Thursday, October 27, 2011

Europe's Islamic Experience And Its Implications for America

In accordance with their political open-mindedness, over the last few decades many of the countries of Western Europe, including Great Britain,  have opened their borders to Muslim immigrants and refugees, many of whom are from former colonies of the host nations. It was expected that these newcomers would eventually blend into the societies which had welcomed them.

But is it turning out that way? Far from it, according to a speech delivered in 2008 by Geert Wilders, a member of the Dutch Parliament. He painted a bleak picture of refusal by these foreigners to assimilate into European culture and an expectation on their part instead to be unconditionally accommodated in following their religious and social customs, which often conflict with the enlightened and democratic values that are practiced by these countries.

In addition Muslim communities tend to be self-segregated, are hostile to outsiders, and have high crime rates. The problem is further compounded by the large number of these immigrants and their high birthrate.  As a result Islam is the fastest growing religion in Europe and because of its totalitarian belief system is a threat to the Continent's identity and ideals, such as an open society and gender equality.

Then there is the matter of Muslims' cultural and religious narcissism.  They go ballistic at the slightest provocation and commit violence when non-Muslims challenge their beliefs.  For instance  in 2004, there were death threats culminating in the assassination in Holland of Dutch journalist and film maker, Theo Van Gogh  by an immigrant Muslim who was upset over Van Gogh's remarks and by a film criticizing Islam. Then there were international riots in 2005 and again in 2008 by Muslims over the Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed.  (Islam prohibits its followers from creating images of the Prophet; so Muslims try to trample the freedom of expression of non-adherents by imposing this ban on them as well.). Finally,  there are their acts of outright terrorism such as attacks on commuters in Madrid in 2004 and in London in 2005 and in Spain.

Significantly, with the blessings of the Belgium government, Muslims have established a Shari'a court  in Antwerp. This court  operates outside the Belgium legal system and hears only family law cases (for now).  The problem is that the Islamic legal system is unjust and regressive, especially in the matter of women's rights.  Further, the founders of this court want to eventually place all Belgians—including non-Muslims—under its jurisdiction.

So it's no surprise that as a result of these phenomena, a backlash has developed among Western Europeans. Many people there have come to regard Muslims' radical intolerance as a danger to European security and to the individual's freedom of belief into which this part of the world, after centuries of strife and persecution, has matured and for which it now prides itself  .

Personally, as a progressive l sympathize with Europeans' concern over this issue.  The problem is that many of the opponents of  this creeping "Islamization" are political and religious right-wing extremists both in Europe, e.g. Norwegian Christian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik and in the U.S. such as the Koran-burning Rev. Terry Jones. It's the old "strange bedfellows" story of political antagonists being on the same page of a particular issue but for very different reasons.   Regardless,  I want nothing to do with nor do I want to be lumped in any way with these nut-jobs and their ilk. On the other hand, only a relatively few on the left such as the intrepid  Dutch political leader Femke Halsema have stood up to political correctness and have had the courage to condemn the imposition of Islam on non-Muslim societies even though they face condemnation from multiculturalists and the cultural relativists who complain about  the spread of "Islamophobia".

It was refreshing to find that atheists of all political stripes have taken a stand against fanatacism, including Richard Dawkins who had harsh words for Muslim schools in Great Britain;  Sam Harris and his Youtube videos critical of Islam;  and Christopher Hitchens' rightful condemnation of Muslim leaders' arrogant attempts to have the United Nations make criticism of  Islam a crime!

While the U.S. has not experienced large waves of immigration by Muslims similar to that of Europe, our country  has not been spared by Islam's attempts to strangle freedom of expression.  When Yale University Press compiled and published a collection of political cartoons in 2009, it omitted those depicting Mohammed in response to  intimation by Muslims against the school. In still another incident involving Yale, a few months ago a study program about anti-Semitism which highlighted Islam as a major contributor to Jew-hatred throughout the world was revised to omit this reference over concerns about appearing Islamophobic and (get ready) over jeopardizing Muslim financial support for the university. Then in 2010 on the other side of the country, Muslim students heckled and shouted down an Israeli speaker at  UC Irvine.

However, incidents involving American academia are not the only threat that Islam poses to the U.S. Last year a family court judge in New Jersey rejected a request for a restraining order by a Muslim woman for protection against her abusive ex-husband, who had invoked Shari;a law as a justification for his violent sexual behavior towards the woman. Out of respect for "religious freedom" the judge ruled that the the man was within his rights by following the dictates of his Islamic faith. Fortunately, the decision was later overturned. But the fact that the original judge in this case had decided in deference to Islamic law as he did is ominous.

When a  decision rendered by  a religious judicial court conflicts with  U.S. Constitution, the decree should be overruled by a civil judge.  In fact, why should such religion-based courts  be given legal recognition in the first place?  Yet a study found that some American judges in state courts are indeed using Shari'a law as a basis for or an influence on their rulings. (In all fairness, it should be noted that  Christian fundamentalists such as the Dominionists also want to replace the American law with a theocratic legal system.)

The lesson for the U.S. is clear. Freedom of worship is not absolute.  No individual  or group has the right to exercise their own religious or cultural beliefs in a manner that denies these same rights to others or that imposes its dogma on society at large.  Europeans found this out the hard way.  America ought not make the same mistake.