American lessons from reaction to Muslim "Cartoon Uprising"
Several days ago, I wrote a piece called "Abhorrent Muslim behavior is a welcome wake-up call for Europe" which received more comments than any prior blog posting. There are some interesting lessons from readers' responses, to which I'll also add some more thoughts of my own.
[I am well aware, and you should be as you read this, that my blog readers are not necessarily representative of the "average" American since most of my readers are likely to tend more toward conservative or libertarian views than the man (or woman) on the street. (Especially the street here in the Peoples' Republic of Boulder.) In any case, I will generalize about Americans based on my readers' responses...because I can.]
Lesson One: Many Americans agree that the battle against radical Islam is a World War, and that like prior World Wars, Europe may remain passive for too long. The premise of my original article is that the Cartoon Uprising could be the catalyst for Europeans to wake up to their risk. However, given continental Europe's history of spineless in the face of obvious peril, they may not learn the obvious lessons without taking more pain at home; several of my readers expect this will be the case.
Lesson Two: Many Americans either do not believe there are "moderate" Muslims or do not believe that moderate Muslims can or will have any substantial ability to limit the aggressiveness of radical Muslims. Therefore, many believe that this is a war against Islam itself rather than simply some fanatical part of it. A comment by Elizabeth is telling: The fact is, I live by the mantra that "all I need to know about Islam, I learned on 9/11". The weak and almost non-existent protest by American muslims and others around the world have turned what might have been characterized by non-Muslim as a simple "belief" into something hated and vilified. How I perceive Muslims is what they project: evil, weakness, backwards, hatred, murderers, sick, sick, sick. Muslims to me now mean nothing but to fight to keep Christianity alive and well. I thought I would never say this, but I am beginning to hate Muslims. They hold signs saying anyone who says anything about Muslins should be murdered, butchered, etc...well..let me tell you...
Lesson Three: One of the comments I enjoyed most was from Brian who made a better comparison to World War II (with a hint about the Crusades) than I did. Rather than summarize, here is Brian's comment: Long before he initiated WWII, Adolf Hitler laid all his cards on the table in Mein Kampf. He said there would be war against France, that he would expand Germany at the expense of Russia for his "lebensraum", and that the Jews should be wiped out. Most European governments paid no heed to his statements until it was too late. Now Islam is stating in plain language that it plans to destroy Europe or at least brutally subjugate her. I hope Europe takes Islam at its word and takes the necessary steps to defend herself. When a madman states his intent to kill you, you had better believe him, not try to delude yourself that he is only using hyperbolic language because he is temporarily upset. We are not engaged in a war against Islamic terror. This is simply a recrudescence of the centuries-long long war between the Christian West and Islam, made much more dangerous now by the fact that Islam has or will soon have the ability to kill millions with nuclear weapons. The sooner that Europe and the US admit to the nature of the problem, the better our chances of success (and please, Mr. Bush, stop telling us that Islam is a religion of peace).
Lesson Four: Reading between the lines, more people (including conservatives who might have been pushed somewhat toward isolationism by the Iraq war) would support very strong action against anything perceived as fundamentalist Islam, including military strikes against Iraq. Again, Elizabeth comments: We need to be a little more pro-active here, not completely on defense. Never works. If rats or roaches invade your home, do you coax them out and send them on their way, or do you call for pest control to get all of them and preferably in one trip?
Lesson Five: This is not an obvious lesson from my readers' comments, but these events are likely to be a significant positive for Republicans' electoral prospects for Congress in November. Democrats are still seen as weak on terrorism. In Washington Post polls, the war on terror is the only category in which Republicans hold a consistent advantage over Democrats. To the extent that Americans see more and more of radical Islam's pervasive influence in both the West and the Middle East, the GOP can play up the risk of terrorism. They would be crazy not to, and it could easily be enough to allow the Republican party to keep control of both houses of Congress despite public dissatisfaction with the GOP in almost every other area. This is an area in which the Democrats will have almost no effective rhetorical response.
Lesson Six: America has a better internal situation than Europe because our Muslim population is 1) less radical than Muslim immigrants in Europe, and 2) smaller than European Muslim populations. Discussion of the Muslim population in America is an interesting topic in itself because the numbers very widely, with 2001 estimates varying from about 1 million to 7 million...with Muslim groups giving the highest estimates based on very questionable extrapolation of data. Here is an excellent analysis of the issue of calclating US Muslim population. I will go with an estimate of 2.3 million, or about 0.8% of the population. This compares to an estimate of about 5.5 million American Jews, or about 1.9% of the population. In contrast, here are some numbers for Europe (population number in millions).
Location Muslim Pop Muslim % Jewish Pop Jewish % ----------- ---------- -------- ---------- -------- France 5.75 9.5% .6 1% Germany 3.0 3.6% .1 .13% Netherlands 0.92 5.6% .03 .2% UK 1.55 2.6% .3 .5% USA 2.3 0.8% 5.5 1.9%
* Data Sources:
Jewish Population: The Jewish Agency for Israel
and Jewish Virtual Library
Muslim Population: BBC "Muslims in Europe: Country Guide "
and http://www.islamicpopulation.com/ (a pro-Muslim site which appears to round data up)
So, France has 2.5 times as many Muslims as the US does on an absolute basis and 12 times as many on a percentage basis. Germany has 30% more Muslims on an absolute basis and 4.5 times as many on a percentage basis. This is why Europe is in trouble.
One other interesting population note: Depending on the study, the estimate of the percentage of the American Muslim population that is African-American rather than foreign-born ranges from 24% to 42%. Just as some of the most radical and violent Muslims in Europe are home-grown, Americans should be concerned about the uptake of violent and radical versions of Islam by African-Americans, particularly in prisons. (Here are a couple of articles on the relationship between Islam and US prisons: http://www.religioustolerance.org/islpris.htm
Here is an interesting discussion of the implications of the situation which argues, among other things, that "Indigenous Muslims (especially African Americans) tend to rebel against the mythology of the American dream as a pursuit of personal advancement in conditions of economic freedom. Immigrant Muslims, on the other hand, seem to be disproportionately persuaded that there is more opportunity than oppression in capitalism." See "On Being An American and a Muslim: Dilemmas of Politics and Culture" (Ali A. Mazrui, International Strategy and Policy Institute) [Note that ISPI is a Muslim group, based in Chicago; it appears to be fairly moderate.]
Overall, the reaction to my prior posting leads me to believe that Americans want more aggressive actions against radical Islam, that they do not believe in "moderate Islam", and from that I infer that the GOP may do better in upcoming elections than people might think.
[On an amusing separate note which also argues for the GOP doing OK in November's elections, I see in the same Washington Post study mentioned above that Congress has consistently gotten approval ratings of about 40% for the past 6 months, but those surveyed gave an average approval rating of about 64% to their own Representative.]
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