* Imaginary “opportunities for the far-right” are a big problem for Britain’s Socialist multiculti brigades who intend to replace the natives with a Muhammedan proletariat:
This whitewash from the Economist is a blaring example of the multicultist obsession that deliberately ignores islamic supremacist ideology and the intention not to integrate or assimilate, but to conquer, regardless of the reality on the ground:
IN CITIES all over Europe, mayors are fretting about the coming religious festivities. No, not just Christmas lights. They want to ensure hygiene and order in the slaughter of sheep for the feast of Eid al-Adha on December 8th. This remembers the readiness of Abrahamâ€”the patriarch revered by all three monotheistic faithsâ€”to sacrifice his son. Muslims often sacrifice a lamb, whose meat is shared with family members and the poor.
In the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, where the dominant culture is that of Morocco, a circular from the district authorities reminds residents not to kill animals at home. It invites them to a “temporary abattoir” that will function for 48 hours in a council garage. Molenbeek is one of four areas of Brussels which have set up makeshift slaughterhouses, each with a capacity of at least 500 sheep. In practice, home killing is hard to stop, despite vows by the city authorities to prosecute offenders.
In places like Molenbeek, a few miles away from the European Union’s main institutions, talk of the continent’s transformation into Eurabia doesn’t sound absurd. Although Muslims make up less than 4% of the EU’s total population, their concentration in urban areas is altering the scene in some European cities.
In some of these places bad relations between Muslims, non-Muslims and the authorities are creating political opportunities for the far right. In east London, for example, arguments are raging over plans for a “mega-mosque” near the site of the 2012 Olympics. In rough parts of northern Paris, there are fights between Muslims and Jews. In Italian cities, where Muslims are numerous but not many can vote, Catholics and secularists have united to stop the erection of mosques.
Yet talk of civilisational war in Europe’s cobblestoned streets is out of line in one respect: it understates the ability of democratic politics, especially local politics, to adapt to new social phenomena. For cities to work, compromises have to be struck and coalitions assembled. In city affairs, more than in national politics, politicians borrow each other’s slogans and policies.
In London, many expected a change in municipal attitudes towards Islam when a Conservative, Boris Johnson, took over as mayor from Ken Livingstone, a leftist maverick who had feted Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a controversial Muslim preacher. But in October, when the fasting month of Ramadan ended, Mr Johnson worked as keenly as his predecessors had done with the Muslim Council of Britain to stage an Islamic celebration in Trafalgar Square.
Or take Rotterdam, where Ahmed Aboutaleb, a Muslim from Morocco, will take over as mayor at the start of 2009. On the face of things, Rotterdam has the ingredients for a Eurabian nightmare. Its Muslim population (at least 13% of the total, some say more) huddles in a few poor districts; there is a big white working class; and this is the home of Pim Fortuyn, the Islam-bashing gay politician who was killed in 2002. A group set up by Fortuynâ€”Liveable Rotterdamâ€”remains active, though it lost control of the city hall to a Labour-led coalition in 2006.
And yet for now the public mood in Rotterdam is one of compromise. Among the leftist councillors who induced Mr Aboutaleb to leave his government job, the talk is of reaching out to xenophobic voters. Some policies adopted by Liveable Rotterdamâ€”such as house searches to find illegal immigrantsâ€”have been kept under Labour. And Labour councillors like Hamit Karakus (born in Turkey but now steeped in Dutch emollience) stress the need for sensitivity to the “host” community.
Muslim citizens, he says, must understand old Dutch people who fear to leave their homes because neighbourhoods have changed. Muslims, he adds, are entitled to call the Netherlands home and practise Islam, but must accept the basics of democracy, and equality between the sexes. For the foreseeable future, noÂ ezan, or call to prayer, will be heard on Rotterdam’s quays: too provocative, says Mr Karakus.
In the rough dockside area of Feijenoord, a local Labour politician, Robbert Baruch, enthuses about the role of mosque committees in a “social network” that mitigates poverty. He has often helped Muslim groups to qualify for municipal funds by broadening (to include non-Muslims) the range of partners and beneficiaries in their social activities. While scholars debate the role in European history of Islamic culture, local politicians face practical issues. Should recreation be segregated by sex? What food should be served in schools? How should city workers dress?
Each European country has its own traditions and taboos. Since 1905 the French state (and public space such as ministries and schools) has been off-limits to religion; it is axiomatic that no faith can ask for political favours. Belgium is messily theocratic, with a raft of subsidies for “recognised” places of worship and religious teachers, a category that now includes Muslims.
