Post 12: Europe’s Coalescing Misunderstandings

Part II

  1. As we have come across in the readings, there are many different terms which represent the experiences of the Muslim-European population. Assimilation is one such term which finds its way as a roadblock to Muslim lives across the spectrum. Assimilation refers to the ways in which some Muslims are expected to adopt the mindsets and political ideals of the countries which they inhabit, but numerous problems exist in this expectation. It is very often that Muslim ideals are wildly different from their host countries, and this can cause and has caused problems in the ways that European society views the Muslim people. We can see this in examples like France, where the Muslim population there is “helped” through political movements envisioned only through the lens of what native French politicians believe is right for the Muslim people. Assimilation then, in this context, refers to the ways in which oppression is wrought upon Muslim populations through the unrealistic requirements of European societies for Muslims to conform to ideals and political agendas which directly contrast their own.

    Communitarianism is another such term which may mean well, but eventually can harm peoples under its ideology. Communitarianism refers to ways in which an individual can find belonging and ‘refuge’ within groups of others who identify as they do. There is a benefit to this ideal, as with Muslims, especially those who identify as Islamic, they can find unity and develop different family units in staying together and forming a community with one another. When communitarianism is taken into a political perspective, however, it finds a way to bring the same kinds of oppression assimilation can create. When identities are formed into groups politically, individuals who identify in one of the categories which composes these groups is considered as a part of that group. This means that if there is an Islamic group, and it constitutes anyone who identifies as Muslim, then all Muslims are in this Islamic group. Being that there are many Muslims who do not identify as Islamic in the world, these group identities can cause problems when the society around them makes personal assumptions about individuals in this political level.

  2. Malik discusses that the political ideal of diversity is flawed, and simply does not exist in the context that it does socially. European ideals of diversity mean that there are many people who exist in a European country and identify in different races, religions, and walks of life. However, it still expects conformity and complete assimilation from these different groups into what the majority population identifies as, and practices. The “ideal” form of diversity is assumed to be a position where any and all forms of identity are able to exist and coexist with all other forms harmonically, allowing each identity to flourish peacefully in its own way without oppression from others. Such is the downfall of European Diversity.

    Malik showed that assimilation differed from multiculturalism in that assimilation directly ignores the diversity that exists in a place in favor of ushering an ideal of equality among identities, even though that equality falls under images of the desires of only one particular identity (the white majority). Multiculturalism identifies the multiple identities which exist in diversity, but groups them and puts them into boxes discriminatorily to pursue a political agenda. Such is the way that France handled Assimilation with Muslims in their country by vying for what they thought was freedom for the expression of women. Or the way which Germany handled Multiculturalism with the Turks in their country, in that they defied principles of inclusion by suggesting the Turks should just handle and preserve aspects of their cultures themselves, and to do so quietly.

    To overcome these failures of Multiculturalism, Malik suggests that Europe separates diversity as a “lived experience” from multiculturalism as a political process. He also suggests that Europe stop treating assimilation as an end-all process, and start recognizing that citizens, although it is law to treat others equally, still experience discrimination in all walks of life. Finally, Malik suggests that European governments should start differentiating between who people are and what they value. Not all peoples value the same things, but that does not mean that the only way to keep diverse people in order is by homogenizing society. Values exist everywhere, but not all must be under the same values to coexist and flourish as a peaceful society. Understanding across all spectrums of existence is the only way to redeem and sustain a peaceful society.

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