The Muslim Diaspora in Europe and the USA

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 15 Oct 2012

Johan Galtung et al* - TRANSCEND Media Service

We live in a multi‑polar world; not a bipolar world with two superpowers, nor a unipolar world with one remaining superpower. How many poles, and which, can be disputed. But the following six may serve to map the present world: USA, EU, Russia, China, India and the OIC, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, less crystallized than the others. We are talking about 0.31, 0.50, 0.14, 1.34, 1.21 and 1.63 billion human beings respectively, altogether 5.13 billion or 73% of the world population. Left out of this “hexagon” approach are Latin America, most of Africa, some of Asia, Japan and the Pacific.

By far the tallest diaspora in the world is Muslim: about 300 million, of them 177 in India [1], 19 in EU, 23 in China, 16 in Russia, 2.6 in USA. This paper is about the Muslim social situation in two of the six poles: Europe and the USA.

What do we mean by “social situation”? Attitude and behavior, Muslim and the host society. Attitudes vary from hatred‑disdain via indifference to admiration and love; and behavior from violence via its absence ‑ negative peace ‑ to the positive peace of cooperation and harmony. The words “prejudice” and “discrimination” are often used for negative attitude and behavior, but they can also be positive. The basic point is the particle “pre”, a priori; a judgment made in advance, independent of direct experience. And the discrimination is built into the structure, working automatically. One is internalized, the other is institutionalized; strong, often very vicious, forces.

Social position = economic‑ cultural‑ political‑ military position; as powerful, or powerless. The first two are by some called “soft power”, the last “hard power”. Hard power can kill, but so can “soft” power by insulting basic needs and even justifying it: structural and cultural violence. We are talking about life and death for all four.

Where a person is on these four matters: zero, meaning none at all, or low‑middle‑high, in power resources. Also known as class.

Take the case of Norway, now of islamophobe Breivik fame [2].

The first Muslims came to Norway in search of jobs at the end of the 1960s, mostly from the Punjab province in Pakistan, but also from Turkey, ex‑Yugoslavia, Albania and Morocco [3]. The first mosque was opened in 1974, and during the 1980s and 1990s many also came to reunite families and as refugees seeking asylum, also from Iran, Iraq, Bosnia and Somalia. Sunni Islam dominates in Norway; but Shia Muslims in Norway are about 20% as against 10% worldwide [4].

In 2004 there were close to 80,000 Muslims in 82 congregations; in 1980 there were 1006 Muslims in Noway; in 2010 144,000, 3% [5]. The estimate for 2050 is much higher, but be careful; fertility, asylum, migration, etc. are not linear phenomena. However, for a homogeneous country this is already much change; actually for any country [6].

A Muslim diaspora generally starts as immigration in search of jobs, like from Maghreb to France, or from Turkey to Germany; and continues as families, citizenship, as conversion to Islam. Why, how?

The host country needs labor and prefers cheap labor; immigrants need money for necessities and normal goods, for themselves and for their families by remittances, by bringing them, or by making them. There is mutual benefit in this; how equal is another matter, but that theme was never high on the Western agenda. Take it or leave it. But the theme will increase in salience on the immigrant agenda after basic needs are met, comparing with locals doing the same jobs.

But the French and the Germans became richer and emptied niches of manual, heavy, dangerous, dirty, degrading work. And alienating; there was no way of setting an individual stamp on the work product, anybody else could do it. The indigenous wanted the negation of all of that, and better pay, through education, moving up. But the jobs ‑ garbage collection, health care, transportation ‑ still had to be done. Immigrants, among them Muslims, were fed in at the bottom.

Seen from many in the host society the ideal Muslim immigrant profile on the four power dimensions was Low‑Low‑Zero‑Zero. Menial jobs badly paid, with no education needed, met that bill. Islam could be tolerated but not in public space [7]. And no political influence, that is the wrong Islam, islamism; and no access to arms of any kind.

But culture is also language, and command of French ‑ coming from Afrique francophone ‑ facilitated their use for menial jobs. No wonder the Muslim numbers increased rapidly. If they stuck to the profile there could be integration with locals on the job ‑ in a garage, in a hospital washing floors, emptying pots, taxi driving ‑ but not in society in general.

In Germany they had no language in common; Turkey was never a German colony. The French could behave toward Muslim immigrants much the way they had done toward the “indigenous” in their colonies; the Germans were afraid of that lest they be called a Herrenvolk [8].

In Norway the ideal profile was Zero‑Zero‑Zero‑Zero; no Muslims at all. But by some flukes of history Pakistanis came, a niche was found, running small shops in East End Oslo called “Little Karachi”.

There was a model in the leading country in the West, USA. The emancipated former slaves, African‑Americans, were discriminated against and surrounded by gross prejudices, were relegated to the lowest niches in white society, and to their own separate communities. From formal emancipation 1 January 1863 to some victory for the civil rights movement in Greensboro NC took a century. But the black president ultimately to come was not of slave descent.

Something was boiling at the bottom of US society. But it proved possible to keep the lid on, tighten it, fasten it. At the end of the 1950s, in my own research in Thomas Jefferson’s Charlottesville VA (he himself a slaver begetting a child by one of his house slaves), the blacks had a simple and clear agenda middle‑middle‑middle‑middle.

The goal was the American dream; the means were equal educational opportunity. That was denied them by massive school discrimination sustained by massive prejudice: the blacks are carriers of VD (today they would have said HIV); they hate us; they are all communists; and in addition ugly. In short, separate schooling, equal or not.

