Post 12:

Question 1:

Though European countries are constantly globalizing, the interactions between Europeans and Muslims are hardly mundane. Extreme cultural differences drive a wedge between these two groups, forever complicating a peaceful cohesion. These two groups vary in religion, economics, and politically. Unfortunately, there is no right answer to expedite successful interactions, there are 3 general steps to be taken in the right direction: assimilation, communitarianism, and newer modes of integration. Assimilation and communitarianism are the two extremes when it comes to interactions between Europeans and Muslims.

“The assimilationists tend to believe that Muslims should accept the totality of the cultural and political ethos of their country of residence or citizenship. They can, of course, remain Muslim, but their religion must be a private matter and publicly invisible” (Hunter p. 273).

Assimilation involves forfeiting ones previous culture and identity to take on the culture of the society they are migrating to. Countries like Germany and France strongly believe immigrants should assimilate. France has recently gone so far as to ban Muslims from wearing veils in schools. This is an extreme example of politics forcing assimilation. Yet, second and third generation Muslims are still wanting to assimilate into these societies.

On the other hand, some European countries believe in communitarianism.

“Communitarians – both European and Muslim – prefer Muslims to form cohesive communities which can then enter into systematic dialogue with state and society. Some Muslims prefer to live in complete isolation according to strict Islamic rules” (Hunter p. 273).

While assimilation promotes Muslims adapting into European culture, communitarianism promotes Muslims forming groups in a specific place in order for these communities of similar individuals to communicate with the country. Communitarianism emphasizes that an individuals identity and personality are shaped by their community, not by the individual. Muslims are expected to live in isolated, exclusive communities and respond to society as a whole.

Other European countries have adopted a mix of these two interaction techniques, as well as other new modes of interaction.  One of the most popular forms of this is integration without complete assimilation. This form allows immigrants to keep some of their traditions and cultural differences while simultaneously fitting into and feeling at home in their community. These newer movements are typically more predominant among the Muslim youth in Europe.

diversity

Image

Question 2

In The Failure of Multiculturalism, Kenan Malik describes “the diversity myth” that has plagued European countries for centuries. This myth incorporates two related myths to explain multiculturalism and immigration.

  1. The first part is the myth that European countries used to be one single race, and have since then become highly diverse. The reality of this myth is that European countries have actually become less diverse since the beginning of each country. The reasoning for the confusion surrounding this myth is “historical amnesia,” or significant portions of people forgetting or altering their history.
  2. The second aspect of the diversity myth is current immigration is much different from previous waves of immigration in such a substantial way that society must restructure to accommodate the immigration. The main idea is that this new immigration is “less assimilable” than previous surges of immigration. In fact, assimilation was almost more difficult in European countries in the past than it is today. In 1905, the British feared immigrants would live by their own customs and, essentially, ruin the British image. This fear inspired the 1905 British law called the Aliens Act, which specifically barred Jews, who were seen as unBritish. The judicial systems in European countries are much less anti-immigrant than they were previously. Though assimilation is rarely an easy task for immigrants, historical amnesia blocks the reality of assimilating in the early 1900s and previous decades.

In a blog written by Malik, he goes into further detail about the third myth surrounding multiculturalism: the idea that “European nations have adopted multicultural policies because minorities demanded it.” Basically, this myth is that European countries have become multicultural because immigrants made them. In the 1940s and 1950s, immigrants were coming from India, Pakistan, and the Caribbean. They brought with them numerous traditions of which they were very proud of, but they were not concerned with conserving the cultural differences that divided them from British society. One shinning example of this third myth is the immigration of Muslims in Europe. Malik uses the Muslim family of British writer and theatre director Pervaiz Khan, whose family immigrated to Britain in the 1950’s. He explained how his father and uncle would go out for a drink, none of the women wore a hijab, they rarely fasted at Ramadan, and missed Friday prayers. Though they did not boast about these shortcomings, they were still known by their community, yet the family was not ostracized for it. Today in Europe, any Muslim family partaking in any of these would be greeted with distrust and distaste. Multiculturalism was not a response to a demand by immigrants, rather, “the desire to celebrate one’s culture identity has itself…been shaped by the implementation of multicultural policies.”

The difference between assimilation and multiculturalism is explained by their definitions. Assimilation is “the process of adapting or adjusting to the culture of a group or nation, or the state of being so adapted.” Multiculturalism is “the preservation of different cultures or cultural identities within a unified society, as a state or nation.” The difference is simple: assimilating is adopting a groups’ culture to fit in, which multiculturalism is a group adopting different cultures while remaining unified. Assimilation is adaptation, multiculturalism is preservation. 

Malik proposes progression by initially making three distinctions:

  1. “Europe should separate diversity as a lived experience from multiculturalism as a political experience.” Societies made diverse by immigration should be welcomed, while political/formal recognition of differences should be rejected.
  2. “Europe should distinguish colorblindness from blindness to racism.” Treating everyone equally because of law is different than treating everyone equally because we should.
  3. “Europe should differentiate between peoples and values.” Societies should not be viewed by an identical society attached to a set of values, rather just parts of a modern democracy.

Malik wants to end the idea that assimilation and integration are successfully achieved through politics and legislature, and emphasize the idea that they are achieved by a civil society, bonds between individuals, and organizations they establish. End political reigns on assimilation and allow civil societies to incorporate multiculturalism.

 

Featured Image

Advertisements

Post Eleven: Muslim Youth

Question 1

Muslim youth in Europe are no stranger to struggles in their daily life. They are not excluded from the hardships that affect their elders in European societies. In Islam, Europe’s Second Religion, Shireen Hunter breaks down these struggles into four different categories: cultural adaption, balance of integration and tradition, boundary identification, and discrimination and stereotyping.

