April 24, 2004


The outsiders (The Age, April 19, 2004)

[T]he reality is that Europe's estimated 12.5 million Muslims are feeling less welcome in the countries that once provided shelter, jobs and the chance of a better future. A continent that once exported its ideas of freedom and democracy to the world is now, Muslims say, showing it how to quietly victimise its own citizens. "When I go on the Metro with my headscarf on, people stare at me," says Leila Horr, a 17-year-old Paris high school student. "The big controversy about the veil is creating more problems than there were before. It's creating a gulf between the community and the rest of France."

But the veil, which will be banned from state schools in France from September, is not the only ideological flashpoint. Other hot issues include asylum, immigration, racism and crime -- all driving a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims and, even within the Islamic community whose members come from a range of practices, traditions and cultures.

Many Muslims are, for the first time, facing a clear choice of becoming either less integrated -- and more ghettoised -- or standing up and demanding their rights. A warped minority is making a further choice: to join the worldwide jihad against the West, in its own backyard. They grab the headlines as the war on terror rages across Paris, London, Rome and countless other European cities and towns; the vast majority quietly fume, abide by the law and pray for deliverance.

In The Hague, where almost half of inner-city residents are Muslim, Arif Potmis, 42, an adviser to the local Islamic organisation, sees his community being made to feel like second-class citizens. A moderate man by nature and political inclination, he spends his days talking to younger Muslims about the need to engage with the broader Dutch society rather than look inwards and to radicalised versions of Islamic teaching. Potmis doesn't readily buy into conspiracy theories, but concedes it is hard to win the argument when Muslims are denied access to city facilities (and Jewish groups aren't) as happened at the end of last year's Ramadan.

It seems unlikely that the Decline and Fall of Europe will produce a Gibbon, though it will warrant one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 24, 2004 7:29 AM

A continent that once exported its ideas of freedom and democracy to the world is now, Muslims say, showing it how to quietly victimise its own citizens.

When did it become a requirement of supporters of "freedom and democracy" that they support and defend those who would eliminate both?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 24, 2004 12:25 PM

Wearing a veil means you're an enemy of democracy? Better rip the yarmulkes off our Jews...

Posted by: oj at April 24, 2004 12:41 PM

Closer to home, in Hamtramck (near Detroit), Muslims are insisting on noise ordnances being changed so mosques can broadcast the five-times daily prayer call over loudspeakers.

In a neighboring community, Muslims are insisting a couple of their holidays become official (i.e., days off for city employees), just like Good Friday.

It might not seem so up in the Great White North, but other areas of the US are facing the same problems the French are.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 24, 2004 1:19 PM

Why's that a problem?

Posted by: oj at April 24, 2004 4:12 PM


I'm with you on the veil, but there is indeed a problem here that isn't easy to get a grip on. Let's not make the mistake the leftists do when they deconstruct sex. It is easy to take this or that religious practice and see it as incidental and inoffensive, but at some point it adds up to a whole. In this case the whole appears to be menacing in less than concrete ways.

What is troubling is how the Muslim communities in the West have mastered the language of freedom, multiculturalism and victimhood to push for this and that at the very same time the West and particularly the U.S. is being condemned (and worse) throughout Muslimland. What is even more disturbing is how the domestic lefts in the West are so contemptuous of their traditional cultures and faiths that they are delighted to aid and abet all this, which gives the Muslims a lot of clout in academic, legal, media and certain political circles.

The problem seems to be an in-your-face assertion of this and that, a refusal to evince loyalty in a concrete way and one never-ending victimhood whine that outdoes the aboriginals. Frankly, I sometimes wish they feared as much as they say they do, which I do not believe most of them do.

BTW, the common law started regulating and even silencing church bells at the suits of Harry-like curmudgeons over a hundred years ago. The issue is one of the foundations of the law of nuisance. I suggest we tell the Muslims to either forget it or warn them that if they win in court on constitutional grounds, every church bell in Detroit will peal gloriously and loudly five times a day.

Posted by: Peter B at April 25, 2004 9:40 AM


You lost me there--why is it a good thing that church bells don't ring?

Posted by: oj at April 25, 2004 10:02 AM


I don't think it is, but I accept there have to be reasonable limits in a plualist society so Harry can sleep in soundly and the various denominations don't duel 24/7 at eighty decibels. It isn't an issue of belief or morals, so everyone gives. I assume the muezzins' calls over loudspeakers aren't commanded by Allah, so why is the issue even being pushed? Kind of like Hindus demanding their sacred cows be allowed to wander the streets of Chicago, no?

Posted by: Peter B at April 25, 2004 1:28 PM

Those bell-ringers get awfully hungry, it would be nice if they could find a good chicken joint on the way home.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at April 25, 2004 2:03 PM


You ever live next door to a church?

I did, in England. My bedroom as about 75 feet from the belfry. In the 20th century everyone has clocks. Those that choose to be at the 8:15 am service can make it on their own.

And the rest can remain unpestered.

Of course, the other problem is that once government gives a break to one religion, then all religions get the same break.

Or, government can apply the noise ordnance equally. Which is why secularism in government works so well.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 25, 2004 4:17 PM


Muslims have to pray five times a day--the call alerts them.


Once society gives government power to regulate...

Posted by: oj at April 25, 2004 4:56 PM


Yes, but Allah in his wisdom invented alarm watches and pagers.

Posted by: Peter B at April 25, 2004 5:34 PM


Social institutions are always preferable to atomizing devices.

Our connstitution uniquely privileges religion from the types of regulations that might for instance restrict the Good Humor bell.

Posted by: oj at April 25, 2004 6:10 PM

Imposition of private religious belief into the public space is an atomizing device.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 25, 2004 8:36 PM

That's protected by the Constitution and two thousand years of tradition.

Posted by: oj at April 25, 2004 11:00 PM

1,800 years of tradition protects religious pestering.

200 years of the Constitution protects us from the religious pestering of others.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 26, 2004 7:38 AM

It's an odd Constitution you read, which takes the command to "make no law"and reads it to say "may restrict religious observance"

Posted by: oj at April 26, 2004 8:04 AM

Freedom of religion is meaningless unless it includes freedom from religion.

Besides, it doesn't restrict observance in the least. They can observe all they want and use a watch--they are sold widely now, have you heard?--to figure out whenever they want.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 26, 2004 8:21 PM


That's not what the Conmstitution says though. It protects religion from the State, not you from religion.

Posted by: oj at April 26, 2004 8:28 PM

That sounds like an illogically limited interpretation.

By that line of reasoning, I can set up a religion, and do anything I want to anyone, because the State is not allowed to intervene.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 27, 2004 7:30 AM

L. Ron Hubbard did.

Posted by: oj at April 27, 2004 7:44 AM