The vast majority of Muslims in Western countries are law-abiding, peace-loving, constructive citizens. Barack Obama, George W. Bush and others tell us that Islam is a religion of peace. All that may be true. But there’s no denying that there’s a cancer within Islam and within too many Muslim immigrant communities in the West that metastasizes into murderous outrages like the Charlie Hebdo massacre in France and other atrocities in recent years too numerous to detail here.
Each terrorist horror like Paris is immediately followed by dire warnings against a reaction of Islamaphobia from native populations. Well and good. One incident of religious, racial, ethnic or any kind of discrimination or crime is one too many.
Yet, where is a similar warning for Muslim communities and the wider Islamic world to confront the fanaticism within them? Such worry voiced the other day by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in a speech to clerics, was notable because of its rarity from prominent figures within the realm of Islam. His words were eloquent in their simplicity and urgently needed: “It is unbelievable that the thought we hold holy pushes the Muslim community to be a source of worry, fear, danger, murder and destruction to all the world.”
The fears about increased Islamaphobia expressed by European elites seldom seem matched or voiced as vehemently about the shocking rise of anti-Semitism across the continent. Perhaps nowhere is this more true than France. Israel is seeing a huge surge in Jewish immigration from France. Is it coincidental that this crisis of anti-Semitism is occurring in the European country with the largest Muslim population?
While the fanatical Islamist terrorist war is aimed at the West in general, it often targets Jews. Again, was it a coincidence that one of the bloody Paris battles occurred when a terrorist seized a kosher market and took hostages there? Last year, a gunman killed three people at a Jewish museum in Brussels. Such targeting is not confined to Europe. Recall how the massive, well-coordinated terrorist assault on Mumbai in 2008 included a murderous sortie on a Jewish community center.
Liberal elites are quick to fret that the Charlie Hebdo attack will benefit nationalist, anti-immigrant political parties. That attitude dismisses as xenophobic or racist any legitimate concerns among native populations about the actual impact of immigration on their societies, culture, values, laws, economy, jobs, governance and way of life. I dare say few of us go to Paris or the south of France in search of Muslim culture or history.
That hand-wringing also ignores the possibility that in the 21st century immigration might not work the way it has in the past. It’s troubling that terrorists are so frequently radicalized second-generation immigrants. Does the Internet, with its instantaneous and visceral connection with home, along with relatively cheap and easy international travel via jetliner weaken the process of assimilation so fundamental to the integration of immigrants into their new country?
That’s an unsettling question, and one that is not confined to immigrants from the Middle East. And it is a challenge that may become more pertinent to the one nation in the world with the outstanding and best record of welcoming and integrating immigrants: America.