Wednesday, January 21, 2015

On "Why the Muslim 'No-Go-Zone' Myth Won't Die"

The Atlantic's David A. Graham has an article up taking an in-depth look at the concept of ubiquitous "no-go zones" run by Muslims in western Europe. First introduced to the mainstream by Fox News television coverage, Graham notes that this pre-Eurabian concept comes from the conflation of three separate, misunderstood, phenomena.

It seems to stem from two or maybe three real phenomena. The first is the presence of sharia courts in some places in Europe. In the United Kingdom, for example, "Muslim Arbitration Tribunals" are officially mandated but set up outside the court system and can resolve civil and family issues through Islamic law; there are also reports of informal religious courts. There are similar Jewish courts in Britain, and the Muslim tribunals have received encouragement from figures including then-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. On the other hand, there are convincing arguments that the courts can sometimes be bad for women. (There's a fascinating echo of the Ottoman empire's "millet" system, in which non-Muslims were allowed to set up their own courts to deal with matters of personal law.)

The second real phenomena is the rise of vigilante sharia squads in some places. For example, in Whitechapel, East London, CNN reported on bands of Muslim men who try to keep alcohol out of the area and harangue passers-by about morality. RedState's Erick Erickson thinks he's caught CNN red-handed: While the network criticizes Jindal for not knowing of any real no-go zones, CNN itself reported on one! But the analogy doesn't quite hold. What's happening here is disturbing, but well-short of extremist-run enclaves. These are just ad-hoc groups, and area Muslims by and large condemn it in CNN's reporting. There's no evidence that these squads are powerful or widespread.

The third factor is what are known as "Zones Urbaines Sensibles," or "sensitive urban zones," in France. These areas are defined by their socioeconomic status—they're characterized by high unemployment, high rates of public housing, and low educational attainment. As it happens, many of these areas are populated largely by poor immigrants from the Muslim world, creating a neat but misleading correlation. Some of the "no-go" coverage has suggested that police and other emergency services dare not go into these areas. The United States is sadly not immune to dangerous city areas where emergency-service providers feel unsafe, so in that way this is a universal phenomenon. But as BusinessWeek notes, it's not the case that the government has written these zones off; in fact, they've been designated for further attention and work on urban renewal.

Tracing the meme to the writings of Daniel Pipes early last decade, Graham notes that the idea has since been spreading online, through people participating in social networks ideologically predisposed to this belief.

If you dig through the fever swamps of the Internet, you can see the idea spreading since then. For example, the blog "Violence Against Whites" chronicles the SUZs and other alleged no-go zones across Western Europe. (Other material on the site includes claims that Boers were ethnically cleansed in South Africa and a section on "white martyrs.") reports, "These areas are Muslim-dominated neighborhoods. Non-Muslims dare not set foot into the areas."

I noted earlier that there are popular misestimates of population, based on non-random and inaccurate samplings. Graham notes, depressingly, that phenomena like these are often resistant to correction.

Erroneous beliefs such as these tend to concentrate along people's partisan or ideological axes. (The same is true of liberal media, though not in this particular case.) And once an idea has taken seed, it's extremely difficult to root out. As political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler have shown, corrections can actually backfire, increasing holders' faith in their incorrect beliefs.

And yet, this needs to be done.


JonnyC said...

T%his looks like a more informed explanation of the issue, from Daniel Pipes:
In a 2006 weblog entry, I called Muslim enclaves in Europe no-go zones as a non-euphemistic equivalent for the French phrase Zones Urbaines Sensibles, or Sensitive Urban Zones. No-go zones subsequently became standard in English to describe Muslim-majority areas in West Europe.
After spending time in the banlieues (suburbs) of Paris in January 2013, as well as in their counterparts in Athens, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Malmö, and Stockholm, however, I have had second thoughts. I found that those areas "are not full-fledged no-go zones" --- meaning places where the government had lost control of territory. No war lords dominate; Shari'a is not the law of the land. I expressed regret back then for having used the term no-go zones.

So, what are these places? A unique and as-yet un-named mix.
On the one hand, West European states can intervene anywhere and at any time in their sovereign territory. As the shoot-out in Verviers and the subsequent raids in Belgium suggest, their overwhelming advantage in force – including military, intelligence, and police – means they have not ceded control.
After a terrorist attack in May 2014, police were out in force in the Jewish area of Antwerp, Belgium.

On the other hand, governments often choose not to impose their will on Muslim-majority areas, allowing them considerable autonomy, including in some cases the Shariah courts that Emerson mentioned. Alcohol and pork are effectively banned in these districts, polygamy and burqas commonplace, police enter only warily and in force, and Muslims get away with offences illegal for the rest of population.

The Rotherham, England, child sex scandal offers a powerful example. An official inquiry found that for sixteen years, 1997-2013, a ring of Muslim men sexually exploited – through abduction, rape, gang rape, trafficking, prostitution, torture – at least 1,400 non-Muslim girls as young as 11. The police received voluminous complaints from the girls' parents but did nothing; they could have acted, but chose not to.
According to the inquiry, "the Police gave no priority to CSE [child sexual exploitation], regarding many child victims with contempt and failing to act on their abuse as a crime." Even more alarming, in some cases, "fathers tracked down their daughters and tried to remove them from houses where they were being abused, only to be arrested themselves when police were called to the scene." Worse, the girls "were arrested for offences such as breach of the peace or being drunk and disorderly, with no action taken against the perpetrators of rape and sexual assault against children."

Another example, also British, was the so-called Operation Trojan Horse that flourished from 2007 until 2014, in which (again, according to an official inquiry), a group of school functionaries developed "a strategy to take over a number of schools in Birmingham and run them on strict Islamic principles."
What does one call Rotherham and Birmingham? They are not no-go zones, neither in terms of geography or sovereignty. This is where we – Emerson, others (such as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal), and I stumbled. The English language lacks a readily-available term for this. And for good reason: I know of no historical parallel, in which a majority population accepts the customs and even the criminality of a poorer and weaker immigrant community. The world has never seen anything comparable to the contemporary West's blend of achievement, timidity, and guilt, of hugely superior power matched by a deep reluctance to use it.

Instead of no-go zones, I propose semi-autonomous sectors, a term that emphasizes their indistinct and non-geographic nature – thus permitting a more accurate discussion of what is, arguably, West Europe's most acute problem.

Colin said...

As far as I can tell, the most serious urban no-go areas based on religion anywhere in Western Europe (i.e. west of the former Yugoslavia) were/are in Northern Ireland, where it's Christian versus Christian. That's as opposed to sensitive urban zones, which exist in every country, but which are characterised more by poverty than anything else.

Randy McDonald said...

Daniel Pipes, I'll note, was incorrect. Graham notes how he did not respond to requests from media for feedback.

What is the evidence? How is alcohol and pork banned? Is it banned, or do stores just don't sell products which aren't popular in their local catchment areas? We don't know, since he doesn't actually provide any evidence for this. The same goes for his other claims. Can you provide evidence?

re: Rotherham, this might work if networks of people invested in sexually abusing children were unique among Muslims. This, most unfortunately, is not the case. Just across the Irish Sea, Roman Catholicism has collapsed as a result of the complicity of the Church with coverups of abuse by its clergy. Even in England, it's just coming out that high-ranking Conservatives in Margaret Thatcher's government were benefitting from their position to rape children without repercussions.

Even Pipes' revised statement lacks evidence. He makes sweeping claims with no evidence, and refers to particular situations with the false implication that they're exceptional. He may have done good scholarly work elsewhere, but not here.