Post 12: Muslim-European interactions and the difference between assimilation and multiculturalism

1. Compare and contrast the following discussed patterns of Muslim-European interaction: assimilation, communitarianism, or newer modes or integration.

Hunter discusses various patterns of Muslim-European interaction in her book, Islam, Europe’s Second Religion. First, the assimilation pattern is the thought that Muslims should accept the totality of the cultural and political ethos that they reside in. This lends to the idea that religion should also be kept private. The communitarianism approach is where Europeans and Muslims form cohesive communities that allow for dialogue between state and society. European governments tend to label the interaction patterns between Muslims and Europeans which doesn’t always lend itself to a cohesive, non-discriminatory society.


2. What is the diversity myth discussed by Malik? How does assimilation differ from multiculturalism? Give examples. What solutions does Malik propose to overcome the failure of multiculturalism?

In his article, The Failure of Multiculturalism, Kenan Malik discusses the history of cultural tensions in Europe and across the globe. Malik talks about how “Europeans have begun to see themselves and their social affiliations in a different way. Increasingly, they define social solidarity not in political terms but rather in terms of ethnicity, culture, or faith. And they are concerned less with determining the kind of society they want to create than with defining the community to which they belong.” (pg. 24) This leads to his discussion of what he calls the “diversity myth.” He talks about how the term “multicultural” has “come to define both a society that is particularly diverse, usually as a result of immigration, and the policies necessary to manage such a society.” (pg. 22) So, the term describes society but also includes “a prescription for dealing with it.” (pg. 22) As discussed earlier, social class has become less of a culturally diversifying factor with ethnicity, culture and faith being brought to the forefront.

A common myth named in Malik’s article is the idea that governments created multiculturalist policies regarding immigrants because they saw minorities as wanting to “assert their differences.” While migrants brought plenty of their own traditions and habits from their homelands, they were rarely concerned with preserving cultural differences. As Malik says, “what inspired them was the struggle not for identity, but for political equality.” Assimilation is when a person or group acquires the social and psychological characteristics of a group, whereas multiculturalism describes the existence, acceptance and/or promotion of multiple cultures within a single space. Malik discusses how “France’s policy of assimilation is generally regarded as the polar opposite of multiculturalism, which French politicians have proudly rejected.” (pg. 29) There, everyone is treating as an individual citizen rather than as a member of a particular racial, ethnic or cultural group. But, this does not mean that the country is not socially divided.

In his article, Malik proposes a few solutions on how to overcome the failure of multiculturalism. First, he suggests that Europe should “separate diversity as a lived experience from multiculturalism as a political process.” Attempting to institutionalize diversity through formal recognition by authorities should be avoided. Second, “Europe should distinguish colorblindness from blindness to racism.” What he means is that we should treat everyone as equal rather than specific racial or cultural histories as valuable. Finally he suggests that Europe differentiates between people and values. Both multiculturalists and assimilationists have different takes on how, but both view minority communities as “homogeneous wholes” rather than as essential parts of a modern democracy.  


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