  1. Cultural Adaption: though more noticeable among recent immigrants, many Muslim youth are unfamiliar with the cultural aspects of European countries, such as their language and specific ways of life. Many immigrants travel from an Islam-dominant country to a country where Muslims are a vast minority. Being intimidated by the cultural uncertainty, Muslims tend to stick to their own communities rather than assimilating to the country. This tendency escalates the difficulty of cultural adaption because, by sticking to Muslim communities, they further themselves from the European community and emphasize their differences.
  2. Balance of Integration and Tradition: Muslim youth also have an internal struggle between integrating with the culture and their surroundings while maintaining the traditions of their Islamic faith. The Muslim youth is “largely dissatisfied” with the Islamic culture of their parents and believe their parents are trying to live in the past. They detest the old ways of Islam and want to adjust more with the culture of the European country they are a part of.
  3. Boundary Identification: Muslim youth are forced to decide whether they want to be identified by their Muslim faith and to what extent they want their faith define them. Their migration to a new place means a new identity and new kind of Muslim faith, as Islam changes from place to place. Especially in the West, some view Islam as a religion to fear, and Muslim youth need to refine Islam as a good, safe religion that should not be feared, rather accepted. Muslim youth must choose the role Islam plays in their life and their identity and transition this identity into one that assimilates well with their European communities.
  4. Discrimination and Stereotyping: obviously, Muslims in Europe are confronted with endless forms of discrimination and stereotyping. The views of Westerns tend to sway towards traditional views of the area, which depict Islam as a religion to be feared and rejected. In addition to traditional views, the violence inflected by some Islamic extremist furthers the negative beliefs toward the Muslims in Europe, which is termed “Islamophobia.”  Very few Muslims in Europe associate with the extremist groups, yet they are still stereotyped as dangerous throughout Europe. Many Europeans are looking for someone to blame for their constant fear of attacks, rendering harmless Muslims as victims of discrimination. Though this discrimination and stereotyping affects all Muslims, Muslim youth seems to be the most affected because of their higher desire to be assimilated into the European communities.

2012-634832370147734350-773

Picture URL

Question 2

Though most Muslims who travel to Europe return with more moderate views of Islam, many Malaysians who studied in Europe returned to Malaysia with much more radical views than before they had traveled. This is a huge contradiction between the massive amounts of assimilation and deescalation of Islamic beliefs in Europe and the Malaysian pattern of radicalizing their beliefs. Not all Malaysian Muslims shifted to violent groups of Muslims, the shifting to a more radical view exemplifies the influence on Muslims spreading outside of the Arabic world and assimilating into European countries. Extremist beliefs have exited the boarders of Islamic-ruled countries and have penetrated countries globally. In addition to extremists inside the boarders, the availability of the internet worldwide has increased the ability of Muslims to radicalize the religion in countries they are not currently in. Muslims cannot escape the possibility of radicalization by simply immigrating to a new country.

Post Ten: Islam in the U.K.

Question 1

Salman Rushdie is a British novelist known for his controversial, fictional stories. He was born in Bombay, India to a family of Muslim descent. He briefly worked as a copywriter before launching his career as an author with his first novel, Grimus. He sets most of his stories in India and focuses on the connections between the Western and Eastern civilization.

Debatably, his most controversial novel is The Satanic Verses. This novel uses magical realism to discuss the “satanic verses” in the Qur’an which allows prayers to be made to Pagan Meccan goddesses. Part of the story follows the Islamic prophet Muhammad, who initially favors polytheism, but later denotes this as a error because of persuasion by the Devil. Unfortunately, many Muslims felt this section of the story was blasphemous and attacked their faith. Many believe the novel supports Western freedoms and the right to insult Muslims and their beliefs. They also believe it aided in driving a wedge between the Western and Eastern civilizations.  It caused an uproar in many Islamic communities across the globe. Some countries refused to import the book, while others simply burned the book at demonstrations. Rushdie’s literary work resulted in endless death threats and a fatwa (legal opinion by a qualified persons pertaining to Islamic law) calling for his assassination by the supreme leader of Iran. One attack resulted in the death of his Japanese translator, while other attacks wounded some of Rushdie’s staff.

This story caused one of the biggest backlashes of all time, pertaining to literature. The backlash also provided a platform for Muslims across the globe to come together under one uniting factor: their hatred for Salman Rushdie.

Question 2

Muslims do multiple assimilation limitations in the U.K., which include social, cultural, and religious limitations. Shireen Hunter addresses these issues in her novel Islam, Europe’s Second Religion, and acknowledges that these issues are similar for all of Europe, not just the U.K. One limitation is the inability of Muslims to adopt and understand all cultures, their aspects, and their beliefs. The U.K. is a melting pot of culture, making it difficult to categorize Muslims as one general character.  Muslims find it difficult to unite with their vast communities, even their personal Islamic communities. Another broad limitation is the potential lack of desire to assimilate. Islam can be viewed on a spectrum, with some liberals and some extreme conservatives.  According to chapter three, some of the opposing groups include traditional versus militant or activist Islam and traditionalist versus modernist. This spectrum leaves a gap in the beliefs and values of every Muslim in Europe. Muslims immigrate from all over the globe and are not only defined by their religion, but also by the societies that shaped them. When they immigrate to another place, such as the U.K., they cannot be expected to have the same views on assimilation as all other Muslims. For example, perhaps liberal Muslims are much more open assimilation, while extremist groups such as Al-Muhajirun are strongly against assimilation.

Question 3

Musawah, which means equality in Arabic, is an global movement dedicated to equality in Muslim families. This movement was launched after a large meeting of over 250 Muslims in 2009 and is led by Muslim women. Musawah has many specific goals, all of which center around the rebirth of equality in Islam, especially in Islamic families. Some of their key messages include keeping the family as a peaceful place which fosters growth for all of its members, marriage as a “partnership of equals,” the right to choose whether you want a spouse or who your spouse will be, and generic equal rights for all genders.

Our Vision: A world where equality, non-discrimination, justice, and dignity are the basis of all human relations.

As a woman, I fully support this movement. When I read their vision statement, I was immediately struck with the realization that many women, especially Muslim women, are treated as absolute inferiors on a daily basis. While I could argue that women in America are still oppressed in certain ways, our oppression could never compare to the inflicted oppression in other societies. I sincerely appreciate these women for providing Muslim women with a resource for demanding equality. I wish this movement was more well-known. I could criticize the lack of successful strides made by this movement, but the movement is still very young and statistical successes would be very hard to measure. Progress is always slow, but any small victory is still a victory.