These patterns of discrimination and prejudice have to a large extent been overcome. But they are still latently there, in the deep structure and the deep culture, and can be re‑activated, for instance through such devices as gerrymandering and privatization of schools.

The ideal profile, held by some to be sustainable‑enforceable for US blacks ‑ Low‑Low‑Zero‑Zero ‑ quickly proved to be a delusion, for several reasons that complemented and reinforced each other.

One was certainly the 10 December 1948 Universal Human Rights Declaration, built into the French constitution of 1789, into the 1776 US Declaration of Independence, and the 1787 US constitution. With their everyone, chacun, jemand, they served as a reference point when contesting prejudice and discrimination and became international law by the 16 December 1966 conventions. And another was the quid for this quo: if you want to benefit from these rights, then observe our rules, including speaking our language. Black Americans did that.

When in Rome do as the Romans do makes perfect sense. Muslim immigrants picked up the language. But there is an unstated sequel: “When people do as the Romans do, treat them as Romans”. Being a law‑obedient immigrant, and being entitled to the human rights ratified by the host country, imply each other when citizenship has been obtained.

From that point on it is the ambitions of the immigrants against the level of tolerance of the host country. Let us try an operational definition of tolerance: granting to immigrants the same human rights as to their own, not less, not more. Intolerance means not doing so, to the point of sending them “back to where they came from”. Or worse.

But why should the immigrants want to change from Low‑Low‑Zero‑Zero? That it is possible, feasible, legal, is not enough reason. There must be some sufficiently strong push and pull forces operating.

One reason is very simple: to live in Rome, and do as the Romans do, is no longer a means for some goals in their homeland. They may love Rome, and Napoli, and decide to stay ‑ maybe the most important decisions in their life ‑ till they die. For most people that means staying with a family. If the spouse is of their own kind, they may rest satisfied with a life in a Muslim community in the host country. But love transcends such borders; so they will live with the two feet of the spouse in the host community. With children going to host country schools there will already be a family majority.

So they opt for life in the host community. But why should they start changing their social profile, upward, climbing? Do not invoke “human nature”. Misery hurts, but for many poverty, having little, is acceptable, even preferable for some true believers like monks‑nuns. A better answer is “that is what the Romans do; they want up, up, up”, maybe more in Rome = USA than in Rome = Europe, and in both cases more in the North than in the South.

So, even if the immigrants do not change their profile, their children may. For each of the four power or class dimensions, economic‑ cultural‑ political‑ military, there are four possibilities, zero, low, middle, high. 256 profiles. Each one of them carries its own story, narrative ‑ or at least hypotheses, about opportunities for immigrants, and of host country prejudice‑discrimination including hatred and violence. Of openings, pitted against closure.

A simple and probably very frequent narrative may run as follows. Start with culture, education, keep Islam private (zero minarets, no hijab etc.). Add host country language and culture to your own. Move from low to middle to high on education, including university.

Then, use that cultural resource to climb economically, from menial to middle class to upper class jobs, with corresponding income increase. Do not abstain from politics, but keep it within the political party spectrum available in the host country ‑ no Muslim party. And stay away from the means of violence, from violence, and threats of violence. No “honor killings”; and make it crystal clear that they are not Islamic, not Qur’anic. Be maximally law‑obedient.

Two or three generations, and you are at Middle‑High‑Middle‑Zero. Not a bad position, but how does it look seen from the host country?

At that point a personal anecdote. The scene is an Easter vacation in Norway March 1940, skiing with my father, meeting a local farmer.

“They are coming”, the farmer said, “up North. To us”.

“You mean the Germans?” my father asked.

“No. no, the Turks!” he answered.

Well, Muslims came to the Iberian peninsula and established the Caliphate of Cordoba 711, came to Tours 732 and were stopped, laid unsuccessful siege on Vienna 1683, in 1878 they were beaten by the Serbs, and that was it, except for a piece in Europe with most of Istanbul. But the threat image survived and overshadowed the Germans in his mind. April 9 1940 they, not the Turks, invaded Norway.

The Western logic runs from the Zero‑Zero‑Zero‑Zero “no Muslims” via the Low‑Low‑Zero‑Zero “menial Muslims” to the Western nightmare, a High‑High‑High‑High profile through “Muslim conquest”.

The nightmare is not quite unfounded. Islam started in 622 from two cities on the Arab peninsula, spread West and East, and by 700 had reached Morocco, the Iberian peninsula and Damascus‑Baghdad. In 1192 the Sultanate of Delhi was founded, then further East to major parts of today’s Philippines, also as an archipelago of sultanates. Then came the Ottoman Empire from Bursa in Turkey, itself Muslim, heading in all directions, from Vienna to today’s China with the World Uyghur Congress [9] as a very active articulation of a Muslim diaspora.

1492 in Spain and 1683 in Vienna were turning points. Then, look at the list of the 57 countries members of the OIC, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, and ask how many were colonized by the West: almost all. Also the two biggest parts of the Muslim ummah, community of the believers, in India as a minority, in Indonesia as a majority.

Colonialism ‑ ownership of other lands and peoples, run by people from the “mother” country ‑ is officially over. But imperialism, running them through loyal‑local elites, is not. Many of the 22 Arab countries have during less than a century experienced three such empires: the Ottomans; the West in the sense of Italy, England and France; and the current USA‑Israel empire in the Arab World, through dictatorships, now challenged by the (multi‑season) Arab Spring.

