The real star of this particular entry is not the USNews and World Report “Culture Clash in Denmark” story, but rather the preceding post by Hugh Fitzgerald, one of the writers who assists in maintaining the Dhimmi Watch blog site (the other writer being controversial Islam scholar, Robert Spencer.)
It is interesting to see how many “officials” in the upper echelons of our government (or most people in America) continue to view the United States as a perspicacious entity detached from the rest of the world–“officials” filled with so much hubris (or stupidity) that we need not overly concern ourselves with something so exotic and incongruous because we tend to view it from our own fixed macrocosm as something manageable (Iraq anyone?) Silvestre Reyes proved that one need not even possess any semblance of intelligence, let alone the needed expertise, on subjects that lie directly in the road of one’s own perceived specialty. Of course, public perception of expertise is often more important than verified proficiency. Why? Because most people either don’t want to know, or they only want to know the viewpoint that coincides with their blindly accepted political belief system.
“There’s kind of an unspoken assumption that they’re not really Dutch, not really Danes, and so forth,” reasons one senior U.S. official who follows the phenomenon. “Europeans are uncomfortable with Islam, and they see it as an alien body in their midst. … Europe’s got a huge problem, and they’re just getting their minds around it now.” — from this article
The tone of this “senior U.S. offical who follows the phenomenon” is troubling. He appears to think the problem is that of the Europeans, who are “uncomfortable with Islam” — as opposed, perhaps, to Americans, who have such a much more extensive experience with Islam than do the people of Europe? When he says of the Europeans that “they see it as an alien body in their midst,” does he think that is wrong? Does he think it is the fault of those bad old Europeans, or does he think they made a terrible, a colossal, a life-threatening error in their heedlessness about Islam, when they let Muslims in in such numbers?
And does he think that there is a lesson here for the United States? And does he think that perhaps the doctrines of Islam itself might be worth looking into? After all, they uncompromisingly divide the world between Believer and Infidel, and between Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb, and preach the doctrine of endless war — not necessarily by open combat, for the money weapon also comes into play, as well as “pen, speech” and Da’wa, and now demographic conquest (discussed endlessly at Muslim sites and in the Muslim media, for everyone is keenly aware of this instrument of conquest in the Camp of Islam, even as they are amazingly unaware of it in the Camp of the Infidels). They view Europe as a land to be taken over, won for Islam, not a place where Muslims are to embrace, in the slightest, the doctrines or beliefs or legal and political and social institutions of permanently inferior Infidels. Does this “senior U.S. official” understand that?
The distant, almost unsympathetic tone, suggests that he does not. And if that is true, he needs a short but intense course in Islam and in the history of Islamic conquest — and not from John Esposito, and not from Karen Armstrong, and not from anyone certified as a “Muslim Sensitivity Trainer” by CAIR.
But the course he would most likely take, or has already taken, would probably be like the one now being given in a Virginia public school. That one is taught by one more useful idiot with the usual nonsense about “finding out about Islam” — and then limiting that finding out to the most obvious and the most innocuous: the rituals of worship that tell non-Muslims nothing about the effect on Muslims of the texts of Islam. Students will get the Shehada (and possibly be asked to recite it), the five daily prayers, the zakat or charity (but only toward fellow Muslims), Ramadan and other dietary rituals. What fun not to eat this, not to eat that! What fun, and how completely worthless as a guide to what Islam is all about, unless the students are told that in Islam everything is regulated, not merely food: including hairdos, wiping yourself, and of course how to speak to Infidels. They’ll also learn about the hajj, with pictures of a million pilgrims as they walk widdershins round the Magic Wonderstone, but no discussion of the Stoning of the Devil and what that is all about.
There will be no real study of the Qur’an, no look at 9.5 or 9.29 or 5.82 or a hundred other key verses. No discussion of why the date of Sura 9 matters (it was either the last or the second to last to be composed). No discussion of “naskh” or abrogation. No discussion of the hadith — why, I’ll bet the poor students in Virginia never find out what the Hadith are, much less will be given a website or two where, to their increasing horror, they can read a few hundred of the most important. Nor will they learn the real details of Muhammad’s life, or his significance as the Main Actor in Islam, far more real to Muslims than distant and whimsical Allah, and a guide, a Perfect Man, uswa hasana, al-insan al-kamil. None of that.
It will be a guide to nothing and nowhere. Possibly the students will come out radiant that they have “learned all about Islam.” Possibly some self-satisfied parents or some ACLU group or some school committee panjandrums will offer self-congratulations all around for this exercise in “dispelling myths” and “ending stereotypes.”
And a good time, an idiotically good time, will be had by all.
And nothing will have been learned. Nothing.
It will be a worthless course by an ill-informed naif. It should be condemned by everyone. Instead, it is very likely just the kind of thing this “senior U.S. official” has attended.
Photograph by Joachim Ladefoged VII for USN&WR
Friday prayer at the mosque run by Imam Ahmed Abu Laban, who helped spur anti-Denmark protests
The close-knit Danes find their liberal ideals tested by a growing, alienated Muslim population
Posted Sunday, December 31, 2006
COPENHAGEN–This, a recent study concluded, is the happiest country on Earth. With Denmark’s cradle-to-grave social welfare, highly regarded healthcare and education, prosperity, and small-country ethnic cohesion, the land that gave us Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales also excels at producing a good life in reality.
And yet, over the past year or so, the contented Danes have been forced to face both their greatest international crisis since World War II and the rise here of separate Muslim communities where many are unable or unwilling to enter the Danish mainstream. The international uproar over publication of 12 prophet Muhammad cartoons in a Danish newspaper triggered violence that left at least 139 people dead, Danish diplomatic outposts torched in Lebanon and Syria, and Danish goods boycotted. Suddenly, Denmark felt dangerously exposed–a country of just 5.4 million people facing the wrath of an Islamic world exceeding a billion people.
