Over three weeks, the jury heard a massive amount of evidence. Though I had followed the case closely, I wanted to take in the evidence with my own eyes and ears. I found it shocking. Defendants Mohamed Farah, Abdirahman Daud, and Guled Omar made up part of a larger group of young men from the Twin Cities who sought to leave the United States to join ISIS in Syria. When I say young, I mean high school and college age. One of their friends—Abdirahman Bashir—turned informant, while others made it to Syria without being detected or charged in the process. They are all first- or second-generation Somalis who appear to be talented and resourceful young men. They had social lives centered on local mosques. They are all observant Muslims and supplemented their education with Islamic studies. They wanted to live under the caliphate declared by ISIS. They yearned to wage jihad and to die as Islamic martyrs.
No one who found the Charlie Hebdo op-ed so offensive would ever suggest Morocco ought to welcome McDonalds or Wal-Mart with open arms. They would say the country is being ruined with Western culture. They want non-Western countries to remain exactly as they are—preserved and frozen in time-while the West must endlessly adapt to anyone who makes it their home.
The article highlights the important fact that Europe has failed to ask its Muslim immigrant population to assimilate. This fact was demonstrated recently when police discovered that the only surviving terrorist from the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was able to travel from Paris to Brussels and conceal himself there until a few days before the Brussels attacks. He was aided by a large community of French and Muslim Belgians whose loyalties clearly lie with their own community, not with Belgium, or Europe at large. What’s more, a 2013 study shows the shocking degree to which European Muslims hate the West.
Asking immigrants to assimilate doesn’t mean white-washing their culture and religion, asking them not to wear the hijab, or demanding that they eat pork. But it does mean asking them to accept, to some degree, the culture of the country to which they have willingly moved. These are things like women’s rights, tolerance, free speech, or criticism of religion. It also means not having to apologize for having a culture of one’s own. This is the point that Michel Houellebecq made in his recent novel, “Submission.”
Until we are prepared to resolutely defend our values and culture we will see these things slowly eaten away from within.
America should take note of this dilemma when it comes to immigration, assimilation, and the Muslim community in the United States. We must find a middle ground between the extreme multiculturalism of Britain, where the state allows parallel Sharia courts to mete out justice according to Islamic law, and French Universalism, which forbids even asking questions about religion, ethnicity, and race in its official census.
For the most part, America has struck a healthy balance. We require some level of assimilation but also insist on the separation of church and state while allowing individual differences and protecting religious liberties. However, we should be on alert, because this balance can easily slide.
France has made a series of dangerous mistakes that immigration reform can’t fix. They have alienated a community of Muslims five million strong, and the youths in this community are doubling down on their Muslim identity. Because radical Islam considers itself at war with the West, it appeals to young people who want to reject the Western culture and society they feel has rejected them. So they turn to a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, often finding their inspiration in prisons, where Arab youths are frequently radicalized. As the French prime minister to the U.S. said in an interview this week, this gives them a raison d’être.