Sunday, August 23, 2009

Educating Ajami (the man of cliches and generalizations)

"In his review of Christopher Caldwell’s “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe” (Aug. 2), Fouad Ajami writes his own essay on the question of Islam in Europe. He agrees with Caldwell that Islam “is in no sense Europe’s religion and it is in no sense Europe’s culture.” There are now about 15 million people from Muslim countries who reside in Europe, about 3 percent of the population. They are a highly diverse population, both ethnically and religiously, and very few are Arabs. By most estimates, fewer than half are practicing Muslims, although this varies by ethnic group and by definitions of “practice.” About half of them are citizens of the countries in which they reside, and that proportion will grow over the next decade or so, as citizenship laws change, and as more children of these families are born on European soil. At the risk of being accused by Ajami as espousing “elite opinion,” I think that it is important to point out that these “strangers” are increasingly European and that, on balance, the challenge is far greater for them than by them. These second and third generations are not doing so well in terms of educational, economic and political integration, although there are real success stories as well. The young people who rioted in the suburbs of Paris in 2005 (and who have since) were not demanding “their right to wear the burqa in Paris” (they have this right — and generally don’t), but rights that are more familiar to American readers: education, jobs and dignity."