Integration and Extremism: Muslims in Europe

24 MB MP3

Charlie Sennott

Boston Globe London bureau chief

[on the phone from London]

Reza Aslan

Author, No God but God

[on the phone from Santa Monica, CA]

Peter Berger

Director, Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs at Boston University

[in the studio at WGBH]

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  • Potter

    Yeouw! Great about Charlie Sennott tonight. He gave a great interview to Terri Gross and I was wishing Chris & crew would grab him.. Thanks folks.

  • sociophilo

    Regarding Christopher’s reference to “Bend it Like Beckham,” the family portrayed in the movie was Sikh, not Muslim. I don’t mean to be pedantic, but Sikhs have been confused (often with tragic consequences) for Muslims because of their turbans.

  • Brendan

    Thanks, sociophilo. We we wondering about that here in the control room, too.

  • JamesFlynn

    A provocative point by Charlie – that the explosive component of extremism is more prevalent in europe than the usa due to the more secular nature of european society. But it doesn’t ring true – does a fundamentalist islamist really have more in common with a fundamentalist christian than a secular humanist? Do they think Islam would be better respected in a more christian society than securlar?

    A typical european today feels sandwiched between extremes – evangelicals in washington to the west, wishing rapture on the earth, and islamic extremists to the east, wishing a new caliphate. Where is the middle ground?

  • John Gunther

    It seems obvious, especially in the light of British-born/raised Muslims perpetrating horrific terror, that the only long-term solution to terror is for the Muslim population to gradually be persuaded that the West is not the enemy. Now it’s easy for terrorists to operate in Muslim communities because so many non-terrorists hold sympathetic views, even if they would never commit such crimes themselves. In Morocco, two years ago, I met educated, Westernized people for whom it was simply fact that the Jews or CIA had bombed the World Trade Center as an excuse to make war on Muslims, and Jews were not onsite there on 9/11. Absurd, but illustrates the belief system that must eventually change. I find it grimly amusing that large numbers of both Muslims and Evangelicals believe that government should reflect and enforce their religion.

  • JamesFlynn

    Great show tonight.

    Another zinger quote from the show – Peter said european secularism is “deeply irritating” to people of faith. No doubt it is but, well, what is the other option? Each faith imposing its specific vision of the truth on society? I thought we’d moved on from that – St. Bart’s Massacre, the Thirty years’ war, the Penal Laws, etc, etc.

    In the religious sphere, the social contract surely is a trade-off – each community has the right and freedom to worship, but in return there’s a demand for tolerance of others’ different views – because those same others may find aspects of your specific faith “deeply irritating” also.

    Reflecting more on Charlie’s point about God being a part of the political conversation in the US, resulting in less cultural tension from radical islamists – it just makes no sense. If your world-view advocates an extreme interpretation of islam, it doesn’t matter that american political leaders mention the Christian God more frequently than european leaders – the women still aren’t covering up, and there’s still alcohol and rock and roll on the streets. I think he’s making a cheap point, at a specific snapshot in time.

  • Faith

    Well, let’s see. The American terrorist popularly called the Unabomber (Dr. Ted Kaczynski) was so deathly afraid of what technology was going to eventually do to humanity that he rationalized sending mail bombs to people to shake them off it. American John Salvi rationalized shooting abortion clinic workers as a morally constructive act. 167 men, women and children died when Americans Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Rhwanda…Bosnia…Germany in WWII. The ability to murder when one’s beliefs appear sufficiently threatened is evidently a human characteristic — one that has no country of origin, religion of origin, or creed of origin. By framing the question as the program did, shaking our heads and asking how on earth young european muslims could possibly do this, we’re clearly in denial about public terrorism in America. Excusing ourselves in this way obscures the answers we seek.