 

Shariah picture

Musawah picture 

Post Nine: The Refugee Crisis

Part A

The Foreign Affairs The Dispossessed is a shocking article that uses relevant, statistical facts and figures, as well as a comic, to explain the refugee situation in certain parts of the world. This piece is a great analysis of the somber situation affecting our world today. It provides a different look into the crisis by providing personal accounts and insight into situations that most of us will never experience of be able to understand. It initially takes an in-depth look into countries such as Jordan and Ethiopia, which host significant numbers of refugees in the Middle East and Africa. Because of the massive amounts of refugees entering these countries, the economies are seeing dramatic increases in unemployment, lowering wages, famines, and other factors greatly decreasing the quality of life. The article then switches to two separate stories of refugees who plan their escape, sell their belongings, and eventually board the same life raft venturing to Greece. The article transitions to the use of comics to explain their journeys from one country to the next, coming across many different obstacles on their way to Sweden and Amsterdam. The comic is a clever way to depict this story in a way many readers can understand. The drawings and pictures make the story easier to follow and adds a creative element that entices readers to keep reading. Lastly, the article explains the overfishing that has caused a crisis in the city of Joal, Senegal. It provides the view of countries, where many people pity the immigrants, but only want to help them from afar. This comic/written piece is a very thorough and moving analysis of the refugee situation.

Dispossessed is an the identity of the disempowered, but it is a powerful identity.

According to the article, Islam does play a roll. It specifically attributes “the Islamic state threatening to return to the dark ages” as a unique and personal reason for many refugees to flee their homes. Though this article does not go in-depth about Islam as a cause for migration, it does explain that the Islamic state is a cause for many immigrants to relocate to other, safer areas. It is important to understand that not all of Islam is a reason to migrate, just some forms of radical or political Islam that affect governments and quality of life.

islam_earthquake

Picture 1

Part B

The article Islam and the West: Narratives of Conflict and Conflict Transformation tells two very different stories of Western and Islamic conflicts. The first story, Intercultural confrontation, believes conflict between Islam and the West is inevitable based on the following: images of the other, the construction of differences, and the question of hatred.

The intercultural confrontation story is explained by the firm belief that the other group (Islam or the West) is “unassimilable.” They believe the other refuses to integrate into a wider society and are blinded by their perceptions of their own personal greatness. The other is viewed as inferior, and positive interactions are dismissed, while negative interactions are emphasized. The other group is given stereotypes and images which are branded into the minds of the two groups and provide an overall view of each other. For example, Western views of the Middle East and Islam are “intertwined,” and real differences are very much exaggerated.   Especially when conflict arises or intensifies, these differences are distorted and further exaggerated, escalating the conflicts. The similar demeaning image both parties paint for the other is one aspect that causes intercultural conflict.

The construction of differences is the second part of intercultural confrontation’s story. Groups define themselves by two things: their positive qualities and contrasting these qualities with the inferior qualities of nonmembers. These differences affect how a community deals with crisis, specifically the meaning of the conflict. In addition, remembered history has a strong role in defining a group, rather than actual history. Islam emerged shortly after Christianity became the most powerful religion, which resulted in Westerner’s giving Islam the identity of the “rival.” In recent times, Islam has been defined as an oppressive, intrusive, aggressive religion that actively partakes in terrorism. In contrast, Muslims didn’t care much for the West/Europe. They believe the West simply left Muslims out of history, and their futures are riding on the backs of their Western counterparts. “Middle Eastern” muslims view the west with “envy and fear, admiration and suspicion.” Their differences characterize intercultural confrontation and the constant conflicts that are arising between both parties.

One question causing conflict is why and whether or not the other party hates them. The article states, “The problem, in other words, has nothing to do with what we are doing, and everything to do with who they are and what motivates them…” The conflict is about conflicting identities and values. The West values peaceful approaches to conflict, while they want to inflict their culture by force. No one specifically hates anyone, they are just different and approach conflicts different than the other. Whether or not we hate each other, and why we hate each other, are often answered with incorrect and misguided reasons. The question of hatred and reasons for conflict causes further intercultural conflict.

 

Intercultural compatibility believes conflict is not inevitable, and there are solutions to these problems.Constructed by academicians and diplomats, it is defined by: affirmation of shared values, differentiating between revivalism and terrorism, fundamentalism as a shared problem.

First, some of these shared values include values such as “respect for learning, desire for peace, esteem for toleration, and partisanship on behalf of human dignity.” Both Christianity and Islam are fundamentally similar via their creation and adaptation throughout the years. In addition, Islam is present in the West due to migration and integration of communities, and the West is similarly present in the Islamic world. Current disputes between the two worlds have little to do with religion or culture, and can be avoided through peaceful dialogue and goodwill. The first story attributes conflict to cultural differences, this story intertwines culture and politics. Both groups are greatly unequal in economics and politics, which results in arrogance and insecurity.

Second, the second story finds it important to distinguish between revivalism and terrorism. The article states:

Islamic revivalism, a movement to renew the Muslim communities from within through public reaffirmation of Islamic values, and terrorism, the use of indiscriminant violence for political purposes.

It is important to know the spectrum of Islam, which includes parties such as moderates and extremists. Revivalism is the response of weak Muslim societies due to international malaise. Islamic revivalism is determined to be a strong position of redefining who they are as a religion and a religious power. The modern form of extremism should not considered a typical occurrence, but rather a strong response to the feelings of oppression, as well as economic, political, and cultural contradictions. The second story believes revivalism is a natural response to the current state of the Islamic religion, and should not be viewed as a negative movement.

Third, the second story emphasizes the problem of fundamentalism on both sides. Fundamentalism is the “politicization of Nathan C. Funk and Abdul Aziz Said 21 group values and symbols, in which a community takes a subset of basic tenets of a tradition and, either under pressure of insecurity or in the pursuit of political dominance, uses them to seal off others or maintain control.” This problem exists for both parties. A metaphorical distance of Islam and the West generate negativity. These two groups are considered “out of touch” with each other. The driving factors are the symbols which each group has provided the other one with. The misunderstandings and lack of communication have resulted in a relationship based on competition and unwillingness to accept cultural differences. For instance, the distinctive dress of the different cultures provides negative symbols to the other, which drive the wedge even further between these two groups.

