Europe's Angry Muslims Book Cover

“Europe’s Angry Muslims” (2005), by Robert S. Leiken – Response Essay

In “Europe’s Angry Muslims” (2005), Robert S. Leiken analyzes the presence of Muslims in European countries from the perspective of international security, or specifically the security of the United States, which has visa-waiver agreements with the European Union. According to his article, Muslims are able to easily enter the European Union due to lax rules regarding who is allowed in. Islamic radicals are allowed to enter one European country and, because of the lack of border controls between European Union members, they are then able to travel to all European countries in the EU. Besides the risk to the European Union member states, Leiken sees this as a problem because these radicals are recruiting jihadis who are second generation immigrants and have European citizenship, allowing them to freely travel to the United States.

Leiken’s article emphasizes the role that being a minority in Europe plays in enabling the radicalization of Muslims. Across different contexts, Leiken finds a common thread of estrangement from the dominant culture that turns into disillusionment and anger in Muslims who are born in Europe and have European citizenship, but are socially excluded based on their ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Leiken’s use of statistics to demonstrate the threat of Europe-born Muslim jihadis is flawed. He states that the number of mujahideen who identified as European nationals in North America and Europe in a 1993-2004 survey was roughly 25% of the total, representing the largest demographic within the group. What does that prove, really? It would stand to reason that there would be more local-born Muslims than immigrants in a given time period. This does not, however, call into question the seriousness of the problem of radicalization of domestic Muslims.

Another problem with Leiken’s analysis is his Mecca vs. Medina analogy which, while illustrative, is historically incorrect and misrepresents the foundational period of Islamic history which is significant in terms of his topic: conflict between Muslims and Westerners. In his analogy, he states that Mohammed “pronounced an anathema on [Mecca’s] leaders and took his followers to Medina … [where] he built an army that conquered Mecca in AD 630…” (127). Mohammed fled Mecca in the face of persecution, and by all accounts was among the last to leave, having first sent a group of followers to Ethiopia and then having sent the remainder to Medina ahead of himself. In Medina, he did not “[build] and army” (127), he built a community and engaged in the common raiding practices of the Arabian Peninsula. He also built political alliances which were useful when hostilities did break out. Leiken’s misrepresentation of the situation and glossing over of the long hostilities, political treaties and eventual surrender of Mecca to Mohammed’s men paints Muslims as naturally violent from the beginning of their history, leading to the teleological conclusion that they must be dealt with in some way to make Europe and the United States safe from their barbarism.

Leiken discusses the ways that European countries have engaged with their Muslim populations, noting that all attempts to integrate them have failed, from Belgium’s active attempts to socially support and integrate all comers to Germany’s separation to Britain’s multiculturalism. He then herald’s the United States’ as being the most successful with a policy of toleration while allowing the maintenance of social distinctions. He does not describe how the policy in the US is really that different from the policies of Britain. What Leiken does do, however, is discuss boundaries created by geography that prevent the type of radicalism spreading throughout Europe from reaching the United States. He notes that Muslims in Europe can see radical speeches on satellite and the Internet, but fails to note that those same mediums are available in the United States. By claiming logistical difficulties, Leiken gives too little credit to terrorist organizations and too much credit to the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in preventing terrorism.

The conflict between Muslims and Westerners is sometimes framed as a battle of civilizations, with the implication being that one must wipe out the other to survive. Leiken’s analysis posits Muslim minorities as unassimilable, even in the best case scenario of the United States, where they are “tolerated” but socially distinct (133). This, combined with Leiken’s presentation of Muslims as historically and uniquely violent through a distorted retelling of the religion’s foundational history perpetuates the notion that they are outside of Europe and cannot be brought inside; they must be contained because they cannot be European.

