In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack—or rather mass execution—the typical reaction seems to be that the killers were “madmen” and “extremists.” The brother of the slain policeman, himself Muslim, protested: “My brother was Muslim. He was shot down by false Muslims. (…) Islam is really a religion of peace, of love. We had nothing to do with that.”
Yes, only a few Muslims took part. But France has witnessed other acts of violence, largely ignored by the media, which have maimed and killed far more people. In most cases, those perpetrators have likewise been young men of Muslim background, although their actions have been driven not by religious fanaticism but by the enjoyment of being with other “youths” and proving their manhood through thefts, assaults, and home invasions.
The facts speak for themselves. In France, Muslims make up 60% of all prison inmates, while being only 12% of the total population (Leclerc, 2014). Similarly, 7 out of 10 burglaries, assaults, and violent thefts are committed by first- or second-generation immigrants (Chevrier and Raufer, 2014). Most of these perps seem to be Muslim, although a third of them may be West Indians, Africans, and Roma of nominally Christian background. Muslims seem to be especially overrepresented in serious violent crimes that lead to prison sentences.
Similar trends are developing elsewhere. Muslims make up 70% all prison inmates in Spain and 45% in Belgium (WikiIslam, 2013 see Note 1; Sudinfo.be, 2013). In England and Wales, the figure is only 14%, versus 4.7% of the total population, apparently because certain other communities are likewise overrepresented (Morris, 2014, see Note 2).
A Danish researcher has studied the relationship between criminality and immigrant origin in Denmark, Norway, and Finland (Kirkegaard, 2014a; Kirkegaard, 2014b; Kirkegaard, 2014c; Kirkegaard and Fuerst, 2014). He found that the prevalence of Islam in the immigrants’ home country was the single best predictor of criminality both for “all crime” and for “violent crime,” being better than the home country’s mean IQ or GDP per capita and much better than its murder rate.
There are interesting exceptions. Crime rates are very low among East and Southeast Asians, even those from largely Muslim Indonesia:
What causes the low Asian crime rate? Of the bottom 5 countries of origin for crime rates, 4 of them are Asian. It must be a strong force. Consider Indonesia with a crime rate of 1.19. It has an IQ of 85.8 (similar to Algeria, crime rate 5.16), a GDP of 4923.00$ (similar to Morocco, crime rate 5.7), and an Islam% of 88.1% (similar to Egypt, crime rate 5.57) and still immigrants from Indonesia have about half the crime rate of Danish citizens (2.45). Whatever cause it is, it is counteracting these other forces and overpowering them. (Kirkegaard, 2014b)
The effect of Islam: direct or indirect?
There are two ways of explaining why Muslim immigrants are more crime-prone. One is that Islam heightens the sense of difference between the in-group (fellow Muslims) and the out-group (the host society). Non-Muslims are outsiders and thus legitimate targets for acts that would be considered wrong if done against Muslims. This may explain why violent crime by Muslim immigrants correlates so weakly with the murder rate in their home countries. Murder is more serious when committed against a fellow Muslim.
The second explanation posits a less direct relationship with Islam. Most Muslim immigrants come from societies where the State has pacified social relations only in recent times and where men still see violence as a legitimate and even necessary means to advance personal interests, to defend themselves and their families, and to acquire land, goods, and even women. Violence is constrained not by the State but by a balance of terror—the threat of retaliation by the victim or his kinsmen.
Male combativeness is especially strong in highland pastoral societies beyond the reach of State control. It’s not for nothing that they have provided some of the best fighting men, like the Gurkhas in the British army, the Moroccans in the French army, and the Albanians in the Ottoman imperial army, their main drawback being a tendency to treat enemy civilians like enemy combatants. This was particularly so with the Moroccans during the Italian campaign: “Anyone who finds himself in their path is attacked by force of arms […] They seize everything […] and if in the group there are women, their clothing is taken off violently in cases of resistance. If, for example, they overrun some farms that are still inhabited, they go on a real rampage, following which, with firearms in their hands, they chase the men from the homes and rape the women without any respect for either the young or the elderly” (Tommaso, 2007)
If highland pastoral societies represent one end of this behavioral continuum, the other end seems to be the low-lying farming societies of east and southeast Asia, where State formation, rice farming, and sedentary life favored collectivism over individualism and a general pacification of social relations. Rice farming seems to have been a pivotal factor: water use and maintenance of irrigation networks requires peaceful and orderly cooperation among all community members. Even when neighboring districts are compared in China, individualism seems to be much weaker where rice is grown than where wheat is grown (Talhelm et al., 2014).
