• Just what is a ghetto, really?

EuropeNews 17 November 2010
By Henrik R. Clausen

In Denmark and elsewhere, there has been a lot of discussion about so-called 'ghetto areas', where out-of-control crime, unemployment and disrespect for the authorities makes for some interesting challenges. Unfortunately, we do not seem to quite understand the nature of the problems yet. This essay presents some alternativ views of their nature.

In Denmark, the government as well as the left-wing opposition parties have launched ambitious plans for dealing with the "ghetto problem". These proposals seek to spend a lot of taxpayer money on a wide variety of initiatives, including tearing down what is deemed 'excessive' apartment blocks, assuming that this will eliminate the other problems.

Even the socialists are noting that a serious problem does exist, and that it has to do with upholding law and order. Spokesman of the Danish Social Democrats, Henrik Dam Kristensen, said on October 13th, reacting to criticism from police management:

We have to say it out loud that when we've come to a situation where the police cannot conduct patrols in certain ghetto districts, I cannot understand that the police management cannot see that this is fundamentally and seriously wrong.

The Danish plans are still being debated, but something fundamental is missing: There is no solid understanding of what makes a ghetto a ghetto. This has the implication that root problems are confused for derived problems, and constitutes a temptations for the politicians to focus on expensive initiatives rather than identifying the most effective ones.

A historical perspective
The origin of the word 'ghetto' lies quite far from what we understand as a ghetto today. With the normal Wikipedia caveats, here is their definition:

Ghetto was originally used in Venice to describe the area where Jews were compelled to live. A ghetto is now described as an overcrowded urban area often associated with a specific ethnic or racial population; especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure.

Note the unspecific term 'pressure'. We'll get back to that. An alternative definition is given later:

The definition of "ghetto" still has a similar meaning, but the broader range of social situations, such as any poverty-stricken urban area.

Traditionally, ghettos in Europe have been areas inhabited by Jews for a variety of reasons. One has been to segregate the Jews from the surrounding Christian society, another to provide Jews with a protected – frequently walled – area where they would be safe from riots. A particular nasty variant of the ghetto was that implemented by the national socialist regime in Germany, were Jews were forced to live until they were sent off to concentration camps in Poland, usually never to return.

Not your modern-day kind of ghetto
Today, this kind of 'hard' ghetto does not exist, and it would probably be sensible to abandon the word as well, rather than giving it a new meaning. For it is being used in a confusing way to categorize problems not made sufficiently clear, as in the 'pressure' mentioned on Wikipedia.

That alleged 'pressure' is a cause of confusion. All human beings suffer different kinds of pressure, from friends, family and colleagues, political and religious authorities, and not least from the fundamental facts of needing food, shelter and other items to conduct a sound and (ideally) meaningful life. Though people living in 'ghetto' areas usually have lower levels of education and of income, that does not take away their free choice in choosing where to live. 'Pressure' is an abstraction that distracts from what a modern-day ghetto really is.

As for an area being 'poverty-stricken', that is another misnomer. We have always had quarters of our towns where the less wealthy were living, also long before the welfare states. Working-class quarters of town had smaller, cheaper apartments, fewer parks and gardens, simpler shops, bars etcetera. Less attractive areas, for sure, but still a place where the less wealthy could – and did – lead decent lives.

Modern-day ghettos cannot be defined as strictly ethnic enclaves, nor by the lower average income. Crime is usually higher in ghetto areas, but more important than the crime itself is the attitude to upholding the law of the land: People who are not criminal themselves do nothing to stop crime committed by others. Further, policemen, firemen, ambulance drivers, soldiers in uniform and other holding of authority are frequently assaulted while doing their job in ghetto areas. I hold that the most significant problem of modern-day ghettos is that of upholding the law of the land.

Why do Muslims not live among everyone else?
Modern-day ghettos are generally dominated by Muslims, and one should be aware of the reasons for this (Thanks to Nicolai Sennels for collecting these):

  1. People like to stay with their kin: That is, those of the same language, appreciate the same food, look similar, have similar culture and the same religion.
  2. Economic reasons. Muslim refugees, immigrants and descendents tend to be less well off than others. This in turn is due to lack of education, language skills and less interest in commercial careers, as well as cultural obstacles to full participation in the labour market.
  3. Religion and racism. In principle, Islam simply forbids Muslims to befriend non-Muslims, as exemplified in Quran 5:51: O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians as friends, they are but friends to one another. Or, as expressed by the modern-day Islamist Reecep Tayyip Erdogan: Assimilation is a crime against humanity.
  4. Social pressure. Muslim culture exercises an unbelievable social and religious pressure on any one person seeking to leave their culture and adopt the lifestyle of their host countries. The extreme expression of this is the large number of threats and assaults on Muslims who have converted to a different religion. Even adopting fundamental Western values of equal rights for women, freedom of expression, democracy and freedom of religion are frequently considered apostates in Islamic circles. A hefty price is paid in terms of social and economical welfare, as well as personal safety.

