Islamification: Europe’s Challenge #2
Preparing for change
British Home Secretary Theresa May was vilified by much of the media for her 6 October speech at the Conservative Party conference for saying (amongst other things): “… when immigration is too high, when the pace of change is too fast, it’s impossible to build a cohesive society.” (The Guardian’s Alan Travis called it a “new low in politics of migration”.)
However, May was merely echoing the Functionalist argument of Talcott Parsons (1966) that sudden large-scale change disrupts the equilibrium of society and leads to dysfunction. Parsons postulates that social change is necessary for a society to renew and refresh itself but at a gradual pace which the institutions of society can adjust to and cope with. The disruption of equilibrium brought on by significant sudden large-scale change can bring about conflict.
Over the past half-century Western Europe has been flooded with migrants. Their cultures were initially marginalised and disregarded – and then, through Multiculturalism, given nominal equal status with the host majority and a degree of positive discrimination to help foster that equality. A half-century is a relatively short amount of time to assimilate such large-scale changes.
In retrospect, it’s surprising that there hasn’t been more overt conflict between the different ethnic groups. There’s certainly been nothing like the chaos and violence that Enoch Powell (1968) predicted in his infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech.
Michaels concedes that: “Recent polls have tended to show that the feared radicalisation of Europe’s Muslims has not occurred.” However, he goes on to warn: “Nonetheless, second and third generations of Muslims show signs of being harder to integrate than their parents. Policy Exchange, a British study group, found that more than 70% of Muslims over 55 felt that they had as much in common with non-Muslims as Muslims. But this fell to 62% of 16-24 year-olds.”
As so often, it is the young, with RED strong in their vMEME stacks, full of energy and ideas, who are least likely to accept an unfavourable status quo and to want to ‘do something’ about it. And the small but significant numbers of young European Muslims going out to Iraq and Syria to join UnIslamic State is a clear indicator that society is failing to make a portion of Muslim youth feel they belong. They are NOT integrated.
For the majority of young Muslims, though, they should be able to be as integrated as any other self-identifying group. As discussed in David Cameron’s right about Multicultualism BUT…, though,there needs to be more and better means of integrating minority groups – especially the Muslim communites – into European societies. Young Muslims need to feel they have a stake in the nations in which they live – that the UK, Germany, Frances, etc, are their countries. All around, though, there also needs to be recognition and acceptance of diversity within certain boundaries acceptable to wider society.
Muslims, while almost certainly remaining overall a minority in Western Europe (based on Masci’s projections), will become a larger minority. Their views and concerns (values) will become increasingly important – which means political Islam WILL have a voice. If Muslim concerns are not taken seriously and ‘something done’ to address those concerns, the moderates who would engage and debate are left looking impotent…which then leaves it to the extremists to ‘do something’.
That, of course, involves addressing some of the huge values conflicts discussed earlier. Without ways to manage the values conflicts, the values consensus will break up and social cohesion will weaken, making those with a ‘difficult’ temperament and/or at the more political extreme more vulnerable to radicalisation.
Political and religious leaders across the spectrum need to start preparing for a significantly-increased influence of Islam on British and European public life – and how to communicate this, with the necessary reassurances, to the many different interest groups in the populations.
Change is coming. It can be chaotic and accompanied by civil disruption, overt racism and religious hatred. Or it can be managed in such a way as to minimise disharmony and maximise tolerance and acceptance.
Undermining the extremists with a degree of Islamification
Some extremists, unfortunately, will fit the rigid RED/BLUE criteria of Killing the Terrorists and will need to be dealt with uncompromisingly. In doing this, Europe must call upon its Muslims to take a key part in this. Increasingly there is evidence that ordinary ‘moderate’ Muslims have had enough of the extremists and do want to reclaim their religion from the kinds of sadistic psychopaths who populate the likes of UnIslamic State. As Felix Marquardt writes in the wake of the Paris attacks: “My dear Muslim brothers and sisters, it is time to make our voices heard: we must rise up massively and tell the barbarians who ordered, executed or condoned the acts of mass murder just committed in Paris that from now on we will take the lead in fighting and hunting them down, not just beside, but ahead of, our Christian, Jewish, or agnostic brothers and sisters.”
