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Islam Has Become Toxic in the West

On 20th September 2015, Republican contender Dr Ben Carson averred in an interview with NBC that Islam is not consistent with the US constitution and “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.” It would have been interesting to know of Carson’s reasoning. Moreover, we might have expected what may itself be an unconstitutional stance to have damaged his campaign. But quite the reverse happened. Five weeks later, a CBS/New York Times poll showed that he had taken the lead from Donald Trump to become the Republican frontrunner.

Perhaps Trump and his team drew an important lesson from this, for on December 7th 2015, in the aftermath of Islamist terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Trump made a forthright pronouncement in which he called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” This boosted his ratings so that by December 21st, according to a CNN/ORC poll, he was once again in the lead; a lead he would not relinquish. It was unmistakeable that a hard line on Islam was very popular among sections of the American population. Indeed, a YouGov poll in December 2015 found that 58 per cent of Americans had an “unfavourable” opinion of Islam; by contrast only 17 per cent had a “favourable” opinion.

The proposed ban was initially a minority position. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll on December 9th 2015 showed that 25 per cent of the population supported it whilst 57 per cent opposed it (although a YouGov poll at the same time found 45 per cent in support and 41 per cent who opposed). But over the course of the following year, increasing numbers of Americans said they agreed with Trump. By March 2016, YouGov found 51 per cent in support, and 40 per cent opposed; in June 2016, Reuters found 47 per cent for each position, while in the same month Morning Consult showed 48 per cent in support and 40 per cent opposed. The fact that about half of Americans were in support of such an extreme, and possibly unconstitutional, policy leads to the stark conclusion that aspects of Islam are felt to be deeply troubling, and not just confined to perceived terror threats from adherents to the faith.

The situation in Europe is little different – in fact, if anything, Europeans are rather more negatively inclined towards Islam. This is highlighted by the findings of an extensive survey conducted in 10 European countries between December 2016 and January 2017 by the Chatham House think tank (the countries are Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, and United Kingdom). The survey was based on the statement: ‘All further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped.’ Overall, across all 10 countries, an average of 55 per cent agreed that all further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be discontinued, 25 per cent neither agreed nor disagreed, and 20 per cent disagreed. In all but two, there was an absolute majority that agreed, while in no country did the percentage that disagreed surpass 32 per cent.

These findings add to the growing body of evidence that Islam and its adherents have become toxic to a large swathe of the population in the West. The hitherto default position of Islamists and their apologists has been to argue that Westerners are ignorant of the faith and what drives hostility towards Muslim beliefs and practices is a manifestation of “Islamophobia” and racism. But these have been little more than “guilt-tripping” tactics which have increasingly become ineffective. This is attested by the rising popularity of political parties that have an overtly anti-Islam agenda. Thus, in the Netherlands, the PVV [Freedom Party] came second in the general election on March 15th – yet it has the most extreme position of any leading party in the Western world in that it calls for the banning of all Islamic symbols, mosques, and the Koran from the country.

In France, the Front National’s presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is also leading in the polls and may yet register a surprise victory in the second round of elections on 7th May. Her anti-immigration stance is firmly focused on Muslims and she proposes to “expel foreigners who preach hatred on our soil” and to strip dual-nationality Muslims with extremist views of their French citizenship. But the Republican candidate Francois Fillon has also adopted a similarly tough stance on Islam with his description of radical Islam as “totalitarianism like the Nazis.” Catholics, Protestants, and Jews “don’t denounce the values of the Republic,” he said, indicating that was not the case with Islam.

Austria’s Freedom Party (FPO) has intensified its attacks on Islam, calling for a law banning “fascistic Islam” and Muslim symbols, comparable to an existing law banning Nazi symbols, saying Islam could wipe out European society. In January 2017, its leader, Heinz Christian Strache asserted: “Let us put an end to this policy of Islamisation … otherwise we Austrians, we Europeans will come to an abrupt end.” The FPO is currently leading in the polls and its candidate Norbert Hofer was only narrowly defeated in the presidential elections in December 2016.

Neighbouring Switzerland has also developed a strong antipathy towards Islam as evidenced by a major survey in November 2016. Asked whether Islam should be granted the same official status as Christianity and Judaism, 61 per cent of 15,617 respondents said “no” or “probably no” in what the Swiss News Agency reports was a representative survey carried out by the Tamedia publishing house. An almost identical percentage (62 per cent) said there was no place in Switzerland for Islam.