'No-go zones' in France and elsewhere
France, which has suffered immigration mainly from the Maghreb area, has officially designated 751 areas as ghettos, or to use the official euphemism, “Sensitive urban areas” (Zones Urbaines Sensibles). Most of these areas consist of public housing projects originally meant to improve the conditions for the poorer classes, but now causing severe trouble for law enforcement, as well as constituting a seemingly never-ending drain on the welfare system.

Daniel Pipes, in his article The 751 No-Go Zones of France, asks the pertinent question:

What are they?

And immediately responds:

Those places in France that the French state does not control.

Or, as stated by the Pakistan-born Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali:

One of the results of [Islamic extremism] has been to further alienate the young from the nation in which they were growing up and also to turn already separate communities into "no-go" areas where adherence to this ideology has become a mark of acceptability. Those of a different faith or race may find it difficult to live or work there because of hostility to them.

A hallmark of a ghetto is the racism, ethnic or religious, that makes the area unattractive to the normal inhabitants of the country, dangerous to the authorities of it, yet in a surprising way just fine for immigrants, largely Muslims. By harassing those of other ethnicities and/or religion, they establish an area – and a hierarchy – of control distinct from the usual law of the land. Police is facing problems conducting even the most ordinary work in these areas:

The problem has been in public debate for some years now. For instance, French President Nicolas Sarkozy made clear promises in his 2007 campaign to clean up the ghettos and re-establish the authority of the French Republic. Paul Belien of Brussels Journal assessed the result in his 2008 article Sensitive Urban Areas: Has France Become a Narco State?:

In May, the French voters elected Mr. Sarkozy as president because he had promised to restore the authority of the Republic over France's 751 no-go areas [...]. During his first months in office he has been too busy with other activities, such as selling nuclear plants to Libya and getting divorced.

Apart from new issues distracting Sarkozy, the situation is unchanged by the end of 2010. Riots and 'Carbecue' (torching of random cars) are standard features of the areas, as are drug dealing and violent crime. As Paul Belien notes, this does not even cause much of a stir in the media:

People get mugged, even murdered, in the ZUS, but the media prefer not to write about it.

And when it does, well-known apologies are readily at hand:

When large-scale rioting erupts and officers and firemen are attacked, the behaviour of the thugs is condoned with references to their "poverty" and to the "racism" of the indigenous French.

Since immigrants, once granted citizenship, have exactly the same rights as the indigenous population, that explanation doesn't make too much sense, unless you are in search of a scapegoat. Poverty is indeed a problem in the ghetto areas, but that is not really new, the situation was the same a century ago, two centuries ago, and before:

Hard-working, disciplined individuals with marketable skills make more money and lead better lives. The political circumstances have changed a lot over time, but the fundamental premises have not. Unless you belong to a political class taking advantage of the situation.

The failure of the left
Leftist politicians have routinely been willing to apologize for bad behaviour among the immigrants, but time are changing. Long seeing themselves as 'protectors' of a suppressed minority against evil racists, they are starting to find themselves betrayed by the very persons they defended. Ra Ranunkel is one of the few who spoke out. According to Fyens Stiftstidende, via Islam in Europe:

I always said that I'm proud to live in Vollsmose. I'm starting to get tired of it now. More and more of my neighbors come and say they're being attacked and robbed of their money. Or that their car was burned down. And all ask: 'Ra, can't you do anything?'. I have to admit, I feel powerless.

Ra Ranunkel says that there's a hardcore gang of Somalis who commit attacks that are deliberately directed at Danes. And it's primarily the Palestinians who burn the Danes' cars and control Bøgetorvet (Beech Square).

Those remarks stirred interest at the local news broadcaster TV2, who invited him to give an interview in one of the major Danish ghetto areas, Vollsmose. The interview was interrupted by Palestinians shouting “Dirty Danes!” and throwing rocks.


