Sunday, October 3, 2010

Anti-Islam Politics in Europe

Just type the work "Islam" in Google images and you get a good feeling for the current sentiment towards that word. Islam is slowly becoming the equivalent of the evil force that is trying to take over the world. This trend is global, it extend from the Western world though Russia and China. The world is polarizing.

In Europe this trend is very visible. In many countries ultra right political movements are gaining force. In the Netherlands the anti-Islam party PVV is now executing its political agenda by quasi-participating in Dutch government. But anti-Islam movements are on the rise in many countries in Europe: Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and so on.

Why do I believe this trend is so dangerous?

1) The economy is bad. People suffer and need a black sheep to blame. It's true that there are serious integration issues in the big cities in the Netherlands and a small fraction of Moroccan youths cause significant trouble. But so do other minority sub-populations such as Antilleans. These problems are caused by ignoring integration problems for far too long, but they seem to have little to do with Islam.

2) Al-Qaeda Terrorist attacks fuel the anti-Islam sentiments. Every time there is an attack all Muslims get to share in the blame. This is the annoying tendency of humans to over-generalize. We find one feature that holds true of the terrorist (they are Muslim), then the logic gets reversed to infer that all people who share this feature must therefore be evil to some degree. This is a well documented psychological phenomenon. But of course, the majority of Muslims want nothing to do with terrorists, they are law abiding citizens that value democracy and freedom as much as the rest of us do.

3) The problems are global. They span China, Russia, Europe, North America and Africa. Not to forget the Middle-East. Further escalation of the conflict between Iran and Israel may spread through the world like wildfire because the tensions are already high. And it seems inevitable that at some point Israel will strike against Iran's nuclear program.

Where have we seen the concurrence of these conditions before? In particular: a group of people labeled by their religious beliefs blamed for the problems in society? We must not follow gut-feelings, we must not generalize, we must remember the conditions that led to earlier conflicts and genocide. We must educate the population at large, broadcast the friendly and hospitable side of Islamic culture, foster tolerance and compassion.


  1. Hi Max. You are the coolest prof at UCI, but I have to disagree with this post.
    Some Europeans are rightly concerned about the spread of Islam in Europe. Of course, not all Muslims are terrorists. However Europeans by and large believe in free speech, Muslims do not. Europeans by and large believe in gender equality, Muslims do not. The list goes on and on.
    There really are some Muslims born in say England or Gemany, who can barely speak English or German, and who dedicate their life to memorizing a single book, at taxpayers expense. Europeans have a right to be resentful of this, and when some of these people strike out (say by stabbing their elected representative, Google Roshonara Choudhry) Europeans have the right to be afraid.
    Before someone drags out the claims of racism, I have criticized the Catholics (my stock) at length, and my contempt for Christianity is well known. Sam Harris' writings on this topic are well researched, and spot on.

  2. Hi Max!

    I am an expat living in the Netherlands. Next year I am getting a Dutch passport, and I will vote for Wilders and send all my expat friends out of this beautiful country. (Can you all see my tongue in my chick?)

    What made me comment on your article is your cry for tolerance. How can we tolerate a ideology that mistreats women? How can we tolerate people who do not learn the language of the country they were born in?

    How would you feel if one day your daughters go to visit their grandparents (or you?) in a small village near Utrecht, and they are OBLIGED BY LAW to wear a burka?

    Anti-islamism is an easy way to get some votes in times of crisis. The integration of foreigners, equality among men and women and banning of ALL RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS at public places are necessary steps towards a viable multicultural society. Such steps will make fanatic islamists unhappy (as they would probably do with fanatic orthodox christians), but I couldn't care less.

  3. Up to 5,000 pupils attending weekend schools across Britain are being exposed to textbooks claiming that some Jews were transformed into pigs and apes, and that some offences could be punished with stoning. One book for six year-olds warns that those who do not believe in Islam will be condemned to “hellfire” in death.

    Another text for 15 year-olds teaches that thieves who break Sharia law should have their hands cut off for a first offence and their feet amputated for a subsequent crime. Teenagers are presented with diagrams showing where the cuts should be made.

  4. Professor Welling,

    I love your research and respect you a lot as a person. I disagree with your post. I think we need to make a distinction between islam and muslims. I have studied islam in great detail and while I have a very high opinion of the muslims that I meet on a daily basis; I have the lowest opinion of the god of islam and the prophet Mohammed. I consider the prophet Mohammed to be a warmonger, war criminal, thief, terrorist, and a pedophile based on his actions as recorded in the koran.

    continued in part 2

  5. I think that Mosab Hassan Yousef son of the head of the hamass terrorist organization says it best ( who has since renounced terror and has served as an israeli spy
    "We can not have peace with islam but we can have peace with muslims".
    I am leaving my name as anonymous (though you may know who I am based on my language) so that my friends who are muslim will not have their feeling hurt. I truly value them as friends and while I consider them wonderful people and often brilliant people I do not consider them "real muslims".
    I dont know how to make policy based on my beliefs but we must remember it is NOT the muslims who are the problem they are the primary victims of islam. It is with the god of islam, the prophet Mohammed and the Koran which I have a problem with.

    Warmest regards


  6. Dear Professor Willing,

    I completely agree with you that tolerance and compassion, among many other noble qualities, form the basis of a modern civilized society. Indeed, globalization dictates this! All this, however, rests on the assumption that tolerance and compassion is not only a right but an obligation that should be equally distributed among all social groups (independently of nationality or religion). Now, is this the case? No! Many immigrant groups (not only Muslim immigrants) not only refuse to integrate, but they completely, openly resent, to the very core of social structure, the society a part of which they have become largely by choice. As far as Muslims are concerned - this is the result of psychological conditioning from early childhood. In fact, Islam, one of the three largest religions (Christianity and Judaism being the other two) is the only religion that, in my opinion, has not yet reconciled with the modern world; but that is only half of the problem. The other half is that fundamentalist Muslims make it their lives' duty to impose their view on the rest of the world.

    I am all for tolerance and compassion, if only I could observe the same on the part of the majority of Islamic population. I see just the opposite.

  7. Iran is putting apostates to death. These men converted from islam to christianity and are facing death. I think you are on of the best things at UCI but I think you are way off the mark on this one.

    That being said I imagine almost all of our muslim friends who live in this country and are getting phds here dont believe any of the crazy stuff. They are like the muslim version Episcopalians I think (three parts secularism, 2 parts socialism, one part christianity).

  8. I wonder how much of those analysis, quite widespread and obviously non sensical, are based on a form of post-war collective guilt from some germanophile populations.

    After having given ways to the germans, they cant stand the idea of being seen as responsible of anything, let alone, god forbid, protect civilisation.