By making common cause with “our Christian, Jewish, or agnostic brothers and sisters,” Marquardt is demonstrating the assimilation side of the Assimilation-Contrast Effect. Perhaps unsurprisingly, although Marquardt is a devout Muslim, UnIslamic State have demonstrated the contrast effect by putting him on their ‘kill list’!
To improve integration and enhance acculturation, there needs to be more of the assimilation effect while respecting cultural differences amongst the ‘tribes’ now inhabiting Western Europe. There needs to be much more focus on those things which are held to be important to all the tribes. According to Émile Durkheim (1893), the social cohesion of a society depends on developing a values consensus – agreement amongst the majority of citizens on what’s important – which leads to a collective conscience. Not only does there need to be more of a focus on common needs that all groups share but, from them, superordinate goals have to outlined that the tribes can work together on. Working together purposefully gives different peoples access to each other in a safe way so they can learn to appreciate each other and develop something of a common identity. That is a key lesson from Muzafer Sherif et al’s Robber’s Cave study (1954/1961), from which Realistic Conflict Theory was developed.
In any strategy to minimise radicalisation and increase integration, the media have an important part to play. The all too easy, simplistic (and very lazy!) confabulated association of Islam and terrorism in much of the Western media effectively gives credence to the likes of the Britain First, Le Front National and the EDL and is more likely than not to polarise opinion. It may actually make young Muslims more vulnerable to radicalisation.
As Moosavi comments: “Muslims often express a feeling that the media and politicians have been complicit in allowing Muslim identity to be connected to extremism. As a result, in 2011 compared to 2001, there are many more Muslims who take pride in labelling themselves as Muslims because they want to resist the Islamophobic discourses which have surrounded Muslim identities in recent years. Perhaps unexpectedly, when an identity is attacked, those who are categorised as belonging to that group are often likely to assert themselves as part of that group, rather than shy away from it.”
Moosavi shouldn’t be surprised: Social Identity Theory makes it clear that the more you categorise people into a group, the more they will identify with it and absorb its norms and values. As said, PURPLE naturally cleaves to its own and all too easily falls into in-group and out-group patterns. The media need to be coaxed into more running stories of how the tribes can coexist in harmony, rather than so readily propagating the all-Muslims-are-terrorists meme. Villifying all Muslims as potential extremists risks both glamourising the extremists and pushing moderates into the extremists’ camp. As former Belgian presidential advisor Koert Debeuf told blogger Amir Ahmad Nasr with regard to anti-Muslim sentiment and assaults in the wake of the Paris attacks: “The problem is that extremism breads extremism. A more extreme and Islamophobic Europe will no doubt radicalise people in the Muslim community.”
Hunting around the internet or scouring local newspapers will often throw up ‘good news’ stories about ethnic minorities. One that particularly struck me personally was the widely-reported decision of York Mosque to invite non-Muslims to an open day in May 2013. They created a climate of trust and transparency that even sucked a small number of EDL protesters into having a cup of tea with them and then joining in a game of 5-a-side football. The mosque’s Muhammad el-Gomati told The Commentator’s Ghaffar Hussain: “There is the possibility of having dialogue. Even the EDL who were having a shouting match started talking and we found out that we share and are prepared to agree that violent extremism is wrong. We have to start there. Who knows, perhaps the EDL will invite us to an event and the Muslim community will be generous in accepting that invitation?”
As explored in Is Racism Natural…?, familiarity with those who are different often makes them seem less threatening.
Within the broad values consensus, allowing Muslims to have their voices heard and to engage in the political process promotes a degree of assimilation. Of course, allowing Muslims to engage in the political process also means a degree of Islamification. However, as argued earlier, that is likely to bring more influence of the BLUE vMEME into European societies which may be no bad thing as it should strengthen the collective conscience.
