Muslims and Westerners
February 27th 2008. On a cold and windy Wednesday I did something that changed my life. In front of the Copenhagen Mayor’s Integration and Social Services Office there were gathered several journalists, a faithful Muslim musician, dozens of Imams and Muslim spokesmen and a couple of hundred social workers with Muslim and Danish backgrounds. I took a deep breath, grabbed the microphone and began to say what everybody already knew, but, what nobody either wanted or dared to say: that those who are referred to as foreign criminals, religious extremists, or terrorists in the making and who are the cause of lawless parallel societies are all Muslim. I argued that we should stop talking about “criminal foreigners” and start using the more precise term, “criminal Muslims.” As a psychologist, having had more than a hundred Muslim clients, I told them that politicians and professional social workers need to understand the cultural and religious backgrounds of criminal foreigners. That is, if we want to come up with, at least, somewhat effective and targeted plans on how to reduce the social unrest, anti-democratic religious movements, the violent and anti-social forces among foreigners.
Just as most soldiers in the front lines die in the first attack, many of those who attacked political correctness have experienced negative professional or social consequences. I was no exception. The Mayor of Social Services was clear. I should either refrain from using stigmatizing expressions or find myself another job. Actually I was trying to stop the so-called stigmatization of all the non-Muslim immigrants by focusing on the one group that creates all the problems. But you can’t fight City Hall. Our biggest national newspapers and radio news programs got hold of the story and the mayor was strongly criticized by the media experts on free speech and by the Danish blog-sphere. For about a month there was not a day when my name was not in one or more newspapers and the fighters for free speech took another round. I was no longer an anonymous psychologist. My name was known by everybody who read newspapers in Denmark and especially Islam-critical blogs on the internet put me in the spotlight.
Instead of keeping my mouth shut, I decided to write a book about my experiences with Muslims based on hundreds of therapy sessions. After having consulted with 150 young Muslim clients in therapy and 100 Danish clients (who, on average, shared the same age and social background as their Muslim inmates), my findings were that the Muslims’ cultural and religious experiences played a central role in their psychological development and criminal behavior. “Criminal foreigners” is not just a generalizing and imprecise term. It is unfair to non-Muslim foreigners and generally misleading. Denmark has foreigners from all over the world and according to official statistics from Danmarks Statistik all non-Muslim groups of immigrants are less criminal than the ethnic Danes. Even after adjusting, according to educational and economic levels, all Muslim groups are more criminal than any other ethnic group. Seven out of 10, in the youth prison where I worked, were Muslim.
This is a summary of some of the things that I discovered.
Muslim culture has a very different view of anger that is in many ways opposite to what we experience here in the West. Expressions of anger and threats are probably the quickest way to lose one’s face in Western culture. In discussions, those who lose their temper have automatically lost, and I guess most people have observed the feeling of shame and loss of social status following expressions of aggression at one’s work place or at home. In the Muslim culture, aggressive behavior, especially threats, are generally seen to be accepted, and even expected as a way of handling conflicts and social discrepancies. If a Muslim does not respond in a threatening way to insults or social irritation, he (not she: muslim women are, mostly, expected to be humble and to not show power) is seen as weak, as someone who cannot be depended upon and loses face.
In the eyes of most Westerners it looks immature and childish when people try to use threatening behavior, to mark their dislikes. A Danish saying goes ‘Only small dogs bark. Big dogs do not have to.’ That saying is deeply rooted in our cultural psychology as a guideline for civilized social behavior. To us, aggressive behavior is a clear sign of weakness. It is a sign of not being in control of oneself and lacking ability to handle a situation. We see peoples’ ability to remain calm as self confidence, allowing them to create a constructive dialogue. Their knowledge of facts, use of common sense and ability in producing valid arguments is seen as a sign of strength.
The Islamic expression of “holy anger” is therefore completely contradictory to any Western understanding. Those two words in the same sentence sound contradictory to us. The terror-threatening and violent reaction of Muslims to the Danish Mohammed cartoons showing their prophet as a man willing to use violence to spread his message, is seen from our Western eyes as ironic. Muslims’ aggressive reaction to a picture showing their prophet as aggressive, completely confirms the truth of the statement made by Kurt Westergaard in his satiric drawing.