When it comes to domination and fears, West refers to a distant past, like Anders Breivik for Europe in his compendium 2083 (a possible Muslim take‑over of Europe, four centuries after Vienna), and Patrick Buchanan for USA in his Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025 ‑ among many. Muslims refer to a recent past and the present, with USA‑led coalitions, mainly with European NATO allies, overtly killing in Muslim countries, trying to install local and loyal elites: Afghanistan from 2001, Iraq from 2003, followed by Pakistan, Sudan, Bahrain, Yemen, Somalia, Libya; and covertly killing in an undisclosed number of countries with drones and special command forces. Not a fantasm fetched from history, but current, painful reality.

And that is where the military, the force dimension, enters.

The Western efforts to justify the direct‑ structural‑ cultural violence of colonialism and imperialism [10] have made them blind to the sufferings of the victims: the massive killings, the sociocides ‑ having their societies cut to pieces by borders dictated by the logic of colonialism and imperialism logic ‑ and the ecocide, having their nature plundered for resources the West uses for its own profit.

Some local‑loyal elites shared that justification and benefitted greatly, but today higher levels of education, and human rights seen as peoples’ rights, and general consciousness, shatters all of that.

But the West continues its warfare, invasion and occupation, and refers to resistance as insurgence, revolt against legitimate rule. The legitimacy presumably derives from Western democracy, from NATO as an alliance of democracies, or from UN Security Council resolutions. The first two seem in the eyes of many to delegitimize democracy as a formation with a built‑in license to kill; and UNSC resolutions are seen as illegitimate as the biggest of the six poles is not in the veto nucleus: OIC. Nor is India. And the West has three vetoes.

Why all this geopolitics? Because of its huge impact on the Muslim situation in Western host countries that try to combine rule of law, human rights and democracy at home with military interventionism, overt and covert, in Muslim countries. The huge Western mainstream media propaganda machine, confusing resistance with insurgency, will frame the resistance in an Islam‑taking‑over‑the‑world discourse. That has huge domestic consequences. And when some Muslims bring what to them is legitimate resistance against invading countries to those countries ‑ 9/11 (2001), 0707 (2005) ‑ that is taken as a confirmation.

This makes each Muslim a potential suspect of the secret services in Western countries, blinding them [11] to the threat of violence from their own islamophobes. By and large this is the context within which the social position of Muslims in the West has to be understood.

But the domestic context is also problematic. Europe has many nation‑states with almost only one nation: one language, one religion‑world view, a shared history, and a geographical attachment. Like the Nordic countries, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Portugal; but unlike the multi‑national UK, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain (and, indeed, India, Russia, China). White race only is obvious.

Insert Muslims into this. Languages they can learn, but they fail on the other criteria (Arabs are white, but not European white). And that brings up a point: multinational states are more trained in diversity. Up to a point; one such point being the length of the minarets in Switzerland, not only the visibility in public space, but the competition with church towers; pointing upwards, to the divine.

Europe is mixed. How about the United States of America?

The USA is usually referred to as a melting‑pot. But that means melting immigrants down to the lining of that pot: still WASP, White, Anglo‑saxon, Protestant. The latter has a strong leaning towards the Puritanism of the Pilgrims that added a Chosen People‑Promised Land (from Genesis 15:16). This originally was underlying an anti‑Semitism directed against immigrant Jews from whom the metaphor had been lifted. But today it underlines the hyphen in Judeo‑Christianity, translated into the A‑I in AIPAC and the alliance Israel‑USA, with well‑known manifestations. And yet there is much more cultural diversity available in the USA than in most European countries except Russia.

Insert Muslims into this. The language, English, they can learn or have learnt already from colonial masters. As to WASP, however, they fail on both W, AS and P. As to Puritanism Muslims are more puritan than most. But Judeo‑Christianity hyphenated eternalizes the claim both have on the lands of others, one of them on Arab‑Muslim lands. And it excludes Islam from the abrahamic triangle.

Can Islam be melted down in a melting pot? The answer is an unmitigated No. That makes Westerners crazy, knowing very well their own opportunism along the Christian‑Secular axis. Muslims remain Muslims, and advance in the host societies both in Europe and in the USA, protected by individual human rights and an impressive range of “international normative instruments and policy documents” [12].

But social forces may burst through such excellent normative barriers, and there are many of them.

So, what may happen on the way up? Neither Europe, nor the USA will yield hard power to Muslims. When then UK foreign minister Douglas Hurd rejected the idea of a solution to Bosnia‑Herzegovina by splitting it in a Croatian part (integrated in Croatia?), a Serbian Republika Srpska (with some relation to Serbia short of integration?), and a Muslim part, like a city‑state of Sarajevo with surroundings, the argument was “no Muslim state in Europe”. The politics of Muslims exercising their individual human rights to vote will be in order, but not as a collective Muslim right, advocated by a Muslim party.

With conscripted soldiers yielding to contracted soldiers, even partly privatized, excluding Muslims is easier. The non‑Muslim majority has unlimited mobility openings along the political‑military dimensions, including devolution in the UK. A political entity with Welsh etc. characteristics and autonomy is possible, not any Muslim autonomy. De facto geographical concentration is another matter.

This leaves us, as mentioned, with the economic and cultural dimensions, and in the first run with the conversion of higher education into higher economic position, in well known ways.

