The New Colonizers

A little while back, leaving the local “swimming hole” frequented by residents and summer tourists, I noticed a large group of dark-clad visitors sitting in a circle and solemnly keeping what appeared to be a meditative vigil. They had occupied a considerable space where others would normally pass on their way to one of the promontories leading to the river. They were obviously Muslims, probably an extended family, conspicuously observing the traditions of their native culture and, oblivious to their surroundings and the people who had to detour by an arduous route around them, preparing no doubt to face the Qiblah (direction to Mecca) and to devote themselves to prayer.

Just the other day, I had a similar experience. Since there are no facilities at the beach, swimmers often change out of their bathing suits into street clothes beside their cars, shielded by towels held by friends and intimates or strung between the open doors of their vehicles, an operation conducted in an atmosphere of courtesy defined by a mutual and studied disregard. I was assisting my wife in this delicate maneuver when three Muslim men emerged from the trail giving onto the parking lot. Soon they were trying to stare over and between the towels, mesmerized by the partially hidden lure of a woman in semi-undress. My wife had to enter the car and slide low into the front seat while I glared indignantly at the intruders. Then, as I was about to confront them -- the odds were not in my favor, but so be it -- they moved aside and, after a few moments, spread carpets on the grass margin a few yards away and ritually prostrated themselves in prayer -- close enough that I had to be careful when backing the car out.

It was not violence, but it was a violation, a transgression of the norm, remarked by several others in the parking lot who were struck by so blatant an infringement of both common decency and shared space. These men clearly did not realize or, more likely, did not care that they were contravening the tacit agreement of reciprocal discretion that prevailed among us, whether friend or stranger. They were animated by a robust and incontestable sense of their own priority, a conviction of privilege that need not take into consideration the cultural usages and social expectations of those they had come to live among. The same goes for the band of votaries blocking a public route, heedless of the inconvenience caused.

Such behavior is patently different from the Muslim-inspired havoc and thuggery erupting in Canadian cities like Calgary, Toronto and Montreal, or in the municipal war zones of many European cities with sizeable Muslim populations. But it was nevertheless a visible presumption of specialness and of indifference to the conventions of ordinary civility.

Every immigrant group in this country has variously adapted to the heritage culture, integrating more or less seamlessly by the second generation. However, second-generation Muslims are increasingly being radicalized, some going off to fight with jihadist militias in the Middle East and Africa, others plotting terror attacks on the very country that has offered them freedom, health care, education and the opportunity to prosper.

The common denominator along this spectrum of cultural invasiveness is the sentiment of vested ascendancy and pre-eminence minus the obligation of having to earn them. It bespeaks the spirit of natural entitlement that goes hand in hand with Islam, and which is instinct throughout the Muslim holy book, in which the true believer is exalted as superior to all other people (see, e.g., Koran 3:110) and enjoined to conquer, enslave, tax and slay the kafir, or infidel, who rejects the dominion of the Prophet (see, e.g., Koran 4:89, 9:29, 33:50, 47:4, among numberless other ayat). The violence we have seen both everywhere in the Muslim world and everywhere immigrant Muslims reach a certain critical census in their host societies is the inevitable consequence of the inherent conviction of higher status and mandated predominance -- even in comparatively innocuous situations like a ring of Muslims commandeering a public venue or three obtrusive men breaching without the slightest compunction or embarrassment a local standard of behavioral propriety.