This cultural difference is exceedingly important when dealing with Muslim regimes and organizations. Our way of handling political disagreement goes through diplomatic dialogue, and calls on Muslim leaders to use compassion, compromise and common sense. This peaceful approach is seen by Muslims as an expression of weakness and lack of courage. Thus avoiding the risks of a real fight is seen by them as weakness; when experienced in Muslim culture, it is an invitation to exploitation.
Locus of control
There is another strong difference between the people of Western and Muslim cultures; their locus of control. Locus of control is a psychological term describing whether people experience their life influenced mainly, by internal or external factors. It is clear from a psychological point of view that Westerners feel that their lives are mainly influenced by inner forces – ourselves. This is reflected in our points of view, our ways of handling our emotions, our ways of thinking, our ways of relating to people around us, our motivation, our surplus, and our way of communicating. These internal factors are what guide our lives and determine if we feel good and self confident or not. Every Western library has several meters of self help books. Every kiosk has dozens of magazines for both women and men that tell us how to create happier and more successful lives for ourselves. Our phone books have columns of addresses for psychologists, coaches and therapists. All these things are aimed at helping us to help ourselves create the life that we want. Some might argue that all this introspectiveness is too much and that just doing what is useful for oneself and others here-and-now would be more constructive, but this is how our culture is.
All these things do not exist in Muslim culture and countries. The very little psychiatry and psychology that is taught, in only a few universities in the Muslim world, is imported from the West. It is mostly taught by teachers educated at Western universities and does not have roots in the Muslim culture. But Muslims have something else. They have strict external rules, traditions and laws for human behavior. They have a God that decides their life’s course. “Inshallah” follows every statement about future plans: if God wants it to happen. They have powerful Muslim clerics who set the directions for their community every Friday. These clerics dictate political views, child rearing behavior, and how or whether to integrate in Western societies.
The locus of control is central to our understanding of problems and their solutions. If we are raised in a culture where we learn that ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul’ as William Ernest Henley wrote in his famous poem Invictus in 1875, we will, in case of personal problems, look at ourselves and ask: ‘What did I do wrong?’ and ‘What can I do to change the situation?’ People who have been taught throughout their entire lives that outer rules and traditions are more important than individual freedom and self reflection, will ask: ‘Who did this to me?’ and ‘Who has to do something for me?’
Thus, the locus of control is central to the individual’s understanding of freedom and responsibility. Even though our Christian based societies may, in certain situations, give too much emphasis on feelings of guilt, it also strengthens the individual’s sense of being able to take responsibility for, and change one’s own life. In societies shaped under Islamic and Qu’ranic influence there may be fewer feelings of guilt and thus, more freedom to demand the surroundings to adapt to one’s own wishes and desires. This may include demands to wear Islamic costumes which can result in more Muslim demands for Islamization of our Western societies, but it is also a powerful source of victim mentality and leads to endless demands on one’s surroundings.
In a very concrete way this cultural tendency, shows itself in therapy, as a lack of remorse. The standard answer from violent Muslims was always: ‘It is his own fault that I beat him up. He provoked me.’ Such excuses show that people experience their own reactions as caused by external factors and not by their own emotions, motivation and free will. Even though one’s own feelings, when experiencing an insult, can be moderated by one’s own point of view, this kind of self reflection does not happen to the same degree among Muslims as it does among Westerners. It only takes one person to beat up another: the guy who is doing the hitting. It also only takes one person to feel insulted. Being beaten and feeling insulted are thus strictly different social events. The latter depends on ones self, while the former is solely caused by outer circumstances. Unfortunately, this fact is not considered in Muslim culture and apparently also not by the supporters of laws on hate speech, racism and defamation.
The difference in mentality is clearly stated by the old Indian proverb: ‘You can walk around softly everywhere by putting on a pair of shoes, or you can demand that the whole Earth becomes covered by soft leather.’ It is a question of locus of control.
Self reflection vs. consequence
I have seen with Muslims, this cultural difference concerning locus of control. It has been the source of countless failed social and integration projects. Besides the great support from our welfare systems, our state departments offer a variety of entertainment and guidance to criminal Muslim youngsters hoping that the thankfulness and trust that normally appears from such generosity will create a good relationship, respect and willingness to cooperate. But when the program of social events and appointments with patient social workers ends and the demands of mature behavior appear, the “mutual respect” often evaporates.
