The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged immigration
Sarrazin against the Saracens

The Saturday Profile - Thilo Sarrazin -

THIS quiet, orderly man, who lives in a quiet, orderly house, in a very quiet tree-lined neighborhood has caused a huge public stir here with his volatile book arguing that Muslim immigrants in Germany are socially, culturally and intellectually inferior to most everyone else.

With the certainty of an accountant adding up rows of numbers, Thilo Sarrazin has delivered his conclusion in a book that has sold over one million copies, forced him to quit his job at the German central bank, may get him kicked out of his political party and for the first time since World War II made it socially acceptable in Germany to single out a particular minority for criticism.

By former Cairo correspondent Michael Slackman, incidentally — so that's what he's up to! He has some some great quietly devastating passages in this piece, such as:

Mr. Sarrazin greeted a visitor to his home one morning, during a rare lull in his schedule of book readings and television and radio appearances. His living room has lots of books on shelves, a few paintings and prints on the wall and a large flat-screen television. There are no personal touches, no family photographs, though he says his hobby is photography.

“Some have said I argue that the achievements of immigrants from Muslim countries are lower because of genetic reasons; this is quite wrong,” Mr. Sarrazin explained, as if to cast off any taint of prejudice. “It has to be a matter of culture, and Islam is that culture.”

Mr. Sarrazin says his book can be boiled down to a few main ideas. To begin, ethnic Germans are having too few children, while Muslim immigrants are having too many. In a population of about 82 million, there are about four million Muslims (a number he said he calculated partly by looking at census figures for families with lots of children. Big families must be Muslim, he concluded). Within 80 years, he said, Muslims will make up a majority in Germany.

Second, Mr. Sarrazin believes that intelligence is inherited, not nurtured, and since Muslims are less intelligent (his conclusion) than ethnic Germans, the population will be dumbed down (his conclusion).

Third, to solve a growing demographic problem, Germany will require immigrants, but he says that bringing more Muslims into the country will only make matters worse. He says that after examining three indicators — success in education and employment, and welfare dependency — he concluded that Islam is by its nature a drag on individual success.

Beware of narrow-minded Germans following their thinking to its logical conclusion! 

Links for Jan.10.10 to Jan.11.10
“Lorsque je commençais mon enquête sur le tourisme au Sahara marocain, je n’imaginais pas être prise à témoin d’échanges sexuels” « Ibn Kafka's obiter dicta – divagations d'un juriste marocain en liberté surveillée | On sexual tourism in Western Sahara.
What the "Eurabia" Authors Get Wrong About Islam in Europe - By Justin Vaïsse | Foreign Policy | Critique of Eurabia theory.
The Trials of Tony Judt - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education |
U.S. to store $800m in military gear in Israel - Haaretz | To keep in mind in context of Iran.
Israel and Iran: The gathering storm | The Economist | Interesting story with background on Osirak bombing, Israeli prospects against Iran.
Executive | Magazine has new books section.
Strong reaction to warning of coup - The National Newspaper | Iraqis react to UK ambassador's testimony to Chilcot Enquiry that coup to purge Iran influence still possible in Iraq.
the arabophile | New blog.
Joe Sacco: Graphic History | Mother Jones | Interview with the cartoonist and author of "Footnotes from Gaza."
High cost of living means more unmarried in Egypt | Bikya Masr | Stats on why Egyptians are marrying later.
Arab Reform Initiative | Report on constitutional reforms in the Arab world.
The architecture of apartheid | | On the bantustanization of Palestine.
The Venture of Marty Peretz’s bigotry: Arabs, Muslims, Berbers and more « The Moor Next Door | Kal on the New Republic editor's Islamophobia.
The Forgotten Recantation — jihadica | Interesting post on the recantation of Abbud al-Zommor.
'Bush sold Arab states arms in violation of deal with Israel' - Haaretz - Israel News | Obama, more pro-Israel than Bush: "The Bush administration violated security related agreements with Israel in which the U.S. promised to preserve the IDF's qualitative edge over Arab armies, according to senior officials in the Obama administration and Israel."

