Muslims and the Charlie Hebdo Saga.
[Of recent, newspapers across Europe carry headlines portraying Muslim radicalism. This is true giving the complicity of Muslim youth in various violent attacks. The headlines resonate amidst the growing nationalism in Europe, deeply tainted and lanced with conservatism. The Charlie Hebdo attack equally reiterated the protracted debates on the extent to which Islam is compatible with Western ethos. The attack further brought to surface the issue of freedom of expression, an essential part of Western democracy.
This raises questions such as: who determines and what constitutes the public sphere; what are the lines of distinctions between the private and public domains; should there be a level of shared respect between the majority and minority; are European Muslims an integral part of the mainstream European society; what factors shape the radicalization of European Muslim youth; does religion actually have huge space in their minds; and, how much does constructivism present and resolve the protracted debate between the European Muslim community and the host society. Radicalization of European Muslim youth is less of ideology, but more of socio-economic deprivation. - Author. ]
Long before Muslims were charged with the successive violent attacks on different European streets, there have been protracted debates about the compatibility of Western values and Islamic ethos, and whether or not Muslims have failed to integrate or the European societies have otherwise failed to integrate them. By the dawn of the Second World War, Europe was significantly devastated and the post-war era demanded the reconstruction of the continent. Given the huge death toll and lack of manpower of native Europeans to rebuild the continent, Europe embarked on an open door policy towards her former colonies. The result was the substantive mobility of immigrants to Europe, they were allowed to come and rebuild the continent, but at the same time, economically enrich themselves before returning home.
Welcoming Muslims from former colonies into Europe opened a new phase in Europe-Muslim World relations. A shift from the master-slave relations to that of interdependence, both stood to gain.
Since the immigrants are seen as guest workers, not expected to seek permanent residence but to return home, therefore Europe felt they would be returning home not just economically strong, but technically and skillfully equipped. The new phase of relations opened a new form of revenue for the home countries in the form of foreign remittances and more importantly it created a juncture of understanding between the host and sending governments.
It is worth mentioning that the European open door policy was never meant to provide permanent residential status to the immigrants, considered as guest workers. The immigrants stayed back in Europe, giving the socio-economic and welfare system non-existent in their home countries. These economic migrants became the first generation of European Muslims, having less propensity for public and religious visibility. With the passage of time, and an increase in numerical strength, later generations of Muslims made a tangent from religious invisibility to visibility in the public sphere. The craving for a niche in the public sphere generated the clash of interest between the host and Muslim communities.
By and large the host society was forced to recognise the presence of the immigrant community by taking into consideration their needs that could pave way for integration. The European societies differently employed varied approaches to giving the immigrant community some amount of sense of belonging.
Britain obviously stands out in the provision of social benefits to its immigrant community through the practice of multicultural society, a style long practiced by the Dutch.
France, in fact, was more conservative than other countries.It sees itself as the heart of European secularism, hence immigrants are thrown the options of assimilation with the French system or remain isolated. Germany went through a relatively conservative yet lenient position towards her immigrants by honouring some of their cultural and religious demands. In fact GerdienJonker noted that the relations between Germany's Muslim community and the larger society went through three stages.
Italy has no concept of ethnic minority, while Spain maintains strict opposition to any conspicuous Muslim venture. Both Mediterranean countries are predominantly Catholic societies, wherein the Church remains a leading influential figure having cultural and socialization role-play, though these countries claim being secular. Jocelyne Cesari captures the picture rightly in view of the local and national influence of the Catholic Church in both Spain and Italy.
Continental Europe has long been protective from aliens and such propensity never gave full opportunity to Europe to deal adequately with the influx of immigrants. Therefore, in a matter of years due to the long stay of these immigrants and their social implications, European nations had to develop an integration policy for these immigrants.