Despite these contrasts, some dilemmas faced by local authorities with large Muslim populations vary little across Europe. And the responses are often similar. In east London, double-parking is tolerated when the streets fill with Friday mosque-goers; in Molenbeek, traffic is curbed during Muslim feasts. When there is an electoral, or practical, imperative to deal with Muslim concerns, local administrators somehow get round the taboos. Muslims, meanwhile, find themselves in strange alliances. Brahim Bourzik, a well-connected Rotterdam Muslim, co-organises public events with a gay newspaper: to remind people, he says, that gays have often spoken up for immigrants’ rights.
As a case of local pragmatism, take Lyon in France, where 16,400 pupils at primary schools returned from half-term to find a new lunch menu. Alongside the expected meat dishâ€”sautÃ© de dindeâ€”there was a meatless alternative. Although it wasn’t presented that way, this change was a response to the fact that many Muslims won’t eat meat unless it has been killed in a halal way. In some city schools, about 40% of pupils had been skipping lunch.
Lyon council is the first in France to introduce in schools what it defensively calls a “secular menu”. Its meatless lunches are a neat compromise. Under France’s secular doctrine ofÂ laicitÃ© it would be unthinkable to make full halal meals; a gesture to “vegetarians” got round a problem that needed facing in a department where 300,000 Muslims (19% of the population) live.
When diet divides
One local civil-liberties group called the new policy “dietary apartheid”. But the Lyon authorities hope to avoid the passions over food in schools (and other Islamic issues) that rage in, say, Antwerp. That port is a bastion of the Flemish-nationalist movement, Vlaams Belang, which plays on fear of Islam as much as linguistic chauvinism. In the last city elections in 2006, VB retained about a third of the vote, and was kept out of power only by a broad centre-left block. Between Antwerp and Rotterdamâ€”both historic ports that are diverse but Dutch-speakingâ€”there is a big difference in political climate.
Every time moves are made towards opening a new mosque in Antwerp (there are now 36), Vlaams Belang stages a noisy protest. Last January it brought to Antwerp a gaggle of far-right groups from across Europe; a cross-border effort to stop creeping Islamisation was duly proclaimed. And nationalist Flemings reacted with triumphant rage when an Antwerp bureaucrat quietly decided that, henceforth, all food in city schools would be halal. The finesse that other north European cities bring to inter-faith relations seems lacking in Flanders. A compromise over the apparel of Antwerp city workersâ€”scarves were not to be worn when dealing with the public, but okay elsewhereâ€”left all sides grumbling.
If relations between Muslims and others are tense in Flemish cities, that reflects the sick state of Belgium. In Brussels, Flemings accuse French-speaking bureaucrats of enfranchising francophone Moroccans so as to tilt the balance against Dutch. And as Hilde de Lobel, a VB legislator, puts it: “People say they haven’t fought against the French language only to yield to Arabic.”
The Flemish right has taken heart from the widely publicised protests against a large mosque in Cologne. In September a protest meeting in the German city (with participants from Flanders, Italy and Austria) was called off only after police clashed with counter-demonstrators.
But in Germany as a whole, inter-faith relations are happier than in Belgium. Take Duisburg, just 60km from Cologne, where Turks began arriving in the 1950s to work in the coal and steel industries.
In the suburb of Marxloh, in Duisburg’s gritty outskirts, a big mosque has just opened with few problems. A history of inter-faith co-existence has made the region tolerant, says Peter Greulich, a city father in Duisburg. Still, when the Muslims of Marxloh decided to turn their prayer space (an old canteen) into a real mosque, they took no chances. Duisburg had been through a fight in 1997-98 over the call to prayer: “We learnt our limits then,” says Zulfiye Kaykin, head of community outreach at the new mosque.
From the start, non-Muslims were brought in. A board of 25 peopleâ€”from churches, voluntary groups and trade unionsâ€”was set up to figure out “how to integrate the majority community into the whole project”, says Ms Kaykin. The mosque is something of a hybrid. It is built in a familiar Byzantine-Ottoman style, but some features reflect local needs. These include a community centre on the floor below the prayer space, serving both Muslims and non-Muslims. Planners didn’t want a male-only Turkish tea room. Instead, the communal area hosts events for women, youth and the aged plus exhibitions of Muslim and Turkish culture for outsiders. A cabaret artist of Turkish origin has performed there: a first for a mosque.
Miracles do happen
What some call the “miracle from Marxloh” draws little local opposition. Neo-Nazis from elsewhere held a protest in 2005, but Duisburg united against it. The city’s mayor, from the centre-right Christian Democratic Union, backs the project.