But culture is broader. Islam, like any religion is a cultural message, protected by the freedom of expression within the limits of the law [13]. One important consequence is conversion to Islam, from a trickle to a flood ‑ or, more likely, in‑between. The majority is in command of the political‑military dimensions, the minority is not, but is advancing along the economic‑cultural dimensions.

This may move the society in the direction of rank discordance: the majority is high where the minority is low, and the majority is low where the minority is high. We are not yet there in Europe and the USA, but we may be moving in that direction, even quickly.

To use the US civil rights movement again as a metaphor: there was nothing the poor, uneducated white hated as much as the educated, professional black, to the point of rather having teeth rottening in the mouth than going to a black dentist. This mechanism works at the individual, group and global levels, and was one more factor against giving the blacks access to the regular school system. The point was not that the blacks were inferior, that was sheer prejudice. The point was the sneaking suspicion that they were not inferior, hence competitive. But the political‑military and police institutions were controlled by whites more than willing to use them. They did.

Thus, the possibly largest racial riot in US history, 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, devastated Greenwood, known as “Negro Wall Street”, relatively rich, serving basically the black community.

How far up on the economic‑cultural dimensions of soft power does an identifiable minority have to come to trigger violence? The answer lies in the context where the comparison takes place. Maybe only two persons, but neighbors, one Muslim above, one non‑Muslim below. Maybe the whole neighborhood, the Muslims in plural above, the non‑Muslims in plural below. A community, a group of neighborhoods, above, etc.

A society can be ignited by one community, ignited by one neighborhood, ignited by one person ‑ like a Breivik, who fortunately so far has failed to ignite anybody. And it is interesting that even this highly islamophobic racist and Judeo‑Christian fundamentalist did not only identify the strength in the Muslim numbers in Europe ‑ highly exaggerated though ‑ but also the weakness of the West, as he saw it. He called for a second reformation, for a new Christian awakening, and for European nationalisms as strong as the zionism for Israel; not weakened by any bad conscience for slavery, colonialism, or the shoa. There is an implicit recognition of the power of Islam in the call for a strong, countervailing, Christian‑ nationalist counter‑ power.

The rank discordance hypothesis has an air of the obvious: when a majority in control of hard power sees their soft power superiority threatened, or even outcompeted by a minority, then they may resort to hard power. This was one factor the Nazis used to mobilize Germans against Jews, boycotting Jewish shops being among the early stages; and also a partial explanation why islamophobes seem to be recruited from the same social‑political niches as were once the anti‑Jewish.

The worst prognosis for the Muslim diaspora, a repeat, is a real fear for many Muslims in Europe. They do not exclude large massacres and/or deportation to Muslim countries if the socio‑economic context worsens, thinking of the al‑Andalus Reconquista [14] rather than shoa; with prejudice, discrimination, social unease, and counter‑forces.

What are the remedies offered by the classical Western right‑left political spectrum, the right wing more concerned with nation than class, the left wing more concerned with class and less with nation?

The extremist right wing remedy is intolerance. No immigration at all, and for those already in Europe or the USA, incentives to leave voluntarily. Failing that expulsion; failing that, worse. This is what is rightly called neo‑Nazi ideological territory, with the difference that they may, like Breivik, support a hard zionist Israel.

The moderate right wing remedy is tolerance. Muslims are admitted if there are no, or very few, visible signs of them in public space, and as long a they can be limited to menial jobs low down in social space. The numbers depend on the number of such jobs to fill.

Both positions are unacceptable, and not only for human rights reasons. They are simply out of touch with present globalizing reality, harking back to the pure nation‑states of the 19th century.

The left wing remedy is immigration, tolerance, multi‑culturalism without prejudice and social mobility without discrimination. This meets human right, but is naive, blind to strong social realities.

And those strong social realities are partly in the global context of what Bernard Lewis called a “clash of civilizations” ‑ between Islam and the West, later used by Samuel Huntington as title of a book about clash of regions ‑ and partly domestic, as indicated.

Both realities are ambiguous. There is a clash, mainly driven by the USA and allies following that lead. But there is also a globalization beyond states and nations, regions and civilizations, beyond finance economy and trade, in search of a common humanity. There is not only the failure of the United Nations to stop major wars run by veto powers, and wars within states; there is also the world domestic policy run by the UN Specialized Agencies and others, caring for and lifting the powerless, so successful that they will never be reported by media with unsatiable appetites for failures and bad news.

Prejudice and discrimination abound; but so do curiosity and respect, and compassion and solidarity. There is no reason to give humanity a worse reputation than it deserves.

Who controls the hard power? At the global level USA‑NATO is not alone. There is also the SCO, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, with its six members, five observers and three dialogue partners; like NATO with associates and expanding. SCO is Asian ‑ Orthodox‑ Daoist‑ Confucian‑ Hindu‑ Buddhist‑ Muslim‑ Secular, based on four of the poles in the six‑polar world. NATO is mainly Western, meaning Judeo‑ Christian‑ Secular. The Muslim pole is too uncrystallized to have an alliance of its own pitted against the West. But NATO vs SCO spells a potential world war with the eight present nuclear powers split equally, 4‑4. That this war simply must not happen is clear to most, if not to all.

Domestically the hard political‑military power is in the hands of the non‑Muslim majority, and more so the more democratic, in the sense of majority rule, the country. To challenge that by terrorism is not only morally wrong, and criminal, but also extremely stupid.

The road to the future cannot be paved by the two classical, Roman Empire‑Western approaches: inside control by force from the top, and outside a balance of forces strong enough to deter and win. Force from the top often leads to oppression, and “balance” of forces often leads to arms races and wars. They are both bad and risky policies.