It would be no misplacement of reality that relations between Europe and her Muslim immigrant populations were not that coercive or explicit discriminatory; it was rather silent-accommodating-co-existence. 9/11, 7/7, Madrid train blast and various other events opened the Pandora box and the relational issues that have been silently addressed suddenly became a politicized, cultural and social matter, generating spectrum of views from scholars, laymen, media and the likes.
Meanwhile, the recent most attacks (in France, Belgium and Denmark) further strained the already charged anti-Muslim and anti-Islam atmosphere, and therefore demand further effort on part of theMuslims in Europe to ascertain the impeccability of their community. The polemics against the European Muslim community has no direct bearing with the older generations, who have sojourned in Europe for a different reason. Unlike the first generation, the latter generations are citizens born and groomed in Europe, versed and educated in the Western values, and simultaneously sharing a different worldview of religion, when juxtaposed with older generation. The later generation unlike the first generation is more religiously conscious and prone to using their right as citizens to forge constructive public debates. The demand by these European citizens (Muslim) for equal representation and visibility in the public sphere brought to surface conflict of interest.
Arguably, the mainstream complacency of Muslim's silent mode was disrupted as the demand for active public visibility by them rises. Such demand for public visibility has never been the preoccupation of undocumented or illegal Muslim immigrants; they lack the capacity and legitimacy to make their voice known on such matter. Hence, we need to quickly strip the seed from the chaff; legal citizens of Europe are the frontrunners of this demand, which turned out as clash of interest. But the question is why the reservations against their voice, if truly European Muslims are citizens of their new homes.
Constructivism and Legitimization
Regardless of whether or not Europe believes, promotes and practices secularism, the argument of Muslims against the sacrilegeof their religious figures will remain elusive and a long standing debate, not until the Muslim communities are considered part of the whole. The voice and public demand of Muslims will practically cease to make any resonation, if the latter communities either remain disenfranchised or deemed alien. Constructively, the legitimacy of Muslims' argument and positive response to their demands plausibly depend on these questions:
One: What is the veracity of Islam and Muslims in Europe?
Two: How truly are European Muslim communities seen as an integral essence of the mainstream?Are they actually welcomed as part of the whole?
Three: Does the mainstream society see the Muslim communities as sharing cultural unity with the rest of the society?
Four: Are Muslim actors considered as legitimate and worthy representative and negotiator?
The European mainstream society is constructively having the latitude to legitimise Muslim communities. In the event that Muslim legitimacy is established, the path towards adequate public sphere recognition and legitimation will follow and thus, the voice and demand of Muslims will start resonating meaningfully. More importantly, such legitimation will pave way for the stabilization of power relations within the society. Hence, the argument supporting freedom of expression and the counter arguments that follows can perceptively be placed within the constructivist paradigm, of whether or not Muslims are integral part of the society and how much prerogative they hold to challenge the conventional wisdom of freedom of expression.
A closer assessment of the debates between European Muslims and the larger European society, makes one to infer that such debates are constructed around who and what actually decide and differentiate the public from the private. The majority and the European political elites institutionalize their arguments legally of how the public sphere should be conducted. This is true for the hijab/niqab, mosques, minaret, and animal slaughtering debates.
Most Europeans would argue that their society is secularly structured and therefore the place of religion is nothing less than the private. The socio-economic and political system since the outbreak of the French revolution had ceased the preponderance of religion from the public sphere, and more importantly the secular cum political elites understand, deliberate and make decisions on public matters from a secularist prism. Such argument presents the overwhelming hold of dominant ideology, culture and institutions, hence the secularization of European power structure. An opposition to the latter (in the shape of religious or Muslims' demand for tangible public representation) will not be mere challenge, but an affront to the dominant and acceptable culture.
This reason explicates why the argument of Muslims has failed and unable to get any cogent and tangible reception within the European mainstream. Acceptance and toleration of Islamic ethos will be a denial of the jealously guided European prejudice of secular tradition, whilst, a direct challenge to the cultural edifice of modern Europe. European Muslims are nowhere closer to having political institutions representing their community in the true sense of it, though their constituencies have always solicited the support of political establishment promising to serve their interest. Intuitively, the political power or leverage to bargain effectively and challenge the power structure remains wanting factors for the Muslims.