Kirkegaard and Fuerst (2014) consider this indirect causation but reject it because Islam still predicts criminality even among immigrants solely from Europe. Non-Muslim Europeans are much less crime-prone than Muslim Europeans. The latter, however, are largely Albanians and Bosniaks, who were subject peoples of the Ottoman Empire until the late 19th and early 20th century. Their cultural evolution was bound up with that of a Muslim state whose “government was unable to assure the basic conditions of civil peace in its lands. Not only were the local governors unrestrained, but bandits, groups of soldiers, and local warlords with armed retainers made life impossible for the peasant population, Christian and Muslim alike, in many areas” (Jelavich and Jelavich, 1977, pp. 326-327).
This seems to have been a general problem of Muslim states. Why have they been less able to pacify social relations? One reason is ideological. There has long been a tendency in Islam to romanticize the free-spirited Arab who answers to no one but himself. Advanced urban societies have indeed existed in the Muslim world, but they have been perceived as being less authentically Muslim, a perception facilitated by the presence of large Christian and Jewish minorities. Moreover, like the earlier Roman Empire, urban Muslim societies came to depend on barbarian soldiers who eventually realized they could do more than just serve under someone else’s command. This was notably the case with the Turkish mamluks in Egypt, the Banu Hilal in North Africa, and the Almoravids in Muslim Spain.
As a result, Islamic civilization has gone through cycles of de-barbarization and re-barbarization. These cycles were described by the Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) in his work The Muqaddimah. In a chapter titled “While a nation is savage, its royal authority extends farther” he wrote:
[…] such a nation is better able to achieve superiority and full control, and to subdue other groups. The members of such a nation have the strength to fight other nations, and they are among human beings what beasts of prey are among dumb animals. The Arabs and the Zanatah and similar groups, for instance, are such nations, as are the Kurds, the Turkomans, and the Veiled Sinhajah.
In another chapter, “Places that succumb to the Arabs are quickly ruined,” he explained the incompatibility between the two mindsets:
The reason for this is that (the Arabs) are a savage nation, fully accustomed to savagery and the things that cause it. Savagery has become their character and nature. They enjoy it, because it means freedom from authority and no subservience to leadership. Such a natural disposition is the negation and antithesis of civilization.
[…] Furthermore, it is their nature to plunder whatever other people possess. Their sustenance lies wherever the shadow of their lances falls. They recognize no limit in taking the possessions of other people. Whenever their eyes fall upon some property, furnishings, or utensils, they take it.
[…] Under the rule of (the Arabs), the subjects live as in a state of anarchy, without law. Anarchy destroys mankind and ruins civilization, since, as we have stated, the existence of royal authority is a natural quality of man. It alone guarantees their existence and social organization.
[…] Furthermore, (every Arab) is eager to be the leader. Scarcely a one of them would cede his power to another, even to his father, his brother, or the eldest (most important) member of his family. That happens only in rare cases and under pressure of considerations of decency. There are numerous authorities and amirs among them. The subjects have to obey many masters in connection with the control of taxation and law. Civilization, thus, decays and is wiped out. (Khaldun, 1337)
Genes have co-evolved with culture along a trajectory that begins with clan societies, where every man can and does use violence to advance his interests, and ends with State societies, where the State monopolizes the legitimate use of violence, except for narrowly defined cases of self-defense. Western societies are among the ones that have moved very far along this trajectory. At a terrible price—high rates of capital punishment, stigmatization and social exclusion of violent males—we have won the right to live in a social environment where nonviolence is the norm and where violence usually occurs under exceptional conditions, like jealousy, intoxication, and extreme stress.
