[Marxism] Spiked online contributor: blame multiculturalism for terrorism

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Jul 7 07:29:07 MDT 2011

(Yes, I know, it has been a long time since Furedi's gang had any 
credibility on the left despite James Heartfield's insistence on writing 
for leftist publications but this is a reminder of the kind of crud that 
has accumulated around them.)

NY Times Op-Ed July 6, 2011
Assimilation’s Failure, Terrorism’s Rise


SIX years ago today, on July 7, 2005, Islamist suicide bombers attacked 
London’s transit system. They blew up three subway trains and a bus, 
killing 52 people and leaving a nation groping for answers.

In one sense the meaning of 7/7 is as clear to Britons as that of 9/11 
is to Americans. It was a savage, brutal attack intended to sow mayhem 
and terror. Yet whereas 9/11 was the work of a foreign terrorist group, 
7/7 was the work of British citizens. The question that haunts London, 
but that Washington has so far barely had to face, is why four men born 
and brought up in Britain were gripped by such fanatic zeal for a 
murderous, medieval dogma.

British authorities have expended much effort in seeking to understand 
how the 7/7 terrorists acquired their perverted ideas and became 
“radicalized.” In the immediate wake of the attacks, much ink was 
spilled over the role of extremist preachers and radical mosques. More 
recently, the focus has shifted to universities as recruitment centers 
for terrorists.

But this obsession with radicalization misses the point. The real 
question is not how people like Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the 
7/7 bombers, came to be radicalized, but why so many young men, who by 
all accounts are intelligent, articulate and integrated, come to find 
this violent, reactionary ideology so attractive. To answer it, we need 
to look not at extremist preachers or university lecturers but also at 
public policy, and in particular the failed policy of multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism has become a fraught issue throughout Europe in recent 
years. A rancorous chorus of populist politicians, like Geert Wilders in 
the Netherlands and Jimmie Akesson in Sweden, have made major electoral 
gains by stoking fears about multiculturalism. Mainstream politicians 
have joined in, too. Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain and 
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany have recently made deeply critical 
speeches, and the Dutch government decided last month to dump a 
decades-old policy of multiculturalism.

The real target of much of this criticism, however, is not 
multiculturalism but immigration and immigrants — especially Muslims. 
Mr. Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party, the third largest in the Dutch 
Parliament, has campaigned for an end to all non-Western immigration, a 
ban on mosque building and the outlawing of the Koran. Mr. Akesson, 
whose far-right Sweden Democrats shocked the nation by winning 20 seats 
in last year’s parliamentary elections, denounces immigration as the 
biggest threat facing Sweden since World War II. Centrists have 
responded not by challenging such prejudice but by appropriating the 
right’s arguments in an effort to hold on to votes.

Part of the difficulty in thinking about multiculturalism is that it has 
come to have two meanings that are rarely distinguished. On one hand, it 
refers to a society made diverse by mass immigration, and on the other 
to the policies governments employ to manage such diversity. The failure 
to distinguish between these meanings has made it easier to use attacks 
on multiculturalism as a means of blaming minorities for the failure of 
government policy.

Mass immigration has been a boon to Western Europe. It has brought great 
economic benefits and helped create societies that are less insular, 
more vibrant and more cosmopolitan. But the policies designed to manage 
immigration have been largely a disaster. To see why, one needs only to 
look at the experience of Britain and Germany. Both have adopted 
multicultural policies, though they have taken different paths. The 
consequences, however, have been similar.

Thirty years ago, Britain was a very different place than it is now. 
Racism was vicious, visceral and often fatal. “Paki bashing,” the 
pastime of hunting down and beating up Britons with brown skin, became a 
national sport in certain circles. I remember organizing patrols on the 
streets of East London during the 1980s to protect South Asian families 
from rampaging racist thugs. Workplace discrimination was endemic and 
police brutality frighteningly common. Anger at such treatment came to 
an explosive climax in the riots that rocked London, Liverpool, 
Birmingham, Bristol and other cities during the late 1970s and early 
1980s. It was in response to this rage that Britain’s multicultural 
policies emerged.

The British government developed a new political framework for engaging 
with minority groups. Britain was now in effect divided into a number of 
ethnic boxes — Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, African, Caribbean and so on. The 
claims of minorities upon society were defined less by the social and 
political needs of individuals than by the box to which they belonged. 
Political power and financial resources were distributed by ethnicity.

