Post #12

Islam integration in Scandinavia & Spain

The four levels of integration of Muslims in the Scandinavian countries are as follows:

1. The general integration of Muslims. So far, Muslims have not been integrated at this level because there is still a persistence of communalism and segregation in housing and the labor market. The public and media’s image of Muslims are still negative in Scandinavian countries as well. For Muslims to feel more integrated, the Swedish laws must change so there is not ethnic discrimination. The Swedish state is currently moving toward the acceptance of the headscarf and must grant Muslim women the right to wear headscarves at the workplace (Hunter, p. 138).

2. The political level. Very few Muslims are active in the Scandinavian political life at a national level and therefore integration at this level is low. Even the actively political Muslims are hardly known as leaders or representatives of Islam’s and Muslims. There are two prototypes of political Muslims portrayed in the media and one is secular (male) and the other is observant (female).

3. The level of religious rituals. “Muslims have attacked the Freedom of Religion Act from 1951 because of restrictions on the Islamic way of slaughtering animals in Sweden” (Hunter, p. 138).

4.  The ideological level. This level is quite positive for Muslims in Sweden. Muslims feel like they are a part of the development of what they call Euro-Islam. Muslims are willing to distance themselves from Middle East, Africa and Asia politics in order to create a more “try” Islam in Europe.

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“Muslims holding Sweden’s flag.”

Photo Retrieved from: http://dailyscandinavian.com/norways-population-rises/

Currently, there are only 350,000 Muslims in Spain (Hunter, p. 157). There are two reasons why there is not a greater impact of Islam in modern-day Spanish society given the history of Islam in Spain. The first reason is that only in the last 15 years has Spain become a receiver of immigrants. The second reason is that unlike other European countries, Spain has had no lasting colonies in Muslims countries.

The degrees of Muslims integration within the Spanish society differs across each Muslim group. In general, the level of integration is very high in the case of naturalized Muslims and Spanish converts (Hunter, p. 165). But a majority of Muslims are only in Spain for economic reasons and they have a more limited level of integration. Currently, Spanish legislation relating to religion was only developed for Spanish Muslims, but not Muslim immigrants. At the political level, the integration is low. Since most Muslims are immigrants who do not have a Spanish citizenship, it is very difficult for political expression. It also discourages Muslims from forming associations, which in turn makes political parties and trade unions ignore Muslim communities (Hunter, p. 171).

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Muslim women in Granada, Spain.

Photo retrieved from: http://www.aquila-style.com/converts-corner/muslim-women-granada-spain/93448/

Something that really stands out to me is how hard it is for Muslims to integrate into European countries. It’s just surprising that it would be so difficult, especially since Europe has such a diverse population in general with people from all over and various backgrounds. You would think Europe would embrace more diversity – especially more than the U.S. It’s interesting how including one more religion into their folds is such a challenge for Europe, why can’t it be easier? It also seems like Muslims are somewhat willing to adapt to their European culture, as long as they can still celebrate their own culture that they know.

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“Europa kicking Islam out of Europe.”

Photo Retrieved from: http://www.renegadetribune.com/finishing-off-the-rape-monkeys-in-sweden/


Works Cited

Hunter, S. (2002). Islam, Europe’s Second Religion. Print.

Post #11

Islam’s Assimilation: Italian religion, EU & the U.S.

The Muslim immigrant population in Italy differs from that in other European countries in various ways. One difference is that the first mosques were created not by and for immigrant workers, but by and for an intellectual elite of students from the Middle East (Hunter, p.79). Other distinguishing characteristics that Hunter lists include 1) diversity of countries of origin, 2) rapid pace of entry and settlement, 3) higher number of irregular immigrants, and 4) higher level of geographic dispersion (Hunter, p.80). The Islamic presence in Italy became visible with the entry of the first immigrants, whereas in other countries,  Islam became visible only after the emergence of a second immigrant generation. Also unlike Germany, France, and the UK where one or two ethnic groups for the bulk of Muslims, Italian Muslims come from a wide range of countries (Hunter, p.81). The organization and development of Islam in Italy have been along the same lines in other European countries, but the pace has been more rapid. Since 1970 when Italy only had one mosque, they now have about 150 places of worship for Muslims.

