Our friend Jeryl Bier made this astonishing find earlier today, from a press conference after a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and an EU official yesterday. In the press conference that followed, a reporter asked Kerry about remarks made by Barack Obama about the issues of integration between Muslims in Europe and their national communities. Kerry then offered a jaw-dropping response that equated Muslim communities in Europe to minorities in the US during the civil-rights era, getting the problem exactly backwards in the process (emphasis mine):
Question: [W]e heard recently from President Obama talking about the potential lack of integration of Muslim communities in Europe. He mentioned that as one of the greatest dangers that Europe faces in terms of terror threats that might come. Would you agree with those words from President Obama, and should he have used those? And Mr. Secretary, I’d like to get your opinion on that as well if I can.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me just begin quickly on the integration issue. When I was – I entered college in 1962. And in 1963, ’4, ’5, we were deeply embroiled in this country, and we – college students in the Civil Rights Movement. And we were deeply impacted by that and have always been, I think, as a generation, much more sensitive to this question of minority and rights and integration and so forth. We’ve made unbelievable progress in our nation, unbelievable progress in the years since then. But it would be completely disingenuous not to say to you that we still have some distance to travel. We’re not finished. We’re still – you heard the President last night talk about voting rights. So what was won in 1965 still has to be fully embraced and implemented here, and other things that are linked to that. We’ve seen our own struggles in some communities and great debates about race in America in the last year.
So it would be dishonest of me – and I’m not involved in domestic politics right now, so I’m not going to go into it in depth, except to say that therefore, I think I can say with honesty that there is a challenge in many other parts of the world. And Federica is absolutely correct; this particular incident of violence wasn’t a specific targeting that grew out of that, but we all can do work in many parts of the world that I have seen where one minority or another or another is not able to share fully in the full integration in whatever country they happen to be living. So the world has a road to travel on that, and that’s why we continue to put such a high premium here on the issue of human rights and democracy, and to continue to push, because I think we’ve learned through our own experience the difference that it can make to the strengthening of the quality of our democracy, to our society, and people benefit when we live by that high moral standard.
That’s actually not the problem in Europe. Unlike the US in the Jim Crow era (or South Africa during apartheid, to use another example), the issue in France and other nations on the continent is not official policies of discrimination. It’s not even cultural pressure to marginalize and “otherize” Muslims. The insularity of those communities is self-imposed. They want to be separate, and thanks to a perverse prioritization of multicultural sensitivity in France and other countries over assimilation, those cultures allow them to do so on an extraordinary scale.
Kerry may still be living in the 1960s, but this is an entirely different problem. Ironically, Barack Obama largely got this right during his own joint press conference with British PM David Cameron last week, which was the initiating catalyst for the question:
Here’s where I actually think that Europe has some particular challenges, and I said this to David. The United States has one big advantage in this whole process, and it’s not that our law enforcement or our intelligence services, et cetera, are so much better — although ours are very, very good, and I think Europeans would recognize that we’ve got capabilities others don’t have. Our biggest advantage, Major, is that our Muslim populations, they feel themselves to be Americans. And there is this incredible process of immigration and assimilation that is part of our tradition that is probably our greatest strength. Now, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t subject to the kinds of tragedies that we saw at the Boston Marathon. But that, I think, has been helpful.
There are parts of Europe in which that’s not the case, and that’s probably the greatest danger that Europe faces — which is why, as they respond, as they work with us to respond to these circumstances, it’s important for Europe not to simply respond with a hammer and law enforcement and military approaches to these problems, but there also has to be a recognition that the stronger the ties of a North African — or a Frenchman of North African descent to French values, French Republic, a sense of opportunity — that’s going to be as important, if not more important, in over time solving this problem. And I think there’s a recognition of that across Europe, and it’s important that we don’t lose that.
In other words, this is exactly the opposite issue than Kerry describes. In apartheid systems like Jim Crow, governments actively blocked integration and assimilation as policy. France does not impose impediments to assimilation at all, but instead passively accept fracturing because assimilation is not a higher value than the laissez-faire multicultural shrug that allows communities like the Islamists to impose their own insularity. And it is in those shrugged-off, insular communities that radical Islam thrives and produces the kind of terrorists that slaughtered the staff of Charlie Hebdo.
They are “able to share fully into the full integration” of France and other nations. They just don’t want to do so. And without strong cultural pressure to assimilate, they won’t do so, and will continue to recruit others who want to resist assimilation in the short run, and impose their own beliefs on everyone else in their adopted countries in the long run. Unfortunately, Kerry seems unable to grasp the difference.
Meanwhile, it’s those who chose assimilation (and whose ancestors chose it) who feel the need to flee from France.