Links for Dec.13.09 to Dec.16.09
� Egypt puts archives on Web to boost Arabic content | But what's the address?
� Muslims in Europe: A Report on 11 EU Cities | Open Society Institute | Tons of interesting questions raised by this ground-breaking poll.
� Abkhazia Is Recognized by Even Smaller Nauru - | Sharqeya next?
â�© Pro-Israel Lobby Group’s Iran Petition Features Lots of Questionable Names « The Washington Independent | Such as "Porn Sex Video" and Comfylovely".
� LedgerGermane: Karzai Says Afghan Army Will Need Help Until 2024 | Yikes.
� Future of US-Egypt Relations: A View from the Next Generation | Notes on another POMED event.
� POMED Event: U.S. Military Assistance: Obstacle or Opportunity for Reform? | Steven Cook, Emile Hokayem, etc. some discussion of Egypt-US military relations.
� | Zaitout: reports about Algeria-US agreement over temporary military bases | Handle with care.
� British court issued Gaza arrest warrant for former Israeli minister Tzipi Livni | The Guardian | More of this please.
� Nights to remember - The National Newspaper | Arabian Nights conference in NYU Abu Dhabi.
� Obama's Big Sellout : Rolling Stone | Must-read Matt Taibbi story on Obama's bailout of Wall Street.
� Al-Masry Al-Youm | Police raid home of prominent blogger | Wael Abbas sentenced to six months of prison in absentia for stealing his neighbors' internet??!?!
� We will not bow to this Moroccan king | Paul Laverty and Ken Loach | Comment is free | The Guardian | Strongly worded op-ed for Aminatou Haidar.
� David Ignatius - Jordan's ex-spy chief wasn't too good to be true | On former GID chief Saad Kheir - a dubious tribute.
� Orientalism in Reverse | Brian Whitaker critiques Joseph Massad's "Gsy International" theory.

Links for 11.30.09 to 12.02.09
Why they hate us (II): How many Muslims has the U.S. killed in the past 30 years? | Stephen M. Walt | 288,000, Walt estimates.
Libya convicts Swiss pair in apparent revenge for arrest of Gaddafi's son | World news | | Good timing.
Israel strips more Palestinians of Jerusalem status (Reuters) | "Reuters - Israel stripped Palestinians of Jerusalem residency status last year at a faster rate than at any time in the history of the Jewish state, an Israeli rights group said on Wednesday, citing official Israeli statistics."
Dubai model was the vision of one man | Reuters | Andrew Hammond's writes: "The "Dubai vision," which has suffered a crushing blow from the freewheeling Gulf emirate's sudden debt crisis, is the creation of one man who failed to apply the rules of open governance."
Arab disappointment with Obama | Marc Lynch | Arabs disappointed with mideast policy, not democracy. Americans disappointed with everything.
Spreading Shiism to the Moon Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | This is about Iranian ambitions over the Comoros Islands, but I link because the intro is funny.
Jewish Nationalists and Palestinians Clash in East Jerusalem - | This headline makes it sounds like the Jews are the natives. Plus it's in East Jerusalem, which is Palestinian under international law.
Obama's Middle East Policies: the Persistence of the Bush Doctrine on Vimeo | A lecture by the Angry Arab, Asa'ad Abu Khalil.
Israel attacks Sweden on Jerusalem plan | I think this Swedish position on Jerusalem, if the EU takes it up, is important.
What to listen for in Obama's speech | What Walt says on Afghanistan.
The New Inquisition | Laila Lalami in The Nation.
Arab journalist throws shoe at Iraqi shoe thrower - Yahoo! News | He missed, too.
Views from the Occident: Hizbullah Announces New Party Platform | Hizbullah peddles its national vision.
ei: "We will have to kill them all": Effie Eitam, thug messiah | Buffalo, NY Jews welcome Elie Eitam, murderer and Eretz Israeler.
Super Emo Friends | Diskursdisko | Comic book humor - should appeal to those emos in Egypt.

