

dakine01 August 26th, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Good afternoon Doug and welcome to FDL this afternoon.

Hi Siun, busy weekend!

Doug, I have not had a chance to read your book so forgive me if you address this in it but isn’t this fear of the “scary Mooslims” a bit more over the top than the previous bigotry against Jews and Catholics? After all, those groups didn’t cause the US to abandon totally 200 years worth of legal precedents.

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Busy indeed Dakine – perhaps two different views of “alien” eh?

dakine01 August 26th, 2012 at 2:05 pm
In response to Siun @ 4

Hehindeedy

BevW August 26th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Doug, welcome and thank you for joining us from Toronto today.

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Ah Doug is back in Canada at the moment – he also, btw, did some really neat reporting from London about the Olympics which folks should take a look at:

http://dougsaunders.net/

Douglas Saunders August 26th, 2012 at 2:08 pm
In response to Siun @ 2

Hello Bev, Siun and guests – - it’s a great pleasure and privilege to be on Firedoglake.

Siun, my work has evolved out of my life somewhat. I’ve lived for most of my life in what I call “Arrival City” neighbourhoods – - first in Toronto, then in Los Angeles, then in London. And after seeing how the internal economics and social functions of these neighbourhoods work — by connecting a remote village to the core economy of the city – - I decided to visit 20 cities on 5 continents to write my last book, Arrival City (http://arrivalcity.net).

But after publishing that book, I realized that a lot of people questioned whether some of those arrival-city denizens were really becoming part of the city (and country) around them — because they were from Muslim cultures.

And shortly after that, I found myself in Oslo the day after Anders Behring Breivik murdered 77 people in the name of stopping Muslim integration – - and used the arguments I’d been reading in bestselling books and blog posts for most of the decade.

I realized that there had never been a book spelling out exactly what happens when a new religious minority arrives in the West – - and looked dispassionately at how Muslim immigrants are faring. That’s what got me started.

BevW August 26th, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Doug’s page at The Globe and Mail, with tweets

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 2:11 pm

That’s quite a starting point!

I realized when reading your book that I somehow think of the reactions to “Muslim” immigration as different in the US v. Europe and I’m wondering if you see differences between the EU, Canada and US in reactions?

Douglas Saunders August 26th, 2012 at 2:13 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 3

Bev, if you look at what happened when East European Jews and southern European Catholics were the new arrivals in the US, the similarity is striking. They both were seen as completely alien from our civilization – - more alien, I’d argue, than Muslims are now (the connected world and the global spread of Enlightenment values has made “the East” far less alien than the fringes of Europe were in the last century).

But the political response was harsh. Remember, the US didn’t have any immigration laws at all, or passports and border controls, until the First World War. And after the war, the anti-Catholic and anti-Jewish rage – - there had been millions of Italians and Jews entering the country – - welled up, and legislative things were done that were far more severe than what we’ve seen today. Immigration was reorganized, through legislation, along racial lines. And it became almost impossible for Jews and many Catholics to enter the USA for decades.

And the rhetoric you heard in Congress and in bestselling books and in newspaper columns was exactly what you hear about Muslims today: They come from extremist countries, their religion is really an ideology of conquest, they’re violent, they breed like crazy, they’re trying to impose their religious laws on America, they’re terrorists. Exactly the same.

Ludwig August 26th, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Don’t you think ME Muslims have a lower approval rate that Amerikans of “violence against civilian targets, such as bombings”?

PR is a disgusting profession.

CTuttle August 26th, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Aloha, Doug and Siun…! Mahalo, Doug for writing about Islam, do you delve into the various aspects of Islam, such as Shi’a, Sunni, and Sufi…?

ThingsComeUndone August 26th, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Just what are the numbers of terror attacks committed by all Muslims? Then subtract actual immigrants from that number as opposed to terrorists visiting from other countries just to commit terror attacks.
Also deaths because of American Right Wing terror and racist/anti gay/ anti woman hate crimes minus the attacks done by muslim immigrants.
Just the number of domestic abuse, boyfriend, male family member etc death numbers of females by males close to their wives who disapprove of them for some reason must be much higher than the deaths caused even by 9/11.

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 2:17 pm
In response to Doug Saunders @ 11

We really have lost our memories of all of that. Along with my own recall of anti-Catholicism, I remember a very good friend’s father telling us about how when he returned from fighting in WW2 he was unable to book a hotel room for he and his new bride here in the States because he was Jewish.

We forget so easily!

ThingsComeUndone August 26th, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Sorry I like numbers. I remember them better.

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Things, you’ll love Doug’s book then as it is full of numbers of the best king … solid research that counters all the nonsense we too often hear.

Douglas Saunders August 26th, 2012 at 2:20 pm
In response to Siun @ 10

Siun, I see a lot of similarities, but there are some important differences.

In terms of the language used, it’s basically the same – - except that the American and Canadian “Muslim Tide” writers such as Bruce Bawer, Mark Steyn and Christopher Caldwell tend to use Europe as a foil – - “Look at this Belgian or Dutch neighbourhood run by Islamist gangs and radical Imams, where non-Muslims dare not enter – - it’s too late to save this continent from the inevitable Muslim takeover, but we North Americans can avoid their fate.”

Those Americans have given Europeans some false ideas about themselves — such as a belief that Muslims will become a majority.

But there are differences in who we’re talking about, too. Muslims in Europe tend to be from rural backgrounds and to be poor. 89% of Pakistanis in UK are from one tiny rural district; almost all Bangladeshis are from the isolated region of Sylhet; Moroccans from from the dirt-poor Rif mountain region; Turks tend to come from the Anatolian plain or the Southeast.

