Recently, I asked my students what they thought about commentary that appeared in the Guardian newspaper in November suggesting that France and Britain had failed their immigrants through clumsy — and ultimately alienating — efforts to promote multiculturalism (in Britain’s case) and assimilation (in France’s). In this way, author Kenan Malik said, French and British policies gave Islamism an entrée into isolated Muslim communities.
Nearly all my students rejected the premise, arguing that immigrants were responsible for their own actions whether they were isolated or not. Of course, many of these students come from families who fled countries terrorized by Muslim extremists and have no sympathy for them. But they don’t blame Western multiculturalism for the rise of home-grown Islamism. “That’s silly,” shrugged one Syrian girl.
Why, then, I asked them, don’t Muslims march in the streets of London, Paris and New York loudly condemning the Islamic State? Because, they answered, mainstream Muslims are too scared that the extremists would come after them. The class brainstormed about what could be done instead. Most concluded that they, too, would be afraid to call attention to themselves.