What is the future of a new generation of European Muslims?

In Europe, the increasing presence of Islam has often provoked concerns about a threat to security and liberal democracy. Jonathan Laurence’s The Emancipation of Europe’s Muslims challenges these ideas and shows how the transformation of a new generation into European Muslims has consisted of a complex mix of achievements and tensions. The book recently received a terrific review in The Economist. Jonathan was kind enough to answer a few questions about his unique look at European Islam, the debates surrounding it, and the connection to the Arab awakening:

Q: Anders Breivik was recently declared insane by the court. His act of violence is widely condemned, but aren’t his anti-multiculturalist views fairly widespread?

For Breivik, the year is 1683 and an Islamic empire is storming the Gates of Vienna. Some of the views in his Internet-age manifesto are popular, although what he did in Oslo and Utoya is of course condemned. An Italian politician from a party in government spoke approvingly of the Norwegian’s belief that Europe had “given up on its cultural identity without a fight.” In December, a poll showed 76% of the French public thinks Islam is “progressing too much.” So the vocal concern over Islam’s growth and Muslims’ integration is no longer the exclusive domain of the far right. It has become ritual for heads of government to declare the failure of multiculturalism, a catchall description increasingly taken to mean the arrival of Muslims in Europe. Breivik may be legally insane, but he is not alone in thinking that Europe is at a turning point vis-à-vis its growing Islamic minorities.

Q: What does this mean for integration policy in European countries, and how have Muslim groups reacted? Is this what the Minaret and Burka bans were about?

On the one hand, the focus on religious fundamentalism led to several well known bans on Islamic symbols in public spaces, from headwear to architectural design. It also provoked acrimonious debate about whether Islam “belongs” and if its associated practices –in all their diversity—can be reconciled with national identity. On the other hand, history tells us this is fairly standard treatment for a new minority entering the crucible of the nation state and joining the general citizenry. Increasingly, however, Muslim communities perceive the sum total of public debate as something akin to religious persecution or a kulturkampf against Islam. It’s not just the religious conservatives or the pious, but Muslims as a “group” who increasingly feel stigmatized. Last month, community eminences in France, Germany (and the US) independently cited the Nazi era and the gradual marginalization of German Jews to describe the political environment. It is not the most encouraging sign, obviously, if the main icebreaker between Muslims and non-Muslims is whether it’s 1683 or the mid-1930s outside.

Q: How did it come to this point, and is this a dead end? Or are there trends in other directions?

The competing narratives of victimization –and self-affirmation—are not new. But Muslims and non-Muslims do seem to be talking past one another at a moment when they need to be in constructive conversation. Nonetheless, it’s important to recognize the degree of cooperation that already exists between community leaders and European governments. A recent stunt to name Europe’s “tallest minaret” (35 meters) after Nicolas Sarkozy is not as ironic as it first appears. In many ways, European Islam has flourished in the past decade. When Sarkozy was interior minister in 2002–4, he helped forge the still-running French Council for the Muslim Religion and started a trend among his European colleagues to guarantee equal religious rights to Muslims. “State-mosque” relations have advanced by leaps and bounds. A thousand Islamic prayer spaces have opened in France in the last ten years. One hundred and thirty schools in Germany’s most populous state (North Rhine Westphalia) now offer Islamic instruction alongside existing religious classes, and the first class of German Muslim theologians began their doctoral program this fall. The list goes on. European governments and Muslim organizations have gotten to know one another better, and community leaders have been brought into a context that encourages their continued adaptation to life as a minority in Europe.

Q: You argue in the book that it’s not 1683 or 1938, but that European countries are at a crucial “nation-building” moment in between. What does your book have to say about the Arab awakening?

The book shows how Europeans responded to the same questions now confronting North African governments: how to balance religious freedom and the democratic rule of law? Can Islamist movements behave “moderately and democratically”? The first generation of European Islamists fled political persecution at home, and some of the religious tension in European countries is rooted in their old political battles. Perhaps the “settling” of Islam’s status in their countries of origin will engender a new dynamic and allow integration to proceed in Europe. On the other hand, European Muslims have made their home in Europe and are not as personally involved in 2011’s events as could be assumed. Nonetheless, the image of Muslim masses protesting peacefully and organizing themselves democratically could contribute in the long run to a continuing “normalization” of how Islamic populations and societies are perceived in Western democracies.

Jonathan Laurence is associate professor of political science at Boston College.

