June 24, 2016

Source: Bigstock

The last half century has seen huge migration from the Muslim world to the West, to Europe and the U.S.A. Most have come in search of economic opportunities and a better life. Most are indeed peaceful folk, just as most Americans and Europeans are peaceful folk. Many have integrated well; some haven”€™t and live, by choice, in cultural ghettos. Many, perhaps even a majority, dislike and are offended by certain aspects of Western culture and the Western way of life today. They are not alone in finding these distasteful. There are plenty of Christians and people of conservative views and temper who detest”€”or at least disapprove of”€”feminism, gay rights, everything that goes by the name of political correctness. But Americans and Europeans don”€™t, with a tiny number of exceptions, feel drawn to make war on the society they live in. Some Muslims evidently do. We don”€™t know how many.

Muslim leaders regularly condemn acts of terror. One assumes that the great majority of Muslims living in the West condemn them too. They will do so first because they genuinely experience the same repugnance as their non-Muslim neighbors, and the rest of us; secondly because it is in their interest to do so. They live as a minority here and their own well-being and even safety require them to dissociate themselves from Islamic terrorism.

Nevertheless it’s reasonable to suppose that some will sympathize to a degree with the grievances, real or imagined, that motivate the terrorists. Take, for example, the Charlie Hebdo murders. A decent Muslim might be horrified by them, yet have been affronted by the cartoonists”€™ depiction of the Prophet Muhammad, just as devout Christians may be offended by what seem to them to be blasphemous portrayals of Christ on screen or stage.

Again, whatever they may have thought of Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime, it would have been natural for Muslims in America and Britain to have opposed the Iraq War, and to have been dismayed and angered by its consequences. Likewise, most Muslims must surely support the aspirations of the Palestinians, and resent both the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the West’s apparently unquestioning support of Israel.

I mention these not to suggest that these grievances in any way justify terrorism. They don”€™t, and I would guess that only a very small minority of Muslims living in the West think they do. Yet we have to recognize that they may have sentiments of loyalty and brotherhood, which means that they may understand why a small number of disaffected, mostly young Muslims are radicalized and drawn to violence.

What, then, is the conclusion? First, obviously, we must trust the police and security services to monitor suspects and prevent acts of terror. Second, we should recognize that the number of potential terrorists is small, and that, in comparison with the atrocities being committed daily in the Middle East and other parts of the Muslim world, there have been very few successful acts of terror in the West. So we shouldn”€™t panic. Third, and most important, we have large and now permanent Muslim populations in the U.S.A., Canada, the United Kingdom, and every Western European country. They must be encouraged to assimilate, and it must be made easy for them to do so. The better they assimilate, the better for all of us.

Which brings me back to Kipling: Where there is Islam, there is a comprehensible civilization. It’s different from the Judeo-Christian civilization of the West, but not so very different, and certainly not intolerably different. London, one of the West’s great cities, recognizes this; it has just elected a Muslim mayor. With goodwill on both sides we can manage to live comfortably and agreeably together. Without such goodwill the future will be nasty. That’s the choice before us.


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