American Muslims are generally middle-class and are immigration successes — they have the second highest post-secondary education rate, exceeded only by Jews and twice as high as average Americans.

Europe has the problems of poverty – - they’re the same problems faced by Moroccans and by Christians from Africa and the Caribbean. Religion isn’t much of a factor, but American writers and politicians – - and now a new wave of extremist European politicians — have led a lot of people to believe it is.

ThingsComeUndone August 26th, 2012 at 2:21 pm

While explicitly addressing the extreme views of a Geert Wilders or Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann about Islamic immigrants,

Never heard of Geert but Newt and Michelle both seem to want a Christian world that aside from the name Christian would be perfectly acceptable to Fundamentalist Muslims.
I wonder if the number of Muslim Fundies is the same proportionately as the number of Christian fundies.
Don’t the Muslim and Christian fundies both advocate violent change to create their perfect world?

ThingsComeUndone August 26th, 2012 at 2:22 pm
In response to Siun @ 17

Arrgh! I am at my limit at the Library to borrow books right now:(

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 2:22 pm
In response to Doug Saunders @ 18

That’s fascinating. I got to wondering, while reading the book, whether Europe’s relatively recent transition to the “EU” made a difference – Europe always seems so distinctive and specific – very defined local, homogenous cultures to each area or country – France v UK v Denmark say. Thinking of Language, currency, social norms. This may have been a typically American impression so please correct me. It seems as if, since founding the EU – and expanding the EU – there’s such a blurring of those distinctions. I imagine that in such a transitional time already, large scale immigration by a group with beliefs, customs and norms that are yet again different leads to more fear and reaction?

EdwardTeller August 26th, 2012 at 2:24 pm
In response to Doug Saunders @ 8

You were in Oslo when the Norwegians were first reacting to Breivik’s mayhem. What is your take on his sentence, and on the reaction to that in Norway?

I was at a fundraiser for Democrats yesterday, and when I brought up Breivik’s sentence, several people reacted negatively, suggesting he should be treated far more harshly than will be the case. I tried to explain the Norwegian concept of “restorative justice,” and was looked at in amazement or befuddlement. But these Democrats also fully support Obama’s drone wars and their attendant horrors and murder of innocents.

I enjoyed Arrival City. I live in the countryside.

Hi, Siun!

Douglas Saunders August 26th, 2012 at 2:28 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 13

Thanks CTuttle. This is not a book about Islam – - it is not a defense of Islam – - in fact, I start out by saying that I’m not religious at all and don’t particularly like anyone’s religion – - and it doesn’t delve into Koranic scripture.

That’s because I’m writing for Westerners and for secular Muslims (who may also be Westerners!) who want to know if the religious believers coming into their countries are a threat. I’m taking that question seriously, because I believe that plenty of reasonable, liberal-minded people have asked it. It makes sense: Most Muslims have emigrated to North America since 1990. So at the same time as we started seeing a lot more people in hijab and shalwar kemeez, we started hearing about Islamic terror attacks. I can’t really blame anyone for wondering if the two were linked – - it’s natural.

But the way to answer that question is not to “explain Islam” or quote the Koran or any imams. Rahther, it’s to examine actual human behaviour – - what are Muslim immigrants doing, saying and (so far as we can tell) thinking? For a religion is, in its actual manifestation, not so much a set of beliefs as a set of material human actions.

In a way, I’m putting aside the question of Islam. I’m an Englightenment secular humanist – - I’d rather not see any religion in the world. But I also am a pluralist — I recognize that any good society will contain many people doing things I consider absurd or wrong, but which I should tolerate unless it can be determined that they can harm others.

And that’s what I do in The Myth of the Muslim Tide: Use facts to answer those questions. And then use narrative to tell the story of how these ideas became popular and murderous, and how it happened when Jews and Catholics were the new arrivals.

ThingsComeUndone August 26th, 2012 at 2:30 pm

In responding to either school of bigotry, Saunders sensible, fact-driven book is especially helpful. The Myth of the Muslim Tide begins with a section titled “Popular Fiction” which profiles the right-wing Eurabia myth as well as the various groups and parties allied to it. The author shows us just how very close the writings of “legitimate” politicians can be to the manifesto of an Anders Breivik – and how widespread such attitudes are in Europe, Canada, and in the US.

How much do minorities share this view in these countries? Would the children of a Christian Copt immigrant from Egypt be as likely to share bad views of Muslims as the White majority in Germany?
Would Mexicans in Illinois share in the same proportion the bad views of Muslims as Whites in Illinois?
I wonder if minorities in different countries feel the need to fit in by picking on the kid everyone hates more than they hate him.
Or if seeing others hated as they are this causes more sympathy for the new group being hated?
I would expect mixed results among the immigrants in different countries but if the trend what ever the trend is is the same through out the developed world then Why becomes very interesting.

Douglas Saunders August 26th, 2012 at 2:32 pm
In response to Siun @ 21

Europeans like to think that their countries are uni-ethnic and uni-linguistic and always have been. That’s one of their big myths.

It’s nonsense. If you went to France in 1900 — the decade before WWI – - you’d have found that barely half of French citizens either spoke the French language or considered themselves “French.” The patchwork quilt of languages and ethnicities that made up “France” was not homogenized into a single language and culture until (and largely because of) the 20th century wars.