Economist Carmen Reinhart, coauthor of THIS TIME IS DIFFERENT, shares a prestigious NY Times Opinion panel with Paul Krugman, Tom Friedman, and Joseph Nocera, and

Wow, what a lineup! We are so proud to see Carmen Reinhart, the co-author of our New York Times bestselling classic THIS TIME IS DIFFERENT: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, discuss economic issues on a recent New York Times Opinion talk with Times journalists Tom Friedman, Paul Krugman, and Joe Nocera. This brilliant and entertaining program streamed live on the internet and covered today’s economic issues such as the Eurozone crisis, deleveraging, inequality, Occupy Wall Street, and space aliens. Check out the video if you want to see what great minds have to say about our economic situation and what’s coming next.

Watch live streaming video from nytimesopinion at livestream.com

Criminologist Federico Varese on “Is Burma the Next Mexico?”

Princeton University Press author and University of Oxford criminologist Federico Varese has published an op-ed on Reuters.com’s The Great Debate blog describing his recent research trip to Myanmar and the surrounding area. He wanted to see the opium trade and its effects on the local population. His work has led to the question “Is Burma the next Mexico?”  For a good read, check out Varese’s MAFIAS ON THE MOVE: How Organized Crime Conquers New Territories

From Reuters.com
Hillary Clinton had many “hard issues” to tackle during her recent visit to Myanmar. Yet there was no mention of one of the most, if not the most, difficult issue Burma faces: their lucrative drug trade.

Northern Burma is the home of the “Golden Triangle,” a hub for opium production and the location of hundreds of heroin and amphetamine refineries. So how do political leaders and the international community plan to tackle this problem in the event that Burma truly becomes a democratic country?

To read more, continue to Reuters.com.

WHEN it comes to changing the toxic partisan gridlock in Washington, the Beatles got it just about right: “You tell me it’s the institution/Well, you know/You’d better free your mind instead.”

This op-ed in the New York Times from Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson is must-read material for anyone concerned with the apparent inability of Congress to overcome bipartisan splits and forge compromises on important issues about the U.S. Economy.

The authors write about the failure of the budget supercommittee and caution that this “is only the latest breakdown in an attempt at compromise in Washington. Politicians keep trying to fashion failsafe solutions to the capital’s uncompromising mind-set, without understanding that there is no external escape from an environment that rewards those who stand tenaciously on their principles and demonize their opponents.”

With the public growing increasingly frustrated by the failures of Congress to effectively negotiate and compromise in recent months, Gutmann and Thompson sound a warning bell, writing, “Members of Congress need to change their minds about compromise, or voters will need to change the members of Congress.”

Read the complete article today: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/30/opinion/compromise-and-the-supercommittee.html

We will publish their book on political compromise in the United States from the revolutionary period to today in May of 2012. Click through to learn more about The Spirit of Compromise: Why Governing Demands It and Campaigning Undermines It. The book is now available for pre-orders through many internet retailers.

PGS Exclusive: A Parasitologist’s Weight-Loss Clinic by Eugene Kaplan

Want to lose weight? Are parasites the solution? Parasitologist and expert Eugene Kaplan looks at recent reported trends of using parasites to lose weight and discovers that all is not as it seems.

Recently it has been reported that the government of Hong Kong has had to resort to an edict against a recently popular mechanism for weight loss: swallow the parasitic roundworm, Ascaris lumbricoides, to eat some of the food you ingest and deprive you of the calories. In other words, you eat the Whopper, fries and coke and seek absolution for your sins, not in the confession box from your priest, but in the similarly dark inner recesses of your gut from a worm.

First, I am puzzled by the technique. Do you eat the eight to twelve inch adult worms in a bowl of slowly writhing noodles or do you eat the eggs in feces-contaminated bok choy? Either way, this is a serious gastronomical challenge. Not to mention, that if you opt for the eggs, they will hatch and the juveniles will migrate through your lungs before ending up in your gut.

And to further complicate things, here’s a tip. Make sure these are the human-infecting version of the worm, else the alien larva, let’s say from a similar species in a dog or cat, will get confused in its wanderings and could end up in your eye or brain.

And as if these potential complications weren’t enough, here’s the real rub: unless you swallow enough of these living noodles to clog up your intestine, they will not eat enough to deprive you of the calories that make you overweight. I can attest to this. I had an eight inch female in my intestines and didn’t feel a thing nor lose an ounce of weight. Ascaris has a relatively slow metabolism. It’s not like you have a being like the one in Alien inside you. This is just a pencil thick, eight inch weight-loss device, hardly enough to transform your body on its own.

