Europe And Its Arabs
Here's a lengthy interview with Klausen from Der Spiegel's English edition. Hoping they don't track me down for a copyright infringement, I'm running big pieces of it because it includes insights we don't normally find here in America. I've cut some, though, so you might want to click through and read the whole thing:
SPIEGEL: You seemed quite surprised to discover that many of the members of this "Muslim elite" you questioned were not part of the second generation of immigrants, as you had expected, but were actually fairly recent first generation immigrants. What does this tell us about Muslims in European society?
Klausen: Many of the people I spoke to had come to Europe in their twenties, either as political refugees or as students. They were already educated, and that was critical for their self-esteem, that they already had that faith in themselves. There was a real difference between those Muslims who had moved to Europe and those who were born there. Those who had moved here would say to me: "Things are much worse where I came from. Here I can sit and talk to you without worrying about the police." By contrast, the people born in Europe did not take that view -- they were much more likely to say: "Europe has made all these promises to us and hasn't kept them." They were much angrier, and scored much higher in all the alienation tests I used.
SPIEGEL: And what does it mean for that second generation, whose parents came to Europe presumably for a better life, are they becoming a lost generation, an underclass? And if so, what can be done about it?
Klausen: In Europe, we have an education system which we have relied on in the past as a means of integration and a gateway to opportunity for all sorts of people. I myself am the first generation of my family to be university educated, and I only got a degree because it was free. My family did not have to pay for it. I think we have to think very carefully about why the education system is not working for the younger generation. Many of the leaders I talked to stressed there was a lack of early integration into politics, through youth groups and so on, saying it is not happening for young Muslims because the established political groups are skeptical, mistrustful of Muslims, they are aware of the political consequences of having Muslims elected to political offices and promoting them to leadership positions, even in youth groups. One exception to that rule was in Sweden, where the trade unions and other political groups have really encouraged young Muslims to get involved, but I didn't see that anywhere else, and I think it is very important that parties and groups start promoting Muslims to political positions.
SPIEGEL: Obviously if those groups start doing that now, it will be good news for youngsters who are in their early teens, but what about those who have gotten lost in between? Is there a serious threat, of further home-grown terror attacks like in London and Amsterdam and of the emergence of what some are calling a "Generation Jihad"?
Klausen: Yes. Two years ago when I started on the work for this book, I realized that there are many large cities in Europe that have a quarter to three-quarters of the population living without civil rights. They are living in highly socially and economically segregated areas with no mobility at all. I thought then that in many ways, Europe was like America prior to the civil rights movement. This was prior to the riots, but there was a real sense that this is a ticking time bomb and nobody is paying attention and it will lead to violence. There is a stark difference between the rioters and the terrorists, though. The only thing they have in common at all is that they are predominantly Muslim. The terrorists are better educated, many of them actually have jobs, they have all traveled internationally -- to Pakistan for example -- they are very international. By contrast the rioters are terribly domestic, very isolated.
SPIEGEL: One of the big problems you focus on is the lack of proper religious leadership in the form of properly trained imams in Europe who speak the language of the country they are working and preaching in.
Klausen: There is a real fear of radical imams. I spoke to a lot of people who were worried their children would fall into the hands of the radical imams because they are already alienated -- one woman told me her son had come home and said to her, "They all think I am a Muslim, they all expect the worst from me, that I am a radical, so I might as well do it." People think they can't take their children to the mosque and give them a version of Islam that is compatible with having proper aspirations for themselves in terms of education and integration. And then there is the language issue -- another man I spoke to in Stockholm said to me: "What good is a Saudi Arabian Imam to me? I am a Swedish Muslim."
SPIEGEL: Some countries, like Germany, are already taking steps to foster the growth of a so-called "Euro-Islam" and you mention in the conclusion to the book that you believe this European Islam is emerging. How would you characterize it?
