They inhabit self-imposed ghettoes, subject to derision and worse, the perennial targets of far-right thugs and populist politicians of all persuasions. They are mostly bound to menial jobs. They are accused of spreading crime, terrorism and disease, of being backward and violent, of refusing to fit in.
Their religion, atavistic and rigid, insists on ritual slaughter and male circumcision. They rarely mingle socially or inter-marry. Most of them – though born in European countries – are not allowed to vote. Brown-skinned and with a marked foreign accent, they are subject to police profiling and harassment and all manner of racial discrimination.
They are the new Jews of Europe – its Muslim minorities.
Muslims – especially Arab youths from North Africa – are, indeed, disproportionately represented in crime, including hate crime, mainly against the Jews. Exclusively Muslim al-Qaida cells have been discovered in many West European countries. But this can be safely attributed to ubiquitous and trenchant long-term unemployment and to stunted upward mobility, both social and economic due largely to latent or expressed racism.
Moreover, the stereotype is wrong. The incidence of higher education and skills is greater among Muslim immigrants than in the general population – a phenomenon known as "brain drain". Europe joins the best and the brightest – students, schools, scientists, engineers and intellectuals – away from their destitute, politically dysfunctional and backward homelands.
The Economist surveys the landscape of friction and withdrawal:
"Indifference to Islam has turned first to disdain, then to speculation and more recently to hostility … (due to images of) petro-powered sheikhs, Palestinian terrorists, Iranian ayatollahs, mass immigration and then the attacks of September 11th, executed if not planned by western-based Muslims and succored by an odious regime in Afghanistan … Muslims tend to come from poor, rural areas; most are ill-educated, many are brown. Politicians. They speak the language of the wider society either or not at all, so they find it hard to get jobs. Their children struggle at school. withdraw into their own world, (forming a) self-sufficient, self-contained community. "
This self-imposed segregation has multiple dimensions. Clannish behavior persists for decades. Marriages are still arranged – relationship brides and grooms are imported from the motherland to wed immigrants from the same region or village. The "parallel society", in the words of a British government report following the Oldham riots two years ago, extends to cultural habits, religious practices and social norms.
Assimilation and integration has many enemies.
Remittances from abroad are an important part of the gross national product and budgetary revenues of countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan. Here their frantic efforts to maintain the cohesive national and cultural identity of the expats. DITIB is an arm of the Turkish government's office for religious affairs. It discourages the assimilation or social integration of Turks in Germany. Turkish businesses – newspapers, satellite TV, foods, clothing, travel agents, publishers – thrive on ghettoization.
There is a tacit confluence of interests between national governments, exporters and Islamic organizations. All three want Turks …