While the use of Ascaris to lose weight may sound like the stuff of science fiction, it actually is part of a long history of parasitic weight loss. At the 1938 World’s Fair, one could buy a weight-loss pill that brazenly stated it contained “tapeworms”. This was legitimate. The pill contained the scolices (anterior end) of the human beef tapeworm which would produce a bevy of foot long ribbon-like tapeworms hanging in your upper intestine, bathed in your intestinal juices. No eating a bowl of living noodles – users just had to take a pill like any other weight-loss pill – and it was touted as a safe method of weight loss.

The catch – there is no evidence that such an infection can cause you to lose weight – common superstition notwithstanding. Unless you are in terrible physical shape – in which case you would probably be emaciated and not in need of this weight-loss program –a heavy tapeworm infection would not cause you to lose weight, but it might cause death.
A more logical idea is to purchase leeches from a leech farm (there is one in my neighborhood; I can get you the phone number). Leeches are used to suck fluids from lymph-swollen sites where an appendage was just reattached surgically and swelling threatens to burst the sutures. If you use enough leeches, say you arrange them so that they sprout from your arm like branches from a tree, they could remove enough blood to shift your weight scale to the left..

I can go on, like swallowing the cysts of the one-celled animals, Giardia or Entamoeba histolytica. The severe diarrhea would deprive you of excess water and food and leave you emaciated in a week – ads for this method could promise “rapid weight loss.” But the aforementioned techniques seem to be adequate.

And so we arrive at the end of this weight-loss clinic. While parasites might seem like a sure-fire, quick solution, perhaps it might be better to simply forego the Whopper next time.

Eugene H. Kaplan is the Donald E. Axinn Endowed Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Conservation (emeritus) at Hofstra University. His many books include What’s Eating You: People and Parasites and Sensuous Seas: Tales of a Marine Biologist. He is about to embark on a trip to Israel, perhaps stuffed pigeon will be on the menu again.

Like this article? Read Gene’s other blog posts here: Go Ahead, Try the Guinea Pig and here Climate Change is Bringing an Invasion of Parasites.

Do you agree with Andrei Codrescu? Should authors become less accessible and abandon Facebook?

Writing in the Soapbox column of Publishers Weekly this week, Andrei Codrescu makes a new case for the elusive and exclusive author. He argues that Facebook and other social networking sites are ” giving away stupid prose for free!” and that familiarity doesn’t necessarily breed book sales.

He writes, “not only do you not sell books by being friendly, you won’t sell any because everyone in your ‘social network’ thinks they know you. Why buy your books, since you’ll tell them everything they want to know for free.”

So, what do you think? Is Facebook the marketing mecca we have been promised? Or are publishers and authors actually cannibalizing their sales by providing too much access to what we are selling?

The responses on Twitter are worth perusing for their range of support to disbelief.

We have now published two books with Andrei and have a third on the way. If you are a fan, check out his books The Poetry Lesson and The Posthuman Dada Guide. His next book Whatever Gets You through the Night will publish this June.

Jill Lepore writes “A Personal Tea Party History” at the Daily Beast

You have to love an article that begins

One freaky day last spring, I came across two old documents, which isn’t what was freaky: I read a lot of old documents, every day; that’s what historians do. But these two, together, gave me the creeps, like when the phone rings and there’s no one there.

So, what were the two documents that freaked out Jill Lepore, author of The Whites of Their Eyes?

The first is a letter from John Adams to Benjamin Rush:

On April 4, 1790, John Adams wrote to Benjamin Rush, complaining that when the history of the American Revolution was written, it would be a travesty. I was writing a book about the Tea Party’s version of American history and hearing people on the far right argue that the Revolution was fought for the sake of free enterprise or to establish a Christian Nation and that the Constitution was divinely inspired, made me think about Adams’s grim prediction: “The history of our revolution will be one continued lye from one end to the other.”