In Germany, the Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD), formed just 3 years ago, is now the third largest party. A key factor for this sudden rise has been its unremitting opposition to Angela Merkel’s ‘open-door policy’ towards migrants and refugees, the overwhelming majority of whom are Muslim. In May 2016, it adopted an explicitly anti-Islam policy which entailed a ban on minarets, the call to prayer, and the full-face veil, stipulating that Islam was “not part of Germany.”

Konrad Adam (left), Frauke Petry and Bernd Lucke during the first AfD convention on 14 April 2013 in Berlin

In Denmark, a survey in July 2016 asked 1,045 adults whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement “Denmark, together with the rest of the Western world, is at war with the religion of Islam and not just radicalised Muslims.” 33 per cent agreed, an astonishingly high percentage for such an extreme statement, while 56 per cent disagreed, and 11 per cent said they did not know. The leader of the Danish People’s Party, Martin Henriksen, campaigns to “fight Islam and this fanatical religion’s influence on the Danish society” and has described Islam as a “terrorist organisation.” In Sweden, a country like Germany with a hitherto open-door policy towards migrants, the anti-immigrant anti-Islam Sweden Democrats is growing in popularity and may come first in the next general election.

Unlike in Western Europe, Central Europe has parties strongly hostile to Islam that are already in power. In April 2016, Hungarian Prime Minister and leader of the Fidesz – Hungarian Civic Alliance, Viktor Orban, announced “We have the right to choose whom we wish to live together with and whom we do not wish to live together with. To be clear and unequivocal, I can say that Islamisation is constitutionally banned in Hungary.” In a similar manner, the Prime Minister of Slovakia, Robert Fico, of the leftist-nationalist Smer-Social Democracy Party in the midst of the general election campaign of March 2016 made the promise “I can tell you we will never – under a quota system – bring one single Muslim to Slovakia. And we will never – not even voluntarily – create a self-contained Muslim community, because it would represent a serious security risk.” Later in the year, like so many European leaders and citizens, he made the familiar refrain “Islam has no place” in the country. In Poland, in 2016, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leading member of the governing Law and Justice Party, warned that accepting Muslim refugees would “threaten Poland’s security,” while Zbigniew Ziobro, the country’s justice minister, has said the ruling party is the only defence against “Islamic districts in Poland.”

Such striking, even disturbing, findings should be an eye-opener to the powers-that-be and civil society at large in the West. Yet, much of the political establishment, the mainstream media, and academia have been distinctly reluctant to seriously address this profoundly important issue. Indeed, their default position is that of the minority that is favourable to, or not unduly concerned by, Islam’s role in the West. So how to explain what can accurately be described as a ubiquitous visceral hostility to Islam and Muslims?

The kernel of an explanation lies in the fact that the majority think that Islam is incompatible with Western democracy and the Western way of life. This judgement is based upon observation of the many millions of Muslims who have settled in North America and Europe in recent decades. This judgement is coupled with the mass media and the internet showing the reality of Muslim countries across the globe; a reality hardly appealing to the majority of Westerners. Indeed, a seldom remarked fact is the magnetic appeal of the secular West to Muslim migrants, whose strong religious identity might be expected to encourage their migration to other Muslim countries.

Crucial insights are gleaned from Britain, the country with the longest experience of Muslim settlers, the majority of whom came from its former colonies. A Populus opinion poll in 2011 – considered the largest survey into identity and extremism in the UK – found that 52 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposition that ‘Muslims create problems in the UK’ (a far higher percentage than for other religious groups). More clarity is obtained from the findings of two opinion polls conducted in 2015 (by Survation and YouGov): both found that only 22 per cent of the population think the values of Islam are compatible with the values of British society; by contrast, in both polls more than half thought they are not compatible.

In Germany, a survey by the Bertelsmann Foundation in January 2015 found that 57 per cent of Germans considered Islam “very much” or “somewhat” of a threat and that 61 per cent believe that Islam is “incompatible with the Western world.” In France, an IFOP survey in 2016 found that 47 per cent of French people felt that the Muslim community poses a “threat” to national identity and almost two-thirds believe that Islam had become too “influential and visible.” These findings are entirely consistent with the centrality of secularism in France’s body-politic. Hence, in the three Western European countries with the largest Muslim populations, attitudes towards Islam are decisively negative.

One argument invoked to explain such views is that after 9/11 and the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, Muslims in the West were unfairly conflated with acts of terror, and targeted for their legitimate grievances against Western interventions in Muslim countries. This is not at all convincing as many non-Muslims – invariably the majority – also opposed these wars, so the recourse to such reasoning amounted to the shielding of Muslims from critiques and criticisms of their faith.