The violence outside Denmark ultimately quieted down, though the country’s security-threat level remains elevated. At home, the bitter disputes over the cartoons have highlighted an unhealed–and potentially hazardous–rift between the dominant Danes and the Muslim immigrants living in what are being called “parallel societies.” Ask Danes and Muslim immigrants alike, and many will say there is something a bit rotten in the Kingdom of Denmark.
The legacy of the cartoon uproar is not all bad. Private efforts at building bridges between Muslims and non-Muslim Danes have accelerated. Secular Danish Muslims condemned the violence overseas and appealed for dialogue. That, say Danes, has encouraged a greater appreciation of the differences–political and otherwise-among Muslims here.
“Time bomb.” Still, the cartoon crisis itself did not prompt any basic rethinking of how to integrate Muslims more deeply into Danish society. And the country is now preoccupied with things Muslim. Attention is riveted on any controversy linked to its Muslim residents–so-called honor killings of female relatives, street crime, terrorism probes, unemployment, forced marriages, use of veils, and so on. Denmark is pondering the specter of ever more young Muslims–unemployed and undereducated–finding their identities not as coolly secularized Danes but as fervent or even radical Muslims. “We are sitting on a time bomb,” warns Eva Smith, a law professor and racism expert at the University of Copenhagen.
The ferment in Denmark is especially striking because of its progressive traditions, but it also reflects the broader tremors rattling western Europe, where tangled issues of national identity, culture, religion, and security arising from Muslim immigration have bolted to the fore. Old, ethnically grounded societies are being roiled by the presence of Muslim newcomers–or at least by the reaction to them. “There’s kind of an unspoken assumption that they’re not really Dutch, not really Danes, and so forth,” reasons one senior U.S. official who follows the phenomenon. “Europeans are uncomfortable with Islam, and they see it as an alien body in their midst. … Europe’s got a huge problem, and they’re just getting their minds around it now.”
The cartoon controversy, along with frustration over the slow pace of Muslim integration, is leading some Danes to question their prized image as an open and tolerant nation. This, after all, is a people who under Nazi occupation spirited nearly all of their 7,000-some Jews to safety in Sweden. In the 1960s and 1970s, Denmark sought to offer one of Europe’s most liberal immigration policies. Many came as guest workers and were later joined by family members and asylum seekers. Even so, Denmark remained remarkably mono-ethnic; only about 4 percent of the population is Muslim. Coming mostly from Arab states, Iran, and Pakistan, the immigrants have clustered in a few neighborhoods in Copenhagen and other cities.
Yet as the preoccupation with Muslims has deepened in recent years, Denmark has swung in the opposite direction, erecting perhaps Europe’s most restrictive set of rules. A rightist, anti-immigration party sits not in government but at its side; the ruling coalition relies on its votes to govern. The mood toward immigrants has, with exceptions, soured. The share of Danes who view Islam as incompatible with democracy has shot up. And Muslims are often portrayed as troublemakers who sup at the table of Danish generosity–all the while rejecting what makes Denmark special. “They create ghettos. … There are a lot of criminals,” says Henrik Pedersen, a Dane who runs a Copenhagen trucking business. “Muslim people should be in a Muslim country.”
More sophisticated immigration skeptics worry that “Danish values” are under threat by politicized Muslims who resist assimilation. These values include democracy, far-reaching personal freedoms, equality between the sexes, and the trust born of unusually strong social bonds. One government minister frankly called the Danes a “tribe” in describing their group identity. “The whole quality of Danish life stands or falls with this community of values,” adds Ralf Pittelkow, a newspaper columnist and coauthor of a bestselling book on the Islamist challenge. “Danes need to feel reassured that the main features of Danish society remain unchanged. … We are at a crunch point.”
Some Danes argue that evading the impact of immigration is impossible. “Some people want to keep Denmark as a kind of museum,” says Helle Stenum, the chairwoman of MixEurope, a pro-integration group. “We are a rich, safe society that is scared.” Adds Copenhagen schoolteacher Maia Lisa Petersen as she rushes to a subway station, “These other cultures, other values force us to wake up. … We can’t hide anymore in this nice, perfect little Scandinavian world.”
Nor can the Muslim immigrants easily hide in enclaves that insulate them from the culture that surrounds them. They say that the political and media atmosphere has turned against them–particularly since the cartoon crisis. “It totally changed my view of Danish society,” says Mustafa Kucukyild, 26, who came from Turkey as a 1-year-old boy. “The spotlight is on Muslims. I’m much more cautious about what I say.” As the kebab and pizza restaurant where he works fills up with blond-haired college students, he is talking about his estrangement from the Danes. Kucukyild is asked if, having spent nearly all his life here, he feels Danish. “Definitely, no,” he replies. “No matter how much you want to be, you always have this black hair,” he says, grabbing at a lock of his own. “I will always be a foreigner.”
The alienation is pervasive, and it goes well beyond the discomfort some Muslims feel toward Denmark’s permissive atmosphere. “Danish people are very hard people, very cold,” claims Hassan, a middle-aged, Iraqi-born businessman in the Copenhagen district of Norrebro, where Danes often mix with immigrants. Hassan says that his children are adapting better than he is, though his 15-year-old daughter has faced problems in class–a teacher has chided her about her head scarf. Other immigrants report occasional hassles of other sorts: snide comments or being bumped on buses, being barred from nightclubs or followed by department store security officers–or the “what are you doing here?” stares in coffee shops. (Some Danes counter that Muslims are being overly sensitive, playing up an image of victimhood.)