Another day in Europe

Another day in France.

PARIS — France assigned 100 police officers to investigate the desecration on Sunday of 148 Muslim graves in a war cemetery in northern France.

President Nicolas Sarkozy called the attack “sordid” and expressed “profound outrage” after it was discovered that vandals had hung a pig’s head from one tombstone, desecrated others and wrote slogans insulting Justice Minister Rachida Dati, who was born in France to parents from Northern Africa.

The graves were in the Muslim section of Notre Dame de Lorette, among France’s largest war cemeteries, near the northern town of Arras. The dead are mostly from World War I, and the Muslim graves, representing the dead of colonial armies, are turned toward Mecca.

Ms. Dati issued a statement condemning a “hateful act” with “racist connotations” that “hurts the memory of our dead, of the veterans who gave their lives for France.”

Dalil Boubaker, rector of the Paris mosque, told France Info radio: “These are probably the tombs of heroes who fell in combat. This is a hateful, scandalous act, an insult to all Muslims.”

In April 2007, Nazi slogans and swastikas were painted on about 50 graves in the Muslim section of the same cemetery, and two men found guilty in the case were sentenced to a year in prison.

About 78,000 colonial subjects of France, many of them Muslims, died in World War I.

Elsewhere in Europe, Geert Wilders, a man for whom many appellations are fitting, gives an interview plainly illustrating that he is no less than a bigot fishing for attention, and give lie to the narrative that he is merely attempting to goad Muslims into reform or attempting to defend Western values through controversy:

SPIEGEL: Your tirades are a challenge to all moderate Muslims and those pushing for Islamic reform.

Wilders: Moderate Islam? That’s a contradiction. It’s going to be a long time before we see a new Koran, an equivalent to the New Testament. Attacks don’t happen in the name of Buddhism or Christianity; nor do homosexuals get beaten up, as happens daily in Amsterdam.

SPIEGEL: But immigrant youth crime has nothing to do with religion.
Wilders: It’s true, they don’t carry the Koran under their arms. But it’s at home. And their fathers go to the mosque. They don’t tell their children that beating women or believers of other religions is not allowed. That’s why we have to push harder for a kind of Leitkultur, a guiding culture. Not a monoculture but a culture that draws on our Christian, Jewish, humanistic traditions and that poses a challenge to the Islamic problem. This is patriotism, not nationalism, this is pride in our own culture.

In comparative perspective, it is several time better to be a Muslim or an Arab in North America than anywhere in Europe.

6 thoughts on “Another day in Europe

  1. Except that in Europe you can’t be thrown in jail for 4 years or more without trial because you happen to have the wrong name or to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time… On top of this, you have to consider the percentage of Muslims in Europe (compared to the total population) and the percentage of Muslims in the USA or Canada. The sheer numbers are obviously adding to the social tensions.

    Also, the type of population who can afford to emigrate to the USA is tremendously different from the type of population ending on European shores. If Europe had the same kind of rules that apply for US or Canadian immigration, there would be far less tension, because the type of immigrants would be a lot more educated, with higher income and social level (which is by the way, relatively speaking, the same kind of difference than between the Dutch and French immigration from North Africa).

    With all due respect, Nouri, I believe that you fall in the same trap than some who blame everything on Islam or cultural origin when talking about immigrants. They fail to see which social group people come from and focus only on the location. Which is one of the first bias a sociologist is warned against.

    A better (though still very imperfect) comparison would be to compare the situation of immigrants from Latin America in the USA and the situation of Muslims or Arabs in Europe.

  2. With all due respect, Nouri, I believe that you fall in the same trap than some who blame everything on Islam or cultural origin when talking about immigrants. They fail to see which social group people come from and focus only on the location. Which is one of the first bias a sociologist is warned against.

    A better (though still very imperfect) comparison would be to compare the situation of immigrants from Latin America in the USA and the situation of Muslims or Arabs in Europe.

    Firstly, I agree with you on the point of comparing Hispanic and European Muslims.

    Secondly, you should read my other posts about European and American Muslims, as opposed to making a knee jerk reaction such as this. I understand the argument you are making, and I have made it many times myself. But even accounting for those variables, the immigrant in the US, or his son or grandson, is far better off in the United States than he is in Europe.

    In terms of tolerance (which is what I am talking about), though, I would still prefer to be an ethnic minority in the United States than in Europe. Social mobility is much easier and the kind of bigotry one sees in European media and politics vis a vis minorities (Muslims, blacks, Roma, etc). Europe’s track record with minorities is dim. The kind of things that native Europeans get away with are unthinkable in the US (largely due to the civil rights experience).

    I would prefer to be brown in American over Europe any day of the week at any level of society.

  3. OK, sorry for the knee jerking reaction. I guess I feel personally attacked when people describe Europe negatively, considering that I have always been a strong defender of the European ideal against the US model. But to go to the core of the issue, which is the situation of immigrant populations from visibly different ethnic groups, I am not so sure. There might be more social acceptance in the USA, but I am really doubtful of it. As for the economic and integration aspects, I stand my point. The level of economic inequalities in the USA between social groups is massive in comparison with most European countries (and especially the Netherlands, a very egalitarian society). This can only maintain immigrants at a sub standard level, below poverty level.

    As for the “bigotry” you are mentioning, I don’t know what you mean. It is simply forbidden by law in many European countries to speak of any ethnic group, cultural group or religious group in a derogatory way. There are always idiots and extreme right wing people who will try it, but it is far from mainstream. On the other hand, you could argue that some of the European integration models are discriminatory because they promote the fusion of the population groups rather than the preservation of separated communities. This is true in France, Belgium and a bit less in the Netherlands, for instance. Personally I think it gives immigrants a better chance in the long term.

  4. I don’t know, I think it’s comparing (oppressive) apples and oranges when we’re talking about things like security certificates and military tribunals vs. day-to-day discrimination in France or Russia. The latter might be experienced by a greater number of people, but I don’t know if “worse” is the useful term to describe that, both are still pretty horrific. I wouldn’t want to experience either, let’s leave it at that.

  5. Not to defend the use of tribunals, but the international perception of for whom those are being used is pretty skewed. Most of the people being tried in military tribunals were captured overseas and are not American Muslims (usually Middle Eastern nationals or European Muslims caught in Afghanistan or elsewhere). The military tribunal is not common practice for civilians in the United States.

    As for day-to-day discrimination in Europe, I’d say that the kind of violence one sees against non-white/Muslim populations in Russia and parts of Germany (by neo-Nazi gangs and other thugs) are about as bad as it gets. I don’t think I can see this happening in America:

    Not that Russia, or a part of Russia, represents Western Europe, but the kind of pervasive discrimination one sees in those countries does not compare with the United States. The models of assimilation used in France (mentioned by Alphast) only contribute to the problems of discrimination.

    Given a choice, I’d live in Western Europe over the Middle East, and America over Western Europe.

  6. Oh I’m familiar with Russian fascism (uh in theory not in person) and I agree it’s really scary.

    But so is being sent to Syria to be tortured (see Maher Arar.) The US still claims their reasons for doing so were legitimate despite him being cleared in Canada and refuse to make known what exactly their reasons were. Most of the people arrested on security certificates here were either citizens or visiting students. Regardless, the precedent is still there that they can be treated differently.

    I agree that with respect to day-to-day discrimination in the general populace there’s really no comparison between North America and Europe, I say this as someone who grew up in a supposedly “redneck” homogenous white town. But like I said above, apples and oranges.

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