America’s alienation of its Muslim community has ominous parallels to the British experience, in which increasing numbers of disaffected and radicalized Islamic youth led to the London bombings of July 2005, said a member of the British House of Lords at Fordham Law School on March 6.
Baroness Kishwer Falkner, a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords who is on sabbatical as a fellow at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, said that Muslims in England are near the bottom of the socioeconomic scale. Although the economic situation is different for Muslims in the United States, she said that there is a strident anti-Muslim sentiment evident in everything from talk radio to television programs.
This “Islamophobia” could serve to radicalize American Muslims, she said, in the same way it has in the United Kingdom.
“In the U.K., the events of 7/7 [the London bombings]were homegrown,” said Falkner, who is the first Muslim frontbencher, or leader of a political party, in British parliamentary history. “That terrorist act made the country look inward and ask why we have extremism within our second and third generations [of Muslims]. And I would argue that similar trends are evident here. The difference is that your trends are probably behind ours in the U.K. by about 10 years.
“At low levels, I speak within the community and travel around the country here in the U.S. quite a bit,” she said, “and there are people who will in closed-door conversations absolutely tell me that they’re concerned about the radicalization of young [Muslim] people … and they relate it to the persistent Islamophobia in American society.”
The London subway and bus bombings in July 2005 killed 52 people and wounded some 700 others. The four attackers were identified as British Muslims in their 20s and 30s.
Falkner said that the focus of American national security officials is on external threats. There is a widespread “complacency,” she said, about American Muslims, driven by a belief that they are well integrated into society and don’t pose a security threat.
Yet she has begun to detect the isolation and humiliation of the Muslim community in American society that in England and other parts of Europe has fomented anger among Islamic youth that has erupted in violence.
“My first three months in the U.S. I listened to NPR [National Public Radio],” she said. “Forget NPR. NPR is for liberals. I’m not going to learn anything by listening to NPR. I listen to talk radio and I have to say to you, it is awful. Perhaps we self-censor in Europe, but it convinces me of how very confident we are in Europe about diversity, that we wouldn’t dream of saying some of the stuff that is said on the airwaves and written in journals and on the Internet here.”
Falkner said that policymakers in the United States must take on the issue of the alienation of Muslims, but that discussion must be based on fundamental values of democracy and the rule of law.
By Victor M. Inzunza