Ra Ranunkel was taken to task for his statements by his hard left political party Enhedslisten, was forced to resign from his position as chairman of the Cooperation Council, and has taken a sick leave as a consequence of the developments. Which certainly constitute a warning to others who might be inclined to relate their personal experiences of the increasing ethnic divisions in ghetto areas.

A confusing array of solutions
Politicians in Denmark, as well as elsewhere, feel compelled to do 'something'. As Villy Søvndal, chairman of the Danish Socialist Peoples' Party, puts it:

The ghettos are one of the greatest problems in our society, and our police has said straight out that they are losing control in some of these areas. Therefore we have to join forces in a national agreement to ensure that our cities are not being controlled by those with the most money and the biggest muscles.

But what actually is to be done, and how it would help, remains unclear. The left wing tends to emphasize poverty as the root cause of ghettos, the right wing more in terms of law and order. But the differences are not that deep, and often contradictory. The socialist side wants to deploy more police, the conservative is looking at letting young criminals have criminal records erased easier.

Both sides, though, are interested in enhancing the “social efforts” and other milder efforts. It is unclear how this will improve the situation. As is the effect of a different and quite popular idea: To destroy some of the houses in the area. Now, it has not been documented that any of the houses commit arson or rob people in the streets, assault policemen or pelt stones at Danes for being Danish. Nor are the buildings particular worn down or ill-functioning, and there are large green areas between them. Nothing indicates that the buildings are causing the problems.

What do the inhabitants say?
Before starting extensive initiatives to change the ghettos, it can be instructive to listen to the people who live there. They deserve to have a say before their apartments are destroyed. Frequently, one gets statements like the following from Gellerupparken, a large Danish ghetto area:

We have good apartments. Why should we tear them down? Why should I let my apartment be torn down when I'm happy to live here, asks Helle Hansen, spokesman for the inhabitants of Gellerupparken.

Now, Helle Hansen is ethnically Danish, and thus a minority in the ghetto. For a different take on the situation, this interview (English translation at Gates of Vienna) with Iman Rabeh (18-year Danish born woman of Libanese origin) presents some disturbing attitudes. Most significant is her statement “I feel safe in the ghetto”. The justifications she uses should be quite disturbing for anyone opposed to racism.

Iman Rabeh: All my neighbours are Arabs, and if they’re not Arabs then they are Lebanese, and if they’re not Lebanese then they are – we have that love for one another that you’re an Arab, I’m an Arab. […] Danes as such, they are not like us [...]

Interviewer Mikkel Krause: You’ve said straight out that if you were to one day leave Gellerup, and maybe you will be forced to leave Gellerup because they want to tear down the apartment blocks or whatever, then you’ll just move to another ghetto.

Iman Rabeh: Yes that’s right. I would move to another ghetto. [in the ghetto] I’d be 100 percent certain that no one would lay a finger on me, or steal my handbag or my bicycle, because I’m one of “them”. You know, we all know each other, they would never do that.

Mikkel Krause: There is another, much discussed, solution, which is to demolish some of the apartment blocks in Gellerupparken. What do you think of that kind of solution?

Iman Rabeh: Not at all. That is the wrong solution. You should build something instead of tearing something down. You could make it a nicer place, but why would you tear it down? There is no reason for that.

What she says makes perfect sense, but flies in the face of political correctness, as she openly uses her ethnicity when choosing who to trust, who to live with, and says, as a matter of cause, that Danes don't like her. She likes her ghetto as it is – and sees no sense in destroying perfectly good apartments. But racism isn't the only force upholding the ghetto.

Criminal youth in the ghettos actively work to make their domains into ghettos. They like living in an area where they have power and control, where they are 'respected', and where the law of the land cannot control their actions. As reported in Jyllands-Posten, 21st September 2010:

The society in charge of buildings estimates that children between 6 and 18 are behind most cases of arson.

While the age span is in itself remarkable, so is the reason behind the arson:

According to professor Michael Hviid Jacobsen from the University of Aalborg, a hard core of Danish immigrant youth does not want their domain to become normal residential areas, but intend to “maintain their environment as a dangerous ghetto, and who enjoy the fear caused by setting fire to things in the environment”.

Significantly, other inhabitants in the area do not seem very interested in taking the arsonists to task for their behaviour. Police officer Bertel Heilesen is quoted in the article for saying:

It is very difficult to resolve cases of arson against cars and containers, for there are rarely any clues to work with, and people in the area routinely refused to talk to the police. We resolve these cases with extremely low frequency, probably below one percent.

