Friday, November 04, 2005

As Paris Burns

I doubt that Francis Fukuyama would describe himself as a prophet. However, he has few peers as an observer of the international scene, and the underlying political, social and economic factors that shape world events.

Consider Professor Fukuyama's recent WSJ essay on the legacy of Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh's murder by an Islamic radical one year ago this month. In his op-ed, Fukuyama traces the killing of Van Gogh to decades of European "tolerance" that have left Muslim immigrants socially isolated, impoverished and adrift, with few ties to the culture, economy or political system of their adopted country. While liberal European regimes have granted asylum to millions of Muslim immigrants (and provided extensive welfare benefits), they have made little effort to assimilate them into society as a whole. As Fukuyama notes, the Van Gogh murder and the recent London transit bombings were perpetrated by Muslims who had lived in the Netherlands and Britain for years, but found little success or satisfaction living in a European culture.

Fukuyama's essay was apparently written before the recent outbreak of Muslim rioting in the suburbs of Paris, which has lasted for more than a week. But many of the conditions he describes in Britain and Holland are present in France as well, where millions of Mulism and North African immigrants remain isolated in cultural and economic ghettos; their own glimpse of French society and culture comes from television programs.

In today's New York Post, Amir Taheri has an excellent analysis of the root causes of the riots in France, and the Chirac government's inability to recognize those problems and deal with them effectively. The New York Sun offers similar thoughts in a well-written editorial.

Could the same thing happen here? La Shawn Barber (whom I greatly respect), seems to think so. But I disagree, for a simple reason: economic opportunity. By and large, Muslim immigrants to this country have enjoyed the same access to the American dream as everyone else. Through education and hard work, Muslim emigres have been successful in assimilating themselves into American society, and not isolated in urban slums, like their counterparts in Western Europe. While there are large Muslim communities in many U.S. cities (such as Detroit), living standards in those areas are far higher than those of Islamic neighborhoods in Europe.

But I will add this cautionary note: America is not immune to Islamic fundamentalism, and as the 9-11 attacks demonstrated, it is sometimes easy for Muslim terrorists to blend into our society, and plan large-scale attacks. But one of the best antidotes to fundamentalism is individual freedom, religious liberty, economic opportunity--and the willingness to confront Islamic terrorism at its source. In that regard, the U.S. model is far superior to the benign multi-cultural and liberalism of Europe.

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