Peace theory and peace practice propose four different approaches contained in an easily understandable formula for peace [15]:

                   Equity x Harmony

Peace = ‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑———‑

                   Trauma x Conflict

Constructing Equity: by cooperation, for mutual and equal benefit; Constructing Harmony: through emotional resonance, in the daoist sense of enjoying the joy, and suffering the suffering, of Other; Reconciling Past Trauma: by clearing the past, acknowledging wrongs, wishing them undone, and creating a future together.

Resolving Present Conflict: by making incompatible, contradictory goals more compatible, softening negative attitudes and behavior.

It is worth noting that the formula stands for peace by peaceful means. There is no use of military power, of force, or the threat of force. All four feasible, with some knowledge, skill, and good will.

There is economic power in the equity when the cooperation is economic, like trade; but it has to be balanced; for not only mutual, but also equal benefit.

There is cultural power in the harmony, through education, learning so much about Other as to proceed from prejudice to empathy, and onward to sympathy and emotional resonance. But balanced, it has to work both ways.

And there is political power in the reconciliation needed to handle the traumas of the past, and the resolution needed to handle the open agenda of conflicts. But again balanced, mutual, equitable.

In short: economic‑cultural‑political balance for positive peace.

The Global Context. We are talking about three of the six poles, USA + EU vs Islam, and the four tasks in the formula. Let us start with the denominator, the past traumas, and the present conflicts.

Islam expanded from 622 till, say, 1492; the West from 1492 till, yes, till when? Till the end of colonialism in the 1960s? Then came neo‑colonialism, maybe most clearly in the relation to oil‑rich Muslim countries like Saudi‑Arabia and the other G7 countries. Then came 9/11, predominantly run by young Saudis. Then came the Gulf wars and the invasion of Afghanistan, followed by all the other wars against Muslims. The 1953 CIA‑MI6 toppling of Mossadegh in Iran became iconic.

Commissions of US, EU and Muslim historians for a giant UNESCO‑directed project ‑ building on the Polish‑German post WWII project ‑ to arrive at minimum common understanding would be useful. To agree on what happened in the distant and the recent past, would be a dazzling achievement. Thus, was the Islamic expansion on the average mostly peaceful [16] (a possible exception: the Hindukush). More based on conversion, less on coercion? How did they see it, how do we see it? The Andalus story (711‑1492) is one of conquest, conversion and deep cooperation, countered by the reconquest and ethnic cleansing [17]. What can we learn for the present about what to do and what not to do? Reconciliation to many spells apologies, forgiveness, paying compensation. That is not a very useful approach in this case. Much better is to acknowledge what happened, wishing obviously wrong acts undone, explore jointly why it happened, and a future together.

That brings up conflict resolution. What Afghanistan should look like is a matter for Afghans and the ummah. But the world is entitled to expect respect for human rights, and that no attack on others can come from Afghanistan. A neutral Afghanistan with no bases and peacekeeping forces from OIC would meet this. Entirely feasible [18].

But we need more than that. We also need positive peace. Wishing the CIA‑MI6 1953 coup undone could clear the way for USA‑UK cooperation with Iran in reducing oil export and import, developing green energy instead. Iran has sunshine, the others have wind ‑ there is much to cooperate on. Unrealistic today, like desalination plants on the borders of Israel, with Lebanon in the north and Palestine‑Gaza in the south. But tomorrow? There is so much that could be done with some creativity and liberation from in‑box polarization. And the world would embrace those with not only the will, but also the wits.

Some words about harmony; about sharing sorrows, sharing joy. An example: the way the little Spanish municipality Alfaz del Pi in the province of Alicante treats its huge Norwegian minority, the biggest emigration wave from Norway since the USA offered Norwegians in misery a New Beginning late 19th and early 20th centuries. They share our national joy May 17, independence from Copenhagen rule in 1814, and Norwegian sorrow at the Breivik terrorism 22 July 2011. Norwegians have not reciprocated fully by sharing Spanish sentiments, but that may come. Integration is also emotional, not only a question of mutual rights and obligations.

Could West and Islam one day come that far; including with Shia Islam? Not sharing the rituals, but at least caring enough to try to understand what they are about? We are all humans, all with suffering and joy, the dukkha and sukha of Buddhism. Compassion speaks to the hearts, but it has to be reciprocal to constitute a solid bond.

Some neighborhoods, some communities doing this might serve as a model and the pattern might spread more quickly than we can imagine, and help overcome prejudice and discrimination. For this to happen Islam has to explain itself, lay itself bare, as must the West. What gives us joy, what makes us suffer? How can we help each other moving from suffering to the joy of realizing the best in us all?

The Domestic Conundrum. Tolerance has a simpler definition than what was given above: faith doesn’t matter. Like race and gender, it is irrelevant. Faith is private; social behavior is what matters.

But even if declaring faith irrelevant may be necessary, it is not sufficient. There has to be equality of opportunity like equal access to schooling. And discrimination has to yield to equality, like getting equal pay for the same job. There may be a transition phase with positive discrimination. The hypothesis is that by doing this, prejudices will gradually wither away, with some backlashes.

The last fifty years have witnessed enormous progress along these lines for US blacks, and for women in the West. Not without struggle, and there have been backlashes, but human rights to a large extent have been enacted. So why not even more so for Muslims? Being black or woman is highly visible, but faith is presumably on the inside?