The mosque has also been a catalyst for change in the community. “Women have to come out of anonymity,” says Ms Kaykin, herself a stylish, scarf-less dresser. Of the mosque’s 740 members, 80 are women: a change from the old restriction to male heads of households. The mosque has big windows, in part to reassure Germans that nothing bad is being preached.
In Cologne, critics deplore the proposed mosque’s visibility, and the height of its minarets. But in Marxloh, visibility is part of the point. Duisburg has more than 40 mosques, most in nondescript buildings. Some arouse suspicious talk of “parallel societies”. A mosque that announces itself seems reassuring. “We need more mosques in our country, not in backrooms but visible,” said JÃ¼rgen RÃ¼ttgers, the CDU premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, at the mosque’s opening in October.
The fact that centre-right figures like him back Muslim construction projects shows how far political Europe has come in accepting Islam. In France, local politicians on the centre-right have let through initially controversial plans for large mosquesâ€”in Toulouse and Marseille, for example. Several French city halls have faced legal challenges for giving mosques land too cheaply. But in France and Germany it is now widely accepted that more purpose-built mosques are needed.
None of this means that all problems over mosquesâ€”and other policy issues related to Islamâ€”are solved. In Heinersdorf, a poor area of east Berlin, there was uproar when Ahmaddiya Muslims from Pakistan, a group which mainstream Islam eschews, set up a mosque. A local citizens’ group called the newcomers “anti-women, anti-democratic and anti-Semitic” and the neo-Nazis were even ruder. But Abdul Basit Tariq, the imam, says the row died down a bit after the mosque opened in October, with the mayor of Berlin present.
On other touchstone issues, like segregated swimming, each country applies its own legal tradition. Rotterdam’s Mr Karakus says this question is no harder than having set times for older swimmers. In France, things are tougher. This year, the mayor of La VerpilliÃ¨re, a village near Lyon with a Turkish population, had to stop a weekly session at the pool that was reserved for women. Non-Muslim women liked these dips as much as their Islamic sisters, but they were deemed to violate French ideals of equality. Fadela Amara, the government minister for cities, who is of Muslim origin and a feminist, called segregated swims a sop to fundamentalism.
But on some matters, a humane accommodation of Muslim customs is increasingly common. One such issue is burial. In Britain, Leicester has pioneered good practice in Islamic internment. In Lyon, the Regional Council for the Muslim Faith (CRCM) has secured Muslim plots, aligned with Mecca, in public cemeteries. On this question, and over sheep sacrifice, regional councils work better than the national bodyâ€”the CFCM or French Council for the Muslim Faithâ€”of which they are part. On slaughter, talks with the prefecture were “efficient and straightforward”, says Azzedine Gaci, head of the Lyon CRCM.
This bears out an argument made by Jonathan Laurence, a professor at Boston College. As he puts it, local pragmatism often works better than high-stakes posturing between governments and “national” Muslim bodies. In the latter case, expectations are too high: governments want to resolve all their worries about security and political stability, while on the Muslim side, there is rivalry between ethnic groups and a compulsion to flex muscles. But Mr Laurence adds that for local deals to work, there has to be some national consensus about the limits of cultural freedom.
In many parts of Europe, the far right scored well by vowing to tighten those limitsâ€”only to lose ground, in some countries, as other parties adopted parts of their agenda (for example, by pledging to curb immigration), and as Muslims became more skilled at politics. However, there are areas of Europe where Islamophobia is still in the ascendantâ€”such as Austria, where the far right took 29% of the national vote in September and picked a fight over teachers and veils.
In France and Germany, the centre-right has grown friendlier to Islam. In Italy, by contrast, the centre-left has been forced to take a tougher line over Islam by the xenophobic right. A mosque-building project in Bologna collapsed in April after its sponsors rejected terms imposed by a leftist mayor, such as transparent funding, and the severing of ties to a pan-Italian body which is seen as close to the Muslim Brotherhood. In Genoa, a leftist mayor has imposed even stiffer conditions (like a bar on minarets) on a mosque-building effort that began last year. But opponents still want a local referendum before work starts.
Neither in Italy nor elsewhere is there any ground for complacency about social peace in Europe’s cities. The absorptive power of local democracy is great, but it is not infinite. From Amsterdam to Leicester, conurbations that now thrive on diversity could face problems if economic pressures put an end to the municipal largesse that keeps all groups happy. But at least this much can be said: there are enough examples of Muslims and non-Muslims learning to rub along, through the trade-offs of local politics, to disprove the fatalists. In urban Europe, there is nothing predestined about the clash of civilisations.