At certain point in European history, enmity and antagonism of the Islamic faith and Muslims was intensively propagated by the religious establishment (Church), who often characterize Islam and Muslims as anti-Christ. History is indelible on the extent to which religious scholars across Europe wrote extensively, designating Islam with wrong semantic and paints. Though in the recent times, the Church might not be at the forefront of Muslim antagonism, rather her bequeathed legacy has been seeded, with ramifications in all aspects of the so-called secularized establishment, particularly in the academic institutions. Hence, the new faces of protagonist against the Muslims and Islam cannot be isolated from the legacy of the Church. The polemic against the Islamization of Europe is a rooted part of European history.
During its age of glory, the Church was actively instrumental in constructing a well religious tainted narratives against Muslims in the holy land, accused of seizing the birth place of Christianity. The enmity of European powers against Muslim rule of Iberian Peninsula and later confrontation with the Ottoman was no less the machination and influence of the Church. All of these are essential parts of European experience and hence, the growing visibility of Muslims in terms of numerical strength and as citizens bolsters the Islamization of Europe polemic.
For any serious observer of European socio-political and economic landscape, adequate answers to the unfurling trend of conservatism should not be far-fetched. Of recent, the hibernated European conservatism has been de-hibernated at both public and political level, characterized by the sense of nationalism, anti-immigration, anti-globalization, anti-supranational establishment and above all anti-Islam and Muslims. The polemic of the conservative revolves around the fundamental fear; calling attention to the growing extrication of European identity. For them, the veracity of European identity is at stake, European identity is losing out to globalization, multiculturalism and religion as opposed to her secular individualism. The polemic of the European conservative seeks inspiration from the constructivist paradigm, arguing how identity get reconstructed around societal values, ethics, history and long shared heritage.
The new drift of European conservatism is unique because it has not simply brought on same page the political elites and popular street, but it also represents a commonly shared ground between the two.
The idea of European conservatism has become a rooted public sentiment and socially constructed. Conservatism in Europe is a concoction of nationalism, garnished with anti-globalization and greased by anti-Islam sentiment. Past is the epoch, when Europe credit itself as being receptive to multiculturalism. Prior to the eventual and recent rise of Europe political right, the writing had already been scribed on the wall for a paradigm shift. European political leadership was already all out against the notion of multiculturalism;notably Germany, Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands. The notion that Europe belongs only to a true European, having a cognitive, idealistic, political and above all cultural attachment to the continent of Europe was no strange advocacy of the conservative. Gone are days, when the Church and religious elites made a religious canvas of Europe, an era characterized as Christian Europe.
That legacy never disappeared with the off-scene or the relegation of the religious establishment. Arguably, the notion of European-ness was politically, culturally, geographically and religiously rebranded by the new political elites. The recent most form of European conservatism breaks the usual cleavage between the public and political authority. The political display of the right and its conservative rhetoric was not simply consolidated, but equally legitimized through recent European parliament election victory. The latter was an unchallenged testimony of the shared sentiment held by the masses and the political elite.
Understanding European conservatism demands a perspective. On one hand is the policy manifestation of the trend, which underpins the Muslims question of negotiating and enduring between visibility and invisibility in the public sphere. The manifestations are depicted by the spectrum of challenges towards the Muslim community, the obstruction to mosque construction, parliamentary laws banning hijab and niqab, permission to observe prayer (salat) during work hours, refusals tojobs for religious reason, racial discrimination, lack of political participation, ghettoization, media discrimination and stereotyping (premised on press freedom), rightist politicians sentimentalism, sacrilegious attitude towards creed and religious figures, European immigration laws, issue of citizenship and secularism, all of these are well depicted in Cesari's work on Why the West Fears Islam.
