Ever since it became clear that three of the four jihadis who bombed London on July 7 were born and bred in England, the British have been taking a hard look at their Muslim neighbors: Do they share the same values? How do they fare economically? Whom do they cheer when England plays Pakistan at cricket? And how many more would-be bombers are among them?
As it happens, Her Majesty's government was well clued on these questions before the bombers struck: A 2004 Home Office study showed, for example, that British Muslims are three times likelier to be unemployed than the wider population, that their rates of civic participation are low, and that as many as 26% do not feel loyal to Britain. By contrast, the U.S. Census Bureau is forbidden by law from keeping figures on religious identification (although it collects voluminous information on race and ethnicity), so there are no authoritative data on the size and nature of America's Muslim population. Yet if the U.S. is ever attacked by American jihadis, we will no doubt ask the same questions about our Muslim community that Britons are now asking about theirs.
Here is what we know.
First, let's dispose of the common misconception that Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans are one and the same. In fact, most Arab-Americans aren't Muslim, and most Muslim Americans aren't Arab. According to the 2000 census, there are 1.2 million Americans of Arab descent, of whom only 24% (according to a survey by the Arab American Institute) are Muslim. As for the rest, they are mainly Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or Protestant. They are also highly successful, with an above-average median household income of $52,000 and an astonishing intermarriage rate of over 75%, suggesting they are well on their way toward blending into the great American melting pot.
Information on American Muslims is sketchier. Thanks to a 2004 Zogby International survey, we know that a plurality of Muslim Americans--about one-third--are of South Asian descent; 26% are Arab and another 20% are American blacks. But until 2001 we had no idea how many Muslims lived in America, and even now the figure remains a matter of intense controversy. All major Muslim advocacy groups put the number at above six million, which, as Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum observes, has the convenience of being higher than the American Jewish population. Yet all independent surveys put the real figure at no more than three million, while the most credible study to date, by Tom Smith of the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center, estimates total Muslim population at 1,886,000. "[It] is hard to accept that Muslims are greater than one percent of the population," he writes.
Whatever the real figure, what's reasonably clear is that Muslim Americans, like Arab-Americans, have fared well in the U.S. The Zogby survey found that 59% of American Muslims have at least an undergraduate education, making them the most highly educated group in America. Muslim Americans are also the richest Muslim community in the world, with four in five earning more than $25,000 a year and one in three more than $75,000. They tend to be employed in professional fields, and most own stock, either personally or through 401(k) or pension plans. In terms of civic participation, 82% are registered to vote, half of them as Democrats. Interestingly, however, the survey found that 65% of Muslim Americans favor lowering the income tax.
In these respects, Muslim Americans differ from Muslim communities in Britain and Continental Europe, which tend to be poor and socially marginalized. Four other features set American Muslims apart.
First, unlike in Europe the overwhelming majority of Muslims arrived here legally, and many of those who didn't were deported after Sept. 11, 2001. Currently, according to Ali Al-Ahmed of the Washington-based Saudi Institute, there are probably no more than a few thousand Muslim illegal immigrants in the U.S.
Second, 21% of Muslim Americans intermarry, according to the 2001 Religious Identification Survey of the City University of New York--close to the national rate of 22% of Americans who marry outside their religion. And because 64% of Muslim Americans are foreign born, there is reason to expect that figure to grow among second and third generations.
Third, according to Ishan Bagby, a professor at the University of Kentucky who recently made a study of mosque attendance in Detroit, the average mosque-goer is 34 years old, married with children, has at least a bachelor's degree, and earns about $74,000 a year. If this is representative of Muslim Americans as a whole, it suggests that the religiously committed among them hardly fit the profile of the alienated, angry young Muslim men so common today in Europe.
Finally, Muslim Americans benefit from leaders who, despite some notable exceptions, are generally more responsible than Muslim leaders in Britain and Europe. Just compare the forthright condemnations of terrorism by the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council to the cunningly ambiguous utterances of France's Tariq Ramadan, to say nothing of the openly jihadist positions of some of Britain's most notorious imams.
So does the U.S. have a "Muslim problem"? If the data above are accurate, they strongly suggest we do not; on the contrary, America's Muslims tend to be role models both as Americans and as Muslims. But that does not mean there aren't any problems. One comes in the form of U.S. mosques funded by Saudi Arabia, which can serve as a conduit for the kingdom's extreme Wahhabist brand of Islam. Mr. Al-Ahmed calls these mosques "an incubator for suicide bombings and terrorism." Another is that, while most American Muslims have successfully integrated into American life, there remain culturally isolated and impoverished enclaves of Muslim immigrants. It was in just such an enclave in Jersey City, N.J., that the disciples of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman planned the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. Similarly, in Lodi, Calif., where two Pakistani men have been charged with attending terrorist training camps, some 80% of the Pakistani community does not speak adequate English.
An American website posted what it purported to be the names of 74 members of the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, yesterday.
