February 26, 2004


In Europe, The Enemy Within (Jim Hoagland, February 26, 2004, Washington Post)

One sense of what security means in the age of terror arrived via the self-confident words of a senior French official during a recent chat in Paris: "We know where to find 90 percent of the people who are threats in this country. We can and do track them."

Later that day, a French woman who is a lawyer told me of having been stopped for an identity check while driving in Paris a week before:

"There were twin messages in the intrusive grilling I got. One was that the police have a free hand today in France. The other was meant to be reassuring. If we are treating you like this in an upscale quarter of Paris, think about what we are doing in the Arab ghettos that you fear."

These conversations took place as the French National Assembly was passing a law to forbid Muslim girls' wearing head scarves to public schools. The law was framed more broadly than that -- it prohibits displays of any religious symbols in state schools -- but its true focus was widely understood. At some level the measure was meant to reassure the French that their government was not afraid of confronting Muslim fundamentalists at home.

This concern is not confined to France.

And they tell us how we should treat non-citizens at Guantanamo?

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 26, 2004 6:43 PM


Despite the pleasure of holding the French in contempt, isn't this exactly the type of thing that the Anglosphere would like to see in Europe ?
A fight against being engulfed by Islam ?

Or are you too wedded to the "Europe is dying/committing suicide" paradigm ?

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at February 27, 2004 1:11 AM

> isn't this exactly the type of thing that the Anglosphere would like to see in Europe ?

Uhh, what do you mean by "this" which is, after all, singular? The quote mentions more than one thing.

For my part, agressive policing to put some law and order back into the cites is fine; banning religious (even pseudo-religious) garb is a lot more questionable.

Posted by: at February 27, 2004 2:28 AM

Oops, that anon comment above was mine.

And what do you know, reading around the web I found someone who said it much better than I did, the incomparable Dissident Frogman:

As usual with the legislator - particularly the French one - the only answer to a very concerning and sensible issue is a ban when we actually need the strong and renewed affirmation of a right: the right of any woman, Muslim or not, to refuse the veil, with the unconditional and uncompromising protection of the law.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by: Kirk Parker at February 27, 2004 3:14 AM


"This" meaning, the entire backlash in Europe against non-assimilating immigrants, and any actions stemming from such a movement, including France's ban on religious apparel, and Denmark's restrictions on foreign religious scholars, which is seen to be specifically targeting Imams.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at February 27, 2004 5:08 AM


No, Islam is preferable to secularism--the former is capable of evolving into a sound basis for liberal democracy.

Posted by: oj at February 27, 2004 8:04 AM


Except, it hasn't yet, anywhere around the globe, whereas Europe's secular democratic governments seem to manage the people's business well enough, somehow.

We can all hope that Islam manages to reform itself, before annihilation; Nothing I've seen suggests that it's likely in the next couple of decades.
If Iran manages to become a democracy, and Arabia stomps out Wahhabism, then I'll believe.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at February 27, 2004 9:39 AM

Well enough? Their populations are being replaced by Muslims.

Posted by: oj at February 27, 2004 9:44 AM

The problem here is that the article is BS. They are not tracking every sparrow that falls. they haven't the vaugest idea of what goes on in their public housing projects, except that they know that it is islamo-nazi and out of control. If they could kick a*** and take names they would, but they have neither the means nor the will.

OJ -- I will believe in Islamic Democracy when I see it.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 27, 2004 11:57 AM

As we're all rationalists here, we need to focus on mechanisms. What mechanism makes Islam uniquely inhospitable to democracy?

Posted by: David Cohen at February 27, 2004 12:24 PM


The belief that God is located in human history:

    In Islam, Muslims have looked for God in history. Their sacred scripture, the Koran, gave them a
    historical mission. Their chief duty was to create a just community in which all members, even the
    most weak and vulnerable, were treated with absolute respect. The experience of building such a
    society and living in it would give them intimations of the divine, because they would be living in
    accordance with God's will. A Muslim had to redeem history, and that meant that state affairs were
    not a distraction from spirituality but the stuff of religion itself. The political wellbeing of the
    Muslim community was a matter of supreme importance.  Like any religious ideal, it was almost
    impossibly difficult to implement in the flawed and tragic conditions of history, but after each
    failure Muslims had to get up and begin again.
    Muslims developed their own rituals, mysticism, philosophy, doctrines, sacred texts, laws and
    shrines like everybody else. But all these religious pursuits sprang directly from the Muslims'
    frequently anguished contemplation of the political current affairs of Islamic society. If state
    institutions did not measure up to the Quranic ideal, if their political leaders were cruel or
    exploitative, or if their community was humiliated by apparently irreligious enemies, a Muslim
    could feel that his or her faith in life's ultimate purpose and value was in jeopardy. Every effort had
    to be expended to put Islamic history back on track, or the whole religious enterprise would fall, and
    life would be drained of meaning. Politics was, therefore, what Christians would call a sacrament: it
    was the arena in which Muslims experienced God and which enabled the divine to function
    effectively in the world. Consequently, the historical trials and tribulations of the Muslim
    community-- political assassinations, civil wars, invasions, and the rise and fall of the ruling
    dynasties-were not divorced from the interior religious quest, but were of the essence of the Islamic
    vision. A Muslim would meditate upon the current events of their time and upon past history as a
    Christian would contemplate an icon, using the creative imagination to discover the hidden divine
    kernel. An account of the external history of the Muslim people cannot, therefore be of mere
    secondary interest, since one of the chief characteristics of Islam has been its sacralization of history.
        -Karen Armstrong, Islam : A Short History

Posted by: oj at February 27, 2004 12:31 PM

OJ -- Did you read "inhospitable" in my question as "hospitable."

Posted by: David Cohen at February 27, 2004 1:17 PM

No, I think classical Islam (Sunni Islam, whatever) is and has been inhospitable to democracy for the reasoins Ms Armstroing states. It is in the nonpejorative sens totalitarian. It will be an Islam reformed by the protestant force of America and globalization that becomes the basis for democracy eventually--though Shi'ism is already a sound basis.

Posted by: oj at February 27, 2004 1:27 PM


Yes, and now they're recognizing it as a problem.
If your standard for efficient government is effective foresight and forward thinking legislation, then no government in the world meets that standard.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at February 27, 2004 3:00 PM

It's not. Efficient government is undesirable and dangerous.

Posted by: oj at February 27, 2004 3:21 PM