On the other, European conservatism is a response to the forces and trends supposedly external to the integrity of the continent. Foremost of all is immigration, which dilutes the homogeneous cultural setting of Europe. In the case of Muslims, Islamic cultural values generate climate of competition and muscles-flexing with the native culture. Naturally, immigrants settling in a new milieu are expected to assimilate with the mainstream, instead of being a part of the whole. European Muslim community has been successively accused of failing to either integrate or assimilate, hence lacking the credentials of true citizenship. In the aftermath of 9/11 in the United States, 7/7 in London, Madrid train blast and subsequent other dreadful acts, most European governments, media, academicians and rightist politicians became more wary of their Muslim communities.
Recent Charlie Hebdo related attacks have steered and reiterated the mantra of incompatibility of Islam and Western values on one hand and simultaneously served well into the anti-immigration narratives of European rightist movement and the whole spectrum of European conservatism particularly against Islam and Muslims. The atmosphere of fear is galvanized; stereotype views of Muslims get accentuated via persuasive media coverage. The media hype exacerbates the climate of mistrust and widens the gulf of understanding between host majority group and minority Muslim community. It is worth mentioning that conservatives' rhetoric does not necessarily express the majority Muslim position and has no pertinence with the real concerns of the millions of Muslims in Europe.
The Financial crisis
Although European social system ostensibly project itself as fair, flat and equal for all, regardless of the background, socio-cultural and political affiliation, the manifest reality of an unfair and disproportionate socio-economic status amongst European citizens, rather portrays the system otherwise. Liberal capitalism has proven its worth and capable of meeting the test of time, embedded with enormous opportunities for the willing and capable. From the lens of political economy, capitalism has equally proven how capable it is of creating inequality and hence dislocation. Such dislocation has become the perilous manifestation of urbanisation and industrialisation. The recent past global financial crisis and the Eurozone financial trauma explicate, to a large extent, how the entire world grappled to emancipate itself from the yoke of capitalism, though the wrath of capitalism was disproportionate between the haves and have-not.
Giving the magnitude and length of the crisis, the citizens that were already socially trodden were at the receiving end of the brunt and harsh reality of the crisis. Of course it compounded the travails of the already socially disenfranchised and dislocated ones taking shelter in Europe's fourth world.
In addition to economic and financial resentments, cultural antipathy adds to the list of worries against the progression of globalization. The transnational mobility of cultures in a borderless world of globalization has generated debates amongst those subscribing to a rainbow world and a mono-cultural society. The persistent debates surrounding the presence of Muslims in Europe, the global discourse about Islam and more pertinently the recent happenings across Europe, associated with Muslims provide strong ammunition for anyone suggesting the incompatibility of Islam and Western values. In a complex world of globalization, Europe is forced to socially reconstruct her identity. In a similar lens, the multifaceted challenges confronting European Muslims, should the struggle over public sphere visibility be accorded similar anti-globalization analysis?
The 'clash of civilizations' by Huntington, though a controversial work, was a contemporary work with high intellectual discourse. It was challenged by the epistemic community as yet another display of traditional Orientalism, while others 'dismissed it as somewhat strange if not downright wrong'. Regardless of the controversies associated with the clash of civilizations thesis, Samuel Huntington elucidates our understanding of European conservatism (be it rightist or Muslim). His argument goes forth, in an increasing globalized world, where identity is more likely blurred by the self-acclaimed global identity, and where certain conscious people would turn repulsive to the trend and would rather reconstruct or redefine their position by reemphasizing their identity. This is not only true for Muslims nurturing and harboring fear that globalization is eroding their tradition and identity.
It is equally true for Europe, wherein conservatives are struggling to preserving their European identity amidst the growing wave of globalization. Hence the incidents that preceded the Charlie Hebdo saga and others that followed underpinned the struggle against European identity of freedom of expression and globalization. Although for Europe, globalization cannot be singled out as the main source of fear, likely to cause the extrication of European identity, or better still national identity (nationalism). European conservatives are proactively wary of regionalism (the EU project) undermining national integrity and identity.