Minarets of doom
The poster that convinced Switzerland to ban minarets

What can you say about the Swiss decision to ban minarets — in their constitution, not the building code! — that hasn't already been said? I for one am kind of grateful for this decision, which simultaneously exposes the depth and the vacuity of anti-immigrant, and specifically anti-Muslim, rhetoric in Europe. It's long been obvious to anyone with a strange last name and more-tan-than-usual skin, but the Swiss have taken it to new levels. To cite a great line from the Hitcock film Notorious, which I watched recently at the top secret Arabist retreat at the edge of the desert, "we are protected by the enormity of their stupidity."

Of course one is tempted to concoct some scheme to respond. An Arabist nadwa last night included the following possibilities:

- Building mosques on their sides, so the minaret goes sideways rather than up in the air;

- Building minarets into the ground;

- Painting minarets onto the side of buildings;

- Finally taking Arab money out of Switzerland — perhaps in the process we'll see who has that money they're so good at being discreet about;

I'd welcome your thoughts. In the meantime here are a few tangentially minaret-related links: » Why Minarets?:

"But why the minaret? I suspect that this is a very Christian response, not unlike the centuries old designation of Islam as Mohammedanism. Since Church steeples are so emblematic in Christianity, it must be assumed that the minaret holds a similar position for Muslims. There is nothing in the Quran or traditions that mandates a minaret; just as Jesus never told his followers to build steeples. A minaret is also a visible difference for a building that may look ‘Middle Eastern’ but otherwise would not stand out as much. So the vote does not really prevent Muslims from worship, but it does send a message. This message is an Islamophobic domino theory response, since the real issue is not about architecture (or any misguided birds who may occasionally fly into a minaret) but about assimilation. News reports indicate that the fears behind the vote (which was not exactly a landslide) are more about women in hijab, application of sharia law and, of course, fear of extremist terrorism. Ironically, most of the Muslims in Switzerland are from European contexts like the former Yugoslavia, not from areas where they are likely to be violent."

Excuse me? Daniel Varisco starts off well with a look at the Christian reasons for obsessions with minarets, but then veers off with the comment on Muslims from Yugoslavia. The breakup of that country was a violent process that lasted most of the 1990s, it's not like Yugoslavian Muslims have no experience of violence (and indeed there were jihadis there, even if the best-known ones were foreign). Secondly, what's the link between the provenance of Muslim immigrants and their likelihood of being violent? Are Arab Muslims the most violent because al-Qaeda is largely an Arab organization? That might be so if membership of al-Qaeda was statistically significant among Arabs, but it isn't. So really this is about the "noises and smells" and dress code (and skin color?) of non-European Muslims.

Minarets in Switzerland — Crooked Timber:

"The Times reports that there’s some evidence that more women were in favor of the ban than men, too. One can only suppose that, having waited until 1971 to give women the vote in Federal elections, and in some parts of the country until 1990 in Cantonal elections, the Swiss are now making up for lost time making good on their commitment to feminism."

✪ Speaking of which, here's a post on Islamic feminism [in French].

AFP: Egypt mufti says Swiss minaret ban insults Muslims:

" Egypt's Mufti Ali Gomaa denounced a vote to ban new minarets in Switzerland on Sunday as an 'insult' to Muslims across the world, while calling on Muslims not to be provoked by the move."

But of course Gomaa has opened himself up to a counter-attack with Egypt's restrictions on church-building.