And that’s France, one of the more unified countries — nobody in Britain, Germany, Spain or Italy could ever claim to be uni-ethnic, as those countries were manufactured quite recently out of disparate religions, cultures and languages.

The idea that Turks and Moroccans are more alien and “foreign” than Ashkenazic Jews were a century ago is simply an act of national amnesia – something that is a historically recurring problem in Europe.

ThingsComeUndone August 26th, 2012 at 2:33 pm

In addition to this debunking of the Myth, Saunders reminds us of the popular fears common during the height of Catholic and Jewish immigration and assimilation. I’m old enough (and Irish Catholic enough!) to remember well the comments heard in the 50s

Rumor was the clan started in my northern Illinois county because White Catholics where moving in during the early 1900′s can’t recall exact decade.

jameshester12 August 26th, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Have you read the book “Two Faces of Islam” where the author rightfully points to the real extremism in Islam by the Saudis (the moderate Arabs). How the Saudis have funded radicals in countries like Pakistan, India, and many others.

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 2:35 pm

This is an interesting question – and also reminds me of a point Doug makes later in his book which seems so important to note, that when immigrants arrive, they see themselves as their former national identity (Turk, Nigerian, etc) rather than as “Muslim” … it is in our reactions that we impose one specific identity on them (I am paraphrasing and spinning at the same time so Doug may want to correct me on this!)

Douglas Saunders August 26th, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Immigrants are often extremely intolerant of immigrants. It’s a common phenomenon for immigrants to believe they were the last *good* immigrants to enter the country, and everyone after is scum – - even those from their group.

And let’s not forget that there really is not a unified thing called a “Muslim.” We’re talking about a faith that is extremely different in its practice across the three continents and scores of countries and languages in which it is practices (plus the fact that a good-sized plurality of Western Muslims are more or less secular – - ie religion isn’t the big thing in their lives.).

So you get a lot of “Muslim tide” views coming from people who we’d call “Muslims.” People don’t have natural affinities along religious lines – -studies have shown that, for example, Muslims from the Indian subcontinent living in the West prefer to have Hindus from the Indian subcontinent as neighbours rather than, say, Muslims from North Africa.

ThingsComeUndone August 26th, 2012 at 2:38 pm

In addition to this debunking of the Myth, Saunders reminds us of the popular fears common during the height of Catholic and Jewish immigration and assimilation.

During periods of economic unrest the rich always seem to play divide and conquer divide the new workers from the old workers based on their being different.
What are the old money groups in Europe backing the hate groups and politicians? I just look at who supports the GOP to find that information in America but Europe is a mess of countries and political parties.

CTuttle August 26th, 2012 at 2:38 pm
In response to Doug Saunders @ 23

Mahalo, Doug for that excellent response…! When I was stationed in Germany during the late ’80s, I’d noticed that many Germans treated the sizable Turkish population like dirt and smeared them every chance they could…!

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 2:39 pm
In response to Doug Saunders @ 25

This amnesia – but also our persistent desire to hold these romanticized national identities is so central to the whole issue, eh?

And in some ways I’d guess that that second generation immigrant “conversion” to specifically religious identity is a similar impulse?

Douglas Saunders August 26th, 2012 at 2:41 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 22

Thanks, Edward. What the Norwegians gave Breivik was their harshest sentence – - and more importantly, they acknowledged that he was a political terrorist rather than an insane person. (I mean, by some definition all terrorists are insane – I’m sure bin Laden had issues – - but it’s important to acknowledge the motive, and its connection to a wider world of activism and literature).

Norwegian lawyers tell me that Breivik will be locked up for the rest of his life. 22 years sounds like a light sentence to most Western ears, especially when the prison cell looks like an Ikea showroom.

But for mass murderers like him, who are likely a permanent threat to the country’s safety, they have a system of reviews that can keep them off the streets – - and also from publicizing themselves.

It’s an effective penal system the Norwegians have. That said, I don’t think that their impressively low recidivism rates really apply to Breivik – - in these extreme cases, you need to remove the perpetrators from society for good.

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 2:41 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 22

Hello ET – so glad you could join us.

I’m curious as well about Doug’s thoughts on the sentence – it does seem remarkably short for such a crime to me.

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 2:44 pm
In response to Ludwig @ 12

Welcome Ludwig,

Doug’s book actually recounts precisely those lower rates of approval – the numbers really should be shared as much as possible.

ThingsComeUndone August 26th, 2012 at 2:44 pm
In response to Doug Saunders @ 29

Immigrants are often extremely intolerant of immigrants. It’s a common phenomenon for immigrants to believe they were the last *good* immigrants to enter the country, and everyone after is scum – – even those from their group.

How sad the beat up the kid less popular than us idea is the dominant one. However given my own experience my parents were born here they tried to fit in as best they could but their kids have pretty much given up on that.
How do ideas about Muslim’s heck all immigrants change through the generations?
I suspect that the easier it is to pass physically the easier it is to become like the majority in thinking and hate. The harder it is to pass physically then I suspect the kids and grand kids attitudes tend to be more sympathetic to Muslims and other immigrants.

Douglas Saunders August 26th, 2012 at 2:50 pm
In response to jameshester12 @ 27

I haven’t read that book, but it certainly is a problem that the highly ascetic, intolerant Saudi brand of Islam has been spread using oil money, driving out the more moderate Ottoman and Mughal forms of Islam in many Sunni countries.