The second is a snapshot of Jill dressed in a hand-made (her own hands it turns out) costume:

I grew up in Massachusetts, where the Bicentennial was a spectacularly big deal. In elementary school, we went on field trips to Boston. We walked the Freedom Trail. We dumped fake tea into the harbor. I couldn’t find pictures of any of that. But I did find a photograph of my brother, dressed as a minuteman, and one of me in costume, too. It is 1976. I am 9 years old. I’m wearing a dress of lemon yellow, calico. I sewed it myself. I cut a pattern out of tissue paper that rustled and crinkled like an autumn leaf. I gathered the skirt with a basting stitch and pinned it to the dress’ snug bodice, but then I botched the buttonholes, down the back. Buttonholes are too hard for 9 year olds. I’m wearing a mob cab, white and lacy, threaded with a yellow satin ribbon and, around my neck, a linen choker with a cameo I found in my mother’s dresser. I’m staring straight at the camera. I always did.

Click through to read more.

Wall Street Journal’s New Book Review

This weekend marks the beginning of the first new weekly book review in years. The Wall Street Journal will premiere a new book review section in its weekend edition, opening with a 2000-word essay by James Grant on the Library of America’s new edition of writings by John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society and Other Writings, 1952-1967 (Princeton University Press published one of Galbraith’s books in 2007, entitled The New Industrial State.)

This new section, which is to be called “Books,” will run across six broadsheet pages and will feature several long articles of about 900 to 1,600 words every week.  It will also reserve space for shorter reviews. Robert Messenger, the new editor of Books, said that the section would likely focus on nonfiction more than fiction, but would also group together reviews of recent or recommended books.  Bestseller lists for fiction, nonfiction, e-books, and business, along with lists tracking popularity and sales records, will also appear in the Books section.

Mostly, Messenger said, he wants to “bring novels to readers’ attention.” We are all for that! Read more about the new section here, and be sure to look out for Books in your weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal.

PUP Exclusive: “Can the French legally ban the burqa?” by John R. Bowen

Can the French legally ban the burqa?

John R Bowen

author of Why the French Don’t Like Headscarves and Can Islam Be French?

France has just passed a law that its prestigious State Council said has no clear legal basis, that may soon be declared unconstitutional, and that would in any case be challenged before the European Court of Human Rights. The general ban on covering the face in public space will lead to fines and ‘education’ for Muslim women wearing what is called the burqa, the niqab or the ‘full veil.’ The measure easily passed the lower house on July 13th, and now goes to the Senate for the expected approval.

It is easy to ridicule the French law: why set the police out to track down the miniscule number of women wearing burqas, who tend to be French-born, not Afghan imports? Why not allow them their religious freedom? Does the law reflect anything more than general Islamophobia and calculated electioneering?

Well, certainly French politicians listened to polls showing strong support for the law, and voting for it may undercut support for the far-right National Front, so simple electoral politics might explain the vote. But politicians could have opted for a more narrowly-tailored ban, one limited to government offices and shops and that would have likely been judged constitutional. They argue that a broad law sends the right message, and that it is constitutional. They make three arguments for its legality, only one of these claims has a chance of being accepted—and it might seem the oddest of the three to those outside France.

The first argument is that the burqa stands for the oppression or the inequality of women. This claim is too abstract to be of legal use—what is it for an item of clothing to have an objective meaning? Moreover, no women are coming forward to complain about having to wear the garment in question. In the absence of a clear harm, the law must tread very lightly.

Others argue that wearing the burqa violates the dignity of the individual. Although the idea of individual dignity is held high in France, it is difficult to translate into law, particularly when it conflicts with individual rights. After a debate in the 1990s over whether “dwarf tossing” violated individual dignity—the State Council ruled that it did but was roundly criticized—France’s courts have given this notion a wide berth, except in the sphere of bioethics and human reproduction.

This leaves a third claim, that covering the face in public violates basic ideas of how French people should live together, and thus offends public moral order, or ordre public. Justice Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie based her argument for the law on this principle, saying that the law would protect French rules of living together, with people able to speak with each other “faces uncovered”.

Such a claim might make little sense in America, but French political ideas give the state a large role in creating a ‘community of citizens’. The state school system is supposed to create a sense of shared citizenship; marriage is supposed to take place only at city hall; the state retains a strong role in everyday life.

But what about individual rights? Does not the French Constitution, itself drawing on the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens, protect religious beliefs? Indeed it does, but France considers religious practices to be protected only when they are part of religious requirements, as in the case of worship or eating appropriate foods. France routinely limits behavior that in the United States would enjoy First Amendment protections, such as distributing religious materials on the street or dressing in a religious way. And thus the government thinks that it might be able to successfully argue that because burqa-wearing is not required in Islam, and because it violates French ‘public moral order’, the ban does not unduly infringe on the liberty of its citizens.

The next months will see whether France’s Constitutional Council (and perhaps the European Court of Human Rights) sees things in the same way.