The new policy did not empower individuals; instead, it enhanced the 
authority of so-called community leaders, often the most conservative 
voices, who owed their positions and influence largely to their 
relationship with the state. In 1997, the Islamist groups that had led 
the campaign against Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” during the 1980s 
helped set up the Muslim Council of Britain. Its first general 
secretary, Iqbal Sacranie, had once declared death “too easy” for Mr. 
Rushdie. Polls showed that fewer than 10 percent of British Muslims 
believed that the council represented their views, yet for more than a 
decade the British government treated it as their official representative.

Politicians effectively abandoned their responsibility to engage 
directly with minorities, subcontracting it out to often reactionary 

If the prime minister wanted to get a message to the “Muslim community,” 
he called in the council or visited a mosque. Rather than appealing to 
Muslims as British citizens, politicians preferred to see them as people 
whose primary loyalty was to their faith and who could be politically 
engaged only by other Muslims. As a result religious — and Islamist — 
figures gained new legitimacy in their own neighborhoods and came to be 
seen by the wider society as the authentic voice of British Muslims.

More progressive movements became sidelined. Today “radical” in an 
Islamic context means someone who is a religious fundamentalist. Thirty 
years ago it meant the opposite: a secularist who challenged both racism 
in the streets and the power of the mosques. Secularism was once strong 
within Muslim communities, but it has been squeezed out by the new 
relationship between the state and religious leaders.

Many second-generation British Muslims now find themselves detached from 
both the religious traditions of their parents, which they often reject, 
and the wider secular society that insists on viewing them simply as 
Muslims. A few are drawn inevitably to extremist Islamist groups where 
they discover a sense of identity and of belonging. It is this that has 
made them open to radicalization.

A similar process has taken place in Germany. Postwar immigrants, 
primarily from Turkey, came not as potential citizens, but as 
“gastarbeiter,” or guest workers, who were expected to eventually return 
to their native countries. Over time, immigrants became transformed from 
a temporary necessity to a permanent presence, partly because Germany 
continued relying on their labor, and partly because they — and 
especially their children — came to see Germany as home.

The German state, however, continued to view them as outsiders and to 
refuse them citizenship. Unlike the practices in Britain, France or the 
United States, German citizenship is based on blood, not soil: it is 
granted automatically only to children born of German parents. Germany 
has nearly four million people of Turkish origin today, many of them 
born there, but fewer than 25 percent have managed to become citizens. 
Instead, multiculturalism became the German answer to the “Turkish problem.”

In place of citizenship and a genuine status in society, the state 
“allowed” immigrants to keep their own culture, language and lifestyles. 
One consequence was the creation of parallel communities. Without any 
incentive to participate in the national community, many Turks became 
dangerously inward-looking. Today, almost a third of Turkish adults in 
Germany regularly attend mosque, a higher rate than elsewhere in Western 
Europe and higher than in many parts of Turkey. The increasing isolation 
of second-generation German Turks has made some more open to radical 
Islamism. The uncovering last year of German jihadis fighting in 
Afghanistan should therefore have come as no surprise.

In Britain, the promotion of multicultural policies led to the de facto 
treatment of individuals from minority groups not as citizens but simply 
as members of particular ethnic units. In Germany, the formal denial of 
citizenship to immigrants led to the policy of multiculturalism. In both 
cases this has resulted in the creation of fragmented societies, the 
scapegoating of immigrants and the rise of both populist and Islamist 

IN neither Britain nor Germany did multiculturalism create militant 
Islam, but in both it helped clear a space for it among Muslims. The 
challenge facing Europe today, therefore, is how to reject 
multiculturalism as a political policy while embracing the diversity 
that immigration brings. No country has yet succeeded in doing so.

In principle, the French assimilationist resolve to treat everyone as a 
citizen, not simply as an inhabitant of a particular ethnic box, is 
welcome. Yet as evidenced by police brutality against North African 
youth and the state ban on burqas, France continues to tolerate, and 
even encourage, policies that polarize society in the name of 
colorblindness. And although the relationship between Muslims and the 
state is healthier in America than in most European countries, the furor 
over a proposal to build an Islamic center and mosque near ground zero 
in New York reveals that the same fears and problems that haunt Europe 
exist in the United States.

There is no off-the-shelf solution. But the anniversary of 7/7 should 
remind us of how much is at stake in finding one.

Kenan Malik, a British writer and broadcaster, is the author of “From 
Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and Its Legacy.”

More information about the Marxism mailing list