I originally posted this essay in a comment thread of the Guardian, a liberal UK newspaper, regarding an article about a young Muslim women whose brothers had thrown acid in her face for dating a non-Muslim. There were many comments, mostly either "kick 'em all out" or "who are you to judge their culture." America does the best of any Western country at assimilating Muslims, so I felt that gave me a reason to put in my 2 cents' worth:
A year ago I attended the naturalization ceremony of a friend who'd moved here from India. People from 68 countries became Americans in that auditorium in San Jose that day. They all swore to renounce their old loyalties and take up a new one--being an American.
They weren't asked to give up their fondness for the aulde sod, or their memories. But they were expected to put being American first.
My country, in turn, promised them access to the American Dream--that if they worked hard and played by the rules they'd have the same opportunities as the rest of us--that they wouldn't be discriminated against for jobs or housing or schooling or marrying.
It's a tall order, and often neither side of this bargain gets kept. But both sides keep up their end of the bargain enough to make this a very unusual country--British at its core, still, but with a kaleidescopic overlay of other cultures and races and languages.
If you despair at this being possible in the U.K., come visit the San Francisco Bay Area where I live and see it at work. And it does work. Really.
But the trick is it works when everyone's middle class, with a modicum of education. Most of the Mexican peasants flooding over our southern borders are not assimilating, nor are about a third of the blacks in our inner cities. But the engineers and businessmen and scientists and poets and skilled machinists from all over are.
But I think immigration and assimilation are less organic for the U.K. than it is for the USA. Here in the Bay Area a Sikh with a turban can get a good job, rent a nice apartment, marry someone with Irish ancestry. The immigrants go to the same schools as everyone else and learn American ways. We don't have as many enclaves as you do, proportionately.
I have a neighbor, a physicist-turned-programmer from the former East Germany, married to a very dark-skinned African woman of pure Tamil ancestry. They tried living in Germany, but people, um, looked at them. They tried living in South Africa--in Durban, where the wife came from. Same thing.
They moved here and had a child. Here--no problemo. Nobody "looks" at them.
My point is it's a two way street.
But I don't see how all this is going to work with uneducated peasants--and with large ghettos that function as if they're foreign countries embedded in yours.
The London bombers were educated, but they obviously didn't believe they were Brit.
A May 9 Gallup poll compared assimilation of Muslims in different Western countries. Here's how they stacked up:
1. America, with only 15% of Muslims culturally isolated from the country;
3. Norway, Belgium, Italy, France, Netherlands--all around 28-30%
5. Germany-- 38%
I'm simplifying it here, but that's the gist of it. And I think you'll find that this list corresponds with the host nations' indigenous peoples' degree of acceptance of Muslims who are willing to play by their country's rules.
Mind you, I am not talking about acceptance of those who want to kill you.
But take the UK. OK, you've got over a third of your Muslims not accepting British society. That's a huge problem. Just remember, though, that even in your next-to-bottom position 45% of British Muslims are tolerant/accepting of the majority culture, and 20% are all for it.
So don't throw out the baby with the bathwater ("A muther was washin' 'er bayby one night; 'twas the youngest of 10, and a delicate mite; the muther was power, and the bayby was fin; 'twas naught but ang skelington covered wit skin... (but I digress)").
Bottom line: Two thirds of British Muslims want to get along with everybody and be good British citizens.
So how do you accentuate the latter and minimize the former?
I do know any real solution is going to be expensive, and lengthy, and involve how majority Brits deal with Muslims as well as vice versa.
And I know that letting the children go to madrassas instead of regular schools is as bad an idea as it gets. The kids must learn to be Brits who are Muslim instead of Muslims who live among infidels.
And I know that the appallingly effective Islamist Web campaign has to be dealt with in some way.
Lastly, I know that good Brits who are Muslim have to wrest control of the mosques and schools away from the radical Saudi-financed imams.
Oh, and don't ban minarets. But do ban calls to prayer over massive external loudspeaker systems. There's nothing about amplified calls to prayer in the Qu'ran, folks.
Good luck. I know it's gonna be hard slogging. Non iligitimati carborundum (yes, I know that's Faux Latin).