Do It Yourself Minaret by a Swiss graphic artist:


Les anti-minarets veulent encore serrer la vis après l'acceptation de l'initiative contre la construction de minarets - swissinfo:

Since this article is in French, I'll translate the gist of it: Swiss parties now considering further measures "against the rampant Islamization of Swiss society." These include a mix of good and bad things: fighting forced marriages, female genital mutilation (not that it's an Islamic practice anyway), a burka ban, and no dispensation from swimming classes for Muslim kids. Some want to take it further: no separate areas for Muslims in Swiss cemeteries, and a ban on Swiss Muslim from wearing a veil (any type) at the workplace. Note that they've thrown in decent ideas about protecting women's rights with all kinds of racist drivel, all in the name of "encouraging Muslims to integrate our societies." Obviously that will not work, because that is not their real intentions: they want to drive out Muslims from Switzerland, go back to some kind of purely Calvinist culture now that they don't need cheap labor anymore. They are racists, and next on their legislative agenda is a law that would enable them to deport any Muslim immigrant who breaks a Swiss law or defrauds state welfare.

You see, it starts with something silly and then loses all sense of proportions. In the process they will kill positive steps that can be taken towards integration.

✪ From Le Figaro, French right-wing politicians mull also banning minarets, but most don't care about the existing ones. It is giving a boost to wider right-wing calls against Muslim immigration, though.

Saudi Aramco has an old article about minarets.

✪ Sharq al-Awsat has a round-up of reactions from prominent Islamic thinkers.

✪ In a rather timely fashion for all this, Laila Lalami's review of Christopher Caldwell's book on Europe and Islam. Unlike the many other reviews I've read it reveals some truly shocking passages (including one in which Caldwell equates European colonization and labor migration). Here, after talking about French racism, she traces the intellectual intellectual antecedents of European worry about the Mohammedan hordes:

So it would seem that the perfect Muslim immigrant in France is one who cleans the house, picks up the trash, attends to the infant or, increasingly, fixes the computer, heals the sick and runs the bank, and then disappears in a wisp of smoke, before his presence, his beliefs, his customs, his way of dress, his "noise and smell" offend the particular sensibilities of the general population. France is not alone in wishing that its Muslims were invisible. As anyone who has visited Western Europe in the past few years will tell you, the "Muslim question" is a matter of grave concern.

European Muslims have unintentionally revived a whole genre of nonfiction--the alarmist tract, billed as a "searing" yet "necessary" exposé on Europe's impending demise now that it has allowed so many millions of Muslims to settle on its shores. The titles are each more ominous than the last: The Rage and the Pride, by Oriana Fallaci (2002); Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis, by Bat Ye'Or (2005); Londonistan, by Melanie Phillips (2006); Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis Is America's Too, by Claire Berlinski (2006); and While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West From Within, by Bruce Bawer (2006). The authors rely mostly on tabloid or newspaper accounts; the arguments are simple, or, more accurately, simplistic, and the preferred method of inference is extrapolation.

The latest offering in this genre is Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West, by Christopher Caldwell, a senior editor at The Weekly Standard and a regular contributor to the Financial Times, The New York Times Magazine and many other publications. However, just as Chirac and Sarkozy prefer to say more carefully what Le Pen says bluntly, Caldwell articulates in polite and embellished language what Bawer and others have been saying aggressively for years: Europe is being overrun by Muslim immigrants; these immigrants show no sign of assimilating to European culture and social mores; and as a result, Europe is in danger of becoming an outpost of the Islamic empire.

She concludes:

Yet no one in the chattering classes seems to have noticed that the voices of European Muslims are seldom heard. This is a debate about them--not with them. And indeed Reflections on the Revolution in Europe has been reviewed in the American press mostly by people who are not European, much less Muslim. Not surprisingly, the argument that Muslims are collectively trying to "conquer" Europe "street by street" in order to turn it into an outpost of Islam has been taken at face value. But this argument is not serious criticism because it is not based on thorough empirical evidence; it is racism.

In other words, racism in Europe is raw and exposed -- what else can you say about the ridiculous ban of minarets -- but racism in America, which had a better history of integration of immigrants generally, remains cloaked in the anti-immigration rantings of mainstream personalities like Lou Dobbs and a view of the Muslim world defined by that deadly phrase, "why do they hate us?"