Both of these parties affect conflict transformation in different ways. The first story intensifies conflict, and gives little room for conflict transformation. The automatic belief that conflict is inevitable between the two groups provides no answer to conflict. It almost provides an excuse for the lack of conflict transformation, citing irreconcilable differences as the reason. In contrast, the second story gives recognizes tension, but invites many remedies to overcome potential conflicts. Communication and understanding are two large aspects in order to obtain conflict transformation. The West and Muslims need to understand the reasoning for differences, instead of escalating them into situations. The second story affects conflict transformation by making it attainable, while the first story simply disregards conflict transformation as a viable outcome.

Post Eight: Muslims in France

Part One

Zemni and Parker criticize the integration of Muslims in Europe by explaining the chronology of migration into Europe. They explain the encouragement of migration in the early 1950s as a means to fill low-wage jobs. This encouragement swiftly transitioned to a negative image of the immigrants after the economic downturns in the 1970s. Again because of the Cold War, the number of immigrants increased as a result of the large number of civilians fleeing their countries and flowing into Western Europe to seek refuge. Zemni and Parker refer to their failure to integrate as a failure to “get ahead.” They failed to adopt cultural norms of the countries they had settled in, separating them from society. Today, these immigrants are no longer referred to as “guest-workers” from a different country, they are now acknowledges as Muslims. Muslims were no longer marginalized for their socioeconomic status or nationality; they were now associated with their Islamic beliefs and linked to a cultural mix. What was once a failure to integrate because of their failure to “get ahead” in their new societies is now a failure to integrate because of cultural differences that are misunderstood by others in their societies.

Europeans attitude toward Muslim integration and multiculturalism set a standard for treatment among European Muslims. The discourse greatly affects the politics of each country and the way politicians understand and interact with Muslims. Zemni and Parker explain that the potentially discrimination of Muslims puts them on the constant defense, as they feel their people are particularly vulnerable. One example given by Zemni and Parker examine the Flemish, who constantly vote the extreme right Flemish Bloc party, but are never questioned or criticized for their consistency agree with their neighborhoods and typically have the exact same views as the people they are closest with. In contrast, Muslim immigrants are questioned judged for their tendency to remain with their neighborhoods and refusal to branch out. Europeans do not consider Islam’s potentially peaceful and fair aspects in their culture. They judge Muslims without understanding their religion or beliefs. Another current example is the current veil bans across Europe. According to BBC, France was the first country to set a precedent for full-face veil bans. Since then, many countries have followed suit in banning veils in public and charging fines for rule breakers. This example shows the fear and uncertainty surrounding the Muslim communities seeping into politics and furthering the discourse affecting Muslims. The ignorance surrounding Muslims is extremely problematic because of the inaccurate tie between Muslims and terrorist, which in tern instills fear and therefore generates unnecessary discrimination. This discrimination is unfair, uncalled for, and unjustified, and greatly affects the moral of Muslims living in Europe.

french_veil

Part Two

Though Muslims and the French both view women as inferior to men in society, the idea of gender and sex are both very different from each other. Islam includes very strict gender codes, including the necessity of the veil, removes the sexual aspect of the human being and prevents the sin of sex to seep into their communities. They believe sex poses a threat for “society and politics.” While Islam is seen as a “system that oppresses women,” n the complete opposite end of the spectrum, France is seen as one who liberates women. France sees sexuality as normal human nature. They has an ideal of “abstract individualism,” which poses a threat to their republicanism. This threat undermines the belief of equality in France. The headscarf sheds light on the limitations of the republic and their shortcomings towards equality. Muslims choose to wear headscarves, which, in turn, oppresses them in the sense that they do not have freedom of dress. They are suppressed rather than liberated.

In addition, the article talks about laïcité, which is French secularism. Secularism is the absence of religion, or the absence of religious pressures in government. Essentially, the term is the French ideal of separation of church, society, and state. The French believe their absolute individualism and laïcité are the only true and correct ways to “organize relations between the sexes.” According to the text, the only solution is to conform or never fully be considered French. French schools banning the headscarf was a way for France to feel they are upholding their individualistic values. The French want to be in control of their own country and their own organization of men and women. When threatened by the desexualization of society by Muslims, France felt its only defense was to ban the threat, rather than understand the threat.

I disagree with France’s decision to ban veils in schools, though I recognize their school of thought. I am from St. Louis County and I went to a Catholic grade school and high school. St. Louis is a hub for religion and religious institutions. Though I am not a very religious Catholic, I would be extremely insulted if I were told that we could no longer wear uniforms, crosses, or some other form religious affiliation to school. I know the United States if very difference from France, but as a woman raised religious, I disagree with France. Again, I would like to reiterate that I do not fully understand France’s point of view, as well as what it’s like to be Muslim, but I feel bad for the Muslims in Europe. I cannot imagine being oppressed because of my religion and being forced to disaffiliate through laws banning religious dress.

Because of France’s ban, countries like Belgium, Spain, Turkey, Italy, and many others have banned veils in schools, public places, and other areas. When issues like this rise, I often want to ask the opposing group, “how is this really affecting you?” Are Muslims’s veils actually decreasing the French quality of life? Is their religious belief of desexualizing women by instituting a strict dress code really your problem? If these individuals had a problem with this belief, perhaps they would become a more liberal form of Islam, change religions, or disaffiliate. Though this may be harder for some people, they have the option to be free in France and other countries. France may believe that veils oppress women, but they women may not feel they are being oppressed.

As I said though, I do recognize it is their country, they have a right to believe what they believe, and the Muslims have a right to leave if they want to fully pursue a life of conservative Islam. France has instilled these beliefs for a long time, and Muslims have an option to leave if they do not agree. This is a difficult controversy, especially because of the increasing wariness towards foreigners, especially Muslims, because of widespread terrorism. I understand both sides of the debate, but in the end, I wish everyone could be accepting of one another and worry about other, important issues.