Importantly, the reality of Islam in the West was arousing concern before 9/11. For example, an extensive survey by Paul Sniderman and Louk Hagendoorn as far back as 1998 on the views of Dutch people in regard to Muslim residents in the Netherlands showed that over half the Dutch population thought that “Western European and Muslim ways of life are irreconcilable.” More specifically, “nine out of every ten agree that Muslim men in the Netherlands dominate their women … Three out of every four Dutch agree that Muslims in the Netherlands raise their children in an authoritarian way.” Such views led to the title of their book: When Ways of Life Collide.

Molenbeek, a suburb of Brussels in Belgium

What is true, despite different policies, is that the outcome has been similar in European countries with large Muslim populations. Rather than a new respectful, tolerant, all-encompassing, and socially cohesive society envisaged by advocates of multiculturalism, with accommodation of separate cultural and religious demands especially by Muslims, instead we see segregation, ghettoisation, resentment, alienation, communal stress to the point of hostility, and the leading of “parallel lives.” It is this reality that the Central Europeans, with very low numbers of Muslim settlers, find so unappealing. There is now widespread consensus that multiculturalism has failed. Indeed, the fact is that many Muslim communities have become “psychically detached,” with few points of contact and little affinity or identity with mainstream Western society. This indubitably contributes to the perceived toxicity of Islam.

While the ensuring of security and prevention of terror attacks warrant the highest priority, in the longer term, the urgent task for policymakers is to undo the separatism and high levels of psychic detachment that have reached critical proportions. These are generating considerable unease across the Western world in regard to Islam and those who espouse the faith. Integration and assimilation are the sine qua non for this worrisome dynamic to be reversed.

 

Rumy Hasan is the author of Multiculturalism: Some Inconvenient Truths (2010) and Religion and Development in the Global South (forthcoming 2017); and a member of the EU’s Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) with a special interest in the prevention of Islamic radicalisation.

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Rumy Hasan is the author of Multiculturalism: Some Inconvenient Truths (2010) and Religion and Development in the Global South (forthcoming 2017); and a member of the EU’s Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) with a special interest in the prevention of Islamic radicalisation.

25 Comments

  1. Mr Peter Connolly says

    Death to apostates, Sharia Law and the belief that Islam is the only “true” religion will always be incompatible with so called Western values which include freedom from religion – especially for Atheists. I was raised a Roman Catholic but left the church when knowledge and common sense showed no evidence for any god.

    • icutrauma11 says

      Try telling that to the SJW in the west. They are literally supporting their own massacre.

  2. Taymur says

    As a (borderline) Muslim myself, I have to say, you’re analysis is extremely insightful. It’s the ‘guilt-tripping’ that traps the common believer in the web of the clergy. Fear of divine punishment etc. Historically, the Islamic clergy silenced free-thinkers, but alas this is not possible in the West. The vast and varied Western interest in Islam applies existential pressure to the Ivory Tower of the clergy. Critiquing Islam – this notion itself – is their kryptonite.

    • Luke Reeshus says

      Critiquing Islam – this notion itself – is their kryptonite.

      Yes, this seems to be one of the more significant differences between Islam and Judaism/Christianity in the present age. Biblical criticism, undertaken by Christian and Jewish scholars, has been a thing now for quite sometime (I think it got under way in the late 19th century). Whereas an analogous deconstruction of the Qur’an is still forbidden, and could even get the person attempting it murdered. Thus, Islam is still tied to its own mythology in a way that Judaism/Christianity are not.

  3. In Sweden (and I suppose there are simular elsewhere), many among those for and against Islam are comfused. Especially those for (radical left including media, politicians in general here and useful ignorants). They can’t differ between most of those arriving last few years with those who fled to Sweden back in the 60’s and 70’s, but it is quite simple.

    Those Arabs, mostly from Iran, who got here back then, was either Christians or moderate Muslims. Both persecuted and intimidated by the radical Muslims. Resently, most arrivers have been radical Muslims and obviously like to import their ‘culture’ into Western countries. (As I would refere it: ‘The Silent Invasion’ …)

    Those moderate Muslims that arrived, didn’t require any mosque. The radicals do and in some cases even have demanded the right to build.

    There has also been a lot of discussions about ‘hostility toward stangers’ and radical left, politicians and media here have equated it with xenophobia, which is something different. ‘Hostility toward strangers’ exist among most spieces, mobile as well as stationary.