That’s a problem in Western countries especially, where people from countries like Bangladesh and Turkey — two places where women don’t generally cover their heads, for example, and are given significant rights – - move to Europe and find that their local mosque has a Saudi or Egyptian imam — for the simple reason that only those countries pay the salaries of imams, and there isn’t a robust tithing system to allow communities to pay them. So they get a more conservative version of their faith than they would in their home countries, and start becoming more religious.

The Belgians have one solution to this problem: Their government pays the salaries of imams. In France, there is univerity training for them. Mind you, Belgium has been paying priests and ministers forever, and France has been training them, so you’re just adding another Abrahamic faith to the existing policy.

I spend a lot of space in this book discussing this question – - is the way to bring secular values to these new groups to impose a blank-slate secular state, or to finance more progressive religious directions? I tend to the former view, but the latter deserves consideration.

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 2:50 pm

In Doug’s book, he carefully reviews the main areas of fear about “the Muslim tide” – population growth, integration and extremism.

I’m curious whether folks find a strong US “worry” about Muslim population growth as a theme? I don’t seem to hear as much worry about population issues here – in fact the real “fear” seems to be more related to Latino immigration here in terms of demographics – is this a particularly European fear?

ThingsComeUndone August 26th, 2012 at 2:51 pm

I seem to remember a ton of Muslim’s arrested everytime there was an election during the Bush years. Even now I hear stories of the FBI arresting some Muslim for a terror plot. How many of these cases are just political hype?
How many of these cases are later dropped for lack of evidence?
How many cases go to trial like Jose Padillia they accused a highschool dropout of trying to build a dirty bomb which I doubt he had the education to do. But torture and isolation was used and now he is in jail.
How many Muslims arrested for similar things have been treated the same way?

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 2:52 pm
In response to Doug Saunders @ 37

The financing option is really quite surprising … certainly made me think!

Douglas Saunders August 26th, 2012 at 2:54 pm
In response to Siun @ 32

The “second-generation phenomenon” is well known. Children of immigrants develop an over-romanticized vision of their parents’ ethnic homeland and faith (even when their parents actually abandoned their culture because they felt glad to escape it. This is the case among Catholics and Jews — and scholars have even identified it among children of Scots who have migrated to England.

But “integration” is measured in several ways. Personally, I believe that cultural integration is not the difficult part. The challenge is economic and educational integration – - once that happens, culture almost always follows within a generation or two. It’s one of my larger meta-conclusions: Culture is never a cause, but rather an effect.

ThingsComeUndone August 26th, 2012 at 2:54 pm
In response to jameshester12 @ 27

It seems if you are a radical Islam country you get American money. It seems if you are a rich country and promise to hate commies you get a pass on everything.

ThingsComeUndone August 26th, 2012 at 2:56 pm
In response to Doug Saunders @ 25

Very interesting!

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 2:57 pm
In response to Doug Saunders @ 41

I found that argument particularly interesting Doug as it seems to turn our usual view on its head. We have missed the concerns and thinking of the parents – who are so often seen as deeply mired in their original cultures yet who are the ones who chose to leave them.

Just wondering – do you see a similar impulse – a romanticism say of the rural life in second gen city newcomers?

Douglas Saunders August 26th, 2012 at 3:01 pm
In response to Siun @ 38

Muslim population growth is an idea that’s certainly widespread among Americans. They usually point to Europe (where, in fact, Muslim population growth and birth rates are close to converging with those of the general population).

But there’s plenty of alarm spread about Muslims taking over America (or at least some of its cities) by population.

That said, the rhetoric in the USA tends to be about Muslims secretly plotting to spread sharia law rather than swamping the population – - but the latter is usually described as part of the former. Listen to Pamela Gellar: “The jihad is coming quietly to America by the intentional building of Muslim populations in small to medium American cities.”

Or the FBI training course that taught recruits to treat ordinary Muslims as suspects – it listed “immigration” as one of the tactics of terrorism. In other words, as with Catholics in the 1950s, it has become acceptable to claim that Muslims are a secret fifth column using immigration and big families as a colonization tactic. That’s part of what I’m trying to disprove.

Phoenix Woman August 26th, 2012 at 3:04 pm

When a terrorist attack occurs in the West, it’s sometimes hard to avoid wondering if our Muslim neighbours might be watching in silent approval…

It is chilling to learn that 7% of American Muslims say that acts of violence against civilian targets, such as bombings, are ‘sometimes justified’ if the cause is right, and that an additional 1% say they are ‘often justified.’ … Taken in isolation, such poll results have become fodder for a widespread belief that that ordinary Muslims condone terrorist violence. But those numbers leave out the larger context. When the same question was asked of Americans in general, an astounding 24% said they believe bomb attacks aimed at civilians are ‘often or sometimes justified’ and 6% feel they are ‘completely justified.’ In other words, American Muslims are between four and six times less likely than other Americans to endorse violent acts against civilians.

But of course, it’s considered “freedom fighting” when white supremacist militia/Bircher types do it.

Note how the right wing has forced the Federal government to shut down most if not all monitoring of right-wing terror groups in the US — even though they are by far the biggest terror danger?

jameshester12 August 26th, 2012 at 3:05 pm
In response to Doug Saunders @ 37

Thank you for an excellent point. In many Islamic countries the myth about Saudis as “keeper of Guardian of Islam” is spread and is deep rooted. Whatever Saudis do got to be right etc. On the other hand within same countries the resentment for Saudis behavior is extremely high. The biggest complaint is that Saudis preach and practice in opposite direction, drugs, slavery, women’s right, bribes, human rights violations towards other Muslims in Saudi Arabia itself (Wikileaks cable made peoples belief more concrete)

August 26th, 2012 at 3:06 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 22

He got the maximum allowable for his offence under Norwegian law. HOWEVER the court specifically said in it’s sentence that it would keep his case under advisement and that at the end of his sentence he would be imprisoned for further 5 year stretches until such a time as he could prove he was no longer a danger to society or himself.