For Islam that is not the case. All five pillars are observable. The declaration of faith may be audible as a mumbling and frequent invocations of God; the prayers as absences to pray, maybe also publicly like in parking lots; one month fasting during the day means visible abstention from eating and drinking; sharing with the poor may be observable to the trained eye as absence of misery; and then the longer absence, the pilgrimage to Mecca. And for women the hijab etc. Muslims might cut down on some of the visibility, but far from all.

So why not do as we did, many Westerners say, secularize (except, maybe, for two hours a week on Sundays?). But, to demand of Muslims to secularize is to demand of them to give up their faith. Jesus, the Christ, said: Give to Caesar that of Caesar and to God that of God (Matt. 22:15‑22), opening for the two reigns. The Qur’an, the hadith, Mohammed the Prophet never said that; there is only one true divinity: God. And that rules out other gods also in the sense of kings gratia dei, presidents, secular institutions, unless they are dedicated to God.

However, the Turkey of Erdogan, Indonesia, have opened for combinations. Faith matters, is there to stay. But bridges can be built, and are being built, right now.

The racial and gender models referred to above suffer from a major difference relative to Islam. There is not much fight over the body, nor much efforts for blacks to change to whites or women to men, or vice versa. But there is fighting over the soul, to convert or not convert. No black or female continent can be constructed as a threat to conquer whites, or males, all over. There may be some problems inside the USA and Europe, but no global context feeding white and male paranoia, justified or not. Islam is different.

To repeat: with no solution to the global West vs Islam there will be no solution to the problems of the Muslim diasporas.

There is something similar to this domestically, and important. Racist repression and patriarchy are also recent past, and not totally dead. The traumas are fresh. So are the white and male traumas of having traumatized blacks and women, with the existential fear that “if they come into power they will treat us the same way as we treated them”. The more the deep culture has difference = inequality as an archetype, the more problematic the equality. Equality is even seen as against human nature, so often invoked to defend the undefendable.

Going back to the formula for peace, this time at the domestic level, the implication is that there are four tasks to be carried out. The two sides of the fault‑lines must somehow come together to put racism and patriarchy behind them, and much is happening. The same applies to present conflicts enacted as state terrorism and terrorism.

But even better is the positive approach through equity, based on difference = symbiosis, for mutual and equal benefit. Like in a good marriage; the peace formula can be read as a recipe. Awareness of the fear when underdogs come up is already a part of the conciliation.

This certainly also applies to Muslims; like for race and gender, rank discordance will feed the paranoia. What can be done about that?

Mobility care can be exercised. But the right to economic and cultural mobility is non‑negotiable. Political‑military mobility is another matter when the global situation is bad and gets worse. From Bush to Obama with warfare against Muslims in ever more countries. But that can be reversed quickly. Thus, very soon after the Cold War Russians could travel with no suspicion of subversion for Russia.

The general population can be lifted economically‑culturally like Mohamad Mahathir did as Prime minister by lifting Malay Muslims up to catch up with non‑Muslim, Daoist‑ Confucian‑ Buddhist‑ Secular Chinese.

But there is that other approach, going back to the battle for the souls between the two abrahamic religions Christianity and Islam; and between the two world views, West and Islam: conflict resolution.

Tolerance is fine, but insufficient and naive given global and domestic reality. The next stage is dialogue, with genuine curiosity to learn, and respect. “How do you see love, sex, marriage, raising children; what is for you the good society, the good world; how about conflict and violence, war and peace?” Rather basic questions. Both sides have answers, and some may say, “I like that one and will include it in my world view. Do you find something in mine?” [19]

Problem: we are dealing with very different levels of knowledge. Colonization and immigration are recent. Muslims have learnt about the West the hard way, but know the languages of their colonizers and host countries; the opposite is very rarely the case. Muslims also know Judaism and Christianity not only as the religions of their colonizers, but as parts and parcel of the Kitab, the Book the three have in common. Moses as Musa, Jesus as Isa. There is a knowledge gap to be bridged, a major task for Western educational institutions. Beyond dialogue there is mutual learning as a culminating achievement.

But the West does not even know what it could learn from Islam, like togetherness and sharing, We‑culture and solidarity [20].

An image of an overarching solution in the struggle for souls: Mark Fridays as the Islam day, and Sunday as the Christian day, with due respect for all parties. And Saturdays for Judaism, and for dialogue and mutual learning, having the abrahamic religions, and Hindus, Buddhists and others meet humanists and other secularists to dialogue publicly about key issues, like the ones mentioned above.

The Christian ritual with 52 Sunday sermons, and something extra for Christmas and Easter, do not meet the insatiable thirst, not only for dialogue on key issues, but for spiritual growth. In other words, give a meaning to globalization beyond the material and financial and institutional, as mutual learning from the incredibly rich diversity of human faith, human world‑views, and experiences.

For sure sparks of inspiration will fly across these fault‑lines. Something more than the sum of ideas may emerge, some synergy more in line with the trends toward globalization, and away from efforts to recover a racially and culturally pure past gone forever, except for, maybe, some small enclaves that certainly should be tolerated as long as they tolerate the globalized search for something new. Al Andalus.

Not many communities are needed, provided the media give them positive coverage ‑ today unlikely, but that can change ‑ inserting some optimism into the present turmoil and gloom.