    (I was raised in an agnostic family, as my parent was tought in school, by priests etc., that God is a punishing god and is watching you everywhere … Even in the toilet … They both realized early, that a religion basically is a tool of egoistic power, just like politics.)

  4. James says

    Several polls regarding Western views of Islam and Muslims are presented. Missing from the essay are any polls about Muslims’ preconceptions regarding Westerners. Pew research, among others, have performed such polls and the results are equally “xenophobic” – characterizing Westerners as greedy, arrogant, violent and disrespectful. at rates exceeding 50%.

    This, coupled with the sad fact that a certain small percentage of Muslims tend to explode in public places, could explain some of the cultural incompatibility.

    • Rumy Hasan says

      James, you are quite correct but my aim in this piece is to explicitly focus on western views of Islam and Muslims. Yes it would be worthwhile to examine Muslim perceptions of the west and western way of life – and how this has evolved over time.

  5. What is “assimilation”? “Assimilation” equals cultural destruction. Is that the solution you propose? It’s possible for a small group, sometime, not always, but it’s not possible for an important group, and it’s not possible for religious groups, unless you use violence.

    I’m a Breton (from Brittany, south of Great-Britain), and I’m under french domination and french assimilationist politics, that is a cultural genocide, and we are fighting it, we are fighting this French assimilationist politics.

  6. Henri says

    The last paragraph is wrong. Let me fix it for you, muy friend:

    “Repatriation and mass deportation are the sine qua non for this worrisome dynamic to be reversed.”

  7. Mack says

    A religious test is hardly required for this discussion. We can make this discourse about values. If you don’t believe in universal human rights, free expression, etc. then you don’t belong in the West. This is universal. We should be ashamed that there are countries in the West that still have blasphemy laws on the books. We should be ashamed that there are Western nations with speech restrictions and forbidden books and symbols. We need to be careful that our democratic institutions are not usurped by tyrants.

    To paraphrase Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (among others) – “Democracy is like a train – you ride it to your destination, and then you get off.” Let this be a warning to regressives that would compromise on the most basic of human rights.

  8. Just as Muslims are across a spectrum, like any religion, it is worth remembering that no fundamentalist religious principles whether Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim are in line with modern, democratic, enlightened principles.

    The misogyny and violence toward women in Hindu India is vastly worse than Islamic but this seems not to bother people. Misogyny and violence toward women in fundamentalist Christianity, Buddhism and Judaism also gets overlooked.

    We are selective in our approach to religious values which have no place in a modern world.

    • Austin says

      It’s not our concern to fix the values of other cultures. It is our concern to maintain the values of our own.

      • I am not talking about fixing other cultures, I am talking about being mindful of our own and it is irrational and unreasonable to target Muslim fundamentalists without doing the same to other religions, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, who also have beliefs which are unworkable in our society.

        • Jessica says

          No it’s not. It is rational to be concerned with the biggest threats. It is not rational, or possible, to be concerned with all possible threats at all time. I am simply not concerned with Buddhist fundamentalists because I live in Minnesota and that would be absurd of me. However, when I go to the mall I see women in Burkas. Why would I not be concerned with that? I notice that no one looks at these women, except out of the corner of their eyes. I notice that no one talks to them. I notice they talk to no one. It’s dehumanizing and it’s in my local mall. I am sad for the women in India who are harmed by fundamentalism but it is totally rational for me to be more concerned with my own environment.

          • Why fear any of it? The biggest threat to Americans is your own military industrial complex which keeps dropping bombs on helpless civilians in numerous countries and which allows the Israelis to commit war crimes and human rights atrocities against the Palestinians….. all reasons for many people hating you.

            The American war machine is not just dehumanising it is deadly.

      • I agree with you completely and your words are some of the wisest I have seen in a long time.

    • nicky says

      Why has the ‘West’ become selective in its approach? Why is it somehow ‘singling out’ fundamentalist Islam? That is the question.
      I think that the earlier post about the concept of ‘dawa’, may have something to do with it. Fundamentalist views are also wide-spread among the European Muslims, they are not a tiny fringe group. The assertiveness (always ready to throw ‘racism’ and ‘islamophobia’ around), not to say agression (‘death to those who mock Islam’ or ‘Cologne’), of large swaths of muslims towards the infidel societies they are living in, the disrespect, nay contempt, for the ‘decadent’ western societies and democratic values, while taking advantage of it’s fruits, the double morality, the fear (whether justified or not is another question) of islamisation, are all factors, I think. And these facts and perceptions are mostly missing, or at least less prominent, in other fundamentalist religions (Note, I did not even mention terrorism).

