Yes, Islam has a Problem. So now what?

If you're looking for a racist rant about "those people" and an affirmation of your own faith, then keep scrolling. Likewise, if you're looking for an affirmation of victim hood because you label anyone who talks about this as racist, you can also keep scrolling. You won't find that here.  This article is meant to address and acknowledge a specific problem that exists within a specific community, place it within the context of other problems in other communities and discuss solutions. I shouldn't have to worry about being called racist, or xenophobic for that.

Christianity has a problem with pedophile priests. Here's on of many articles on the topic:

Ultra Orthodox Jewish community has an issue with police cooperation. Here's an article:

The Islamic community has a problem with extemism:

All of these statements are true. The problems vary to one degree or another with the size of each communities, and the effect they have on surrounding populations. The Ultra-Orthodox community's problem, for instance, has led to some pretty awful consequences for members, but it only affects those small communities, terrible as though they may be. Christianity's problem is far more widespread. Clergy of all ranks have either been implicated, accused or found guilty of pedophilia. By this point it's pretty obvious this is and has been a problem for a long time. It's fucking awful and it's true but it only affects the people within that faith. This is not to marginalize the terrible plight of it's victims. It's to convey that this problem is contained to the Christian community. It should be addressed, just as the challenges within the Ultra Orthodox community should be addressed. But we shouldn't have to talk about both problems whenever we address one. The same is true for the challenges inside the Islamic community, especially since this particular issue affects not just the Muslim community at large, but communities outside the Islamic faith.

Islam has a problem relating to extremist views and of oppressing women and minorities. It isn't the only faith that has issues, or these issues specifically. Like any large organization, it's bound to have problems. But those problems exist. And we cannot address them by ignoring them, by wishing them away or by pointing to other faiths. The wave of terrorist attacks and increase of rape cases in Europe is an unfortunately perfect example.  The latest attack in NYC was a painful reminder that the US isn't immune. This problem isn't going away.

Mass immigration of Muslims in Europe is not making such populations westernized or even open to western values (read the strange death of Europe by Douglas Murray). So "Westernizing them" hasn't worked. On the other hand there are plenty of Muslims in the US who live peacefully and would disagree. So these issues can't be addressed by Xenphobia. This presents us with a dilemma.  People are rightfully scared, but are told that being afraid is a phobia and they are racist. Meanwhile actual racists are exploiting the opportunity to say "I told you so". The majority of Muslims, who do not support extremism are in the middle. So, what do we do?

One option is to limit immigration, as we are already doing. But the attacker in NYC came recently from Uzbekistan. Would he have gotten through "extreme vetting"? Who knows. Maybe, maybe not. 

Another option, is to stop immigration of Muslims all together. This is a poor option. Other than being morally questionable, it also wouldn't be effective. It assumes there's no such thing as an extremist Muslim who doesn't look the part. Attacks by several "westernized" Muslims have proved this in multiple countries around the world. 

A third option is to simply stop immigration altogether. This is a terrible idea for a reason completely unrelated to terrorism. It's an issue of demographics. 

The U.S. birth rate now is 1.9 births per woman over her lifetime, when 2 births per woman is necessary to sustain the population on its own. Because of immigration, the population is still growing

We need immigrants to sustain our population - that or some sort of incentive for Americans to bone more. What happens if we close immigration and continue to have a fertility rate below 2.0 births per family? Japan. Japan happens.

By 2060, the government estimates, there will be just 87 million people in Japan; nearly half of them will be over 65. Without a dramatic change in either the birthrate or its restrictive immigration policies, Japan simply won’t have enough workers to support its retirees,

So "those Mexicans", "those Muslims" and "those Chinese" people that are "coming in droves" and "threaten to wipe out American culture" are actually vital to the long term sustainability of our economy. So do we take a chance now by allowing limited immigration or do we condemn our children and our children's children to a certain economic and demographic death spiral? It's not a choice for me.  

Overlapping with the options above is the elephant in the room that we have all but stopped discussing - mass surveillance. Since 9-11, our various 3-letter agencies have wizened up and decided the collection and parsing of meta-data, warrant-less surveillance and indefinite detention of enemies of the state are the answer. This is the toughest one for me to answer. I'm not worried about the policies themselves, so much as our inability to determine if they're effective - it's all secret. Do I believe the government is using this to quiet dissent and "control the masses?" no. No I don't. Do I believe it's a possibility? Well, it wouldn't be the first time. There were many times in fact.