Westerners feel that it is ‘our standards’ that determine real consequences for people. We like to think, that if they get some guidance and a second chance most people will learn from that guidance and make use of their chance to improve. We are afraid to set strict boundaries because we do not like people to feel punished, even though our motivation is to stop people from destroying their own lives and the lives of others. What we have to realize is that we need to think outside of our own cultural boxes. I would like to quote from our Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard from his book Either/Or: A Fragment of Life:
“If one truly wants to help a person, we should first of all start by finding where he is. This is the secret to the art of helping. Anyone who cannot do this is arrogant.”
European, Australian and North American politicians have spent trillions of Euros and Dollars in trying to avoid the apparently unavoidable; the failed integration of Muslims. Money has been spent on voluntary offers that our badly integrated foreigners can use if they want. They do sometimes try, but it very seldom works. What we have to understand is that we are dealing with people who grew up in cultures with an “outer – locus of control.” Self reflection and self responsibility have much less importance to them.
During my years as a social worker, and later as a psychologist for antisocial individuals, I have realized that the only, reasonable way forward is to follow this three step procedure:
1) Provide guidance and help. If this does not work, then,
2) Establish Boundaries and limitations. If this does not work, then set
What I say here might seem to be more political than psychological. However, it is my extensive experience in giving therapy to Muslims that has led me to make this statement. We should not permit the destruction of our cities by lawless parallel societies, with groups of roaming criminal Muslims overloading of our welfare system and the growing justified fear that non-Muslims have of violence. The consequences should be so strict that it would be preferable for any anti-social Muslim to go back to a Muslim country, where they can understand, and can be understood by their own culture.
Our mistake is that we start with too long a permissive leash and as the antisocial youngsters make mistakes we slowly restrict their freedom. During this process these young people, very often, manage to destroy their own lives with bad habits, bad friends and bad criminal records. My own experience, and that of many colleagues, is that the only functional way, is to start with a shorter leash. Then, as difficult people show that they can handle increasing amounts of freedom you can extend their options. This way of starting with a short leash is actually very normal in our Western way of raising children. We start with strict expectations concerning school, doing homework, and behaving properly. Then, as children get older and more mature they will receive more freedom from their parents. When they are 21 years old they are expected to have learned enough to be able to handle life and are free to choose whatever education, partner, religion, life style that they want.
In Muslim culture it is different – especially for the boys. They have lots of freedom in their early lives and as they get older more and more cultural/religious restrictions and expectations appear to support the family structure. By the time they are 20 years old, their parents often have already chosen their future wives or husbands. Other choices are also less free: the expectation, for instance, to either achieve high status in education or to work in the little family run shop, to support the family’s reputation by attending Friday prayers in the local Mosque. The “education pyramid” is standing upside down in the West; less freedom in the beginning, more self responsibility as one gets older. In Muslim culture the pyramid stands with its wide end down; few expectations to follow civilized behavior as a boy, and less freedom as one grows more competent, to support one’s own family and religion.
From my experiences with the 150 Muslims I have had in therapy, only a handful felt themselves to be Danish. Most saw themselves as Somalis, Turks, Moroccans, Pakistanis, and Iraqis who now live in Denmark. Almost none of them saw themselves as an integrated part of the Danish society. They felt alienated and in opposition to Danes and the Danish society. They did not feel at home here. This was a real shock to me. Many of my Muslim clients were second or even third generation immigrants, but, still they did not feel Danish. Actually it seemed that many of them were even more religious and hateful towards non-Muslims than their first generation immigrant parents. It was clear to me that they saw themselves as quite different and even better than non-Muslims. Young Danes, who showed an interest in Islam, immediately received positive attention from even the non-practicing Muslims. So did the more hardcore Muslims. The power circles always appear around the more devout Muslims, fanatic, and powerful. The most popular among the Muslims were the true Islamists. The general picture of such an individual is a male with well trimmed beard, elegant glasses, arrogant attitude, fine manners and clothing, the Qu’ran lying on their bed along with C.D.’s of Qu’ran readings. Typically, they learn a handful of conspiracy theories “proving” that the West, especially the US and the few million Jews left on this Earth, are the cause of all the problems in the Muslim world.