Picture 1

Post Seven: Islam in Europe

Question 1:

In “Muslims in Europe: A Short Introduction,” Justin Vaisse recognizes four myths involving Muslims in Europe. The first myth is: “being Muslim constitutes a fixed identity, sufficient to fully characterize a person.” Vaisse acknowledges the overwhelming stereotypes given to Muslims, which include, but are not limited to, the disregard of nationality, gender, and other characteristics. When a person identifies themselves as Muslim, he is saying that characteristic is the only characteristic that matters to most people. Yet, this is simply not true. Muslims are not a fixed identity.  Their personal self is much deeper than the religion they associate with.

The second myth he describes is: “Muslims in Europe are, in one way or the other, inherently foreign, the equivalent of visiting Middle-Easterners who are alien to the “native” culture.” This myth describes the idea that Muslims have simply never been fully accepted into the European culture. No matter how long a Muslim has lived Europe, even if they were born in Europe, they are always seen as foreign. Yet, their nationality does mean something, and they are accepted into the country they are citizens of.

The third myth is: “Muslims in Europe form a “distinct, cohesive and bitter group,” in the words of a 2005 Foreign Affairs article.” Vaisse is explaining how the term “Muslim communities” explores a completely different vision than the current situation in Europe. There is no unity among the Muslim inhabitants in Europe, they are dispersed and unified with any region they live in.

Lastly, the fourth myth is: “Muslims are demographically gaining on the “native” population.” Muslims are believed to be living in clusters, unable or unwilling to blend with the rest of the European population. Yet, in many countries, intermarriages and conversions rates are high enough to matter, and many Muslims are simply law-abiding patriots of their countries. They are not “gaining” on any kind of population, simply blending in with them.

religion_politics_fran_maier

Question 2:

Religious and political dimensions of Islam are very different. The importance of distinguishing between the two lies behind the general confusion, stereotypes, and myths that revolve around Muslims. Political Islam, otherwise known as Islamism, is defined by the Merriam-Websiter Dictionary as “a popular reform movement advocating the reordering of government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam.” Political Islam typically refers to governments which have been infiltrated by the Islamic religion and occasionally where Shariah law has been implemented as the law of the land. Typically, these laws are taken to the literal meaning of the text and punishment is nothing short of inhumane. Political Islam fosters the spread of the Islamic faith and elimination of opposing religious beliefs. Some, including Oklahoma state legislature John Bennett, go so far as to say political Islam “…is a social, political system that uses a deity to advance its agenda of global conquest.” Essentially, political Islam’s goal is to spread Islam and Islamic beliefs across the world by any means necessary.

Much different from political Islam, religious Islam refers to Muslims who follow the teachings of the prophet Muhammad and the Qu’ran, which they believe is the literal word of god. Religious Islam is centered around personal belief and practice of the religion. This particular form of Islam is about the person as an individual and bettering themselves through Islamic beliefs.

The main difference between these two types of Islam is individual religious beliefs and growth versus widespread political reformation and conversion based on the religious beliefs. It is important to distinguish between the two because Muslims alone are not political Islamists. Just because a Muslim practices Islamic beliefs and follows the teachings of the Qu’ran does not mean they are a political Muslim. These two groups do not go hand in hand, and one should not assume both parties to be the same thing.

ramadan-kareem-images

Question 3:

In Islam, Europe’s Second Religion, the author Shireen Hunter addresses four critical challenges: understanding subtlety and complexity, spirituality, education, and social rifts. Education is one of the most important aspects of a person’s life, which is why its such an important challenge to overcome. Muslim participation in education is lacking throughout Europe. Hunter explains the role of education as shaping and molding “tomorrow’s adults.” In order to continue creating cohesiveness and equality in Europe, education is an important cornerstone for continued growth.

Social rifts are another key challenge Muslims face in Europe today. First, unemployment is staggering across the European, and specifically the Muslim, population. This unemployment could have a direct correlation with the lack of education. Social exclusion has been a problem for a long time, but does not seem to be relenting for Muslims. Delinquency, violence, and crime affect many towns inhabited by Muslims. Hunter urges all Europeans, no matter their gender, race, ethnicity, or religion, to come together and help close the gap between society and Muslim inclusion. Hunter asks Muslims to look deep into the roots of their religion and use the teachings to provide patience and trust for each other, as well as all citizens of Europe. Hunter recognizes the time cost of this, but acknowledges his belief in unity across Europe.

Ramadan suggestions a couple remedies for these challenges. Ramadan is a month long holiday in which Muslims participate in fasting, donation to charities, nightly prayers, and recitation of the Qu’ran. Ramadan is a reminder for Muslims to stay humble. They refrain from sinful acts and believe they are rewarded for their fasting and good behavior. Donating to charities reminds Muslims that, though they may be oppressed, there are always humans much less fortunate than them. They are reminded to not hate those who oppress them, but to pray for them. Their strong dedication to their faith will be rewarded with righteousness and piety. It keeps Muslims fighting for justice in a peaceful way.

Cover Photo

Image 1

Image 2

Readings about Ramadan

Political Islam vs. Religious Islam

Post Six: Is Aid Worth It?

Part I: Is Development Aid Worth it?

In Poor Economics, Jeffery Sachs and William Easterly explain their opposing stance on development aid. I tend to side more with Sachs, but I like to think of myself as a bipartisan here. Easterly believes the main problem is that it’s easier to take over a countries economic efforts than to know how to make the country run more efficiently, and I agree with this. He worries that development aid leads to persuasion and control by the country providing the aid. Personal agendas trump efficient allocation of aid and corrupt governments do not think for the citizens enough, which I also agree with.

But, Easterly also believes there’s hope; he believes freedom and a free market would be good for developing countries. A free market would mean allowing entrepreneurs find success and promoting citizens to seek out education and health care on their own. I disagree with Easterly on this point; I believe the poor are insufficiently informed about things like healthcare and education. A free market has too many implications for developing countries. I believe it is the governments job to push healthcare and education initiatives onto lower class, uninformed citizens. Those who are unaware and/or unable to pay for these rights should not be excluded from utilizing them. How are the poor, ill, and uneducated expected to turn their lives around without a helping hand to guide them?

