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Heiers Islam scepticism




Ingvild Heier criticised my article of September 15th, “Antisemitism with or without Jews”.

She argued that there is no analogy between Islam scepticism and anti-Semitism. As proof she refers to differences between the two groups’ behaviour throughout European history. She writes: “European Jews did not to the same degree express such an intense hatred of European culture and values as one can hear in Islamic milieus, from people who came here by their own will.” 

The first phrase is strange. It would be more precise to say that historically Jews were among the foremost to formulate, mark and defend European culture and values. The latter is inseparable from Jews intellectual contribution. The Nazis extermination of Jews therefore resembles a suicide. The second phrase is also strange. First of all, because a lot of foreigners (from Chile, Somalia, Bosnia and Afghanistan) have come because of war and conflict. Secondly, most of the Muslims living in Norway today were born here; they are second and third generation. They no more moved here nor chose to be born here than Ingvild Heier (I assume) and I did.

The Islam scepticism that Heier sees ‘rational reasons’ for raises a lot of questions, such as the question about how the Muslim part of the current European population will become integrated into society at large. Muslims born in today’s Norway often live in an inhuman tension between the first generation’s still strongly traditional – and on several levels grossly oppressive – norms, and the secular Norwegian culture that stresses individual freedom of choice and equality of the sexes. These girls and boys need all the support they can get for their right and struggle to be able to make real choices: do they want to live as their parents and grandparents often require of them, or do they wish to live a life that most resembles the life that the ethnical Norwegians of their own age live? Individual autonomy has to replace group pressure: no culture has an automatic right to exist, only the right to be continued to the degree its members voluntarily choose. Here the politically correct multi-culturalism has been neglected: it has not supported the individual’s difference from their own group strongly enough, but it collapsed the two into one so that thousands of cultural differences can bloom. 

Ingvild Heier certainly agrees. It is therefore regrettable that some of her statements are of the stigmatising kind: “When many of Oslo Muslims demonstrated this winter, they did not do so in support of freedom of speech or human rights, but in support of a pictorial prohibition from the Middle Ages.” Here human rights and pictorial prohibition are juxtaposed against the presentation (caricaturization) of the Profet Muhamed as irreconcilable opposites: as if those that defend pictorial prohibition are against human rights. What they express abomination about, is that freedom of speech is used as an excuse to offend something that is known to be holy for religious Muslims around the world. Human Rights exist to insure each person’s right – independent of belief, race, ethnicity and sex –to not have his or her human value and his or her conception of the holy affronted. Freedom of speech is misused when it is used to violate this particular right, which thereby has moral precedence in cases of conflict. 

The analogy I implied in my article, barely and with an immediate reservation, is not

as Heier interprets it – between the behaviour of the Jews and the behaviour of the

Muslims (historically). The analogy is not between these two groups understood as subjects, but as objects: as main society’s “others. I warned against “group-thinking” in the professional meaning of “group-think”: towards a way of viewing “the foreigners among us” who, whether being Jews or Muslims, are generalized about according to the logic “one for all and all for one”. Stigmatisation based on group membership restrains individuals’ chances to achieve real autonomy, not least of all inwards, within one’s own group. Prejudice and mistreatment can kill young Muslims’ belief that recognition in and by mainstream society is possible; they are prejudged because of the group’s norms. The result can be that the only recognition they experience as achievable, is the one connected to embracing the previous generation’s, in many ways, reactionary norms. If the way to acceptance is closed from the outside, acceptance is searched for within.

This is what they are concerned with, the moderate Muslim leaders which newly warned against Blair’s sharpening of the antiterror laws. The war against terror, they claim, stigmatises Muslims as a group. And the more suspected the members of the group feel the greater the danger is that some members will react with opposition and resistance: by beginning to identify themselves with what the government now identifies them with. The boomerang has been pointed out by many: The war against terror is fought with means that create a vision of the enemy which creates enemies from individuals that were not such in the first place. Heiers fear of militant Islamic progress in Europe is not without good reasons. But fear can only reinforce the fanaticism it seeks to fight against. 

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