Saturday, October 31, 2009

Reinforcing Stereotypes

"You don't get news stories by trying to change perceptions, you get them by reinforcing stereotypes..." (From a leaked email from Malcolm Turnbull's office: Dig dirt, Turnbull office urges, Matthew Franklin, The Australian, 27/10/09)

Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan, foreign editor of The Australian has just returned from the wilds of Eurabia. He's talked to all the right people there, and come away ever so reluctantly shocked - shocked! - to find that the Muslim - Muslim! - hordes have all but taken over and that, unless we get it right, we are next in line:

"Uncontrolled Muslim immigration into Europe has been a public policy failure, if not an outright disaster. This is the view of most Europeans, as measured by opinion polls, and of a large number of European officials and politicians. Having just spent a month in Europe, talking to dozens of officials, politicians and immigrants, it is a view I reluctantly [!!!] share. This is given sharp relief by the illegal immigration crisis Australia is experiencing to its north." (Europe looks Down Under for answers on immigration, 24/10/09)

Just cop a load of this:

"The spike now in boat arrivals involves Sri Lankans, but this is primarily a route that would be used by Muslim illegal immigrants. There is nothing wrong with Muslim immigration. It goes without saying that the vast majority of Muslim immigrants are good Australians and perfectly law-abiding citizens. However, it is simply denying reality to pretend that the cultural distinctiveness and assertiveness of Islam, and of the propensity for a small but distinctively substantial minority to be attracted to extremism, does not pose problems." (ibid)

What steaming pile of Islamophobic poo is this? Leaving aside the patent idiocy of the first sentence, in which he's actually said that the Muslim hordes will be embarking in Sri Lanka - Sri Lanka! for God's sake - for an invasion of Australia, there's the hoary old 'I'm-not-a-racist-but...' construction: there's nothing wrong with Muslim immigration, but... (some carry the 'Muslim' virus of extremism). Note too the dog-whistling of illegal immigrants, and the impossible logic of a small but substantial minority.

As if this weren't bad enough, 5 days later the bugger deposited another load of same: "A few weeks ago in London, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told me that 75% of the terrorist plots aimed at Britain originated in the... tribal areas of Pakistan. Some 800,000 Pakistanis live in Britain. The vast majority, it goes without saying, are law-abiding citizens. But... " (Uncontrolled Muslim influx a terror threat, 29/10/09)

"It is extremely difficult to talk honestly about Muslim immigration. All generalisations about it are subject to countless exceptions. Muslims are very different from each other. Most are reasonably successful. But a much bigger minority end up with social, political, extremist or other problems resulting from a lack of integration than is the case with any other cohort of immigrants in Western societies." (ibid)

There it is again: most Muslims are reasonably [He just had to add a qualifier, didn't he?] successful, but... Plus more of that impossible logic: Most Muslims are... but a much bigger minority are... And all of it typically, merely asserted.

There's nothing wrong with Muslim immigration, but.../Muslims are law-abiding citizens, but.../Muslims are successful, but...: this is Islamophobia posing as reasoned comment.

Sheridan cites his authority as US "journalist" Christopher Caldwell's Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West, and claims that it is "[t]he most enlightening book you could possibly read on [Muslim immigration]." You are, of course, expected to believe that Sheridan, prior to reading Caldwell, had an open mind on the subject, but you'd be wrong. Sheridan only bothers to reference that which caters to his prejudices and obsessions. Take the Islamophobic obsession with 'Muslim' demographics, for example. Here's Sheridan: "The demographic figures [Caldwell] cites are familiar but still shocking. Native Europeans won't have babies at anything like replacement level while the fertility of Muslim immigrants does not decline through time, as is the case with other immigrants. Religion is the strongest predictor of fertility in Europe." (ibid) And here he is back in February: "In 1950, there were about 240,000 Gazans. Now there are about 1.5 million. By 2040 there will be 3 million. Eventually, they believe, they will swamp Israel with sheer numbers." (There may be the will but not necessarily the way, The Australian, 8/2/09)

