>Garton Ash on Muslims in the UK and France – sense but not political sensibility

>A prescient article by Timothy Garton Ash in today’s Guardian contrasting young British Muslims’ greater levels of disaffection, non-identification as citizens and sympathy for radical Islamicism with the situation in France. The reasons TGA briskly identified were: different religious traditions in historic regions of origin (Pakistan/Kashmir vs. the Maghreb); the war in Iraq and Bush-Blair axis vs. French scepticism; and absence of French style civic education in British school; and – moving into an uncharacteristically conservative riff for Garton Ash – the greater hedonism and self-indulgence of young Brits (lots of booze and soft drugs, not enough volleyball and sipping apéros in the local café). We need, says Garton Ash, to take Muslim disenchantment with Western majority lifestyles seriously as a legitimate conservative critique not a sign of backwardness or political disloyalty and be aware that young Muslims are often critical of aspects of Islamic culture found problematic by many in the West such as the position of women.

I found myself agreeing with this very sensible analysis – surely a sign of middle age when you find yourself fully agreeing with Timothy Garton Ash, but a welcome break on a day of rolling TV terror coverage– but I did wonder quite how one would going about turning a slowly fragmenting liberal UK into strong republican state like France and, indeed, whether riots in the banlieu and Jean-Marie Le Pen are not just a different kind of price for basically the same set of unresolved problems.

As usual, however, TGA was long on diagnosis and short on treatment. The only short-term political solution implied was to part company with the Bush White House and exit the Iraq imbroglio. Yes, but how Timbo? How?

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