Klausen: The revolutionary new Islam is what is called Islam of the Book, and it is based very much on an individual's own readings of the Koran, on each person sitting down as part of a prayer group and figuring out what Islam means to them. Usually there is no imam, and everybody has the same relationship to Islam because they can all read the text. That is already the Islam of Europe, the Islam of the next generation, the inter-ethnic Islam. It is all about a textual reading of the Koran, in local languages, and there are broad variations of interpretation, everything from neo-orthodox understandings where people say: "I must wear the hijab, because that's what the book tells me." Other groups say: "There is nothing in the Koran which tells women they must wear a hijab, only that both men and women should be dressed modestly." I think what is important is that when European governments step in and try and resolve issues around Islam, that they are attuned to this diversity, that they do not just work with traditionalists, because if they do, then we are going to short-change that new thinking which is going on and which should be stimulated and encouraged. ...
SPIEGEL: We've recently seen problems in France and in Britain involving some of the areas where many Muslims are living in close-knit communities or ghettos like the banlieues. Do you think something needs to be done to change this? Does Europe need a big gesture like the bussing schemes which were attempted in the United States?
Klausen: Yes, I think Europe does need a large, dramatic gesture. If you look at the Bronx, for example, and LA, the renovation projects there have actually worked. It takes a long time, a decade and a half, but to start a building program, to go in and start razing these public housing projects is actually meaningful. ... I think one of the big lessons from the US desegregation program is that one has to be careful not to reach for really coercive measures, and bussing did create a horrible conflict.
SPIEGEL: You interviewed people in six very different countries - is it possible to say where integration policies are working best and where they aren't?
Klausen: There are some striking differences. Partly that is to do with the history of immigration to a particular country, but also it has to do with basic geographical and economic factors. For instance Denmark and the Netherlands are doing much better in educating young immigrants, but they have the worst employment records for immigrants, that is in part because they have very lenient anti-discrimination policies, practically non-existent, and also because they are reliant on small employers to create jobs. In many ways, France is simply the country that has failed in the last 10 years, more than any other, though that is partly because France's economic growth has been really poor. By comparison, Britain has had a pretty robust economic growth and that makes it easier to absorb this younger generation. Talking to Muslim leaders about what they think is needed, they all said they wanted to see more anti-discrimination legislation. I pointed out that the EU's rules on it, which came into effect two years ago, were the first of their kind, and yet it is still legal in most of Europe to stop someone from renting a room in your house for whatever reason you decide -- religion, race, whatever. And these things are not being addressed. It is about a change in mindset, and there is no quick fix for that.
SPIEGEL: Do you see the situation in France as a hiccup in the process of integration, or is it a warning sign of a phenomenon which could spread to other countries that have large Muslim populations?
Klausen: I think that many local governments are very anxious right now. There are a number of communities where unemployment rates regularly hit 40 to 50 percent -- towns around London for example, Luton, Tottenham, where you could imagine something like the riots happening, but I think one has to bear in mind the French geography, the city planning was a big issue in this case. I can't see something like the riots happening in Berlin's Kreuzberg neighborhood, where the local authorities have worked hard. ...
SPIEGEL: Is the problem simply European racism?
Klausen: There was a lot of sentiment among the people I spoke to that Europeans really have a problem with pluralism. It goes very deep. In my personal experience I am shocked by the kind of statements people feel free to make about other people. In Europe you have politicians and others who say things which would be completely unacceptable in the United States. A Danish newspaper, for example, recently ran a competition for cartoonists about how to draw a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed -- things like this are a deliberate effort to insult. The lack of respect and understanding for other people's sensitivities is extraordinary. I also think the Muslim community is a bit at fault here -- and this is where I stick my neck out -- because I think there has been a tendency for many Muslims to circle the wagons, and for moderate Muslims not to speak up, not to willingly display that disagreement among Muslims is okay. The truth of the matter is that Muslims are like everybody else, they have different views of what their faith means and they disagree among themselves about what the solutions are and those problems. An open debate would be very useful to everybody, because we would get an overall view of where possible compromise positions are.
Interview conducted by Bryony Jones
For years the Europeans have looked down their noses at Americans because of our complex race relations issues, but it seems like we've been doing better than them all along.