Policing Paris: The origins of modern immigration… – Reaction Essay

In Policing Paris: The origins of modern immigration control between the wars, Clifford Rosenberg looks at the creation of a complex policing apparatus in Paris and how this institution helped to define the roles of citizenship and nationality in the French public’s mind. He does this by analyzing the context in which the institution was created and how social controls were adapted to changing ideas of who belonged and who was a foreigner.

Rosenberg’s book opens up questions about the nature of belonging to a state. There is an assumption that there is something intrinsic to belonging to a state. France was historically defined as being a nation state constituted by and from the French nation, but Rosenberg’s work calls into question the very Frenchness of the state. He lists the numbers of immigrants that arrived in France from various countries, mostly European but also some Asians and North Africans. If all of these people became French, then what is “French”? Why were certain groups, like the Russians, assumed to be capable of assimilating into the society while others were not? One politician quoted by Rosenberg says that being French is not a matter of blood, but rather one of education, so why were North Africans considered unable to be educated? It seems that targeted surveillance of North Africans had more to do with the need to keep them subjugated to the French state than it had to do with security.

An idea that features prominently in Rosenberg’s work is Foucault’s theory of “governmentality” as a form of violence by the state against a population. Rosenberg spends much of the first half of the book praising the card catalogues and indexing systems created by the French to monitor population subsets and showing that they were models that were emulated by the rest of the world. It is unclear whether or not Rosenberg subscribes to Foucault’s theory. He both criticizes the use of surveillance against specific groups (the North Africans) and also praises the ability of these identification systems to allow for the creation of welfare systems. Rosenberg probably has socialist leanings, which influenced his analysis. However, his work does raise the question of whether or not identification systems are useful, or even good. Should the state know everything about everyone? Are the benefits of social welfare programs worth the cost of giving up one’s identity to the state?

Rosenberg shows that prior to modern immigration control, borders were much more fluid. Attaining what we think of as citizenship today was much easier and the flow of people around the world followed a much more natural process of migrating to areas where labor was needed, contrary to the assumption that rural residents were tied to the land. The changing nature of the labor market seems to have had the biggest impact on how and why states control the flow of people. Rosenberg emphasizes this by showing that immigration control was initially meant to protect the domestic French labor market from foreign competition that entered French territory. With the state of the world today, including outsourcing and a global economy, it calls into question the necessity or relevance of borders, which greatly illuminates modern debate surrounding illegal immigration into the United States from South America.

While not conclusively taking a stance on the rightness or morality of modern identification systems, Rosenberg opens up many question about citizenship, nationality and what it means to belong to a sovereign political body. He uses the Paris specifically and France generally to illustrate how the idea of borders and belonging have changed over time, making it easier to understand the nature of labor migration and the process of naturalization, as well as shedding light on why current debates call into question the very nature of political borders.

Use it til it Breaks

I went up to 181st Street today to drop off a return at UPS. A book I ordered from Amazon didn’t arrive in time so I had no use for it and figured I might as well get my money back. I love Amazon’s return policies. The refund was processed as soon as the item was scanned in by UPS.

While I was walking down the street, I overheard a conversation between a girl and her mother. We were standing near each other on a corner while waiting for the light to change. The mother was telling her daughter that she was going to get her a new phone in heavily accented English. The daughter, who spoke English without an accent, told her mother that the phone she has works fine and she doesn’t need a new one. This escalated almost into an argument with the daughter telling her mother that her phone works just fine and she’s going to use it until it’s broken before she gets a new one, because she doesn’t see the point of replacing something that still works.

I had a few thoughts about this. Was the mother a first generation immigrant and the daughter born here? Is it a conflict of identity? What I mean is, does the mother see herself as being American through participation in consumer culture while the daughter doesn’t feel the need to? Is it a result of first generation immigrants trying to accumulate material wealth as a response to a previous life of (by US standards) deprivation? Maybe the daughter is more concerned with the planet or the ecosystem and the mother doesn’t understand or care about those things. Or maybe the mother just really wanted to get something nice for the girl and doesn’t know what else to buy her.