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Muslims praying by Colosseum.

Photo retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gyj8hHcOVDk

Currently in Italy, the Catholic Church is of the highest regard and is recognized as a religion on the basis of the Concordato. All other religions must sign an agreement with the state (an intesa) to be recognized as a religion. Without the intesa, these religions don’t receive various juridical and economic advantages. Many religions have signed an intesa (E.g. Jewish, Lutheran, Baptist) but the Italian Muslim community has been trying to negotiate an agreement with the state since the 1990s. There are a many factors that have contributed to the lack of an intesa with the Islamic community in Italy. The first is because the state doesn’t actually have any obligation to come to an intesa with a religion, and can discuss/impose the timing and contents of an agreement (Hunter, 89). The state has much more power than the religions, especially the smaller communities like Islam. The second is that most Muslims aren’t Italian citizens, they are immigrants. This might worry the state because they think the Muslims’ will just eventually leave back to their homeland. The third is because Muslims do not represent a powerful political group that converts many Italians. The fourth is because Muslims are perceived as an “alien” community with major cultural differences such as the use of Arabic, not Italian. Lastly, the Islamic religion itself has a weak level of organization, lack of cohesion, lack of adequate public awareness of Islam and the negative nature of such awareness where it exists, and the persistence of Islam’s image as an enemy (Hunter, 90).

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Intesa.

Photo retrieved from: http://www.lifegate.it/imprese/portfolio/clienti/intesa-sanpaolo

           The reason that the U.S. doesn’t have a “Muslim problem” when comparing to Europe is that the U.S. seems to make it easier for Muslims to assimilate and welcome Muslims into the culture, whereas Europe does not. Muslims seem to be getting a better chance at a good education, which sets them up for better jobs. “In the U.S., Muslims make up 10% of US physicians, are the 2nd most educated group after the Jewish population, are as likely as other American households to report an income of $100,000 or more, and over 6,000 serve in the military” (Jamali, 2016). Muslims are reportedly very content with their lives in the U.S. “Unlike European Muslims the report also found that 80 percent of US Muslims were happy with life in America, and 63 percent said they felt no conflict “between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society.” (Jamal, 2016). This confirmed sense of inclusion has withheld many Muslims from joining ISIS. Unlike EU Muslims who don’t feel included or welcomed and rebel by large groups of Muslims joining ISIS.

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Muslim with U.S. Flag

Photo retrieved from: http://www.onlysimchas.com/news/24437/in-24-years-muslims-in-usa-will-outnumber-jews

The Muslim population in the U.S. differs from that in Europe because according to a 2007 report from the Centre of European Policy Studies, EU Muslims are more likely, than the EU general population, to be poor, segregated and crime-prone neighborhoods (Jamali, 2016). The consistent poverty has contributed to racial tensions between Muslims and Europeans. As already stated above, the U.S. population is much more assimilated and obtains higher paying jobs, which field for a more happy and content life. The author might have biases because he had a good experience assimilating to American life and he compared all his experiences to his brother. The author didn’t bring in any research of other peoples first-hand experience’s, he made large generalizations. Some things that have changed since the article was published is that Trump has been elected, which has reinforced the stereotypes of Muslims and spread the idea of the “the other” further by his racist comments, plans to build a wall and the Muslim ban. This means Muslims are no longer welcome in the U.S. and probably creates a new hate for the U.S., which would lead them to join ISIS, more than raise the American flag up high.

 

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Trump’s Muslim Ban. 