It was not clear last night what action British intelligence officials or lawyers will take to try to get the names taken off the website and prevent further dissemination of them. However, they are likely to conduct a damage limitation exercise and warn those individuals who have been identified. Eighteen of those named on the website have held the rank of ambassador.
The website lists the names under a message thanking someone who it refers to simply as "A".
It is not the first time names claimed to be of former or serving MI6 officers have been posted on an American website. About six years ago, the former MI6 officer, Richard Tomlinson, was alleged to have given a long list of names to a website address. Mr Tomlinson, who was jailed for breaking the Official Secrets Act, denied the allegation.
He was sentenced after revealing classified information about MI6. He later left Britain and wrote a book which was published in Moscow and Edinburgh.
More recently, newspapers in Croatia have published the names of alleged MI6 officers serving in that country.
The names were published against the background of a bitter feud in the Croatian military and security services over the hunt for alleged war criminals.
The D Notice committee, which advises editors on security and intelligence matters, asks the British media not to name MI6 officers even if they have been named elsewhere.
In America it is an offence to deliberately reveal the identity of an undercover CIA agent. A grand jury investigation was launched after the identification of CIA agent Valerie Plame, whose name was given to several journalists by an unnamed source in the US government in 2003. A New York Times reporter, Judith Miller, was jailed recently for refusing to reveal the identity of the source.
MEXICO CITY, Aug. 19 - A year ago, Ambassador Antonio O. Garza Jr. was best known here as an affable patron of the arts and a good guest on the upper-crust cocktail party circuit. He was an old friend and political ally of President Bush, the favorite son of a Texas border town, a man with a quick smile who was hard to dislike.
But in the last six months Mr. Garza has become the voice of a tougher United States policy toward Mexico, sharply criticizing its government for failing to control drug violence on the border and temporarily shutting the consulate in Nuevo Laredo to make his point.
His new, muscular role was evident on Wednesday when the Mexican Foreign Ministry leveled a broadside at him for a speech in which he said violence between drug cartels on the border threatened to undermine investment, tourism and the quality of life in both countries.
"Some have said that I ordered the shutdown to punish the Mexican government for its failure to control violence in the region," Mr. Garza said Tuesday as he accepted the University of Denver's Distinguished Diplomat Award. "And in a sense that's true, and I've been clear, my primary responsibility as ambassador is the safety of United States citizens, and I won't hesitate to take action when they are at risk."
Gerónimo Gutiérrez, Mexico's assistant foreign affairs secretary for North America, shot back, saying Mr. Garza's statements were worrisome and unwelcome. "His selection of words was frankly unfortunate and do not fit with the role of an ambassador," Mr. Gutiérrez said.
Later, a spokesman for President Vicente Fox said the administration stood behind the statement. Sean McCormick, the State Department spokesman, said Mr. Garza regretted his choice of words and "would probably tell you that he would use some different phrasing."
The dispute was the latest in a series of diplomatic uproars suggesting that the governments of Mr. Bush and Mr. Fox, after what seemed a promising start, do not get along very well.
Mr. Fox was the first foreign leader Mr. Bush called on after being elected president. Since then, the countries have divided sharply over the Iraq war, and plans for immigration reform have stalled. More recently, officials have had harsh words for one another about a wall being built to keep migrants out of San Diego and about off-the-cuff remarks by Mr. Fox about the unwillingness of blacks to take menial jobs.
Then there have been clashes about a Mexican postage stamp depicting a stereotypical black cartoon character, vigilante groups patrolling the United States side of the border and the decisions of New Mexico and Arizona in recent weeks to declare their borders disaster areas.
For his part, Mr. Garza has stayed out of many of these debates, but he has been unrelenting in his criticism of the Fox government for failing to control drug violence, especially in Nuevo Laredo. He has issued two warnings to American tourists to avoid the region.
Mr. Garza declined a request to be interviewed. A State Department official familiar with Mr. Garza's thinking said the ambassador had not changed his style but had responded to the wave of crime on the border, where he was born and reared, in Brownsville, Tex.
"He's genuinely concerned about the growth of narco-traffickers and kingpins, not just along the border, but other places in Mexico, and the perception that not enough is being done about it," said the official, who insisted on anonymity for diplomatic reasons.
The official added: "Ambassador Garza has often said the Mexicans shouldn't use this unfortunate choice of words as an opportunity to take their eye off the ball. They don't have a public relations problem, they have a public security challenge."
Mr. Garza's more outspoken demeanor has coincided with his high-profile marriage to María Asunción Aramburuzabala, the heiress to the Corona beer empire and part-owner of one of Mexico's television networks. Their whirlwind romance last year and their marriage four months ago provided grist for society gossip columnists for months.
The union was seen here as a melding American political might and Mexican money, a cross-border alliance not to be trifled with. But in an interview last spring, Mr. Garza made it plain that he did not intend to let his marriage influence his job.
For Mexican officials it is Mr. Garza's relationship with Mr. Bush that may be more important. Since he is a political appointee whose friendship with the president goes back to Texas political races in the 1980's, his words are quite nearly given the weight of Mr. Bush's own.