Anyway, I’m glad it’s getting warmer again. This winter was like a long period of hibernation. I’m looking forward to going out and exploring the city again.

Response: Cem Behar’s “A Neighborhood in Ottoman Istanbul: Fruit Vendors and Civil Servants in Kasap Ilyas Mahalle”

In A Neighborhood in Ottoman Istanbul: Fruit Vendors and Civil Servants in Kasap Ilyas Mahalle, Cem Behar attempts to reconstruct the life of an Ottoman Istanbul neighborhood through the use of an exceptional collection of records that he claims are unique to Kasap Ilyas. The records he uses as a primary source for his reconstruction of the mahalle are the notebooks and records of the neighborhood’s imam and (later the) muhtar, which he supplements with data from the 1885 and 1907 censuses and Islamic court records from 1782 to 1924. Additionally, the author attempts to recreate the atmosphere of the neighborhood in the late Ottoman, early Republic period, by interviewing elderly residents of the modern neighborhood.

When considering the information used to create this account, one has to wonder how representative of Istanbul life in general it can possibly be. Behar is careful to point out that Kasap Ilyas’s history and circumstances are certainly unique, and while his findings cannot be used to generalize about Istanbul life, it can be used as a tool to essentially guess at what life in other parts of the city might have been like, given similar circumstances. How many other neighborhoods were there that could have replicated the situation in Kasap Ilyas, however? It does seem to have had many peculiarities, including the large public bath, the nearby wharf, and later the influx of a large population of immigrants from Arapkir. Certainly other parts of Istanbul must have had immigrant populations who were incorporated into society in a similar manner (claims of lost identity papers glossed over by local sponsorship), but how many other neighborhoods also had access to a wharf and warehouses, or to large gardens that provided work opportunities and properly accommodated a working class population? Certainly the elderly inhabitants of the modern neighborhood felt that there was something unique about their neighborhood when they bitterly complained about the destruction of the warehouses and the ‘upper mahalle’ as destroying something essential to their neighborhood.

The unique combination of people and resources (the wharf, gardens, and bath) created a sustainable neighborhood in a city where neighborhoods were routinely absorbed into neighboring mahalles. What I found most interesting about the structure of the neighborhoods, however, is both the diversity of economic classes and the living arrangements. Coming from a Western society, I took for granted that the division of neighborhoods by economic class was a universal occurrence. What factors influenced social norms in Istanbul that made it ok to live in socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods, with beggars living right next to mansions? What made Western society so different? Behar mentions that socioeconomic divisions of neighborhoods didn’t occur until the twentieth century, in response to Western influence. Was it really just as simple as people from similar ethnic and religious groups living together, as a priority over people of similar economic classes living together? Was this common in Islamic cities, or just Ottoman cities, or just in Anatolia? Regarding living arrangements, it was interesting to see that people would often list their business as their residence, but that speaks directly to the economic situation in the neighborhood.

Behar used the itinerant vending of fresh fruits as an example of an informal trade network and then used it to describe the difference between the common activities of recent immigrants from Arapkir to Kasap Ilyas and the more established Istanbulites who had stable businesses governed by regulations and guild organizations. He described an informal network as requiring little or no skill, no permit or license, and little to no startup costs. The only true requirement is that one have a customer base, which Behar describes as a “solid network of personal relations” (115). Behar’s point was probably to show what factors made Kasap Ilyas such an attractive point of entry to Istanbul for the Arapkir immigrants. The Arapkirlis had previously established a system of patronage through the retinue of a pasha who brought his household back to Kasap Ilyas. Alone, this would not have been enough, but because of the presence of the large vegetable gardens, like the Langa gardens, the Arapkirlis were able to incorporate themselves into the larger Istanbul economy through “entry-level” work. Certainly many maintained that lifestyle. Behar describes fathers and sons performing this work together, but Behar also describes other Arapkirlis using fruit vending as a starting point for upward mobility through civil service. I’m sure that there are many cities in many parts of the world that have experienced similar patterns of immigrant exploitation of a resource to establish an ethnically homogenous presence in a city where greater opportunities for social mobility are present. Considering the high rate of population turnover in the neighborhood, it is likely that not only the Arapkirlis were taking advantage of the neighborhood’s usefulness as a socioeconomic stepping stone.

