Islam in Europe

1)

When Zemni and Parker delve into the notion of the “failure of integration” of Muslims in Europe, the discussion focuses mainly on the separation that exists between the migrant, or Muslim, and the European state or society itself. They define this concept as, “the perceived failure of migrants/immigrants of non-European origin to integrate into host societies…the social construction of the migrant as a problematic participant in European social and political life has occurred against the backdrop of two objective demographic movements” (235).  The authors identify the two major influxes of migrants into western Europe, first during the 1950’s, and then again in the 1980’s.  This “migration of laborers and their families from developing countries to fill low-wage jobs in European economies….and a dramatic increase in the number of people fleeing conflict and/or political and economic insecurity in their home countries and arriving in Western Europe after the end of the cold war,” resulted in a fairly large population of migrants in European countries. However, these groups were never able to ‘assimilate’ into European society or public. The notion of a multicultural Europe didn’t have a positive connotation denoting a “positive interaction of distinct communities in a common project, but rather the challenge or threat posed by the apparent inability of immigrant groups to ‘get ahead’ in the European context” (235). There was the perspective that these groups were perhaps unwilling to do so. “This apparent failure to integrate has been viewed in cultural terms, that is, as a failure to adopt styles and practices of daily life considered compatible with the norms of hegemonic national cultures.” (235) In the 1970s, the out-group referred to migrant workers from countries like Turkey, Morocco or Algeria, but now, these ‘others’ are Muslims. There exists in Europe a prejudice that is more disguised and harder to recognize. There was the separation of the migrant from their nationality, and more of a connection to a “civilizational/cultural matrix” making it possible for European communities “to problematize the migrant’s presence” (235). It’s a matter of “Islam and Europe,” versus “Islam in Europe,” that brings about potentially problematic ideologies. “It is clear that these two discourses have fused and interacted in ways that reinforce a notion of culture as a primary determinant of political behavior,” meaning that a Muslim in Europe is perceived and judged solely on that basis. The authors go on to say, “embedded within this discourse is a suspicion that the migrant—being essentially determined by his or her culture of origin—is inherently incapable of meeting and respecting the demands and responsibilities of citizenship in the ‘secular’ European state” (236).  That point clarifies how this discourse can actually legitimize prejudiced or discriminatory behaviors, placing a Muslim immigrant or migrant in a compromising position. It prevents them from feeling like a welcome member of the European community, who can engage and participate in civic matters. The discourse of “Islam in Europe,” affects the way in which European “publics and policymakers view and interact with Europe’s Muslim communities” (236). The authors say the real problem lies in the fact that these assumptions can develop into a self-fulfilling prophecy for these Muslim migrants, and they will fail to extend their involvement from the home and neighborhood into the larger European community.

2)

hejabbattleground

Image courtesy of http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2010/07/your-veil-is-a-battleground-ii.html

In Politics of the Veil, Joan Wallach Scott explores the controversy surrounding the Islamic head veil in French society. Especially in the classroom. To many French policymakers and feminists, “the veil represented the subordination of women, their humiliation, and their inequality.” (153) Wallach identifies the perverse sexualization the French have placed on the head veil, which is meant to downplay sexuality. “For Muslims, the veil is a declaration of the need to curb the dangerous sexuality of women (and also of men), a response…’to the risks associated with our vital impulses” (154). So while the Muslim female students were more covered and modest in there clothing and veils, they were perceived as being ostentatious and conspicuous. “The French system celebrates sex and sexuality as free of social and political risk.” Simultaneously, though, sex also raises questions to the abstract individualism present in France. “If we are all the same, why has sexual difference been such an obstacle to real equality?” (154). The author goes on to say that Islam’s recognition of the problems incited by sexuality perhaps  revealed limitations within France’s own system. There is so much debate and controversy over the meaning of the veil and the message it sends to others. Some French feminists say that the problem with the veil is that it covers up the sexuality of the woman, and that it perpetuates inequality between men and women. Wallach Scott recognizes that it may not be so much an issue of equality between men and women, but between Muslim women and French women. Meaning that French society wants Muslim women to embrace the sexual openness and style of French women, and adopt laïcité, parting from the religious connotation of the veil. Being raised in the United States, I lean more towards the side of religious freedom and freedom of expression. I think that Muslim female students should be able to wear their veils or headscarves in schools, without being ostracized or sexualized. To me, it just seems like the right thing to do to allow this, though I can see how it is more complicated because of French secularity. Regardless, I don’t agree with the ban and think it violates the rights of Muslim women, because they should have the freedom to practice their faith.

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