Upholding the law of the land
While many different problems exist in the ghetto areas, including rampant welfare expenses, a recurring theme is the lack of interest in upholding national law in the areas. And, just as in Great Britain, Sharia courts are discreetly starting to operate in Denmark, slowly undermining the central principle of secular law, gender equality and equal rights for all.

Probably the simplest functional definition of a modern-day ghetto is:

An area where the law of the land is fatally weakened.

Not uphold by citizens, destructive youth and criminals act with impunity, and even drug dealers can gain a respect through their wealth that entirely eclipses the contempt they deserve for dealing in harmful substances. This leads to a Law of the Jungle where the strongest have the power, and ultimately such areas may turn into theocracies.

What's compounding the problem is that not only the criminals are to be faulted for the problems with upholding the law. Non-criminal citizens who refuse to speak to the police, cover for criminal friends or relatives, or denigrate the police as being 'racist', all contribute to the vacuum of national law in the area. Understandable in a way, for most refugees come from countries where government and police are corrupt and the law does not work for the benefit of the citizen. We are letting immigrants into our countries without an extensive education in how democracy and secular law works, and we are only seeing the beginning of the problems. Such education programs should have the goal of making immigrants understand and adopt these principles.

The totalitarian Islamic trap
Given the vacuum of law in immigrant-rich areas, the next degree of problems is divine intervention. And this is one hard nut to crack. For most immigrants are Muslims, and actually have a backup law to resort to when secular law fails to assert itself. That law has a name: Sharia.

Sharia is the legal aspect of Islam. As Robert Perry pointed out in his interesting book The Closing of the Muslim Mind, the main objective of Islam remains implementing Islamic law. Other aspects of Islam have been debated extensively in the past, including a brief 'Golden Age' of rationality, but the past remains the past. The main objective of Islam today is implementing Sharia, a legal system based mainly on the life of Muhammad.

When Muslims have problems in their lives, they frequently do as Christians would do, they ask their religious leaders, the imams, muftis etc., for advise. And just as the Christian priest will refer to the life and teachings of Jesus, the imam will refer to the life and teachings of Muhammad, which are detailed in the quran, the hadith and the sirat (life story of Muhammad). The only major problem here is that the life and example of Muhammad was radically different from that of Jesus.

Collecting the life of Muhammad into a formalized code of conduct was quite an intellectual challenge, which through the combined effort of many brains crystallized into books like Reliance of the Traveller, books that essentially constitute manuals for how Muslims should conduct their lives, that it can be as similar to that of Muhammad as possible. A core problem of this world view is that it is totalitarian and entirely denies individual freedom.

Now, if Muslims, in deep faith to their religion, ask imams with this world view how to behave, the result is quite obviously incompatible with modern life, secular law and a free society in which men and women have equal rights. Imams usually respond to the secular challenge by severely denigrating secular law and modern life, which puts Muslims in a pinch:

If holding on to their faith requires abandoning a modern lifestyle and the right of individual choice, which is preferable?

In the ghetto, the Islamic world view tends to dominate. If a classical mosque is constructed, the problems become an order of magnitude worse, for the mosque endows the imams with much higher authority, and establishes the ghetto as an area with a viable alternative to secular rule. If things get that far, the ghetto has evaded the rule of the land and become autonomous.

What should we do?
Social problems aside, the most urgent issue in the European ghettos is to reassert the law of the land. This can be done in a variety of ways, but none are without risk of severe confrontations between secular and religious authority.

Suggestions:

Bad behaviour needs consequences
One of the most significant cultural clashes we're facing is that of internal control versus external. A large part of the refugees to our countries have come from societies with strong external control, but little emphasis on internal control and real self-discipline, whereas self-discipline in the West has developed almost into a straitjacket. We have lost the understanding that strict external control is a necessity towards people who do not understand internal control, and are afraid to apply the means required, preferring instead to spend endless resources on "social efforts".

With the influx of persons accustomed to external control, there is a distinct need to adjust accordingly. It is tempting to go easy on first-time offenders, assuming that lenience will be accepted with gratitude and that internal control will prevent further offences. The reality on the ground, however, is that lenience is seen as exploitable weakness, which will be exploited. A wide array of methods do exist, and old ideas such as curfews can be much better enforced with new technology, such as GPS-based devices to monitor the movements of known offenders.