One area of Behar’s work that I found problematic was his assumption of familiarity with foreign language terms. Of course, when writing this type of history, it would be fair to assume that the reader has some familiarity with ‘Islamic’ terms, but Behar’s text is liberally sprinkled with Latin phrases and words that have been borrowed from German. He places these phrases in Italics, signaling their rare usage, but then fails to give a definition. Admittedly, a reader could simply pick up a dictionary to learn the meaning on his own, but if Behar knew the usage of those phrases was problematic and put them in italics, he could have gone the extra mile and defined them at their first usage as well. There were also instances where he deliberately used a Latin word where an English word would have sufficed, like on page 40 where he uses nomenklatura instead of “nomenclature”. Given the context, it is unclear whether he is using the Latin term to replace the English term or if he is making a reference to different statuses within the elite classes of Communist bureaucracies. Another problematic use of language is on page 90, where Behar indicates that the ‘surname’ “binti Abdullah” is significant in connoting conversion to Islam, but does not explain why.

Overall, Cem Behar’s work does an outstanding job of using records to create an image of what Kasap Ilyas might have looked like over the course of Ottoman control of Istanbul. It helps the reader to understand the social and economic dynamics at play in the neighborhood and the city in general, as well as how neighborhoods operated internally.

Guatemalan Woman Attempts to Secure US Anchor Baby for Immigration

Anchor Baby

Anchor Baby

I just saw a report on ABC about a woman who claims that the US government stole her child.  She entered the country illegally, which is a felony and an insult to the national sovereignty of this country, and when she was caught, she was deemed to be an unfit mother for smuggling her child across international boundaries. In his 2008 decision, terminating Encarnacion’s parental rights, Circuit Court Judge David C. Dally wrote that the biological mother’s “lifestyle, that of smuggling herself into a country illegally and committing crimes in this country is not a lifestyle that can provide stability for a child…A child cannot be educated in this way, always in hiding or on the run.”

Her son was taken away from her and has been adopted out to a family that has had him for 5 years.  Now this illegal immigrant, Encarnacion Bail Romero, is trying to get her son back.  She’s trying to play the ‘broken family’ card to get sympathy from the American public.  She’s trying to get us to overlook the fact that she’s a convicted felon who disregarded the sovereignty of our nation by ignoring our legal immigration procedures.  She wants to use our own court system against us.

This excerpt from the article sums up my opinion fairly well:

“When parents break the law, they undertake a certain amount of risk that there are going to be consequences,” said Daniel Stein of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

“Anyone can feel for the torment that this poor woman is going through, recognizing that she doesn’t have the educational and the language capabilities to fully defend and vindicate her rights,” said Stein.

“Nevertheless, she knew she came to this country illegally, she knew she broke the law,” he told ABC News.

This illegal immigrant will get no sympathy from me.  If she didn’t want her family to be broken, she shouldn’t have broken federal laws.  We have borders for a reason.  We have immigration procedures for a reason.   It’s too late.  The ship has already sailed. If this kid (formerly called Carlos and now named Jamison) has been adopted out and with a new family for 5 years, she should let the boy enjoy his life, because she would be a stranger to him. What she wants to do would totally destroy this kid’s life, because he would be emotionally scarred forever.  I can’t imagine why she would imagine that fighting for custody of the kid would be in his best interest, since he doesn’t even know her and doesn’t speak Spanish (the biological mother speaks no English), unless of course she’s looking for an anchor that she can use to stay in the United States herself.

Original Story on ABC: “Adoption Battle Over 5-Year Old Boy Pits Missouri Couple Vs. Illegal Immigrant