Photo retrieve from: http://www.essence.com/news/politics/trump-muslim-ban-statement-website


Works Cited

Jamali, N. (2016, April 3). “Why the US doesn’t have a Muslim problem, and Europe does.” Retrieved from: https://bblearn.missouri.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-3161668-dt-content-rid-31263459_1/courses/SP2017.GERMAN.4810.01/fpri.org-Why%20the%20US%20does%20not%20have%20a%20Muslim%20problem%20and%20Europe%20does.pdf 

Hunter, S. (2002). “Islam, Europe’s Second Religion.” Print.

Post #10

Jihadi, Sharia Law & Islamic Feminism

Muslims obtained independence in the 1950s, but they were still being dominated and controlled by Westernized elites who didn’t have independence for Muslims and economic growth of the country in mind. The Westernized elites neglected all forms of Muslim tradition, which created conflict. Thus the jihad in Afghanistan rose up against the Soviet Union, paving the Islamic revolution of 1979 (Sadar, p. 115) The militant jihad’s then wanted to create an idealistic Islamic state, which is why they created the Taliban. The West is now seen as an enemy of Islam. This history has created the current jihadi movement of today, which is a military movement that is a threat to the West.

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“Jihad Against USA is our Religious Duty!!”
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“Black flag of Jihad.”

1st Photo Retrieved from: http://mordechaikedar.com/jihad-forever/

2nd Photo Retrieved from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flag_of_Jihad.svg

Sharia law is Islamic law that governs the political, social and moral duties of faithful Muslims. Sharia law comes from a combination of sources including the Qur’an, the prophet of Muhammad and the rulings of Islamic scholars. It is know for its harsh hudud punishments such as stoning, amputation or mutilation. Sharia law also diminishes women’s rights because it promotes the idea that women should be silent, secluded, objectified, and subservient (Sardar, p. 121). The fundamentalists are largely concerned with the crime and punishment part of sharia. They are concerned that “hudud punishments are demonstrable proof that the state is enforcing the whole of Islam, not the parameters that define it; or with the notion of balance sharia demands” (Sardar, p. 118).

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“Sharia Law.”

Photo Retrieved from: https://cpnagasaki.wordpress.com/page/4/ 

I don’t think Islamic law has always been consumed with punishment. I think the US media has over amplified the Sharia’s punishment laws and distorted them to be wrongful and inhumane, before even understanding them. The media has reiterated stereotypical characterizations of a few radical muslims and attributed them to all muslims. However, many Muslims hold a different view of Sharia law. They see it as something that nurtures humanity. “In a society where social problems are endemic, Sharia frees humanity to realise its individual potential” (BBC, 2009)

Islamic Feminists use the Qur’an, a feminist reading of the Shari’a’ and other religious texts to articulate a discourse of women’s rights and gender equality around the 1980s and 1990s. They seek the full equality of women and men in the personal and public sphere. There are many ways that islamic feminism is different from secular feminist. The secular feminism’s emergence was in the form of a social movement, whereas islamic feminism was in the form of a discourse. The secular feminism was created by Muslims and nonMuslims together as citizens in their respective countries. Secular feminism emerged on the scene in the form of organic social movements, while the holistic islamic feminism surfaced as an envisioned movement. Secular feminism was organized by politicized women who were activists, whereas islamic feminism was a product of scholar-activists. Secular feminism began and remained as voluntary and self-funding, preserving in tradition, unlike islamic feminism (Badran, p. 7).

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“Islamic Feminist Symbol” (2014).

Photo Retrieved from: http://www.altmuslimah.com/2014/11/reclaiming-the-radical-feminism-of-the-quran/

Islamic feminism has been a useful tool for addressing gender inequalities within Islamic societies and communities abroad. Women are going back to Islam’s classical texts and questioning they way men have read them. Women are challenging traditional customs about how women pray in mosques and whether they can hold leadership positions. In 2015, the first ever women-only mosque opened in LA (Power, 2015). In the twenty-first century in Turkey and Morocco, the patriarchal model of the family was overturned in favor of an egalitarian model. There was also a push to reform the Muslim Personal Status Code and created the Musawah, a group that focuses on reforming Muslim family laws (Badran, 2011). The secular and Islamic feminists create an unstoppable and powerful force when they work together.

