Thursday, November 17, 2005

The European Problem

The French riots have reminded us of the existence of a segregated society in Paris and around that country, as well as elsewhere in Europe. While some blame the native French for not welcoming immigrants into the mainstream culture, others make the observation that some immigrants don't want to assimilate:
Millions of "French Muslims" don't consider themselves French. A government report leaked last March depicted an increasingly two-track educational system: More and more Muslim students refuse to sing, dance, participate in sports, sketch a face, or play an instrument. They won't draw a right angle (it looks like part of the Christian cross). They won't read Voltaire and Rousseau (too antireligion), Cyrano de Bergerac (too racy), Madame Bovary (too pro-women), or Chretien de Troyes (too chretien). One school has separate toilets for "Muslims" and "Frenchmen"; another obeyed a Muslim leader's call for separate locker rooms because "the circumcised should not have to undress alongside the impure."
For many Muslims in Europe, self-segregation has come naturally. What's tragic is that European authorities have supported it. Rejecting the American approach - namely, encouraging immigrants to work and integrate - they've instead helped newcomers to maintain distinct communities and provided benefits that have made it easy for them to stay unemployed. Why did these authorities prefer segregation? Supposedly they were enlightened "multiculturalists" who respected differences; for many, the real reason was a profound discomfort with the idea of "them" becoming "us." Naively, they imagined they could preserve their nations' cultural homogeneity while letting in millions of foreigners and smiling on their preservation and perpetuation of values drastically different from their own.
What they've reaped, alas, is a generation of Muslims, many of whom view their neighborhoods as colonies amid enemy territory - and who demand this autonomy be recognized. These riots, in short, are early battles in a continent-wide turf war.
It's a war authorities can't afford to lose.

Andrew Sullivan:
This is not a case simply of an ethnic minority denied integration; it's a case of a religious minority refusing integration, indeed attacking and denying the very values of secularism and liberalism upon which the West rests.