Muslims, Assimilation, and Racism
The short version: Henley terms the arguments advanced by Steyn about the dangers of unassimilated Muslims into European and Canadian society “racist.” Steyn and his adherents take advantage of the serial nature of blogging and an unfortunate mistake on Henley’s part to retort that it is Henley who is racist.
While I haven’t read the book and thus do not endorse it in all its particulars, I’ve seen enough of Steyn’s columns on the matter to have a general sense of its argument and am sympathetic. At the same time, the rebuttal thus far offered to Henley is silly.
Henley mistakenly attributed a quote in Steyn’s book to Steyn and cited it as a chief example of Steyn’s bigotry. It turns out that the quote was actually from a Muslim cleric. Henley is embarrassed by his mistake but has no reason to be ashamed of it.
For one thing, Steyn was using the quote in question to advance his argument. While he doesn’t speak the words, they precisely reflect his thoughts on the matter in question. If the thoughts are “racist” (and I think they’re not) Henley’s error changes nothing. Moreover, the words in question are cited as “merely the most spectacular example” of a trend. Their misattribution may be embarrassing but that’s hardly disposative.
Henley is writing a blog, not a syndicated column. The nature of the enterprises are different. The rules of the former require an encapsulation of one’s argument in 800 words or so. The latter, by contrast, is an ongoing conversation with a reader; the blogger is not expected to rehash every though he has on the matter in a single post. For those who enter in medias res, there are archives. Often, as they are here, said archives are searchable. Since Steyn is a rather uncommon name, the extensive results for that term in Henley’s blog likely include few false positives.
In the most recent of those posts making a substantive argument, Henley observes,
Steyn alleges that the institutions of social democracy transformed the white, historically Christian, fecund peoples of Europe. But he doesn’t anticipate any change to the dusky, historically Muslim ones under the same institutions. Their birthrates will remain high; their alleged devotion to jihad undimmed. The European Muslim of 2007 will be the European Muslim of 2057 was the European Muslim of 927. “Institutions matter!” except for those people.
That, not some stupid quote, is the essence of Henley’s claim.
Now, it happens that I don’t find those ideas, even if they precisely reflect Steyn’s view (and I’m not sure they do) to be “racist.” For one thing, Islam is not a race but a diverse, multi-racial religion. For another, Steyn’s argument is about culture, not religion. That’s not simply my interpretation; he says so himself:
As one is always obliged to explain when tiptoeing around this territory, I’m not a racist, only a culturist. I believe Western culture — rule of law, universal suffrage, etc. — is preferable to Arab culture: that’s why there are millions of Muslims in Scandinavia, and four Scandinavians in Syria. Follow the traffic. I support immigration, but with assimilation.
Mathematical sleight-of-hand notwithstanding (there are a hell of a lot more Muslims than Scandinavians) Steyn has a point. Islamic culture, as it exists in much of the world, has been remarkably resistant to modernization. It’s not unreasonable — or certainly racist — to argue that, because its teachings are anti-modern and exclusionary, that it might be uniquely resistant to change when exported.
There’s enough evidence, I should think, that the rapid influx of unassimilated Muslims has been harmful to Europe to see it as a serious public policy issue. The answer, though, is assimilation rather than exclusion.
Whether the European Muslim of 2007 will be the European Muslim of 2057 depends entirely on whether the modifier “European” refers to geography or culture. If Europe’s Muslims continue to remain largely outside European society, living in separate enclaves under the tutelage of Islamic clerics propagandizing them against Westernization and under governments that make it essentially impossible for them or even their children to become citizens, there’s no reason to expect that the passage of fifty years will substantially change anything.
Western society has managed to assimilate people from all races, cultures, religions, and creeds; there’s no reason the Muslims need to be an exception. It won’t happen automatically, however. Acculturation is a deliberate process. One can simultaneously welcome new people and be receptive to their ideas while demanding that they learn the language and adapt to the basic norms of society.
Image Source: Exploring US History