Today, in this same social environment, Muslims are overrepresented among violent criminals. This is because their societies of origin have done less to pacify social relations and have thus maintained patterns of male behavior that are no longer common elsewhere. This we know. But what about the heritable components of such behavior? Have certain innate tendencies been favored? And do these tendencies explain the persistence of certain behavioral patterns when people leave these societies and move to Western Europe? One can reply that cultural conservatism is a sufficient explanation. Keep in mind, though, that most of the above-mentioned criminals are young, European-born, and fans of American rap and hip hop. So their cultural conservatism must be selective …
Anyway, neither culture nor genetics gets much air time in commentary on the latest events. The general opinion seems to be that radical Islam is responsible. One reason is that the role of Muslims in violent crime is acknowledged only in high-profile cases that involve radical Islamists. Almost all other cases involve “youths.”
A second reason is that Europeans have a long history of viewing human conflicts in ideological terms, from the Crusades to the Cold War. To be sure, even those conflicts had other motives, and the developing one in Western Europe seems to be a classic struggle over territory, with one side gradually displacing the other. The real ideological conflict is between those who see what is happening and those who don’t.
Finally, people focus on radical Islam to explain the degradation of their social environment because discussion of cultural and genetic causes is taboo. They are afraid of seeming “racist”—a word that began as a synonym for “Nazi” and that still evokes memories of the last world war. Although they may be unhappy with Third World immigration, which will soon make them strangers in their own lands, they prefer to oppose it on ideological grounds, i.e., the threat of radical Islam. They may not actually believe this analysis of the situation, but it’s the only one that has some legitimacy and that might bring immigration to a halt.
It probably won’t. Flawed analysis usually leads to a flawed response. Instead of an end to immigration, or at least Muslim immigration, there will likely be efforts to get to “the root of the problem” through military interventions in the Middle East, as if the problem were there and not in Paris, London, and Oslo. And since Muslim criminality will go on as before, there will be calls for even tougher action: “Nuke Mecca!” Yes, people can be that stupid, especially when they cannot freely discuss what is happening and why.
1. The 70% figure comes from a press release, issued in 2008:
Muslims serving jail sentences in Spanish jails will now be allowed to say their prayers in congregation, provided at least ten of them expressed their wish to do so. The aim of the new ruling is to bring about equality of treatment between Muslim prisoners and Catholic interns in their religious rights.
The largest Islamic organization in the country, the Islamic Committee of Spain, has welcomed this initiative, taking into account that 70 percent of those in Spanish jails are Muslims, who number around 54,000.
Is this figure plausible? Last year, the Secretaría General de Instituciones Penitenciarias provided a breakdown of the total prison population by nationality. Out of a total prison population of 66,857, there were 21,116 foreign nationals (32% of the total). Moroccans were the largest group with 5,773 inmates (9% of the total). The article (in Spanish) provides no information on foreign nationals from other predominantly Muslim countries, notably Algeria, Tunisia, Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea.
It is worth noting that these figures are only for foreign nationals. As the comments following the above article note, when an immigrant receives Spanish citizenship he disappears from the statistics. Citizenship is easier to acquire in Spain than in other Western European countries, being automatic for Spanish-born children of immigrants. The North African community in particular, which began to arrive in the 1980s, now seems to be made up largely of Spanish citizens, particularly in the younger age categories that are most susceptible to violent crime:
The demographic profile of the North African migrant communities has become increasingly complex over time due to the slow but constant process of family reunification. This is shown by the gradual feminization of these communities […] The development of a “second generation”, today at different stages of the Spanish education system, constitutes a very important issue in itself, and presents a totally different profile from that of primary migrants. (Fuentes, 2005)
I would conservatively estimate that Muslim foreign nationals account for 15-20% of the prison population in Spain (i.e., immigrants from North Africa, West Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia). If we add 1st and 2nd generation immigrants who have acquired Spanish nationality, the total figure must be at least twice as much, i.e., 30-40%.
2. In 2013, blacks were 13.2% of all prison inmates in England and Wales, versus 2.8% of the general population (Berman and Dar, 2013). In 2012-2013, Roma were 5% of all prison inmates, versus 0.1% of the general population (Press Association, 2014). Another possible factor is that British Muslims are mostly South Asians, who themselves form a very heterogeneous population that may have followed diverse trajectories of cultural evolution. Bangladeshis may have a very different behavioral profile from that of Pathans.