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“Islamic Feminism” (2014).

Photo Retrieved from: https://www.islam21c.com/islamic-thought/is-there-such-thing-as-islamic-feminism/


Works Cited

Badran, M. (2011, January). “From Islamic Feminism to a Muslim Holistic Feminism.” Retrieved from: https://bblearn.missouri.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-3161660-dt-content-rid-31263463_1/courses/SP2017.GERMAN.4810.01/From%20Islamic%20feminism%20to%20a%20Muslim%20Holistic%20feminism.pdf

BBC. (2009, March 9). “Sharia.” Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/beliefs/sharia_1.shtml

Power, C. (2015, March 20). “Muslim Women Are Fighting To Redefine Islam as a Religion of Equality.” Retrieved from: http://time.com/3751243/muslim-women-redefine-islam-feminism/

Sardar, Z. (2007). “The No-Nonsense Guide to Islam.” Print.

Post #9

Syrian Refugees Fighting for Freedom & Finding Peace between Islam & the West

The Dispossessed article did a great job of explaining why these people were leaving, the desperation to get out of their home countries with the use of the comic strip and the storyline of firsthand reports and real events that happened gathered by journalist Alia Malek. It was also interesting to hear the perspective of the countries who have to take in the refugees. Many of the countries can’t house or feed so many refugees. They talked about how wealthier countries (U.S., China) need to help out with supporting the refugees. I especially liked this quote- “Today’s world is too small to allow a part- any part- of it to sink into chaos and despair” (Caryl, 2015).

I think the comic did a good job of depicting the emotions of uncertainty in the middle- will they open the boarders in Budapest? Will we take a boat, train, walk, what will we do??  It showed the hardship of traveling to safety and the overwhelming relief when they finally make it to safety after worrying if they’ll get caught, sleeping outside, trying to avoid being fingerprinted/checked for I.D. and passport, trying to find enough money to pay for travel and hotels, etc. Of course it was only a few people’s story so it’s hard to do complete justice to the refugee situation, but I think it did the best it could!

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“Migrants traveling from Turkey to Greece.” Carillon, Joel. 

Photo retrieved from: http://joelcarillet.photoshelter.com/image/I0000JctPLBArHZ

I thought the film My Escape was a really great film that depicted the emotions, fears and horribleness of fleeing for safety. I am not a big news person and I probably need to change that because by not staying informed, it’s easy to ignore problems that are happening globally. This film showed me the terror, uncertainty and loss that many refugees had to face. It was eye-opening and heart wrenching. Three things in particular caught my attention in the film. First, was the fact that people had to walk through the desert to escape. Especially since there was the guy’s little nephew with him too. The young boy said it was one of the hardest walks he’s done and his feet kept sinking into the sand. The second was how scary it was for the refugees to feel like they’re fate is in the hands of the smugglers. Some had tried to escape over 5 times and failed. The third was when the one man filmed himself inside a closed car with about 30 other people to hide from police. He said that just weeks early a whole van full of people died.

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“Syrian refugee child sleeps in his father’s arms waiting to board bus to Greece.” 2015. 

Photo retrieved from: http://www.jordantimes.com/news/world/us-administration-defends-syria-refugee-programme