Jeffery Sachs, on the other hand, believes corruption as a “poverty trap.” He believes in controlling the distribution of foreign aid to specific causes such as malaria control, food production, safe drinking water, and sanitation. One case study on Uganda, carried out by Reinikka and Svennson, found that schools were only receiving 80% of the money they were entitled to. Headmasters of schools had received less than half of the money owed to them, and launched a formal complaint. They eventually received their money, but the cause of this indiscretion was blamed on the lack of monitoring money and embezzlement (430). This example provides evidence of Sachs’s concerns about development aid, and confirms my agreement with Sachs.

A quote on Forbes website from Angus Deaton, an economist and Nobel prize winner, sums up how I feel about development aid:

This is most obvious in countries – mostly in Africa – where the government receives aid directly and aid flows are large relative to fiscal expenditure (often more than half the total). Such governments need no contract with their citizens, no parliament, and no tax-collection system. If they are accountable to anyone, it is to the donors; but even this fails in practice, because the donors, under pressure from their own citizens (who rightly want to help the poor), need to disburse money just as much as poor-country governments need to receive it, if not more so.

Essentially, I believe in both arguments being made. I agree with Easterly that, in this case, it may be more easier to give a man a fish, and then down the road teach him to finish. Controlling a corrupt government, allocating resources, and running the government for them until they can get on their feet would be much easier than teaching them how to run the government. He also claims $2.3 trillion in aid has been wasted, with little success in eradicating poverty to show for it. I disagree that a free market would be effective for developing countries. I agree with Sachs that a closely monitored aid program would bypass corrupt tendencies and distribute aid to genuine causes. Ultimately, I believe in a hybrid form of both sides. Sachs may be a bit too controlling, but Easterly may be a bit too lassiez-faire.

Part II: Laura Poitras’ Field of Vision

Laura Poitras developed a website called Field of Vision, which is a “filmmaker-driven documentary unit that commissions and creates original short-form nonfiction films about developing and ongoing stories around the globe.” Poitras and her colleagues assign issues to various journalists, filmmakers, and documentarists from around the globe. This website constantly updates, posting new, controversial films about global issues. Field of Vision expedites the process of creating a documentary and releasing it to the world. The website bypasses the lengthy distribution stage of filmmaking, and simply backs various documentaries within weeks of submission.  One aspect that sets this website aside from others is that the website has no hidden agenda. The website is created to use visual aids to simply tell stories.

I believe Poitras’ website is a great tool to address global issues. The website allows filmmakers and journalists from around the globe to submit controversial films in a very public and easily accessible way. Their voices are heard internationally, when they otherwise may not have been heard at all. One shining example is the documentary “Concerned Student 1950,” which came from the very college we attend right now. Field of Vision gave these students a voice and shared their story with a global stage. The website opened thousands of doors for these students.

Though I feel this website has been very successful in reaching individuals regarding tougher subjects, and many students in the class already knew about this website, one concern I have for this method of distributing information is that I had never heard of it. When I want to learn more about global issues, I usually look to the nearest international news sources, such as BBC or CNN. I am not a journalist, but rather a business students, and I rarely find myself watching documentaries. I would much rather read about global issues, especially because I often catch up on news during class or other places where volume is not appropriate. I believe media outlets such as Field of Vision could be much more successful with a written element to the pieces. I understand that this website is focusing on visual journalism, but not everyone has the time or desire to watch a featured film.

I also believe that viral issues are not limited to one medium. To reach the highest number of people, these stories need to be distributed on various web, print, screen, radio, and social media accounts. To be successful, stories need to find their way into the hands of the largest possible reach. Though I do not believe this can be accomplished with one medium, but I do believe Poitras’ documentary website has changed the way films are distributed and will continue to update viewers from around the world on global issues happening today.

Featured image

Fish Image

 

Post 5: Microcredit in Nigeria

Part I: Microcredit; Arguments for and Against.

Microcredit is the lending of small amounts, typically with low interest rates, to low-income individuals or businesses. These loans are usually offered by formal institutions, such as micro-finance institutions (MFIs), or informal lenders. Microcredit has many advantages and disadvantages in Africa. In Poor Economics, Banerjee and Duflo explore microcredit and its ability to combat poverty. They make a few arguments for advantages of microcredit.

Microcredit was partially designed to give economic power to women and allow women to make smart decisions for their families. According to Poor Economics, Padmaja Reddy, owner of Spandana, said that microcredit allows the poor to change their ideas for the future and gives hope and possibility to building a better life. Banerjee and Duflo compared neighborhoods that had been helped by Spandana and neighborhoods with no microcredit offerings and found obvious signs of Spandana success. The neighborhoods with Spandana were more likely to have started some sort of business or wisely invested in durable goods. Those who started a business were consuming less and saving their money, which is incomparable to the reckless spending that was said to be an issue. More specifically, spending decreased on items that women had previously said they wanted to give up, such as tea, cigarettes, and alcohol (290-291).

Yet, in the same study of neighborhoods, Banerjee and Duflo also found that women were not necessarily being empowered, and there was no change in spending on health or education.  Though the small loans helped small businesses and cut household spending, they did not translate into women empowerment or smarter spending habits. Another limitation of microcredit is the overwhelming disinterest in borrowing money to start a business, even when it is available. Microcredits have many more rules, regulations, and time constraints than borrowing from informal moneylenders. Microcredits come with a “zero default” clause, which often deters borrowers (320). Another drawback to micro-loans is that humans are not always rational when handed money. In 2010, because of government laws making payment collections difficult, borrowers were defaulting, and losses were racking up quickly for lenders. The government claimed the individuals did not know what they were getting into when they borrowed money; therefore, leaving lenders with no options for collection. Lastly, a very few percent of individuals qualify to take out a microcredit loan, so many households in desperate need of loans are unable to get them. Essentially, Banerjee and Duflo believe microcredit has its problems, but it is still a small but essential element in the fight against poverty.

nigeria_country-page-banner

Part II: Micro-financing and Money in Nigeria.