In a recent Guardian Weekly essay, The new intolerance, on the current crop of anti-Muslim immigrant jeremiads (by Niall Ferguson, Bruce Bawer, Mark Steyn and Christopher Caldwell), Indian writer Pankaj Mishra has made the following salutory comments: "Surveys and opinion polls repeatedly reveal the average European Muslim to be poor, socially conservative, unhappy about discrimination, but generally content, hopeful about their children - who attend non-religious schools - and eager, like their non-Muslim peers, to get on with their lives. Initially high, birthrates among Muslim communities across Europe are falling as more men and women become literate. Exposure to secular modernity has also weaned many of the immigrants away from traditional faith: only 5% of Muslims in France regularly attend mosques, and elsewhere, too, non-observant 'cultural Muslims' predominate." (4/9/09)

"Ordinary Muslims in Europe, who suffer from the demoralisation caused by living as perennial objects of suspicion and contempt, are far from thinking of themselves as a politically powerful or cohesive community, not to speak of conquerors of Europe. So what explains the rash of bestsellers with histrionic titles - While Europe Slept, America Alone, The Last Days of Europe? None of their mostly neocon American authors was previously known for their knowledge of Muslim societies. Certainly, the idea of a monolithic 'Islam' in Europe appears especially pitiable when you regard the varying national origins, linguistic and legal backgrounds, and cultural and religious practices of European Muslims. Unemployment and discrimination make young Muslims in Europe vulnerable to globalised forms of political Islam, many of whose militant versions vend political aphrodisiacs of a restored Islamic community to powerless individuals. But it is a tiny minority [Note Sheridan's distinctively substantial minority] that is attracted to or is ready to condone terrorist violence. Not surprisingly, most of these Muslims live in Britain, the European country most tainted by the calamitous 'war on terror' that David Miliband, as well as Barack Obama, now concedes was possible to see as a war on Muslims." (ibid)

"... Eurabia-mongers from America seem as determined as tabloid hacks to strike terror among white Europeans about their local newsagent or curry-house owner. 'If the spread of Pakistani cuisine', Caldwell writes, 'is the single greatest improvement in British public life over the past half-century, it is also worth noting that bombs used for the failed London transport attacks of 21 July, 2005, were made from a mix of hydrogen peroxide and chapatti flour'. [I can't believe I'm reading this!] Most south Asian cuisine consumed on British high streets hails from India or Bangladesh rather than Pakistan. Caldwell, however, won't let facts get in the way of the many eagerly consumed chapattis rising up his white British reader's gorge. Remarkably, Caldwell, who is a senior editor with the neoconservative Weekly Standard, also does not appear to know that Edmund Burke, from whom he derives his book title, had a rather exaggerated reverence for 'Muhammadan law'."

"In actuality, the everyday choices of most Muslims in Europe are dictated more by their experience of globalised economies and cultures than their readings in the Qur'an or sharia. Along with thei Hindu or Sikh peers, many Muslims in Europe suffer from the usual pathologies of traditional rural communities transitioning to urban secular cultures: the encounter with social and economic individualism inevitably provokes a crisis of control in nuclear families, as well as such ills as forced marriage, the poor treatment of women and militant sectarianism. However, in practice, millions of Muslims, many of them with bitter experiences of authoritarian states, coexist frictionlessly and gratefully with regimes committed to democracy, freedom of religion and equality before the law."

But back to Sheridan. I will conclude with the inimitatable Mike Carlton's recent skewering of the bugger. The subject of Carlton's Sydney Morning Herald column was the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama: "A recent emission from The Australian 's foreign editor, Greg Sheridan, crystallised this idiocy. After a few tortured paragraphs wondering whether Obama wanted to be The Fonz or Richie Cunningham from Happy Days - a metaphor so creaky you could see the kapok stuffing bursting from the seams - he offered up this startling sentence: 'At some point, Obama is going to have to do something seriously unpleasant to someone'. Shameless, unrepentant, nothing learnt and nothing forgotten, there is the neo-con world view in a nutshell: the US gains respect only when the cruise missiles and F/A 18s are thundering from the decks of a carrier battle group to wreak death and destruction on the villains du jour. That George Bush tried this endlessly and failed so disastrously troubles them not a jot." (All hail the shameless neo-cons, 17/10/09)

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