Jorge Castañeda, a former foreign minister who is running for president, said Mr. Garza's closeness to Mr. Bush was one reason his words caused such a stir.
"His rhetoric, I think, has been rather unfortunate," Mr. Castañeda said, "and perhaps it would be useful for the State Department and Ambassador Garza to concentrate on the substance rather than grandstanding in public. In general there is nothing easier in Mexico than U.S. ambassador bashing. It's a national past time, and he's inviting it, really, a great deal."
According to a retired Revolutionary Guards mid-ranking officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Ahmadinejad’s government is "a cabinet of national emergency." That many members of the new cabinet are former top officers within the Revolutionary Guards or the intelligence services ensures that Ahmadinejad’s administration will have a distinct national security emphasis. In addition, political analysts believe many political appointees, including those on the gubernatorial and vice-ministerial levels, will be drawn from the ranks of the military and security apparatus.
According to the former Revolutionary Guards officer, Ahmadinejad’s cabinet would operate as if in permanent crisis mode, potentially making it easier for the government to introduce strict measures in the name of national security. In a speech to parliament August 21 made in connection with his submission of cabinet nominees, Ahmadinejad adopted a defiant and confrontational tone that seemed designed to prepare public opinion for a deepening international confrontation.Iran's parliament confirms a "government of emergency"
Let's talk about commencement speeches. PepsiCo's CEO famously gave Columbia's graduating MBA class a speech in which she gave America the middle finger. Liberals generally cheered and called conservatives tone-deaf for “not getting it." A speech like this ten years ago would get no news. But outraged conservative students immediately contacted blogs like Powerline and Hugh Hewitt. The firestorm caused inestimable damage to PepsiCo-I know I'm not buying their products while she's there, and I'm not alone.Well, you won't believe this. As it turns out, I owe Indira a most abject apology.
The five fingers of a hand are used typically to denote differences. Then why the fuss when PepsiCo president Indira Nooyi did what most of us do spontaneously?As it turns out, she was just expressing love, a feeling of cosmic inclusiveness, and a kaleidoscope-transcending profound Vedantic, Jain and Buddhist tradition! Man, what a relief! I thought she was flipping me the bird! Next time some irate commuter flips me off in traffic, I'm stopping the car right there and getting out, dewy-eyed and weak from love, to hug him. Assuming I get through his hail of bullets and he doesn't manage to run me over first.
Most Indians - maybe the French, too - would agree that we tend to use our hands a lot as aids to expression. Often, gesticulating is perceived as a charming mannerism that - besides helping the speaker express herself better - actually adds value to thought-expression.
The five fingers of a hand are used typically to denote differences. Then why the fuss when PepsiCo president Indira Nooyi did what most of us do spontaneously? Nooyi enjoys an enviable reputation in the US as a corporate icon. In her commencement speech at the Columbia Business School recently, Nooyi compared the five continents to the five fingers of the hand.
But when she held up her middle finger to denote America, right-wing bloggers launched a vitriolic attack on the politically incorrect Ms Nooyi, who was being "ungrateful" and "ungracious" to a country that had become her home by using an obscene gesture to describe it.
OK, maybe Nooyi could have been more careful, considering the practice in the US to use the middle finger for obscene gestures. She even apologised to prevent the issue from snowballing. And outside of the right-wing blogger sites, none in the media in the US has bothered to carry the news.
But the innocuous gesture has touched a raw nerve in the post-9/11 neo-patriots. I would say to them - please relax. Patriotism, loosely defined, is love for your country - a deep-rooted affinity for your civilisation and people. Patriotism, however, is not a high form of love.
Because, in its extreme form , patriotism lends itself to vilification - as happened in the case of right-wing bloggers' reaction to Nooyi. Intense patriotism tends to exclude all love other than its own; it makes you monocultural.
How do you measure true love? True love is universal love, a concept the average Indian mind has absorbed, sponge-like, from a profound Vedantic, Jain and Buddhist tradition that transcends all faiths, vocations and economic classes that form the kaleidoscope that is India.
Someone who understands love only in Anglo-Saxon terms would indeed find it difficult to extend the feeling to all of existence and more. The Oxford Dictionary of English defines love thus: having "a strong feeling of affection for someone" and gives the following examples of usage: "a person or thing one loves" or "love for their country".
In the Indian tradition, love is much more than an expression of affection for any single individual, family, community, town, country or continent.
It is a feeling of cosmic inclusiveness that has space for creatures of all shapes and sizes, for people of all creed and persuasion, for countries of all hemispheres and climate, for planets of all star systems, for universes and multiverses - in short, for all and nothing. Infinite love has infinite objects of affection - each with its own space to grow and give.
Coming as she does from an Indian cultural background, Nooyi's gesture meant no more than what she said it meant. It was not a suggestion that she loved America less. In fact, she was asking America to convert self-love to universal love to make love all-inclusive.
Unless, of course , the self being loved is the universal Self, the all-pervading, all-inclusive Brahmn. What can be more reasonable than that?