Hence, is the threat of Islamic fundamentalism real, is it a clandestine conspiracy to shroud Islam and Muslims as violent or simply a response by Muslims to a perceived threat of global anti-Islamic sentiments. Each of these questions deserves a contemplative mind to dissect with honest and persevere rigor. Despite the recent waves of the violence seen across Europe, purportedly committed by young Muslims and the sentiments that followed both at popular and policy levels, is it apt to suggest that Islam and Muslims are fundamental threat to Europe.
Reacting to the Danish attack, Soren Esperson, deputy chairman of the Danish People's Party, a right-wing populist party, averred the frequency of the attacks suggest a copycat trend and further drew complicity of Islam in the whole saga "Of course this has something to do with Islam just as the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades and witch burning had something to do with Christianity," ....if Christianity had "dealt with its fanatics," Islam "must now do the same." However, it will be a misplacement of sentiment and misleading to assert that the entireEurope is anti-Islam. Pope Francis and the leader of Jewish community disapproved of freedom of expression that insults others faith. Pope Francis's sensitivity of religious harmony is a reminiscence of Pope John Paul II's legacy, who said "a clash ensues only when Islam or Christianity is misconstrued or manipulated for political or ideological ends."
It is natural that making decision to relocate in a foreign country or maintaining a permanent residence outside one's country demands deep thinking. One possible challenge for immigrant relocating to a foreign society is getting fitted into a new cultural milieu. This might be more worrisome if there exit vivid difference between the host and immigrant cultures, hence, the contention over values, norms, social setup, institutions and identity in a new locale. In this backdrop, the idea that European Muslims are grappling with identity crisis is not unique, rather in perspective. Besides, European Muslims like most migrants are often disposed with limited options than to live in isolation, within a secluded community for multiple reasons. Isolated communities of immigrants are either economic or identity community, the latter often relates to the propensity of preserving home culture and tradition.
Giving their low economic and political potentials, most immigrant communities do not always stand competitive enough for the institutionalized European economic and social structure, and hence the unfair, imbalance and unequal socio-economic status of most immigrant communities. Such communities always turn out to be what Castell refers to as the fourth world and symbolism for social dislocation, source of discontentment and feeding radicalism. One thing was common in the news media narratives about the young European Muslims, who chose the path of radicalism amidst European rooted social welfare scheme, they all hailed from the less privileged European neighborhood.
Northwest London Boys, Buttes-Chaumont group in northeastern Paris, Norrebro, an immigrant area of the Danish capital; these European neighborhoods are significantly populated by immigrants, who are socio-economically disenfranchised by the system. Kids from these neighborhoods are caught between two worlds, housing projects and posh neighborhood.
Youth from these neighborhoods are far from being daft to logically understand the working of European system and the differential living standard, which in turn provides strong premise for discontentment. Ultimately, the perceived systematic exclusion is liable to creating an inward looking propensity, a soul search in an isolated community and the tendency to constructing a different identity, which might though be antithesis to the conventional norm.
Aggrieved by different forms of perceived mistreatments. One, being disenfranchised, estranged and marginalized in the sphere they regarded as home without any sense of belonging. Two, they are bewildered by the perceived injustice and invasion of Muslim societies, stretching from Somalia to Palestine.
Citizenship comes with civic culture and trust in the system. The least trait of citizenship should be expected from the person harboring the feeling of being disenfranchised, estranged and marginalized. Demanding sound citizenship from European Muslims will make headway, when these fixable areas are honestly considered by European governments and policy makers. Doing this will keep a tab on many social challenges emanating out of the Muslim neighborhood.
Socialization and environment play significant role in the making of personality, behavior of an individual can be socially constructed and can be either positively or negatively swayed. European Muslim youth are not genetically prone to proscribed behaviors and same is true for native white European far-right activists or those espousing neo-Nazi tendency. Actions of European Muslim youth more often than not always catch public attention, while same public would downplay the atrocities and acts of proscription of native white European on flimsy premises. The recent atrocities of European Muslim youth across European cities was receptive to enormous media talks, while the terrorism committed by Germanwings (Lufthansa) Pilot was shelved and cautiously labeled suicidal and action of a mentally disturbed person.