The kind of values conflicts discussed earlier are, of course, real and will present a challenge to leaders from all interest groups…but the more the focus is on assimilation – as per the Assimilation-Contrast Effect, the more sophisticated the debates from more complex vMEMES will be and the more likely working consensuses will be able to be developed and managed.
A MeshWORKS approach
Politically-minded Muslims, of course, need to be realistic about how far they can Islamicise Western Europe. They are and will remain a minority in for many, many years; and while Democracy, in theory at least, works to represent all interests, it must – again, in theory – make the interests of the majority its overriding priority. Minority influence researchers such as Serge Moscovici (1976) and Charlan Nemeth (1986) have found consistently that minorities have more influence with the majority the less extreme their demands are. Thus, to return to Moosavi’s example discussed earlier, Muslims campaigning for means to restrict access by children to online pornography are far more likely to get support from non-Muslims than campaigning for a wholesale ban on pornography.
Little by little, incrementally, without creating hysteria among the wider population that the country is on the verge of Sharia law, Muslims can campaign via the democratic system for a more moral Europe. They may well be surprised that they get a fair amount of support from non-Muslims for many of their proposals to make Europe more moral.
Of course, in encouraging moderate Muslims to campaign for change via the democractic route, there is a need to provide reassurance for the remnants of the traditional white working class who comprise the bulk of the Britain First/Pediga/Front National/etc support bases. Though it is clearly a generalisation, their thinking is mainly in PURPLE and RED, with a sheen of BLUE nationalism. So they are motivated by safety in belonging to their own tribe; and they are highly vulnerable to having their fears exploited by RED-driven demagogues as a means to recruit them.
Such people need to be assured that Europe will remain mainly composed of secular/’Christian’ societies – though with an acceptance of people following other faiths, provided that does not unduly impinge on the majority. They need to be told clearly that, while it’s right to respect difference and accommodate minority viewpoints as far as possible, the interests of the majority will always be the primary concern. Perhaps an assurance of religious tolerance and respect for diversity needs to be built into EU constitutions? GREEN’s insistence on respect for diversity has to be clearly balanced with the need to respect PURPLE’s traditional tribal values while strategies are developed to minimise PURPLE’S natural tendency to discriminate between its own in-group and the feared out-groups.
This is by no means an easy set of tasks to lay out. The issues and challenges they raise have been largely ignored by mainstream politicians. The purpose of this feature is to make the case for a purposeful and envisioned management of the processes to enable integration of Europe’s Muslim and other ethnic minorities, with an appropriate degree of acculturation.
While certain key elements such as working for a broad values consensus and creating superordinate goals to facilitate different groups working together in common cause are fairly obvious as well-established socio-psychological principles, it is difficult to be prescriptive about other key elements. This is largely because not enough focussed research has been done on vMEMETIC flows in different cultures and sub-cultures and the memes which are influencing them. What is needed is a MeshWORK approach connecting right across the Western European countries with high Muslim/ethnic minority communities. Such a project would put vital signs monitors ‘on the ground’ to pick up all the different memes influencing attitudes and behaviour and collate that data for analysis – preferably using 4Q/8L. That would enable assessment of the relative strength of vMEMES contributing to a values conflict and the design of appropriate management interventions to try to ensure equilibrium is maintained.
Notice I am not using the term ‘resolution’ here. There will be no ‘final solutions’ but rather irregular ebbs and flows of vMEMETIC strength and cultural influences which may not always be predictable and will need managing as they arise.
Such a project will, of course, be expensive and require the financial as well as political commitment of participating governments… and the project will be semi-permanent, though its scope and its staffing will vary as life conditions across the continent vary. Without such a project, though, GREEN is likely to continue to mismanage both immigration in Western Europe and the integration of its ethnic minorities, with the result that Islamist extremists and far-right neo-Nazis – both driven by RED/BLUE zealotry – will gain in strength and increase polarisation to the extremes.
In David Cameron’s right about Multiculturalism BUT…, I quoted noted children’s author Rosemary Wilkie, in referring to Britain’s past, as saying: “We have had a great story. Now we need a new great story.” Islam, to some degree or other, is going to be part of that ‘new great story’.