Q: Are Muslims in North America better assimilated than in Europe?
A: Yes and no. Economically and in terms of education, yes. But I haven’t seen any hard data to prove that Canadian and American Muslims are more patriotic than Dutch and German Muslims.
Q: Do you think Barack Obama has moved the U.S. forward in terms of engaging constructively with Muslim countries?
A: Muslim populations and countries don’t like us any more than they did under Bush. In Obama’s administration so far, there have been more terrorist attempts than under eight years of the Bush administration, not including the 9/11 attack. The problem is clearly growing. The argument of, “Okay, they do this because they are poor”—that doesn’t apply anymore. In Western democracies, the young men wanting to kill themselves and kill others to get to the Muslim paradise are middle-class, well-educated and have the potential for a good future. The argument that Muslims are persecuted in North America is also not true. Muslims want to be in North America; they get jobs, they can have businesses and live wherever they want. If you just look at that argument empirically, you see that Muslims lead a life that is free and they can do whatever they want. As you go through these arguments, you see it’s not really about which administration is in the White House, it’s about convictions, not just the convictions of individuals but of states like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, which have, as their constitution, the Quran.
Q: One of your more startling arguments in Nomad is that Christian churches should proselytize in immigrant communities to try to convert Muslims.
A: Look at the amount of money Saudi Arabia spends on coming into Muslim communities in America and Europe, building schools and also taking leaders and training them in Mecca and Medina, then replanting them. It’s surprising that no other group of people is targeting the same communities. If you look at Western civilization, at the institutions [and movements] that were engaged in changing people’s hearts and minds—the Christian Church, humanists, feminists—they are doing next to nothing in these Muslim communities. When I was in Holland [recently], I heard about a Christian mission that had been proselytizing in Morocco. The government kicked them out and sent them back to Holland. I thought, “You don’t have to stop proselytizing—just go to the Muslim community in Amsterdam west and carry on there.” But of course there, they’re not only going to face the radical Muslims as opponents, they’re also going to face the multicultural opponents, saying they’re not supposed to be telling people to leave their religion.
Q: So how would they do it?
A: Next to every mosque, build a Christian centre, an enlightenment centre, a feminist centre. There are tons of websites, financed with Saudi money, promoting Wahabism. We need to set up our own websites—Christian, feminist, humanist—trying to target the same people, saying, we have an alternative moral framework to Islam. We have better ideas.
Q: But you also argue that children are indoctrinated very early in Islam. How would you even get them to listen to such a message?
A: They only get indoctrinated if they go to Muslim schools. I would, if I had the power, abolish Muslim schools. Children born to Muslim parents in North America or anywhere else in the West would get Islamic teachings at home, which is fine. But when they go to school, they would get the regular education that’s going to enable them to be absorbed into our society and become law-abiding, well-established citizens.
Q: In a multicultural and democratic society, how could we ban Muslim schools?
A: It depends how we weigh this problem of jihadism and terrorism. If we think it’s a chronic disease we have to live with, and I think that is actually the dominant opinion, people will take more trouble to look at what is going on in these schools and abolish them. If we think of these children as kids who, when they finish school, will be hostile to our society, then I can compile a whole host of arguments why they can and should be abolished.
Q: Let me ask a question you once posed. You said, “Western civilization is a celebration of life—everybody’s life, even your enemy’s life. So how can you be true to that morality and at the same time defend yourself against a very powerful enemy that seeks to destroy you?”
A: That is the big question for the open society today. We want to be distinct from closed societies, have less authoritarianism, allow people to make their own choices. And what we’re seeing now is that as far as that applies to an Islamic subset of society, there are other factors at work that are frightening. To have a whole generation of people just indoctrinated with this jidhadist mentality and for us to do nothing about it, and then every time there’s a terrorist attack, we panic—it’s not viable.
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