It demands no hard logic that because the Germanwings (Lufthansa) Pilot's identity has nothing to do with Islam, hence he was exonerated from the label of terrorist, a tag the western media are always swift to dish out, when issues are involving Muslims. This is no less a form of unequal and ill-representation, and that is a vivid remainder of Edward Said's Covering Islam. Since violence is not a monopoly and specialty of any particular race or group, the alacrity with which Western media associate terrorist attacks with Islam and Muslim is alarming and disgusting, yet they would be swift to publish such things without substantial evidence to affirm their position. This was true for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, 2011 Oslo terror attack, and 2015 deliberate killing of 150 passengers by Andreas Lubitz, a Germanwings Co-Pilot; all perpetuators were White Christian terrorists.
If Andreas Lubitz was psychologically disillusioned and deeply depressed and successfully committed heinous act of terror by killing innocent 150 persons, such pretense of depression should never be exclusive of non-Muslims, there should be no exceptionalism in criminality. Duplicity and double standard response to events (of terrorism) are nourishment for radicalism, hatred and anti-West if not anti-European. The depression and disillusion thesis surrounding Andreas's crime is evidently weightless, he was reported to have been surfing the internet on how best to commit suicide. Hence, his case should be a nuance in our understanding of terrorism. Media coverage of Charlie Hebdo (and others that followed) and the coverage of Andreas Lubitz's terrorist crash tell a lot about media selectivity of how issues related to Muslims and non-Muslims are handled.
Arguably, such doing invariably strengthens the prejudice against Muslim community, supporting the notion that Islamophobia in Europe is a rooted societal trend.
The recent and rampant killings of African Americans and disclosures that followed, speak a lot about the nature of justice system in the U.S, the 'leader of the freedom world'. A system characterised has been unjustly treating the minority, a system actively and consciously manipulated by the majority to undermine the integrity of the minority and to further enshrine the supremacy of the majority over the minority.
Argumentatively, the European Muslim community though maintains the status of significant minority, and at the same time victims (like other minorities) of European justice system. The cultural and religious liberty of Muslims is entrapped by European historical-institutional set-up. European prisons are grooming ground for radical youth, such places are intended to rehabilitate and transform inmates, placing them on the pathway of getting fitted into the societal structures as good citizens. Reported evidence has shown that prisons are increasingly turning into warehouse of miscreants, who get hardened and tough. Unlike the Nordic nations, the rest of Europe is grappling with the justice system and prison facility, falling short of being humanized, rather sees inmates as doomed.
Residence in low standard neighborhoods, perception of disenfranchisement and marginalization, unequal justice system, economic and social victimization are no less active boosters and incentive for radicalization.
Of recent, the trend of Muslim youth radicalization is gathering much attention in the Western media, a sensitized issue for both the Muslim communities and larger European society. The debate of radicalization is potential enough to further widen the communication gap between the Muslim communities and their host societies, hence underpinning the debate of the compatibility of Muslims and European values.
Muslim scholars outside Europe are largely discredited, alleged of being responsible and complicit for the radical socialization of Muslim youths either through seldom visit to Europe or via literatures and the social media. Engaging such scholars in proffering solutions to the issue of radicalization will be an affront to logic. In such circumstance, it will be apt revisiting Ramadan's argument for an integrative Islamic intellectual exercise worthy to producing a European Muslim and Islamic thought, symmetrical with European ethos.