Micro-financing in Nigeria began in December 2005. By 2012, Nigeria had about 1000 micro-finance banks (MFBs), which are licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria to extend credit, as well as other micro-financing services, to the public. In 2010, a study by the Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access Financial Sector Development Organization found that between 2005 and 2010 the number of Nigerians being served by a formal financial market increased from 35% to 36.3%. In 5 years, only 1.3% more Nigerians were being served by MFBs. The Central Bank of Nigeria acknowledges this shortcoming on its website and also acknowledges that 46.3% of the adult population are fully financially excluded in Nigeria. One strong indicator of microcredit improving life in Nigeria would be a decrease in poverty, but Nigeria has been reporting an increase in poverty since 1980.

Nigeria’s currency is the naira. The naira is easy exchanged with other currencies, and is used for trade.

Though things are looking bleak for Nigeria’s micro-financing programs, technology has paved a new road for them. According to allAfrica,

“Innovative digital technologies and services are enabling microfinance banks (MFBs) to scale up their activities in ways that were not possible before using the banks’ traditional distribution model, a new report by Ericsson has revealed.”

-Obinna Chima,

Mobile data has the ability to help hundreds of millions of individuals who were otherwise unable to connect with micro-finance banks and receive microcredit. Mobile phones eliminate the need to visit a physical bank and go through traditional transactions. This allows farmers, entrepreneurs, and any other rural-living individuals an opportunity to receive short-term loans. This extended outreach could potentially have a huge impact on the poverty levels in Nigeria.

In many parts of the world, mobile phone companies have already teamed up with banks and data analytics. They automatically check for credit risk and are able to bypass many steps usually taken to assess potential borrowers. This could even lead to a decreased lender’s risk, causing interest rates to fall and making microcredit available to more Nigerians.

Nigeria’s digital economy is slow-moving for it’s population size. Many entrepreneurs and small business owners are not taking full advantage of their online digital economy. Nigeria is the largest mobile market in Africa, which allows analytic specialists to gain information on the economy in Nigeria and develop a strategy for businesses to better serve the nation as a whole. Mobile banks and internet banking systems are currently active in Nigeria and increasing the ease at which transactions can be made. Though online banking has assisted with the emerging middle class, these advances are unhelpful for the poor in Nigeria. With little to no access to internet, these advances in technology have no effect on the poorest Nigerians and will not help with loans of any kind.

While microcredit and micro-financing in Nigeria are barely helping with the poverty issue in Nigeria, some help is better than no help. Nigeria has a rapidly increasing population and a lack of resources, jobs, and services for all of their occupants. The many NGOs and MFBs are continuously helping to change the direction Nigeria is headed, and these organizations are working daily to get microcredit to Nigerians who qualify and are working with the poor to make them eligible to qualify. The road to ending poverty is long and treacherous, but with the help of micro-financing, along with other techniques, we can fight poverty.

Central Bank of Nigeria
MICROFINANCE AND POVERTY REDUCTION IN NIGERIA: A Critical Assessment
Technology and Microfinance
Mobile Phones in Nigeria

Images:

http://www.pugul.com/2015/03/what-is-microfinance-define-microfinance.html

https://www.accion.org/nigeria

 

 

Post Four: Nigeria: Will They Ever Be Free?

Part I:

Emmanuel N. Onwubiko is a Nigerian journalist, born in the early 1970’s in Kafanchan, Nigeria. He is a modern day human rights activist, writer, and “cheetah.” He attended Nigeria Institute of Journalism and graduated with flying colors. He had his own column in Nigeria’s The Guardian, said to be the “flagship of print journalism.” He was the Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission, and he is currently the head of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). He writes for many human rights newsletters and is a member of many other human rights and peace committees in Nigeria.

Onwubiko, having lost his brother and uncle, as well as being shot himself, fights tirelessly against terrorism in Nigeria. He has written two notable books on human rights, and has sold tens of thousands of copies world-wide. He was a delegate to the United Nations about criminal justice in Bangkok. He met with the US Ambassador to Nigeria to speak about the injustices inflicted on citizens by the military. He is very open about his opposition to Islamic terrorist groups and puts himself in danger having this stance. He often talks about the Nigerian economy, resource curse, military injustices, and government corruption.

Recently, in an effort to be heard, Onwubiko’s group HURIWA requested Nigerian travelers to stop using British Airways and other airlines because of corrupt practices that were not being addressed. This group has written over six thousand media releases pertaining to human rights and has a large following. In May 2016, the group reacted to the European Union and foreign embassies over an invasion of offices, which was seen as an active attempt to silence the media team. His non-governmental organization is ridiculing Nigeria’s government over its suppression of free speech.

Every day, Onwubiko fights for the rights of every human in Nigeria and around the world. He attacks terrorist groups with his words and puts his life in danger to save the lives of others. He uses his significant online following to enlighten supporters on their rights and the rights that are being withheld throughout Nigeria. Onwubiko is a cheetah in every sense of the word and should be recognized for his unwavering desire for peace and human rights.

 

screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-5-21-53-pm

In Chapter 3 of Emerging Africa, Radelet highlight democracy in developing countries and its importance for prosperous growth. Though he does not define democracy by any one definition, he gives some elements to recognize democracy by. These include popular sovereignty, freedom of speech, laws, minority rights, basic human rights, control of the military, and a checks and balances system. Radelet offers different avenues to discover the democratic ranking of different countries. Though being led by a democratic party for over 15 years, Nigeria still has a long way to go.

According to Freedom House, one of Radelet’s suggestions, Nigeria is a “partly free” country. 2015 was the first time an opposing party won the election and power was peacefully transitioned to the winning party. The government is still corrupt, and political rights are just barely above average. In fact, the government is so corrupt that corruption is considered a norm in Nigeria. Civil liberties are vastly lacking in Nigeria, and many freedoms are poorly welcomed. Calling Nigeria “democratic” country seems like an overstatement. Rather than a country ruled by the people, the country is ruled only by the people who hold office. Human rights, equality, and fairness are not priorities for the Nigerian government.

