The religious and ethnic divides of Europe’s Muslims

The contemporary arrival in Europe of different peoples from the developing areas, but most especially from Islamic states, has ignited a number of dire predictions concerning the future of (secular) European political and social systems, ranging from observers such as Omer Taspinar and Daniel Pipes to novelist Jean Raspail to journalist Oriana Fallaci to politicians such as Jean-Marie Le Pen and Jörg Haider.109 In the most extreme versions, European culture and civilization are deemed unable to withstand the onslaught, and European standards of what constitutes civil society will succumb to this “Islamic threat.” To be sure, Muslims currently in Europe have created certain types of social, economic, and even political organizations, but they have not done so in any unified fashion. There has been a notable lack of success in achieving national policy goals sympathetic to Islamic ideals and goals. It is the structure of the religion, and how it is interpreted, practiced, and invoked by its adherents from different Muslim states, which is one of the important reasons Muslims’ political influence through standard democratic channels remains limited. Even as Europe seems to provide some Muslims with the opportunity to create an Islam detached from cultures, ethnicities, and states, that possibility is confounded by the multiple meanings, practices, and claims to spiritual leadership which the decentralized structure of Islam allows.

The European states with large Muslim populations do exercise a modicum of care in their foreign policies towards Turkey, Algeria, and the other regions of the world from which their Muslim immigrants have come. They do not, however, allow it to determine their foreign policy, and they need not: Muslim opinion about “homeland” politics is, as we have shown, divided. Britain went to war in Iraq in 2003 despite its Muslim community; France did not, partly due to its earlier ties with Iraq and to the Muslim populations in France, but also due to its belief that war was not the way to resolve the Saddam question. Germany’s refusal to go to war in 2003 had more to do with the German population’s references than with those of its (largely disenfranchised) Muslim community. When considerations of power and threat come into play, the views of a divided, strategically weak community are not generally considered.

[…]Without attempting a thorough analysis of Europe’s relations with the Islamic states, a topic far beyond the confines and purposes of this
article, it should be noted that the European states have not made any effort to accommodate or accept the more extreme Islamist goals of certain international movements which claim Islam as the basis for their ideology and goals (e.g. al-Qa’ida), and therefore our primary point remains valid. Muslims also have other disadvantages to organizing: Islam cannot claim to be a “natural” resident and institution of Western and Central Europe; Muslims therefore face a substantial hurdle to attaining acceptance and legitimacy. Many Muslims arrived as guest workers, whom most in Europe (at least originally) thought would return to their countries of origin. Further, Muslims have often faced strident racism; their homes have been fire-bombed, individuals have been drowned in rivers by Neo-Nazis, and occasionally brutally murdered.110 Such factors obviously create barriers to organization. Yet the characteristics of the immigrants—the fact that they are immigrants from different countries practicing a decentralized religion with very different traditions—works against the creation of a unified Islamic movement in any Western European country.

The above can be contrasted to the rantings of pundits like The Failed Disc Jockey. Of course, unlike other ‘academic’ reports, such a measured report will not get front page coverage. This says a lot about how the news agenda is linked to certain political (and commercial) interests in our societies.

Related:
Free(d) speech
Sleep walking into class segregation

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