The story of intercultural confrontation depicts how the U.S. and the Middle East see each other in negative ways, in dehumanizing stereotypes and do not see anything in common with one another. The West associates the Middle East with images of desert oases, sword-bearing Arabs, veiled women and belly dancers, etc. “These images are united by the same idea of “otherness” that has haunted Europe’s relations with the Eastern Mediterranean” (Funk & Said, 2004). Middle Eastern images of the West are colored simultaneously by envy and fear, admiration and suspicion. Western technological, economic, and political achievements are appealing, while the assertion of Western military, political, and economic power creates feelings of distrust and resentment (Funk & Said, 2004). The Middle East also think negatively about the West in terms of sexual immorality, family life, crime and public safety. With this continual dichotomy of “otherness,” cultural differences are exaggerated and distorted- furthering each other from peace with one another. The story of intercultural compatibility showed ways in which the West and Middle East could find values they have in common that would provide a basis for understanding and cooperation. These values include respect for learning, desire for peace, esteem for toleration, and partisanship on behalf of human dignity. We can also stop ourselves from reiterating stories that exaggerate our differences, instill fear and inflame conflict. This new perspective offers hope for improved relations. The story of compatibility seeks to counteract misperceptions and double standards,and to bolster cultural empathy and mutual respect with one another.

 


Work Cited

Caryl, C. (2015). Refugees are flooding countries that can’t protect them. Will the levies break? The Dispossessed Issue. Retrieved from: https://bblearn.missouri.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-3161662-dt-content-rid-31263792_1/courses/SP2017.GERMAN.4810.01/The%20Dispossessed.pdf

Funk, N. & Said, A. (2004). Islam and the West: Narratives of Conflict and Conflict Transformation. Retrieved from: https://bblearn.missouri.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-3161661-dt-content-rid-31263465_1/courses/SP2017.GERMAN.4810.01/Funk%26Said_91IJPS.pdf

Post #8

Muslims are different, which equates to “failure” & requires European adjustments

Zemni and Parker explain the failure of integration of Muslims in Europe by first saying that Muslims have an apparent inability to “get ahead” in the European context, meaning there is a failure to adopt styles and practices of daily life considered compatible with other national cultures. This is seen as a threat to European values. If the European’s pose this as a threat to European values, then it doesn’t seem prejudice. The way Europeans think about integration and multiculturalism is problematic because it provides an unfair treatment of Muslims. They are ostracized, looked down upon, and given unequal treatment. Some examples of unfairness is how at work, an employee can have a five minute cigarette break and it is widely accepted, but when Muslim asks for a five minute prayer break, it is seen as disruptive in the workplace.

For Muslims, the veil is a declaration of the need to curb the dangerous sexuality of women (and also of men). It recognizes that the threat sex poses for society and politics. On the other hand, the French system celebrates sex and sexuality as free of social and political risk. Islam is seen as a system that oppresses women, and French republicanism as one that liberates them. The French pride themselves on how egalitarian they are in regards to gender. In align with their “abstract individualism” and sameness principle they want to create no difference between sexes. But, Muslim theorists believe that this sexual difference poses a political problem and separating the sexes is a way of addressing it. “Islamic theory puts sex out there as a problem for all to see by conspicuously covering the body, while the French call for a conspicuous display of bodies in order to deny the problem that sex poses for republican political theory.” (Scott, p.167). The fact that the Muslim headscarf covers the woman’s body and thus shows sexual unavailability of a woman, this unavailability is profoundly disturbing to the way identity is lived by French women and men (Scott, p. 160).

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“Gender Equality.”

Photo retrieved from: http://www.essay.ws/essay-on-gender-equality/

             The French republic uses “abstract individualism” to define citizenship. This means that an individual is the essential human, regardless of religion, ethnicity, social position or occupation. There is a sense of “sameness,” and if you are a foreigner/immigrant, it is very important that you assimilate to the French culture and blend in to this idea of abstract individualism. The French see religion as a private, secular matter. As Joan said in the video, it’s okay if you practice your religion privately in your home but once you bring it out into the public- it’s wrong and against French ideals. Muslim’s threaten the French ideals because they have a very public religion. The headscarf is one of these public religious symbols that posed a problem since it falls far from “being the same as everyone else” and makes a woman who wears a headscarf an outsider.

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“It’s our choice not yours
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“My Choice.”