He’s going to die in prison.

mfi

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 3:08 pm
In response to Doug Saunders @ 45

The whole fear of Sharia line is … startling. Now these days nothing surprises me but the widespread idea that Sharia will somehow take over … shaking head.

I know in the book you talk about the use of other religious court options in several countries -something I was not aware of. Could you talk a bit about that?

Phoenix Woman August 26th, 2012 at 3:08 pm
In response to Doug Saunders @ 37

That’s an interesting point. State sponsorship of religion outside of the Middle East seems to have resulted in far less religious cultures (Europe and Japan), whereas the nominally-secular US is in reality highly religious.

Douglas Saunders August 26th, 2012 at 3:08 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 46

I did find it surprising that right-wing terrorism had become such a low priority to Homeland Security, FBI etc. It seems to be a mounting threat at the moment.

Note that I’m not downplaying the threat of Islamic terrorism. I take great points to point out – - I’d say prove empirically – that it’s a specific political movement based on territorial claims, and not an outgrowth of normal religious beliefs or practices. But I also happen to think it’s a serious threat. It’s a bigger threat to Muslims than it is to non-Muslims – - not just becaue 85% of Islamic terrorism victims are Muslim, but because their children are at genuine risk of being sucked into these mentalities. So I have no problem in principle with the War on Terror (though several problems in practice).

db11 August 26th, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Greetings from a fellow Canadian…

Having read your article in the Globe yesterday — which I assume is somewhat if a synopsis of the themes and conclusions from your book — I am in full agreement with the main thrust of your argument. And is if to prove the need for your warning against repeating the bigotry and racism of the past waves of immigration, the comment section quickly sank to a putrid swamp of anti-muslim hatred, fear and ignorance.

Made me ashamed of the small-mindedness of too many of my fellow canucks. (at last glance there were more than 3,000 comments on the article, with the vast majority – and all the highest ranked – of the sort I’ve described)

Like you, I’m no fan of any religious belief, but tolerance of difference is the basis of a pluralistic society. Wondering what your take is on the response to your article — and if it is representative to the reaction to your book?

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 3:10 pm

How good to see you here Mark. I’m wondering – given your experiences living in Iraq as well as in Denmark for example, and so much experience with displaced peoples … what are your thoughts on integration/assimilation and the reactions to newcomers?

RevBev August 26th, 2012 at 3:12 pm
In response to db11 @ 52

Just to affirm; I had run into that hatred and mean content recently on an immigration thread. I was completely shocked and ashamed; whence comes such mean prejudice?

August 26th, 2012 at 3:13 pm
In response to Doug Saunders @ 37

This is also being done in Denmark. The remaining Nordisk Ministerråd (Nordic council of ministers countries) have expressed interest in it.

mfi

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 3:13 pm
In response to db11 @ 52

Thanks for pointing to that DB – here’s the link to Doug’s article for everyone else:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/the-unfounded-fear-of-muslim-immigration/article4498250/

EdwardTeller August 26th, 2012 at 3:13 pm

In all his years in prison, Breivik will undergo far less humiliation than Bradley Manning had inflicted upon him in a year at Quantico. Give me Norwegian justice over American vengeance any time.

Douglas Saunders August 26th, 2012 at 3:17 pm
In response to Siun @ 49

The “Sharia courts” thing has gotten far out of hand. On the other hand, it’s one place where the “Eurabia” people are onto something. Just not quite the right something.

Here’s what happened: In the ’80s and ’90s, many Western countries (mostly English-speaking ones) began to embrace “Alternative Dispute Resolution” in order to reduce the mounting costs of the judicial system. ADR allowed people with a dispute – - a divorce or property settlement for example – - to go to non-judicial community mediators to work out their differences, thus saving the heartbreak, time-wastage and hassle of a civil court case.

By the early ’90s, religions had nosed into this – - after all, they’d been “resolving” these disputes for centuries – -and Jews and Catholics were given faith-based tribunals. These weren’t pretty – - in both cases they allowed enforcement of religious practices that discriminated against women. But few noticed.

By the early 2000s, when there were larger numbers of Muslims in the West, their leaders started asking why only two of the three Abrahamic faiths got these tribunals. So Britain and the Canadian province of Ontario both allowed Muslim tribunals.

People went nuts. Some of those people were secular Muslims who didn’t want their parents’ religion breathing down their necks. Others were human-rights people, but also right-wingers galore who saw the words “sharia court” and freaked.

Ontario took what I thought was the right tack: After a review, they decided to end the “sharia courts” – - and also the Jewish and Catholic tribunals.

Britain has gone the other way and said that it isn’t the state’s business if a religion wants to do arbitration, so long as it doesn’t contradict civil law. (I think it often does, but this is a grey area).

So the anti-Muslim backlash has had a benefit: It has made some of us aware that we’ve gone too far in allowing religions *in general* to have a place in civil life, and brought about a more secular public sphere. Sort of.

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 3:21 pm
In response to Doug Saunders @ 58

I’m always interested in the way we get so upset about violations of women’s rights in Islamic settings but seem to miss the very same in Catholicism, Evangelicals, Conservative judaism, etc.