Radicalization of European Muslim youth is largely and singularly confined and mostly dissected ideologically; such ideological representation belittles the reality and the essence of the issue. Several reports have suggested otherwise and rather drew our attention to the significance of socio-economic deprivation and dislocation. Economic inequality and the dearth of sense of belonging simply does not bore self-alienation, but satisfactorily feed and nurtures other factors like ideology to germinate. The question such line of argument raises is why this segment of the European society perceptively feels disenfranchised, would it be self-perception of reality, systemic disenfranchisement or the incapacity of the Muslim communities to muster effective competitive traits worthy for competition in Europe. Numerous research works have deliberated on these questions but recent reports have chiefly implicated economic factor.
Radicalization is not a mere phenomenon, rather a socially constructed and psychologically tainted behavior. European Muslim youth do not carry self-incriminating genes and there exist no established research, categorically drawing a connection between being a Muslim and radicalism and engaging in proscribed actions. Radicalization of European Muslim youth cannot be treated independently and in isolation. Radicalism and radicalization are growing European trend be it pro-Nazi tendency, rightist movement or Muslim radicalism. Several authoritative European surveys have reported the magnitude of radicalism amongst native White European youth and their expression of extremism, which many a time gets little or no adequate reporting and documentation by the appropriate agencies. Graphic display of radicalism in Europe says it all.
Irrespective of the rightist radicalism, European leaders and responsible agencies often play down the potential implications of such radicalism under the premises that such carries no direct peril or threat to European democracy. But what we know is that pluralism and heterogeneity are integral expressions of democracy. Rightist radicals present monolithic, homogeneous and exclusive narratives, which thus dampens the notion that White-Christian radicals are not antithetical to democracy.
Regardless of who champions the cause of radicalism, European policy makers should intensify their research for an amiable public policy. Doing this will surmount the threat of radicalism, regardless of its form. It would be instrumental in answering the following questions. Why most of the pronounced radicalized youth are from the families having foreign background, either born and groomed in Europe or born outside but groomed in Europe. Being European Muslim is not exclusive to families bearing foreign identity, sizeable number of native Europeans share the Islamic identity, but the unanswered questions is why the natives remains exclusive, out of the radar of social exclusion. It is one thing to bear a Muslim name and get rejected for either public or private job, and it is another to be called for job but rejected because of complexion or inability to present shared cognitive and affective affiliation.
Other questions are: are all Muslim youth radicalized or having propensity to be radicalized. Does religion really matters to them. Are they engaged in proscribed behaviors because of their upbringing, locality and estrangement, or it is a matter of choice. What impact does the society play in the whole process of radicalization, and is the same society capable enough to de-radicalize them. If allowed integration stead of assimilation, would radical tendency remains? Does religion really have a huge space in the heart of European Muslim youth? Should we read the actions of the culprits and radicalized youth as clash of civilization, identity or identification with certain identity amidst estrangement in a new home? Answers to these questions are not meant for this piece, subsequent piece will be quantitatively dissecting the issues raised adequately.
Renewal of European Religiosity and Islam
Anti-Islam and Muslim sentiments have a rooted history amongst scholars of European Church, but ever since the shift of dominant power away from the Church and the containment of Church interference in politics, the propensity of the Church taking the lead to deriding Islam has equally fallen short. Interestingly, Muslims have played significant role in the overall outcry against religion in Europe, the revival of religion, and the attempt to bringing religion at the centerpiece of public debate. The Church did not totally disdain Muslims for this; rather appreciative that religious debate is once again taking public sphere.
Despite her claim of secularism, Europeans will always promote Christianity as part of their heritage, but there has been a growing ir-religiosity amongst the public. The Church has not hide her dismay over the de-religionization of Europe. The increasing trend of atheism and anti-religious sentiment support this cry.
Institutional alienation must be ceased and doing that will help Europeans to prove President Obama wrong that the United States is better off at the integration of her Muslim populace. The fact of the matter is this, European Muslims want to be assured that they are not sitting on the margin, not marginalized, excluded or considered as second class citizens. Such resentments was pointed out by Gilles Kepel, arguing that European Muslims frustrations stem out of what they perceived as harsh U.S policies across the world in general and particularly in the Middle East. He further highlights the fact that the disparity of opportunity in Europe tailors Muslim youth into extremism and radicalism.