PUP Exclusive: “The Singing of National Anthems in International Soccer” by Andrei S. Markovits

The Singing of National Anthems in International Soccer

Andrei S. Markovits

co-author with Lars Rensmann of the recently published Gaming the World: How Sports Are Reshaping Global Politics and Culture

The World Cup ended on Sunday, July 11th. Many of us delighted in this tournament not only as inveterate soccer fans, but also as witnesses to a unique event that unified the globe for more than a month. And yet, the potentially divisive forces of nationalism have not vanished. Clearly, in competitions in which teams appear solely based on the commonality of their players’ passports, any and all rooting interests express by definition some kind of nationalism, no matter how muted. The “us” and “we” means ipso facto a nation. This is markedly different in such top-level competitions like the Champions League in Europe and the Copa Libertadores in South America where the “us” and “we” is decidedly non-national and accentuates at the same time the global and the local. Having attended five World Cups since 1966 and experienced all with some degree of knowledge and consciousness since the 1954 tournament in Switzerland, I have witnessed the ever-increasing singing of national anthems by players and fans in the more recent cups.

Indeed, the singing – or not singing – of the anthem by players led to major discussions in their home countries pertaining to the degree of their patriotism and their commitment to playing for their country. Nowhere was this more pronounced than in France where players’ singing of the Marseillaise was judged in terms of its quality, demeanor, projection, and acquaintance with the text as proper measures of their extant national allegiance to France and thus their commitment to play for the national team. Clearly, the volume of the criticisms escalates proportionally to the team’s failures on the field.

Thus, for example, voices on the French right questioned some of Les Bleus proper love of France during the team’s poor performance at the European Championships in England in 1996 when some players did not sing the anthem, whereas nothing of the sort emerged two years later when the team with virtually the same players won the country’s one and only World Cup. Still, the iconography of a national team’s players singing the anthem and/or exhibiting other mannerisms such as linking arms and placing hands on hearts during the playing of the anthem have lent the World Cup and other major soccer events contested by teams representing a country a nationalistic air and martial demeanor that did not exist in soccer until sometime in the 1990s. Even during the word-less Spanish anthem, the eleven players of the Furia Roja expressed their team spirit by linking each others’ arms across the backs and shoulders.

A search on Youtube reveals that the first team to sing the anthem at a World Cup was the great but unsuccessful Brazilian side of Socrates, Falcao and Zico at the 1982 tournament in Spain. In terms of a World Cup final, four players of the Johan Cruff-led Dutch team sing the anthem in 1974. Yet, it is clear that these players are having fun doing so — with one of them laughing during his rendition – and none standing at the near-militaristic manner and with the grim demeanor that has become de rigueur today. And not one player of the great Michel Platini-led French national teams of the 1980s sings the Marseillaise which – at least to my knowledge – did not lead to the questioning of their proper love of country by the French public.

What explains this changed manner in the players’ behavior during the playing of their country’s national anthem starting in the early 1990s? I see two forces at play: First, the unquestionably greater importance of national identity precisely in response to the growing forces of globalization affecting soccer players just as much as ordinary citizens; and second, the increasing importance of the outcome of these games precisely as agencies of national differentiation but also as means to measure these players’ value as professionals in an increasingly lucrative and competitive global market place in which every win, regardless whether for club or country, enhances a player’s short-lived worth.

“A junk’s a boat”: The Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets and the finer points of Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok”

This fall brings the major series relaunch of the prestigious Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets, now under the editorship of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and New Yorker Poetry Editor Paul Muldoon. Muldoon sat down with the Princeton Tiger earlier this year for their series “Discussions in Contemporary Poetry,” in which the Princeton professor discussed the profound linguistic styling of Ke$ha’s “Tik, Tok”:

The Huffington Post gives their take on the critique here.

Fortunately, the first book in the series, Kathleen Graber’s The Eternal City, combines high (Shakespeare and Walter Benjamin) and not-so-high (Johnny Depp and Target) culture in ways that serious lovers of poetry can really enjoy. Read the full series description here.

Q&A with Michael Kazin about American Optimism on CNN.com

The Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History

Michael Kazin, editor of our pathbreaking new reference book The PRINCETON ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN POLITICAL HISTORY, did a Q&A with CNN.com today on the intriguing recent survey that uncovered that 86% of Americans think their government is broken.  Check out the Q&A here.  The good news?  81% of Americans think it can be fixed.