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Then again, that ties in with the sections of your book on the popular reactions to Jewish and Catholic immigrants. As I mentioned, I do have some memory of the same from growing up very much inside the Irish Catholic community in CT but I was less aware of how extensive Jewish immigration had been (as opposed to the pre-existing anti-semitism).

One line in your book startled me on this:

Indeed, when the Jack the Ripper murders came to light in 1888, it was generally assumed among the public and in the media that “he must be one of those pitiless ruffian Jews” who had turned Whitechapel into a feared district.

RevBev August 26th, 2012 at 3:25 pm
In response to Doug Saunders @ 58

So glad I have not heard of any of that influence in ADR in US. Are you aware of instances?

Phoenix Woman August 26th, 2012 at 3:27 pm
In response to Siun @ 59

Indeed. I find it bitterly ironic that the same Jewish persons I know who unthinkingly and unquestioningly back everything Israel does on the idea that Israel is more liberal towards women/gays/etc. than its Arab neighbors, will then in the next breath praise the illegal settlers who are not only much harsher towards women/gays/etc. than most other Israelis, but a) don’t have to serve in the IDF and b) have a much higher birthrate.

tgs1952 August 26th, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Douglas, thanks for discussing your book here at fdl.

Not sure if this is true in Europe, but no complete discussion of how muslims are portrayed in the media here in the US without mentioning the incredible influence in the media and politics of the Israel lobby. Does that dimension of the issue appear in your book?

Douglas Saunders August 26th, 2012 at 3:28 pm
In response to db11 @ 52

Hi db11, good to meet you here. Yes, I fully expected that response on the comment threat to my article (which is a brief and very simplified synopsis of the book).

I’ve been writing for online newspapers for years, so I’m well aware of the response when the topic of Muslims in the West comes up. This is one of the reasons why I felt it was necessary to write this short book (and why I felt it was important to hire really top researchers to pull together the facts inside it).

I don’t believe that this is at all a majority view. But it’s become prevalent among a minority of people – - and not at all just conservatives, I should add – - in large part because nobody was spelling out the other side. There have been a dozen NYT bestsellers making the “Muslim Tide” argument, and the Wall Street Journal op ed page and Fox News and dozens of high-traffic blogs promote it.

Actually, there are two beliefs here. One is extreme: That Muslims are a direct threat, that their religion is really an ideology of conquest, that they are deliberately lying and having big families to infiltrate the West.

The other is more moderate, held by a lot of liberals too: that Muslims are either unable or unwilling to integrate into Western societies, that they will perpetually self-ghettoize into “parallel societies,” and that they would prefer to live under values that are threatening to feminism, equal rights and social liberalism.

I’m taking on both of these views, but sympathetically: I think a lot of people hold them not out of racist malice, but because they seem to make sense.

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 3:28 pm

While reading the Sunday news here in Chicago, I happened upon the following – so sadly appropriate to our conversation today. From the SunTimes:

U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh remains steadfast in his conviction that “radical Islam” threatens the American way of life — a view the controversial congressman again expressed to an unhappy group of Muslim constituents Friday night…

The meeting was called after Walsh alleged there is “a radical stream of Islam” in the U.S. that threatens the lives of Americans — including residents of Addison, Elgin and Elk Grove — at a townhall meeting in Elk Grove.

…Moon Khan, a Republican Party precinct committeeman in DuPage County and member of the York Township board of trustees … said:

“We want to ask the congressman why he is the only person who sees the ghost of radical Muslims everywhere…
“We would also like to know if you found any radical Muslim in this gathering. If yes, please tell us, how did you detect that? Do you have a device like a metal detector that you rotate around and find Muslim radicals?”

August 26th, 2012 at 3:30 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 57

Oh indeed, and incidentally check your mail box :-)

mfi

Phoenix Woman August 26th, 2012 at 3:34 pm
In response to Siun @ 60

Oh, that was one of the things that hampered the police investigation for a while — much of the public was convinced that he had to be some kosher butcher run amok. (To this day, it’s still believed by many hardcore anti-semites.) And of course there was this bizarre inscription found nearby one of the murder sites: “The Juwes Are the Men that will Not be Blamed for Nothing.” Which may have well been the killer, knowing about the strength of the popular prejudice against Jews, deciding to try and use it to divert attention from himself.

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Doug, in the book you talk about where there are real dangers related to immigration – just how they are not where the popular myth perceives them.

Could you say a bit about the role of education for example?

Douglas Saunders August 26th, 2012 at 3:34 pm
In response to tgs1952 @ 63

I think the politics of the Middle East have become a symbolic threat – - or perhaps narcotic – - to many young people of both Muslim and Jewish backgrounds in the West. There’s a real danger in seeing yourself as an avatar of the Israel-Palestine conflict, even if your parents came from, say, Bangladesh or Poland.

There are considerable political pressures on both Muslims and Jews to see each other as part of a threat to one another’s existence. This sometimes does become a self-fulfilling prophesy, as children of Muslim immigrants do become anti-Semitic at an alarming rate (though far, far lower than the rates in the Middle East – - integration is happening). And too many Jews face political pressure to see the Muslims around them as enemies, rather then people from a religious minority facing similar discrimination threats and undergoing the same immigration and integration process that their grandparents did.

jameshester12 August 26th, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Why the European and specially the French dwell on “Burqa” or “Hijab” and politicize when there is no requirement in Islam for a woman to cover her face. I think it is the head/hair she is required go cover. Why the govt. is unable to hire some real scholars to educate the courts/public and put this topic to rest instead of exploiting it. Any observation?