There will be conversions. But also settings that globalize god, so to speak [21]. In such settings sharp dichotomies like Christian vs Muslim, and West vs Islam, are blunted, as parts of more encompassing spiritualities. And to the extent that happens the faiths lose in social relevance and discriminatory measures can be lifted in favor of equity and harmony. We can benefit from the blessings of a more egalitarian and more diverse world. It may be closer than we think.

Notes:

[1] This case is very special, however. Diaspora has a connotation of migration, but the history of the subcontinent is more complex. The partition cut brutally through centuries of symbiosis and created hatred, violence and a polarization still lasting. Even Gandhi and Abdul Ghaffar Khan (“Frontier‑Gandhi”) were not able to overcome Jinnah’s old‑fashioned nation‑state logic. Gandhi’s proposal, Islamic law for provinces with Muslim majorities and Hindu law for Hindu majorities, might have worked. But Lord Mountbatten’s interference with the border process made it still worse.

[2] Breivik’s monstrous massacre of 77 on 22 July 2011 did not kill Muslims, however; it was directed against the Labor Party as power and future power. In his view, the party was the gate‑opener for other races and cultures in general, and for Muslims in particular. Breivik is primarily a racist and a culturalist, islamophobia follows as a consequence.

[3] According to the leading authority on Islam in Norway, Kari Vogt, author of Islam på norsk, Oslo: 2000.

[4] For one of very many analyses of the difference, see Hamid Dabashi, Shi’ism: A Religion of Protest, Belknap Press‑Harvard University Press, 2011.

[5] htpp://pewforum.org/The‑Future of‑the‑Global‑Muslim‑ Population.aspx; a Forum on Religion and Public Life published January 2011 estimates for 2010 and forecasts for 2030 for more than 200 countries and territories. The 2010 estimate for Norway is the same, 3.0%‑the forecast for 2030 6.5%. The same figures for Sweden are 4.9 and 9.9%, for Denmark 4.1 and 5.6% (restrictive policies) and for Finland 0.8 and 1.9%‑‑maybe the “purest” nation‑state in Europe. See Kyösti Tarvainen (kyostt@metropolia.fi), “Immigration will cause civil wars”, htpp://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ui=2&ik=26c61b2525&view=pt&se

Professor Tarvainen is a specialist in systems analysis.

[6] Amnesty International’s report, Elections and Prejudice: Discrimination Against Muslims in Europe, has percentages of Muslims, and estimates for 2030, for some countries: Belgium 6‑10%, France 7.5‑10%, Netherlands 5.5‑8%, Switzerland 5.7‑10%, Germany 5‑7%, UK 4.6‑7%, and Spain 2.3‑4%. All the figures should actually be below reasonable tolerance threshold. But politicians make gains by being anti‑Muslim: Marie Le Pen in France, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, the SVP (Swiss Peoples Party) in Switzerland, Fremskrittspartiet in Norway (Breivik was a member of the youth section, but left).

[7] In Amnesty International’s report April 2012 on Muslims in Europe, Marco Perolini, the discrimination expert, focuses on the “low visibility” as discriminatory it itself, generating infractions of human rights. To demand of Muslim men to shave and of Muslim women not to wear hijab would only be acceptable if it really interferes with the nature of their job as the EU demands.

[8] The German Ministry of the interior released in March 2012 a 700 page study on young Muslims in Germany concluding that most of them were “striving for integration”. But they also identified a sub‑group that can be characterized as “strongly religious, with rejection of the West, a tendency toward accepting violence and with no tendency toward integration”. This subgroup comprises about 15% of the German and 24% of the non‑German Muslims.

[9] Representing the Muslim minority in Xinjiang, China. The World Uyghur Congress had its 4th general Assembly in Japan May 14‑17 2012.

[10] See Taha Abdul Rauf, “Violence Inflicted on Muslims: Direct, Cultural and Structural”, Economic and Political Weekly, June 4 2011, pp. 69‑76.

[11] Like the Norwegian secret police, PST, failed to detect Breivik and prevent the disaster; see Ch. 16 in the 22/7 Report, on PST, revealing almost incredible inadequacies in the anti‑terrorist security machinery. Had his name been Ahmed, not Anders, he would have been detected, as many have pointed out.

[12] See the chapter with that title in the excellent Guidelines for Educators on Countering Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims: Addressing Islamophobia Through Education, OSCE, Council of Europe, UNESCO 2011.

But the approach in this paper is more sociological, from scratch, and more peace research, in the sense of diagnosing the root causes, making prognoses, coming up with therapies. And much of the cause is located in the global situation of the West vs Islam. Thus, imagine that during the civil rights movements for the African‑Americans an attack similar to 9/11 had come from Africa south of Sahara, where the slaves came from. Civil rights would have suffered huge delays.

To regard the issue as domestic only is naive; as global only is also naive.

[13] And in principle the freedom not to have deep religious feelings insulted (“Kränkungsfreiheit” in German). On the other hand there is the freedom of expression about Islam. The “Mohammed caricatures” have been protected under that heading, recently by a German court decision. Jews and Christians seem to benefit from a protection that has not been extended to Muslims. There is need to explore the line or zone between the freedom of expression and the freedom not to be religiously insulted. “Politics is free, religion is not” is indicative of where that line‑zone is located, but when does politics become religion and religion become politics? For the TRANSCEND mediation and reflection on the caricature issue ‑ actually then Danish prime minister Fogh Rasmussen’s refusal to enter a dialogue, claiming that freedom of expression was absolute (a principle dear to the media as they feed on that freedom, and few things sell like insults) ‑ see Johan Galtung 50 Years: 100 Peace & Conflict Perspectives, TRANSCEND University Press, 2008, Ch. 87, “Conciliation Denmark/Islam”. That issue will be with us for a long time.