I did not keep statistics of any kind, but my experiences clearly reflect several research projects on Muslim identity in Europe. A French survey in Le Figaro showed that only 14 percent of the country’s estimated five million Muslims see themselves as “more French than Muslim.” Research made by the German Ministry of Interior shows that only 12 percent of Muslims living in Germany see themselves as more German than Muslim. A Danish survey published by the pro-Muslim pro-democratic organization Democratic Muslims led by the Danish PM and Muslim Naser Khader showed that only 14 percent of Muslims living in Denmark could identify themselves as “Democratic and Danish.” Naser Khader by the way also reviewed my book: ‘The professional expertise that Nicolai Sennels has, whatever party he may belong to, is exceptional and with Nicolai Sennels’ clear practical examples throughout the book, the reader comes infinitely closer to understanding some of the integration problems. The book should be required reading for all school teachers, social workers and municipalities.’ Since Khader himself is a Muslim and even published a book about Muslim culture (Honor and Shame) this is a real compliment to my psychological conclusions.
Being a Muslim clearly overrules whatever national identity one has. Samuel P. Huntington – author of The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order – described a “U” analogy. My findings are very close to those of Huntington. The tops of the two “towers” of the “U” are where Muslims feel “belonging to the Umma” (the world wide Muslim community), and “belonging to the tribe” (sticking together with other Muslims in the same geographical area). At the bottom of the “U” is national identity. For Westerners it is the opposite, our “U” stands upside down. Our feeling of obligation to the country where we live is stronger than our religion or group.
If integration just consists of learning the language and finding a job, it is not so difficult. But if integration also includes developing mental habits of equally respecting non-Muslims it is simply impossible for most Muslims. They see themselves as special, will always try to live together, create their own Muslim/Islamic parallel societies, feel separated and have less respect towards non-Muslims. True integration doesn’t have to, necessarily, imply religious conversion. However, for Muslims it certainly presupposes cultural conversion. Clearly, very few Muslims have the will, social freedom and strength of personality to go through such a psychologically demanding process.
So, this is THE question. Will integration of Muslims happen, satisfactorily, to the extent necessary? If you think yes, then on what basis do you make the assumption? If no, then what will you expect the consequences to be?
Honor is a central concept in the Muslim culture. Many Danish newspapers experienced mass rage from Muslims, when they published and re-published the Danish Mohammed cartoons. They have realized that Muslims are very easily offended. What kind of honor needs to be protected by threats of terror and boycotts? Is this really honor? Maybe if seen through the glasses of a culture based on a book written 1400 years ago. However, when seen from the perspective of modern Western psychology, it surely is not. From our perspective such behavior is closer to being dishonorable.
Having to constantly keep up one’s appearances, becoming insecure and reacting aggressively when criticized is the result of low self esteem. Unfortunately the Muslim culture tells its men that criticism must be taken completely personally and met with childish reactions. True self confidence would allow the individual the ability to think or say: ‘Ok. You have your own opinion about me or my religion. I have another opinion, and as I trust myself, I will not let my view of myself, or my central values, be disturbed by you.’ Knowing one’s own strengths and weaknesses and accepting them is the core and basis of good self confidence.
If you had ever spent time in a Muslim community you experience this very clearly. You would find yourself constantly trying not to offend anyone and you’d treat everybody like a rotten egg. Jokes, irony and, especially, self-irony is as good as non-existent. It creates a superficial social environment where unhealthy hierarchies appear everywhere because nobody dares to, for instance, point out the weaknesses of childish men and make fun of the powerful. There is an old Danish fairytale about a little boy that points out the nakedness of the King; “He has no clothes on!!” embarrassing the proud King wearing his non-existent magic clothes, which are only visible to “good people” (actually, the King was just naked – because the tailor had cheated him!). Such a story could never have been written in a Muslim culture.
Many young Muslims become assailants. This is not just because of the Muslim cultural acceptance of aggression, but also because the Muslim honor mentality makes them into fragile, insecure men. Instead of being flexible and humorous they become stiff and develop fragile, glass-like, narcissistic personalities.
Unfortunately, most journalists and media people use the term “honor” when describing cases of violence where the offender makes excuses for himself by stating that his honor was offended. Since the concept of honor is completely integrated in the social rules of Muslim culture, it is seen to be justifiable when honor is threatened. This extends to beating or killing women who want to claim such basic human rights as to choose, for themselves, their own sexual partners. By using this term, as used by the offender, the media automatically takes the perspective of a clearly psychopathic and narcissistic excuse for treating other people badly. Instead, we should take our own Western culture as a basis when describing such crimes. Terms like “family execution,” “childish jealousy,” “control maniac” or “insecure” would be much closer to our cultural understanding of such behavior.
