Islam in Europe: Myth Busting and Common Misconceptions
One of the first myths Justin Vaisse discusses is that being Muslim constitutes a fixed identity, sufficient to fully characterize a person. I found this one to be the biggest and most important myth that needs to be resolved. I think this singular view of a muslim person happens a lot. It made me think of our exercise in class that we did where we wrote about our most important identities. If someone only saw me for my religious identity, they’d be missing so many other sides of who I am. That’s horrible, and no one should have to feel that way.
Another myth Vaisse discusses is that Muslims in Europe form a “distant, cohesive and bitter group.” There isn’t one “Muslim community.” There are many different divisions of communities due to culture, brand of islam religion, and affiliation. Lastly, Vaisse discusses the myth that Muslims are demographically gaining the “native” population. This myth is similar to the first myth, lumping Muslims into a distinct demographic bloc defined by religion alone- “that will never blend into the rest of society.” This myth is contradicted by Vaisse when he says that there are significant rates of intermarriage and conversions. Also, the general fertility rates are comparable to that in the U.S.- around 2 children per woman.
It is assumed that in Islam, religion and politics are one and the same; yet this is not true. It is important to make this distinction because if we don’t, one gives the impression that it is not possible for a Muslim to become open and to integrate into a secular society, which is a completely wrong view (Hunter, p.209). Hunter gives an example of how the religious and political dimensions of Islam are different: If one wants to pray, one needs a text specifying how to perform it. But for political affairs, it’s the exact opposite. One can do whatever one wants so long as it’s not an action that is impermissible in a reliable text. In this instance, a text would only be required in order to not to do something. It is also important to distinguish between religion and politics in Islam because right now, the Europeans are ignoring the religious dimension and cannot understand the Muslims’ speeches or discourse. As a result, they suspect muslims of using a double language and believe that the Muslims’ ultimate goal is to simply Islamize Europe (Hunter, p. 210).
Education in Europe brings challenges to Muslim communities such as education not being a clear-cut thing anymore. “Family providing education and school providing learning are dead and gone” (Hunter, p. 216). Duties and responsibilities are hard to define and discussions lead to transferring responsibility onto others. Ramadan suggests Muslims should come together as a community to determine the objectives of school education and its place in their society. The question- “What is it that we want from the education system,” must be answered. Otherwise, Ramadan warns that it may produce the worst possible racist and xenophobic deviations (Hunter, p. 216).
Social rifts in Europe also brings challenges to Muslim communities. European societies are in a current social and economic crisis. A few of the challenges are unemployment, social exclusion, violence, insecurity, and delinquency. This also has the potential to increase racism and xenophobia if this problem is not solved. Ramadan suggests developing that all citizens no matter their beliefs need to build partnerships at local levels in order to fight all types of social deviations. “Fighting unemployment, opposing discrimination in employment (when names, colors, or clothes seem to come from elsewhere), promoting social welfare, intervening against suburb violence, and looking after marginalized person (the poor and elderly) are some of the many challenges that we must take up together, as partners and fellow citizens” (Hunter, p. 217).
Shireen, Hunter T. Islam, Europe’s Second Religion. Westport: Praeger, 2002. Print.
Vaisse, J. (2008, September). Muslims in Europe: A short introduction. Retrieved from: https://bblearn.missouri.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-3161664-dt-content-rid-31262538_1/courses/SP2017.GERMAN.4810.01/09_europe_muslims_vaisse.pdf