    Human beings have always been violent when it sufficiently suited their purposes. Here in the States, our mental picture of ourselves, of how we should be perceived overseas, is perhaps how we treat our friends, neighbors, and loved ones. The only experience many outside the West have of Americans and the West generally is that of an overwhelming power that dogs them at every corner. Those that hate us don’t hate us because they know us personally. A solution which depends upon getting those who hate us to magically read our minds is the stuff of childhood fantasy novels, while the idea of educating everyone unfamiliar with the “real West” to such a degree that there’s no one left willing to bomb us is adult mathematical fantasy. Reza Aslan’s point about power and issues of humiliation is well articulated and well taken.

    We as a nation in America have felt amazingly safe for decades. The bombings of black churches were not an issue for many of us. Since the second world war, we’ve had a child-like confidence in American technology to overcome everything: win the space race, the nuclear race, the economic race, and so on. Specifically, we’ve exuded considerable confidence that the powerful weapons and other technologies we’ve developed since the forties are simply beyond the ken of other countries to build or deploy against us. What is the factual basis for this feeling?

    Fairly pedestrian technology can be used to harm numbers of people. The ability of angry people to hurt larger numbers of people will increase, not diminish, over time. Notwithstanding the egos of our politicians, what decisive actions (and I *don’t* mean the Ted Kaczynski kind) can eliminate this threat? Power has always and will always be hated, but power perceived as abusive incenses others. If I recall correctly, the calculus of genes allows animals more distantly related than immediate family to willingly sacrifice themselves “for the good of the others”. This doesn’t sound unrelated to the internal wiring under discussion.

    Stanley Milgram’s experiments at Yale in the sixties into obedience to authority are counter-intuitive and signifcant. I suggest a look if you have time.

    There exists an interesting line in social discourse. There are folks who live their lives observing their own beliefs and respecting the right of their neighbors to do the same. There are also those who DON’T respect the right of their neighbors to do the same. I would hope that as Americans we would always reside on the correct side of that line, and “respect unto others” as we would have them respect us.

    Given the amount of blood spilt in the name of God, perhaps humanity’s feelings about God are more important to us than God is.

  • Potter

    This show exceeded many others on the subject I have heard for it’s insight and food for thought. Great guests all. Worthy of a second listening.

    Now how do we get the “powers that be” to take this in?

  • jc

    Well said, Faith, and probably true.


  • jdyer

    I wanted to hear more from Peter Berger.

    On the whole, though, I felt that the muslim speakers were apologists for their religion rather than people able to dispassionately analyze what was going within the Muslim world.

  • johnA

    I think Charlie Sennots comment about Europe learning something from America in allowing religion to be part of identity in order to dilute some of the extremism goes rather strongly agains reality. American society has experienced a schism along religious vs. secular lines with respect to beliefs about what the society should be. As a result, the nation seems to be becoming increasingly radicalized.

    How would Mr. Sennott explain Waco and the Oklahoma City bombing if not as a product of the conflict between a religious identity vs. the secular elements of society, especially the government? How is Timothy McVeigh different from any of the London bombers, Madrid bombers, Yemini bombers, etc.? He clearly was attempting to redress a percieved wrong, i.e. the killing of co-religionists by what he perceived as a secular (sinful) government that had moved away from the

  • johnA

    “True God”. That he was an American did not seem to factor into his equation, nor did the freedom to identify himself as a Christian. If an American Christian can feel alienated enough by our society to resort to religiously motivated violence, why wouldn’t a Muslim, even more so?

    We Americans seem to believe that we are somehow immune to the forces at work in other societies. We assume that all newcomers want to assimilate into the mainstream culture and be “Americans”. We are at risk when we convince ourselves that everyone will embrace our values and mold their culture and beliefs to fit ours.

    There is absolutely no reason to assume that we can not or will not have people in the US, who, just like those young men in Leeds, are moved to violent action at perceived injustice. Ther is already the well documented case of young Mr. Walker, the American convert to Islam who joined the Taliban in Afghanistan to fight for Isalm against western imperialism. The next ones may not choose to travel so far.

    In contrast to Mr. Sennott, I belive that encouraging religion to be a commonly accepted part of one’s public identity is counterproductive because it ultimately ends up being politicized. When beliefs as deeply personal as faith become political they are open to exploitation, exactly like happened in the U.K.