Systemic Peace has noted slight improvements in authority since the transition to democracy in the late 1990s. Though only partly free, Young African Leaders Initiative is currently active in Nigeria, and in the next two years, Nigerians will have access to a “state-of-the-art YALI spaces.” This organization has opened many doors for Nigerians wanting an education and will continue to educate Nigerians on their rights. Nigeria is in a buffer state between dictatorship and law-abiding, full functioning democracy, and hopefully will find its way sooner rather than later.

 

Part II:

           In Chapter 4 of “Poor Economics,” Banerjee and Duflo emphasize the similar importance of education in developing countries. Though still advancing, Nigeria is vastly lacking in terms of education. Nigeria has the highest GDP in Africa and has enough financial aid for better education. Nigeria is aided by multiple NGOs including the African Foundation for Education and Development, Education for All Initiative, Youth Education and Leadership Initiative, and 48 others.

          Though the United States organization YALI is currently very active among Nigerians, this seems to be the only successful education initiative. Yet, in 2o14, Nigeria has 523,346 primary school classrooms (about 60% of the total needed), 170,642 secondary schools (about 70% of the total needed), and about 138 universities. In addition, 10.5 million children were not in school; this is almost half of the child population in Nigeria. Enrollment rates were dropping because of the increasing child population.

          Furthermore, According to UNICEF, the literacy rate for males is a mere 75%, while only 58% for females. Currently, everything Nigeria is doing, education wise, seems to be failing them. They have limited statistics on the amount of foreign aid distributed to education, but a BBC article posted in 2012 claims 102 million euros from the UK towards Nigerian education yielded little to no signs of improvement. It is clear that everything Nigeria is currently doing to increase availability of education is falling short of the MDGS and SDGs.

 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmanuel_N._Onwubiko

https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2015/nigeria

Picture: http://elendureports.com/n/opinion/the-sorry-state-of-nigerias-education-system/

http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/nigeria_statistics.html

http://www.aworldatschool.org/country/nigeria

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-20405140

 

Post Three: Africa: its Successes and its Setbacks

In Emerging Africa, How 17 Countries are Leading the Way, Radelet classifies the people of Africa into two different categories. The first category, found in chapter seven, includes the “Cheetahs” or “the cheetah generation.” Coined by Ghanaian economist George Ayittey in 2010, this category can be defined by its strong dedication to reinvent Africa through transparency, democracy, and foreign affairs. The Cheetahs are likely to be younger and comprised of many African professionals and affluent graduates who see a better future for their home. These educated and driven citizens are looking for complete government and economic reform for all struggling nations in Africa. Much different from the Cheetahs, and the second category Radelet recognizes, is the “Big Man,” or the hippo generation. In chapter 3, Radelet defines this generation as radical and slow-moving. Much like the name suggest, these individuals believe in dictatorship, which consumed almost all of Africa until recently. The hippo generation may be seen as selfish and ruthless, believing personal gain is more important than communal gain. They find solace only with the thought of international financial support.

These terms explain the new way by which younger generations view democracy and civil society. By giving democratic supporters and civil society advocates a nickname, we are now looking at each individual and accrediting them with specific characteristics. Through the name “Cheetahs,” we are imagining determined, predatory, swift animals who believe in their principles and will fight hard for them. Generations have shifted their support of dictatorship to an unwavering support for democracy and human rights. Democracy and civil society are no longer viewed as a western, first world country luxury, but a genuine possibility for all countries.

 

food-schools

http://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/january-2007/food-keeps-african-children-school

 

Though it is no secret, nutrition in poor countries is a major health problem. Banerjee and Duflo remind us that, while Africa is first thought of as a continent of malnourished countries, hunger is not bound by the boarders of Africa. This is global issue. As explained in Poor Economics, a lack of food is not the problem. My pantry alone has enough to feed 30 individuals for a day. The problem is the allocation of food across the world. Banerjee and Duflo even recognize an almost bigger problem; when given extra money to purchase food, the poor choose to spend the money on less nutritious, more expensive food, rather than the food that would sustain them for longer. Banerjee and Duflo believe that the smartest way to combat this is to specifically focus on pregnant women and young children. We need to rethink food aids to all poor countries and start focusing on the cornerstone of communities. Making smart, nutritional decisions starts with a solid nutritional foundation, and ultimately leads to a healthier, more productive work force.

In the book, the authors bring up the almost taboo ritual that is witch hunting. These witch hunts are much different than the ones in the late 1960s that first come to mind. They come as a result of desperation. When resources are lacking, citizens of impoverished countries justify these hunts as a means of providing more resources for themselves. They look for someone to blame and sacrifice, and by doing this they have more resources for themselves. These witch hunts are just one of the many extreme injustices that result from the lack of food and nutrition.

http://nigeriadevelopingworldproject.weebly.com/poverty-in-nigera.html

 

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with a population of 182 million. Nigeria is a democratic, federal republic which borders the Atlantic Ocean on the western side of Africa. One of Nigeria’s largest problems is its poverty rate, which reaches more than half the population at 62.6%. The first goal of the SDGs is to end poverty, which is a clear shortcoming in the nation of Nigeria. Nigeria’s GDP peaked in 2014 at about $568 billion and has since gone down, leaving them with a GDP of about $481 billion. In addition, their unemployment rate has just reached its highest since 2009 at 13.3%. These are another clear shortcoming of sustained economic growth and employment for all, the eighth goal of the SDGs.  The last notable shortcoming involves the eleventh goal, which is to make human settlements safe. Nigeria’s biggest export is petroleum. The trading of stolen crude oil fuels violence in Nigeria, leaving some unsafe places to live. However, Nigeria has made some great strides. They have a student enrollment rate of 83%, which is only on the rise. Oil prices have risen globally, which will hopefully benefit Nigeria with more income. Lastly, agriculture is growing through its Agriculture Transformation Agenda, which will hopefully bring more sustainable economic growth to Nigeria. The SDGs in Nigeria seem to be equal in successes and drawbacks, and there is definitely room for improvement.

More info:

http://www.ng.undp.org/content/nigeria/en/home/countryinfo/

http://data.worldbank.org/country/nigeria