August 26th, 2012 at 3:41 pm
In response to Doug Saunders @ 64

The other is more moderate, held by a lot of liberals too: that Muslims are either unable or unwilling to integrate into Western societies, that they will perpetually self-ghettoize into “parallel societies,” and that they would prefer to live under values that are threatening to feminism, equal rights and social liberalism.

Not the experience in Denmark, or the other Nordic countries. The children of immigrants tend to be very well integrated and tend to be socially mobile. The average Danish dental student for example, is female, of Muslim parentage (mostly Turkish) and religious. Proportionately females of Muslim parentage are overrepresented in the medical and biology faculties.

Conversely younger Danes have very few problems with the idea of somebody wearing a headscarf for example. They see it as part of who she is and not as a sinister threat.

mfi

db11 August 26th, 2012 at 3:42 pm
In response to Doug Saunders @ 64

Thanks for your response.

I imagine you must have developed a pretty thick skin, given that at least half the comments are direct insults to your intelligence, integrity and character. (and most employ classic right-wing insults, tropes and dog-whistles)

I wish that I was as sanguine as you regarding where the majority actually lies. I do understand the concern of extreme, regressive religious influence on the society and polity — but I see that threat as much stronger from fundamentalist xtians due to their numbers and political influence in conservative parties.

As for parallel cultures that don’t integrate into a larger society, isn’t that where the whole continent is headed with the ongoing radicalization of partisan politics? (thanks to republicans in the US and Harper’s conservatives importing their ideologies and methods into Canada)

DWBartoo August 26th, 2012 at 3:42 pm
In response to Doug Saunders @ 58

I am late to this most-excellent Book Salon, Doug, however, I truly appreciate your comments and the perspective which you share with us, today.

Your comment @18, wherein you suggest that American politicians, as well as writers, are deliberately (as demagogues do) shaping what people “believe” needs to enter the larger discussion around the common plight which the people and civil society of this nation, the USA, and, by extension those nation, peoples, and societies “we” attack or plan to attack, economically as well as militarily, now face.

Even as 9-11 was used to ramp up the war machine and cut-back civil and Constitutional rights and liberties in this nation, so too has it allowed an increased disdain for the Rule of Law, generally, and International Law.

Some American politicians declare that we are engaged in a new “crusade” and torture is now official policy … and, all the while, it is said that America is a “Christian nation”.

“Belief”, however irrational, however much based upon hatred or fear, seems to be the “currency” of the political class, which class includes the media.

Have you any thoughts regarding by what means the current hysteria might be deflated?

And I ask this specifically as it relates to a war with Iran.

A war which bodes ill for the entire human race, and calls to mind Einstein’s “prediction” regarding the likely weapons of WWIV.

DW

Douglas Saunders August 26th, 2012 at 3:43 pm
In response to Siun @ 68

Good point, Siun — I’m not arguing that everything’s fine and immigration’s a success and we should just be complacent. I do think that immigration, and immigration from some Muslim countries, will be a reality in the future for a number of reasons (though Muslims are going to be far from the largest group), so we need to take the time and put in the effort to make it work right. When immigrants become ghettoized or marginal and angry, it’s not generally because they’ve set out to do this– it’s because policies have caused them to be that way.

I spend some time in this book and my last book looking at the policies that do work.

In education, the US is actually doing OK. But continental European education policies are dismal – - they still stream kids into career futures at age 11, and force kids to repeat grades, both of which are guaranteed to raise the dropout rate among immigrant males to huge levels.

North Americans need to avoid repeating another terrible European mistake – - the citizenship-policy mistake. If we don’t allow quick pathways to full citizenship for immigrants, we’re going to be stuck with people who are frustrated, unhappy and unable to invest in the communities around them.

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 3:44 pm
In response to jameshester12 @ 70

I certainly remember amongst my Catholic neighbors a lot of older ladies who wore mantillas all the time – yet we forget that too.

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 3:47 pm
In response to Doug Saunders @ 74

Thanks Doug – that’s a very good pointer of the value of a supportive welcome to immigrants rather then hostility.

August 26th, 2012 at 3:50 pm
In response to Doug Saunders @ 74

they still stream kids into career futures at age 11

!!!!!!!!!!!

Where does that – be precise.

the citizenship-policy mistake

Once again – where? Be precise.

mfi

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 3:52 pm

I see we’re heading towards the end of our Book Salon and wanted to say thank you to Doug Saunders – for joining us for a such a good and informative conversation – and for his book The Myth of the Muslim Tide. I hope folks will pick up copies of it – and of his Arrival City. These are such important issues and ones we can influence.

Thanks Doug!

and as always thanks to Bev for setting up today’s conversation – and to everyone who asked such great questions.

BevW August 26th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

As we come to the last minutes of this Book Salon discussion,

Doug, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and the muslim myths. Are there any last comments you would like to make?

Siun, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Doug’s website (The Globe and Mail) and book (The Myth of the Muslim Tide)

Thanks all, Have a great week.

If you would like to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

August 26th, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Not even slightly impressed.

*poof*

mfi

DWBartoo August 26th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

A civilized nation, a mature society based upon rational and reasonable trust and respect among people, mark.

Unfortunately, The US cannot and will not learn from any other country or society.

Until American hegemony and hubris meet dire and serious consequence, it will be … more of the same.