[14] On April 1 1492 Muslims were promised free access to the sea to leave for Africa ‑ and were killed on the way. Hence April 1 = Fool’s Day. I am grateful to Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan for alerting me to this.

[15] Implying that Equity and Harmony should be high, Trauma and Conflict low.

[16] Peter Brown, reviewing the impressive Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition “Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition” in New York City March‑July 2012 and the catalog in The New York Review of Books May 10 2012: “We can now say with confidence that the Arab armies did not leave a trail of desolation across the Middle East. Local population did not sinking into poverty. ‑vigorous Jewish and Christian communities continued to maintain their own traditions largely unmolested. ‑the spread of Islam was not imposed by force on the conquered peoples. ‑Muslims talked their way into the Middle East quite as much as they fought their way across it.”

Important when compared with Western colonialism. The Arabs‑Muslims were not exactly invited, though. There is a great need for exhibitions like this, bringing civilizations closer, within dialogue reach. Another excellent example is “Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam”, at the British Museum in London January‑April 2012; reviewed by Christopher de Bellaigue in The New York Review of Books, April 26, 2012. Maybe the OIC could take note and organize similar, empathic, exhibitions about aspects of the West?

[17] This period of close to 800 years was the opposite of the 200 years (1095‑1291) of the Crusades, a beautiful kyosei (in Japanese), conviviencia in Spanish, living together. The Iberians converted to Islam and entered the famous dialogues. Spring 1492 brought in the West as we were to know it for the coming half millennium: expansionist, conquering‑occupying, violent in the extreme. For the sake of a more balanced image let us keep al Andalus; it is not only empires, conquest, crusades, inquisitition. And let us hope that Islam in diaspora will have the same talent to stimulate spiritual dialogues. See the excellent Kjell Aukrust and Dorte Skulstad, Spansk Gullalder ‑ arven fra jöder og muslimer, Oslo: 2012.

[18] A peace plan would include a coalition government with Taliban, a federal Afghanistan modeled on Switzerland that also has very autonomous local communities, a Central Asian Community of Afghanistan and Muslim countries bordering on it, eliminating the fatal UK‑imposed Durand line (from 1893) cutting through the Pashtun 40 million strong nation by making the border open, a policy of meting basic needs equally for the nations of Afghanistan and the genders, and peacekeeping forces basically from OIC countries in cooperation with UNSC. See Galtung 2008, Ch. 55, based on mediation February 2001. The carriers of peace plan like that would be Afghanistan’s neighbors on an axis from Turkey to China. And maybe Karzai, making Afghanistan a SCO dialogue partner, open to Chinese investment. Time will show.

[19] President Roman Herzog of Germany, presenting an award to oriental scholar Dr. Anne Marie Schimmel October 1995, called for “vigorous, intensive and wide ranging dialogue” between the West and the Islamic world to promote greater understanding. Mohammad Navaz Sharif, Prime minister of Pakistan 1990‑93, took up the invitation and wrote “Islam and the West”, published in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12 June 1996, and Dawn in Karachi 20‑21 July 1996. He points out that as early as 1992 NATO identified Islam as the new enemy and elaborates the falsehood of that thesis. He points out that “Not once through the 1400 years of Islamic history was there a man who claimed authority over others by divine right ‑ “by the Grace of God” /only/by selection and popular acclaim. (“divine” meaning with the right to kill, to take life, JG).

Sharif quotes McNamara from In Retrospect: “We viewed these conflicts /in Asia/ not as nationalistic movements ‑ as they largely appear in hindsight ‑ but as sign of unified Communist drive for hegemony in Asia”, and expresses his fear “that a similar misjudgment of a much larger magnitude may be in the making. Islam is a religion of balance, moderation and compassion and does not countenance extremism”.

As Chandra Muzaffar points out in Just World, 26 September 2011: “Do not transgress the limits is an oft‑repeated advice in the Qur’an ‑ Restraint helps to check and curb greed. Restraint is the real meaning of the fast in the month of Ramadan”.

Sharif ends with a very important observation: Islam is a religion, a community of believers, the ummah, and cannot be defeated by the collapse of some states the way fascism and communism were defeated. Nor can Judaism, not even by the holocaust; nor could early Christianity by the Roman empire. And “Most of the cherished values of the West are equally close to the hearts of the Muslims”.

[20] An experience facilitating Muslim‑Christian dialogues in various countries: when asked what do you fear most and like most in the other side, Christians feared that they understood jihad to be, no exertion for the faith but holy war (stage four) and Muslims feared exactly that, Augustin‑Aquinas type Holy war, legitimized by the UNSC. Some Muslims liked the diversity in particularly Protestant Christianity, with sect‑formation, down to individual interpretations complaining of too little space for different views in Islam. And the Christian like nothing in Islam, on probing not because there was nothing to like, but because of knowing nothing.

[21] Johan Galtung and Graeme MacQueen, Globalizing God, TRANSCEND University Press, 2008; see www.transcend.org/tup

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* Abbas Aroua, Erika Degortes, Dietrich Fischer, Naakow Grant Hayford and Karoline Weber contributed to this work.

This paper is available for download at: http://www.transcend.org/ and http://www.cordoue.ch/.

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 15 Oct 2012.

Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: The Muslim Diaspora in Europe and the USA, is included. Thank you.

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