One example is when, during WWI, President Wilson's government censored the media so much that people had no idea the Influenza pandemic of 1918 was  happening, unless you were in one of the affected town's that is. Censorship was so bad that it was called the "Spanish Flu" erroneously.  Spain was the only Western country NOT to censor reports of it's outbreak, so that's where the news came from and that's where everyone thought it came from. The outbreak in fact, started in Kansas! That prevented quarantine measures and resulted in far more deaths than necessary. (Read the great influenza, by John Barry)

The CIA has been known to control Hollywood and the media at various times throughout history. Here's an article on recent examples:

"Trust your government" isn't as simple as it seems. It also isn't always a good idea. This one isn't as cut-and-dry. Actually none of this is, but THIS particular aspect of the dilema is even less so. I do believe parsing is needed on social media. Terrorist organizations definitely use it to recruit and communicate. If we know this, and don't monitor such actions, we're being negligible. The new battlefield isn't always on the ground. It's digital. If we don't equip our troops with weapons they need, we cannot possibly expect adequate results. So for the time being, I'm begrudgingly ok with it. 

So back to the original question: What are we do do?

My vote, is limited immigration with increased community engagement with a continued practice of surveillance to back up such efforts. The first is already happening. So that's reality. The much disliked travel bans and the lesser known immigration quotas set this in motion. So is the third. Neither are anything new and go back numerous administrations, both Republican an Democrat.

"Community Engagement", on the other hand, sounds like liberal foofoo nonsense. However, it's also already happening, in more ways than one, and it's working. In the US, we have Muslim communities and law enforcement cooperating together. Here's are two examples:

Another example is that provided by Maajid Nawaaz and the Quilliam Group. 

Maajid is a former extremist who spent a considerable portion of his life proselytizing extremist views. He changed his mind after spending 6 years in an Egyptian prison and has since worked to counter extremism in his home country of England and around the world. He's written several books on the subject including Radical, and Islam and the Future of Tolerance. You can find reviews of both books in the book review section of this web site.  

I recently attended the opening of the Quilliam International chapter in the US. The ceremony was in New York City. Maajid gave a brief speech where he informed us that over 300 US Mosques have signed up with Quilliam to work with and incorporate the organizations products into combating and preventing extremism in the US. I believe it. He's set up such operations in the UK and in Pakistan. The latter being an arguably difficult environment to operate in. 

"So what are you getting at?" you may ask.

You can't just tell 300 million people around the world (the amount of Muslims estimated to hold extremist views, see statistics on Islam link at the beginning of this article.) to "cut it out". That won't work. You have to give people an alternative. That's what Quilliam does.

You also can't send a big "fuck you" to 3.3 million Americans of Muslim faith by assuming they hold the same views. Aside from being bigoted, it simply isn't true. According to the same pew research center poll cited above American Muslims are actually far less likely to have extremist ideology.

See, things are very different in the US than in Europe. In Europe, the police have retreated from immigrant communities and have stopped doing their jobs. In the US, the police are active in all communities. Sure, you can say that they're active in some more than others. You can say there's bias. You can say many things and you may be right. But they'r active. In doing so the police ensure protection and the ability for Muslims to integrate. 

We have to let local law enforcement do it's job. Yes, a few paragraphs ago I said that trusting the government isn't as simple as it sounds. It's a balance and which side we're on is often subjective. Be that as it may, the alternative is what happened in the UK. Long story short, about 15 years ago police were accused of being racist. That resulted in withdrawal from minority communities. This withdrawal and fear resulted in one of the largest incidents of human trafficking I've ever read about.  

Several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought as racist; others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so

I highly encourage you to read the whole article. It explains how well-intentioned attitudes and actions can lead to tragic consequences. 

"that's all well and good, but you know what we're still having periodic terrorists attacks. Are we supposed to just live with them?"

It's a difficult question. But the answer is that we may not have a choice. The threat isn't going to stop. All we can do is reduce or increase the chances. We can make the chance infinitesimally small, but there will always be a chance. It will never be zero. How we reduce the chances of a terrorist attack will have consequences for the future of this country; for our children and our children's children. We have to be mindful of this. 

We have to implement realistic policies that work against the threat we are encountering, not for it. Policies of cooperation like those advocated by the FBI and local law enforcement and endorsed by local communities in the articles I linked above. In fact, the incidents and casualties would actually have been more numerous if we didn't have such approaches. You can say such approaches are not enough. You can say some of them are too much. Such debate is necessary and healthy. It's an important, even vital, conversation to have. But we must be careful in implementing policies that make things worse. Because things can get worse. The world is full of such examples.