Suddenly “big brothers” — devout bearded men from the mosques who wear long traditional robes — are positioning themselves between the authorities and the rioters in Clichy-sous-Bois, calling for order in the name of Allah. As thousands of voices shout “Allahu Akbar” from the windows of high-rise apartment buildings, shivers run down the spines of television viewers in their seemingly safe living rooms.
As welcome as these self-appointed keepers of the peace may be, worried authorities think they have detected something akin to a Muslim law enforcement group — perhaps even the beginnings of an Islamic militia. “The logic behind this unrest,” says one police officer, “is secession.” If he’s right, it would be a nightmare scenario of entire neighborhoods and communities separating themselves from the state and essentially declaring their independence, creating zones with their own laws, areas to which the authorities no longer have access unless they wish to be perceived as hostile intruders.
Britain’s white establishment, warns Trevor Phillips, head of the Commission for Racial Equality, is “sleep-walking” into a future where cites will be full of “black holes.” Recent surveys conclude that 95 percent of all white Britons have exclusively white friends, that 37 percent of non-white residents also prefer to socialize with their own, and that this trend is on the rise, especially among young people. In places like Lozells, only one in 15 children succeeds in climbing the social ladder. Such neighborhoods are fertile recruiting grounds for fundamentalists, because “the majority of Muslims in Great Britain are frustrated but cannot talk about it,” says Sayid Sharif, 37, an immigrant and construction engineer from North London. “They would never publicly express approval of the London attacks, but they secretly believe that Great Britain got what it deserved.”
Is this integration? Sixty percent of the Netherlands’ 1 million Muslims see themselves as Moroccans or Turks first, are often proud of their norms and values and seek comfort in their own communities. This creates parallel worlds so disparate that immigrant children speak of “the Dutch” as enemies. Their siblings attend Koran schools and more and more Muslim women now wear head scarves in public. Interactions between Muslims and the native Dutch are becoming increasingly abrasive, especially in public places like Amsterdam’s shopping streets.
Journalists, attorneys and politicians of every stripe have been receiving anonymous threats. Even Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen, named one of Time magazine’s “European heroes” of 2005 because of his conciliatory stance, now needs bodyguards. And Dutch authorities are installing more and more surveillance cameras in the country’s most volatile urban neighborhoods.
“We were too soft. The days of drinking tea are over,” says Dutch Minister of Immigration Rita Verdonk, who has adopted a hard-line approach toward troublemakers. Her officials have increasingly taken to deporting rejected asylum seekers, including those who were previously tolerated and whose children even attended Dutch schools.