Make welfare payments contingent on proper behaviour
One of the standard features of ghettos, and a source of subtle but deep resentment from other parts of the society, is the sheer amount of money absorbed by the various forms of social security systems. This comprises unemployment support, early retirement, child support, extensive use of 'exceptional' circumstances, expenses to social workers, as well as fraud and crime. While non-ghetto areas have single-digit unemployment rates, ghetto areas routinely have unemployment rates of 50 % or more. This is a drain on national resources that seems endless.

One way to make good use of this money is to make them conditional on proper behaviour. We should at least expect recipients to make their children attend and respect school, that their children abstain from violent crime and destruction, and make it clear that they must respect the authorities of the land. If either of those rules are violated, a short-term suspension of welfare payments is sure to be felt clearly and be a lesson to what is Right and what is Wrong.

Don't be afraid of using force
In the West, we have partially circumcised our willingness and ability to use force against lawbreakers. While citizens have an important right to file complaints against police and other authorities, this right is being misused extensively by left-wing extremists like Antifa, who file frivolous complaints in large numbers after their encounters with the police. This leads to court cases that are routinely lost, but in the process a shade of doubt is cast over the integrity of our police force, and police management routinely pledge that only minimum force will be applied.

In order to re-establish the Monopoly of violence that state authorities are to hold, there is no way around using powerful methods, trust our police forces and permit them a reasonable margin of error. This will be tough for the politically correct elite to accept, and we probably need to see a severe increase in violent crime in the ghettos before this will be accepted as a necessity.

Build highly visible police stations
The disrespect for secular authorities, and in turn direct assaults on them, needs to be countered by a strong display of secular might in the ghettos. We have been using discreet, side-street police stations for a few officers to be in the area and get to know the problems. But what has not been tried, and is most certainly worth it, is a strong display of secular authority. Also let the police stations fly the flag of the land prominently, in order to show that national authority rules supreme.

This will be assaulted by unruly youth, and will need defence. Also the reactions of imams and other Islamic leaders will be illuminating. But as upholding the law is in the interest of all sensible citizens, public support in the area should emerge, and lead to appreciation of the police presence.

Protect the dissidents
There are individuals who get fed up with the circumstances in the ghettos, with the religious rules and with the position of women. Women leave their violent husbands, Muslims convert to Christianity, and individuals reject the tribal traditions tied to ethnicity and criminal gangs. These people take serious individual risks, and deserve protection from the various kinds of threats and intimidation they face. Womens' shelters are important institutions, women in the ghettos need to be informed of their rights, and we need to allocate the resources needed to protect them.

Do not turn Islamic scholars into authorities
Solving problems of rampant crimes through religious (read: 'Islamic') authorities is tempting and has been tried. But while it is an easy solution, it is also the most dangerous in the long term. Imams tell Muslims in no uncertain words which authority to ultimately respect: "Allah" (and his representatives), certainly not secular institutions or laws made by man. Respecting man-made laws (that is, democratic laws) is considered heresy in traditional Islam, and imams preach this. In turn, when we depend on immigrant respecting and upholding secular law, we will face severe problems.

But Islamic scholars have little authority on their own. It is us who endow them with that authority by asking them for advise, to settle conflicts and talk to the young. By letting fundamentalist imams appear on television or give interviews to the newspapers, they are presented as authorities in the very ghetto areas we need to get back under the Rule of Law. If we should work with any Islamic authorities at all, they should be certified moderate, for instance by having signed the Charter of Muslim Understanding penned by Sam Solomon.

Running private courts should be punishable under the law
Independent courts is a growing problem in ghetto areas dominated by Muslims. By setting up alternative, independent courts and using threats and intimidation to build the jurisdiction among Muslims, a completely parallel society is gradually formed. If we want our societies to gradually fall apart into ethnically and religiously cleansed enclaves, this is a perfect way to let that happen.

Preserving our free societies is well worth it
If, on the other hand, we want to preserve our liberal democracies and the freedoms that provides us with historically outstanding living circumstances, we need to use the law, our Constitutions and the associated institutions to protect them. We may need to break some international conventions in order to accomplish this goal, but so be it.

The formation of ghettos can be countered before they turn into autonomous enclaves. The sooner we use the appropriate methods, the less dramatic the confrontation will be. Unfortunately, decades of lax policies and a general lack of interest has already permitted the ghettos to devolve into areas where the law of the land is fatally weakened. For the sake of social cohesion, we need to return these areas to the Rule of Law, and we need to do it now.