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Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Moderate Muslims and Nicolai Sennels

The excellent psychological and sociological essay linked to below is by the Danish psychologist Nicolai Sennels, who has worked with many Muslims and non-Muslims of similar age and socio-economic background in a Danish prison, making his - quite unique in this field - a scientific study of the experimental group, young Muslims, for the presence of a control group in which the only different variable is the one under study.

This and other writings by the same author gave me a lot of inspiration and food for thought.

Nobody so far seems to have devoted much attention to this subject: not so much what Islam is, or the Koran says, or Mohammed did, or the history of the Muslim world past and present, as what individual Muslims' psychological makeup is (in this case Muslims living in Europe).

It is very interesting for many many reasons, one of which is this: it breaks apart the distinction between Islam as a doctrine - something abstract - and the concrete reality of Muslim persons.

This in turn dissolves, or at least greatly dilutes, another distinction, which may be real but is also puzzling: that between the intransigence, intolerance, violence and criminality found in both the teachings of Islam and at least some - though we do not really know how many and what proportion of the Muslim population in every country they are - Muslims on one hand, and the so-called "moderate" Muslims on the other.

To be honest, I find this concept, "moderate Muslims", very unclear and imprecise, more prone to raise questions than capable of answering them.

What do we mean by that?

These are the possibilities:

a) Muslims who are not involved in violence. Obviously there will be many of them, particularly in the West where they are still a minority. But does it change anything? No population in history has ever gone to war with another en masse (it would be impossible biologically, because it would lead to the self-destruction of that population): it's always a minority, an avant-guard, that engages in actual combat. Britain during WWII did not take the approach that it was not at war with Germany because there were many "moderate Germans" who were not taking direct part in the military conflict. And German, as well as Italian, nationals were interned in camps, whether they were peaceful and even opposed to the war or not. We may keep saying that we are not at war with Islam, but it matters not one iota because Islam is at war with us.
A further problem with this definition is that it is too vague and general: is it enough for a person not to act violently and criminally to be considered "moderate"? No, this is not the common definition of the word, because the term is applied in reference to opinions and attitudes, not just behaviour.

b) Muslims who are opposed to the use of violence in the name of Islam by their correligionaries. Here the number of individuals covered by this definition will start decreasing from definition a, but how much we don't know. There aren't enough opinion polls among, say, British Muslims to give a full picture, although those that exist are not very promising, showing high percentages of them approving of Islamic violence.
This seems perfectly consistent with what we see every day. For example, although Muslims are amply represented in demonstrations of various types (against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, against Salman Rushdie, Mohammed cartoons, Bush, Blair, and other examples), we have never seen a Muslim demonstration against Islamic violence, against Al Qaeda, Bin Laden and so on.
Furthermore, there are too many nuances and needs for refinement to the definition. Individual Muslims may approve of some episodes of Islamist violence but not others. It is so complicated as to be useless as a definition.
And again, the fundamental problem raised in "a" applies here too: is this the same definition of the term "moderate" that we use for non-Muslims? No, a "radical" or "extremist" could be opposed to violence and still be considered such if he holds views at the extreme poles of the political or cultural spectrums.
So, why should we make an exception for Muslims? In respect for their "cultural identities", because we recognize that what for us is extreme and radical, anything but moderate, for them is the norm? But this is exactly the problem from which we started, the reason why coexistence is difficult if not almost impossible.
Saying that some - or even many - Muslims are "moderate" because the radical views they hold are the norm for their culture and religion is simply answering the question with the same question, it means getting stuck in a vicious circle.
The problem is exactly that: that we need to use the word "moderate" with a different meaning when applied to individual Muslims because they are not moderate at all by the general definition of the word.

This essay by Nicolai Sennels seems to confirm my suspicions. This concept is an artefact of the appeasers, the Chamberlains in our midst (no shortage of them, especially in the Left). The differences between Muslim mindset - cultural and sociological, and therefore psychological - and Western one are real and profound.

What Sennels says in relation to solutions and to the wishful thinking of Westerners about hopes of "integration" is also particularly important and illuminating. What Westerners do - or at least have done so far - reminds me of what they call "battered wife syndrome". Wives regularly beaten by their husbands or partners apparently continue in the relationship without leaving their men thinking that these will change.

As psychologists and wise people know, human beings do not change just because somebody else desires them to change.

People only change due to an internal motivation which, as Sennels very eloquently and descriptively shows, overwhelmingly is lacking in Muslims living in Europe.

And, if someone wants his circumstances or the people in his life to change, what he must do is take the initiative, change himself first, and the rest will change as a consequence. In the case of a battered woman, for instance, becoming aware of her problem and leaving her abusive partner could likely lead to a better relationship.

Western countries and societies are acting in relation to Muslims in their midst in perfect analogy with the battered wife with her husband.

They anxiously and hopefully wait for Muslims to "change", in this case to integrate (and become good, much less troublesome British, or Danish etc citizens).

What they should instead do is start from themselves, look at the mistakes they have made - since all evidence, as this Danish psychologist says and we already know, points in the opposite direction of integration, with each immigrant generation being more radicalized, violent and criminal than the previous - and begin making changes to "their" own views, attitudes and policies regarding the Muslim community, and only after that they will very likely see changes among the Muslims.

People like Ken Livingstone saying that London (and the UK) are good examples of integration must be deluded to the point of madness.

If several riots and bombs, and the facts that London is now a centre of international Muslim terrorism and a haven for criminal Islamists wanted all over the world, are not enough to show the idiocy of such a statement, just think of the police and security forces having to be in continuous alert over possible Islamic terrorist threats which, squandering precious resources, has now become the permanent condition and possibly the only reason why we have not had more bombings and attacks.

It is true that Sennels has studied young, imprisoned Muslim criminals, but through them he has had a unique insight into the European Muslim community in general.

Nicolai Sennels: Report from the therapy room: Why are Muslims more violent and criminal?

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