The political Kabuki, here, is so “thick” that it cannot be seen through, and the people are easily led by fear and suspicion. And if that fails to bring about the desired “result”, then repression of alternative sensibility or even doubt will swiftly be brought to bear.

The US is a cowed country and the sacred cows are allowed to spread their bullshit with total impunity.

That’s why it takes a neighbor to the north to speak the truth that most American journalist seek to avoid or deny most vehemently. The American media are agog with delight at the religious infighting within the nation and thoroughly pleased, apparently, with the possibility of the prospect of war with Iran.

DW

Douglas Saunders August 26th, 2012 at 3:56 pm
In response to jameshester12 @ 70

Headscarves and other face coverings have become highly politicized in almost every Western country. Then again, we forget that they’ve been politicized in Muslim-majority countries for a long time. They’re still banned in many public places in Turkey, and Muslims in Asia often see them as an Arabic imposition. And when I’m in Iran (a very women-led society), women spend virtually all day complaining to me about the crazy mullahs’ head-covering requirements, and trying to dodge them with, say, a bright red Dior hijab.

There are big elements of straight-out religious discrimination, but let’s give these debates the benefit of the doubt: They’re a conflict between the two possible visions of a secular society. In one – -embraced in some form in Turkey, France and the United States — you create a neutral public sphere stripped entirely of religious symbols or language. In the other, moire laissez-faire – - the British model – - you say that anything goes as far as religious practice in public places is concerned, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.

Personally, I have trouble deciding whether it’s stupider to wear clothing because you believe your religion tells you to, or to think it’s worth your time banning it. I’d rather not see headscarves, or crosses or yarmulkes or turbans for that matter, because I consider it rude of you to advertise your religion in my face. But then, there are probably a lot of things I wear and do that offend you.

I’m not talking about multiculturalism or cultural relativism here – - I’m not a bit proponent of either idea — but plain old pluralism. We share common core values. But those core values can support a wide range of practices and thoughts. We need to learn to see through these differences and find our common ground. And we need to do it over and over again, generation after generation, as we convince ourselves that we’re the first to experience the appearance of a minority religion in our midst.

kathyinbc August 26th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Very impressed here. Thank you, Doug. Thank you, Siun. And thank you db11 for asking the question I wanted to ask!

DWBartoo August 26th, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Ah, well …

Thank you, Doug.

Thank you, Siun.

Thank you, Bev, as always …

And my thanks to the Firedogs and FDL.

DW

Phoenix Woman August 26th, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Germany, for one: Up to about age eleven or twelve, most kids have the same sort of education (Grundschule), but then the educational (and thus career and life) paths diverge:

German secondary education includes five types of school. The Gymnasium is designed to prepare pupils for university education and finishes with the final examination Abitur, after grade 12 or 13. The Realschule has a broader range of emphasis for intermediate pupils and finishes with the final examination Mittlere Reife, after grade 10; the Hauptschule prepares pupils for vocational education and finishes with the final examination Hauptschulabschluss, after grade 9 or 10 and the Realschulabschluss after grade 10. There are two types of grade 10: one is the higher level called type 10b and the lower level is called type 10a; only the higher level type 10b can lead to the Realschule and this finishes with the final examination Mittlere Reife after grade 10b. This new path of achieving the Realschulabschluss at a vocationally oriented secondary school was changed by the statutory school regulations in 1981 – with a one-year qualifying period. During the one-year qualifying period of the change to the new regulations, pupils could continue with class 10 to fulfil the statutory period of education. After 1982, the new path was compulsory, as explained above. Other than this, there is the Gesamtschule, which combines the approaches. There are also Förderschulen/Sonderschulen. One in 21 pupils attends a Förderschule.[2][3] Nevertheless the Förderschulen/Sonderschulen can also lead, in special circumstances, to a Hauptschulabschluss of both type 10a or type 10b, the latter of which is the Realschulabschluss. Most German children only attend school in the morning. There are usually no provision for serving lunch. The amount of extracurricular activities is determined individually by each school and varies greatly.

That’s how it was in the 1970s, when I first started taking German language and culture classes, and that’s apparently how it is today.

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 3:59 pm
In response to Doug Saunders @ 82

That’s a great statement Doug – and a wonderful summation in so many ways of what makes your book so valuable.

Thank you!

Douglas Saunders August 26th, 2012 at 4:00 pm
In response to Siun @ 78

Thank you, everyone, for engaging in such an intelligent and enlightened discussion – - once again, the FDL community has shown itself to be a place to rise above the noise and think about what really matters.

Bev and Sium, thank you for being such engaged and generous hosts. I’m always glad to come here and talk. And you can all reach me through http://dougsaunders.net where I’m happy to take up further discussion.

I should add that there will be another online discussion Monday on my own newspaer’s site http://globeandmail.com .

Best regards,
Doug Saunders

Siun August 26th, 2012 at 4:01 pm
In response to Doug Saunders @ 87

Come visit often – thank you!

BevW August 26th, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Doug, Thank you again,
Safe Travels

db11 August 26th, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Don’t make it here often any more, but happy I popped in for this book salon. Appreciate your thoughts and comments Doug. I hope that you’re right in believing that getting the countervailing view out there will cause people to give pause to their fear and ignorance of people they know nothing of.

Seems like thankless work you’ve chosen, but happy that you’re tackling it with intelligence, facts and persistence.

Cheers.

CTuttle August 26th, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Mahalo nui loa, Doug, for all your efforts…! And to Siun and Bev too for another excellent Book Salon…! *g*

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