Photo on Left: Retrieved from: https://hrhejab.wordpress.com

Photo on Right: Retrieved from: http://inminds.co.uk/hijab-protest.html 

              My thoughts on this debate and controversy are essentially that a woman should be able to decide if she wants to wear a headscarf or not- it is her choice, not the governments. Joan, in the video, made a good point- Why is this controversy even happening? The issue was blown out of proportion and spun out in odd directions. I thought the idea that a headscarf “shows too little and shows too much,” was so weird. Why is the conversation turned toward how much skin women should be showing and they need to be a sex symbol to guys to feel like they are feminine and the women’s sign of being free is her amount of sexual acts. French feminists say, “When Muslim women are free to sleep with as many men as they want to, then they will be integrated. Liberty is measured by the number of sexual acts they engage in” (Scott, p. 165) Overall, I think that having the French somewhat force foreigners to assimilate to be the same as everyone else decreases the diversity of their country as well. Why would you want everyone to be the same as everyone else? Where is the uniqueness in that?


Works Cited:

Scott, J.W. (2007) The Politics of the Veil. Chapter 5. Retrieved from: https://bblearn.missouri.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-3161781-dt-content-rid-31263752_1/courses/SP2017.GERMAN.4810.01/Politics%20of%20the%20Veil%20-%20Ch5-notes.pdf 

Hunter, S. ( 2002). Islam, Europe’s Second Religion. Print.

Post #7

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.

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“Set of Religious Islamic People and Ritual Objects.” Shutterstock. FreddEP

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.

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“Islam in Europe.” 2015.  

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).

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“Religion vs Politics.”2013. 

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).


Works Cited:

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

Post #6

Debate on Development Aid & Assessment of SGDs Goals

In the debate on pros and cons of development aid with leading economists Jeffrey Sachs and William Easterly, I am on Easterly’s side. I agree with Easterly because he believes that we need to focus on sorting out the political process before we focus on good policies.

 

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William Easterly, professor of economics at New York University. Photo By: WilliamEasterly.org

Sachs sees corruption as a poverty trap and his suggestion to break the trap is for to give aid to the poor for malaria control, food production, sanitation and safe drinking water. “Raising living stands, Sachs argues, would empower civil society and governments to maintain the rule of law” (Banerjee & Duflo, p. 236). We’ve already seen how frivolously sending aid money to the poor doesn’t really help anything and the money could just get lost in the cracks to corrupt governments. I like the idea that we should empower poor people to learn how to help themselves. This can only increase the chances of ending poverty because it’s going right at the source. Easterly says, “There is no point to figuring out the best way to spend a dollar on schools, if 87 cents will never reach the school anyway…Without good politics, it is impossible to design or implement good policies” (Banerjee & Duflo, p. 236). Politics need to be taken care of first before we can think about helping the poor in other ways. Easterly says that more than $2.3 trillion has already been given to the developing world over the past 50 years so if aid money was truly a successful means of promotion development, then impoverished nations should have already eradicated extreme poverty (PovertyEducation.Org)

There are other arguments that could be made though because there are success stories of foreign aid. The U.S. donated $4 billion to Taiwan in the 1950s that allowed Taiwanese famers to buy large amounts of fertilizer to increase crop yields and it enabled farmers to produce more rice than almost any other country in Asia. This created a surplus of food in Taiwan, turning it into a major exporter. If the U.S. hadn’t supported their economy, it might not have been so successful. There is also South Korea and India who became better export countries and higher crop productivity due to subsidies from the U.S. government and bioengineering from the Rockefeller Foundation. (PovertyEducation.org). I think there will always be a few success stories, so it’s a little hard to believe in them when there are many more failure stories.

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“Sowing The Seeds.” Taiwan Today. (November, 2016).