Kepel surmised, winning the hearts and minds of Muslims particularly European Muslims and emasculating the strength of terrorism can be achieved when inclusive policies start surfacing, consequently this minority community wants to be appreciated for their historical effort ...."neither the blood spilled by Muslims from North Africa fighting in French uniforms during both world wars nor the sweat of migrant laborers, living under deplorable living conditions, who rebuilt France (and Europe) for a pittance after 1945, has made their children, as far as the French or indeed European in general are concerned, full fellow citizens."
In the backdrop of this, the potency of Muslim radicalism will die a natural death, if the circumstances of socio-economic marginalization, dislocation, political and economic disenfranchisement are suppressed if not eliminated. Radicalism has been largely fed by the perceived sense of inequality and second rated nationalism; it is not an undefeatable trend. European Muslim youth will have no cause to either turn radical or travel out of the continent to engage in act of terrorism if the perceived sense of discrimination ceased to be.
Homegrown radicalism can be surely defeated if socio-economic dividends are even distributed, without discrimination of minority community. European Muslims do not carry genes that are dramatically distinctive from other European youths. They can be engaging if accorded befitting environment. At least the streets of Europe are not only punctuated by Muslim youth feeling estranged but Muslims, who have triumphed in their respective field.
By virtue of its structure, Islam is not mere cosmopolitan faith, but an ideology and civilization. Irrespective of the location, Islam remains a social capital tying up billions of human race. It has long been the source of solidarity; therefore the sensitivity shown by European Muslims towards the plight of Muslims in the Middle East or elsewhere should not be dramatic. Such sensitivity is not confined to the Muslims, the Catholic Church as an institution is always outspoken about the predicaments of Christians the world over. This civilisational connection further explain why European Muslims get concern over the plights of Muslims in the Muslim majority society, grappling with harsh foreign policy of the Western world. The invasion of Muslim countries and continuous oppression of Muslims in places like Kashmir, Palestine and Chechnya (all struggling for emancipation and independence) are no less source of serious sensitivity and part of the reasons for anti-Western sentiment.
It is seemingly difficult to resolving the crisis of European Muslims and the host societies through the channel of governments. Respect for state sovereignty is a vivid hindrance. However, the effort of the EU and OIC in resolving the problem of Islamophobia and making space for inter-faith co-existence can go a long distance in bridging up the two ends.
The discrediting of non-European Muslim scholars, living outside the continent is an indication that the latter cannot be much helpful, giving the allegation that they are complicit in the trend of European Muslim radicalization. Such circumstance further estranges the connection between the edge and mainland Muslim societies. However, native European Muslims and Muslim scholars outside the continent can both engage in constructive independent rationalization (Ijtihad).
The reinvention of Ijtihad in Europe will be the template towards understanding the resilience of Islam and how it can relate with other culture. Doing this will put to rest the claim that Islam has no compatibility, tolerance and accommodating tendency towards western values and norms. The apparent fact is that all civilizations share certain commonality, yet having distinctions as a result of their locale. In this way, the effort of Muslims from both the core and edge can bring forth similarities and difference and as such lead to an understanding and smoothing the track towards easy integration. The application of the concept of Ijtihad would further lead to better understanding of Islam among Europeans who have long nursed ill-feeling of Islamic culture and its public manifestation.
On the whole, the outcome of Ijtihad will definitely be a new beginning for Muslims in Europe. It will be the panacea for, if not all the socio-political integrational issues waylaying Muslim harmonious relations with the larger European society.
Lastly, European opinion makers should take a serious attention of their Muslim communities by active engagement through the provision of competitive education, economic benefit and rejection of institutional discrimination. European think tanks should be more constructive in objective research that carefully study all immigrant communities, so doing engaging policies could be fashioned and provided to policy makers for implementation. Good citizenship and civic culture is not a one way effort, rather a reciprocal trust between the governed and governor.
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