Consequences of failed integration
The World Economic Forum published a report Islam and the West: Annual Report on the State of Dialogue 2008 in which they show the results of a survey conducted in 12 non-Muslim and 12 Muslim countries. The last point in the report concerned the question: “Do you think violent conflict between the Muslim and Western worlds can be avoided?” A majority of all 24 countries think that this conflict can be avoided. However, this is not the same as believing that such peaceful development will actually occur. Overwhelmingly, 22 countries out of 24, in the survey expected that the “interaction between the Muslim and Western World is getting worse.” This survey clearly showed that while there is widespread hope for a peaceful outcome between the tensions of Islam and the West, people are seemingly very pessimistic.
Personally, my own conclusions match those of the survey. I believe that a violent conflict can be avoided. However, the chances of achieving that are getting slimmer and slimmer every month. We passed the point of no return years ago when such a conflict could have been avoided without taking drastic measures. Draconian measures may have to include shutting down Muslim immigration; demanding reform of Islamic organizations and leaders in the West; tightening the thumb screws on integration; becoming less dependent on oil in the Middle East; providing incentives to extremely overpopulated, impoverished countries to have less children; creating an alternative to the UN exclusively for democratic countries; cutting the EU’s ability to force European countries to receive more Muslim immigrants and refugees; and perhaps even sending Muslims who proved themselves unable to adjust to our Western secular laws back to their countries of origin.
Such drastic measures are probably necessary. However, our politicians have decided to give the “long leash” first, then slowly and with much hesitation, to shorten it as things get worse and worse. With such politicians the Islamists can lean back and enjoy the show. The destruction of the “perverted,” free, non-Islamic West will happen by itself. Since the Muslim world is already here – in thousands of Muslim ghettoes in Europe, Australia and North America – the possibility that violent conflict will happen in Western cities all over the world is very great.
We need to understand the Muslim culture much better if we want to be able to stop such a catastrophe. We need to understand that it is not possible to integrate masses of Muslims into our Western societies. We need to understand that our non-confrontational Western ways of handling conflicts make us look weak and vulnerable to Muslim leaders. We need to understand that Muslim culture is much stronger and more determined than our guilt-ridden, self-excusing Western culture. We need to understand that Muslims will only feel at home in a Muslim culture and this is why their religious demands for Islamization of the West will never end.
The moment when a popular Islamic cleric declares a Muslim area as Islamic (such declarations are the tradition of Islam, and are happening all over the world – in China, Thailand, ex-Yugoslavia, Russia, Africa etc.) and orders his followers to attack all non-Islamic authorities entering the area, we will have civil wars. No State can tolerate such an attack on its authority and will have to stop it from happening and stop it from growing. These “no go” self-governing areas are already full of violent criminals, weapons and Islamic extremists. They will probably not give up either their guns or themselves to the authorities voluntarily. Such Islamic declarations have already happened on an unofficial level. All Western European countries have such “no go” areas where policemen and authorities are met with threats and flying stones upon entering, all while Islamic authorities such as Imams and homegrown Sharia courts freely rule these “no go” areas, creating Muslim ghettoes.
After having heard the stories from Muslims themselves about their culture, religion, home countries, Muslim ghettoes, their views on non-Muslims, democracy, women and freedom, I have no hope that we can avoid “blood, sweat and tears” during this conflict. It will take many idealistic women and men many years before we reach a point where we can be sure that our freedom-loving culture will win such a conflict. As it stands now, such victory is not at all certain. I hope that many brave people will stand up for what we all believe in, and be mindful of how easily it can be lost. They could write letters to their newspapers, study the Qu’ran and the crime statistics (the only two sources you need to convince yourself that Muslim immigration is a very bad idea). Then they could present their opinions in a confident manner when conversation turns to the subject of Islam and Muslim immigration at lunch, work and at family dinners. A popular movement composed of average citizens standing up against the immature and psychologically unhealthy culture of Islam is the way and the goal. Nothing is more important than that.
The result of the “Diversity, and Safety in the City” conference on February 27, 2008 was a so-called “Catalogue of Ideas.” The Catalogue had more than 118 ideas concerning what the media, the police, the state, the politicians and the Danes could to do improve integration. There were virtually no ideas about what foreigners themselves can do to improve integration.
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