Berman, G. and A. Dar. (2013). Prison Population Statistics, briefing paper, Ministry of Justice, London. http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CC4QFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.parliament.uk%2Fbriefing-papers%2Fsn04334.pdf&ei=B_-2VNqjF-zasASMgYHgDg&usg=AFQjCNFc5woMqfEk6pJKE2rqLrXlLM5oYg
Chevrier, G. and X. Raufer. (2014). Aucun lien entre immigration et délinquance ? Une France peu généreuse avec ses immigrés ? Radiographie de quelques clichés “bien pensants” à la peau dure, Atlantico, November 26 http://www.atlantico.fr/decryptage/aucun-lien-entre-immigration-et-delinquance-france-peu-genereuse-avec-immigres-radiographie-quelques-cliches-bien-pensants-peau-1875772.html
Fuentes, F.J.M. (2005). Evolution of Spanish immigration policies and their impact on North African immigration to Spain, HAGAR – Studies in Culture, Polity and Identities, 6, 119-145. https://www.academia.edu/3455958/Evolution_of_Spanish_immigration_policies_and_their_impact_on_North-African_migration_to_Spain
Jelavich, C. and B. Jelavich. (1977). The Establishment of the Balkan National States, 1804-1920, University of Washington Press.
Khaldun, I. (1377 ).The Muqaddimah, Abd Ar Rahman bin Muhammed ibn Khaldun, Translated by F. Rosenthal, New York: Pantheon Books. http://www.muslimphilosophy.com/ik/Muqaddimah/
Kirkegaard, E.O.W. (2014a). Crime, income, educational attainment and employment among immigrant groups in Norway and Finland, Open Differential Psychology, October 9. http://openpsych.net/ODP/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Kirkegaard2014CrimeIncomeAndEmploymentAmongImmigrantGroupsInNorwayAndFinland.pdf
Kirkegaard, E.O.W. (2014b). Criminality and fertility among Danish immigrant populations. Open Differential Psychology, March 14. http://openpsych.net/ODP/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/criminality_fertility.pdf
Kirkegaard, E.O.W. (2014c). Criminality among Norwegian immigrant populations. Open Differential Psychology, April 4. http://openpsych.net/ODP/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/criminality_norway-final.pdf
Kirgegaard, E.O.W. and J. Fuerst. (2014). Educational attainment, income, use of social benefits, crime rate and the general socioeconomic factor among 71 immigrant groups in Denmark, Open Differential Psychology, May 12 http://openpsych.net/ODP/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/educationalattainmentetcDenmarkFinal.pdf
Leclerc, J-M. (2014). Un rapport explosif sur l’islam radical dans les prisons françaises, Le Figaro, October 22 http://www.lefigaro.fr/actualite-france/2014/10/22/01016-20141022ARTFIG00314-un-rapport-explosif-sur-l-islam-radical-dans-les-prisons-francaises.php
Morris, N. (2014). Number of Muslims in prison doubles in decade to 12,000, The Independent, March 28 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/number-of-muslims-in-prison-doubles-in-decade-to-12000-9222237.html
Press Association. (2014). One in 20 prisoners of Gypsy, Romany or Traveller background, says HMIP, The Guardian, March 11 http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/mar/11/gypsies-roma-travellers-over-represented-jails-england-wales-prisons
Sudinfo.be (2013). 45% des détenus des prisons belges sont de confession musulmane, Sudinfo.be, May 23 http://www.sudinfo.be/726092/article/actualite/belgique/2013-05-17/45-des-detenus-des-prisons-belges-sont-de-confession-musulmane
Talhelm, T., X. Zhang, S. Oishi, C. Shimin, D. Duan, X. Lan, and S. Kitayama. (2014). Large-scale psychological differences within China explained by rice versus wheat agriculture, Science, 344, 603-607. http://internationalpsychoanalysis.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/RiceversusWheatScience-2014-Talhelm-603-8.pdf
Tommaso, B. (2007). Le corps expéditionnaire français en Italie, Vingtième Siècle. Revue d’histoire 1/ (no 93), 47-61 http://www.cairn.info/revue-vingtieme-siecle-revue-d-histoire-2007-1-page-47.htm
WikiIslam (2013). Muslim Statistics (Population) http://wikiislam.net/wiki/Muslim_Statistics_%28Population%29#Spain