    • I think you have very little knowledge, either about Hindu Women in India. For us, women are sacred and revered. The women here do not undergo genital mutilation nor they are divorced at will, not do they wear body covering black dresses nor they are suppressed at any front. In fact we have special reservations in Colleges and in Government jobs for women. In a Billion -populated country like India, Sure, women undergo lots of atrocities- rape, Subjugation and denial of equal rights. But those things happen in every developed county and we should jointly fight them, if you happen to plan to tour india, let me know- I will take you through some nooks, You will be surprised. And stop comparing Hinduism with Islam, Hinduism is all for Pacifism.

    • Just because there is a spectrum, there should be no implication that the distributions are similar. Many multiple pollings indicate that Muslims as a whole are very radicalized compared to the other Abrahamic religions. Extrapolate at your own risk.

  9. seedie says

    There’s no shortage of strongly felt and clearly stated rejection of Islam in these comments and the article reports near uniformity of majority opposition to Islam in independent polls. This is not news, but much needed plain speaking.

    What is amazing is the almost complete lack of response by the nominally democratic governments of the western world to these views and the manner in which polled majority opinions are now criticised and branded as ‘populist’ (bad!) by the government / legal / media ‘elites’ that control which part of our news is reported. As an example I find it disturbing that in the UK the first report I see of the last four months of poll results mentioned in paragraph 4 comes via Quillette not the national media. Where’s our democracy gone?

    The UK has a history of tolerance of immigration and subsequent integration. The rate and nature of recent immigration combined with the denigration of prior national culture and the denial of a resultant problem is storing up trouble. Decades of far left and fundamentalist liberal legislation from nominally Labour or Conservative governments, under the banners of diversity and equality, have isolated immigrants into competing pressure groups and set each against the other and all against the state.

    There are ways of living with Islamic immigration, but I suggest they start with the recognition of the primacy of the national majority culture of the host nation, continue with the management of immigration rates and geographic distribution, and rest with temporary guest status for anyone unable or unwilling to integrate.

  10. Darwin T of BC Humanists says

    Fewer cut-outs from modernity are needed. Faith based schools must have a World Religions multi -year course taught with everything from Ahmadis to Zoroastrians taught. Quebec already does this. Kudos to them. While we are at it ALL schools and all home schoolers must teach this course too!

    Importing bad ideas leads to bad outcomes. If an applicant for resettlement or immigration espouses in their embassy interviews for migration that Female Genital Mutilation or Sharia are values they like or if they agree that any religion should get special privileges then their application should be denied even if they are angel investors with millions of dollars and want to create jobs.

    Muhammad is a hero for all Muslims and all of Islam. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said though, “Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.”

  11. Kurt says

    “The kernel of an explanation lies in the fact that the majority think that Islam is incompatible with Western democracy and the Western way of life. ‘

    Well, duh.

  12. John says

    Whenever I look at the way things are and ask myself, “Why are things the way they are?”, the answer that invariably comes to my mind is that things are the way they are because that is how the people in power want them to be.
    The ruling elite – in Britain and elsewhere – invariably rely upon a divisive “them and us” approach towards gaining and retaining power.
    In the past – for example – encouraging mass migration from Ireland into Britain served as a way for employers to undermine the power of organised labour, in order to keep wage levels low and their own profits and incomes high.
    Religious differences – between Catholics and Protestants – was useful for control purposes.
    It could be argued that having a large low-paid Muslim workforce available achieves the same outcome today in Britain.
    All religions are as bad as one another, depending upon how much power they can command.
    Judaism and Christianism are as equally offensive and alien as Islamism, given the same chance.
    The Albigensian Crusades against fellow Christians and other Crusades against Muslims and Jews were historically just as oppressive as anything we currently see from Muslims today.
    The true values of rabbinical Judaism are just as offensive as anything believed in today by christians and muslims.
    We see this most clearly today in the treatment of Palestinians but Jews also believe that women are a lower form of their species too.
    All devout male Jews are expected to say two prayers every morning, thanking their god that they are not Goyim (non-Jewish) and thanking their god that they are not female.
    Ultimately, people need to leave all forms of religion and other forms of sheer divisiveness behind.
    If people come here to live and work, then they should accept our values.
    If they cannot accept our values, they should leave and go somewhere else where the extant values are more to their liking.
    If that means returning to some horribly backward village in Pakistan – for example – then so be it.
    They will presumably be happier there – and so too will we.

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