When reflecting on the SDG goals #1 end poverty in all forms everywhere and goal #2 end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, I think Banerjee and Duflo address these issues sufficiently. The conclusion does a great job of summing up the policy measure that seem to work from the five lessons they have learned of how to improve the lives of the poor:

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SDGs Goals #1 & #2. Retrieved from: https://www.ericsson.com/about-us/sustainability-and-corporate-responsibility/sustainable-development-goals

  1. The poor often lack critical pieces of information and believe things that are not true. As of now, they are unsure about the benefits of good policy measures. They think there is little value in immunizing children or sending their kids to school, they don’t know the easiest way to get infected with HIV, they don’t know what politicians do when they are in office, etc. If we can educate the poor, many of these problems could be solved.
  2. The poor bear responsibility for too many aspects of their lives. Banerjee and Duflo suggest making it as easy as possible for the poor to do the right thing. This means making the salt fortified with iron and iodine cheap, savings accounts that are easy to put money in and costlier to take out and making chlorine available for clean water.
  3. There are no good reasons that some markets are missing for the poor, or that the poor face unfavorable prices in them. Giving away goods and services such as bed nets and visits to a preventive care center need to be put in place or even rewarding people for doing things that are good for them.
  4. Poor countries are not doomed to failure because they are poor, or because they    have had an unfortunate history. Banerjee and Duflo suggest inviting everyone to village meetings, monitoring government workers and holding them accountable for failures in performing duties, monitoring politicians at all levels and sharing this information with voters, etc.
  5. Expectations need to be changed- children have been giving up when their teachers say they’re not smart enough, fruit sellers don’t make the effort to repay their debt because they expect they’ll fail anyway, and nurses stop coming to work because nobody expects them to be there.

I love this quote from Banerjee and Duflo to sum the post up- “There is no reason to tolerate the waste of lives and talent that poverty brings with it.”

 

Post #5

Micro-credits and their impact on poor countries

            The argument for micro-credits is that the poor should be saving as much as they can in order to help against any bad years in the field, an illness in the family, or they could use the saved money to start a business. Banerjee & Duflo said that the poor should save because like everybody else, they have a present and a future (p.184). The problem with poor people is that they often struggle to save money for the future. A few families in the readings mentioned that if there is money in the house, it will be spent- whether it’s on healthcare, alcohol, cigarettes, tea, etc. When a future goal seems too far away (paying for a house), it’s easier to give up on the goal and spend money on guilty pleasures. If the poor can put their money in micro-credit institutions and not keep it in the house, maybe they’d be less tempted to spend the money.

        On the other hand though, giving poor people easy credit through microcredit’s is what makes it so easy for them to indulge in their momentary desires. Another argument against micro-credits is that MFIs often prey on the reckless purchasing behavior of the poor, which is unethical. It’s also expensive to open a bank account as a poor person because they’re only putting small amounts into their accounts at a given time, which the bank owners are weary of- they don’t make a profit from these accounts. The withdrawal fee for the poor to get their money out is also very expensive. Plus, poor people already have alternatives to micro-credit that work for them, why change? They form savings “clubs” with other savers, self-help groups that give loans to members out of the accumulated savings of the group, and rotating savings and credit associations (ROSCAs)

         Microfinance services have existed in Namibia since the late 1990s and have not attained growth due to the lack of regulatory and policy framework, the lack of capital, and high operational costs (Mulunga, 2010). Access to financial services by the majority of the Namibians is also limited. I understand the limits of microcredits due to high operational costs. Since poor people can only make small contributions to their account, it’s expensive for banks to manage such small accounts that reduce profit. It’s also risky because poor people don’t have good credit, nor is the bank certain that the poor people will be able to pay back the loan. I don’t agree with the high withdrawal fee that poor people have to pay to get their money out though, I think that should be modified to a cheaper and reasonable amount.

           The FNB bank in Namibia introduced a special savings account called FirstSave in 2014 that offers free deposits, higher interest rates and no monthly fees in a bid to encourage savings. The minister of finance said that age specific savings initiatives give parents a way to deposit and withdraw savings with their kids, which makes savings goals and delayed gratification tangible (Confidénte, 2014). I think the delayed gratification component is important since we saw in Poor Economics that people have a hard time saving money because there’s always temptation to buy things they don’t need or bills to pay. There are also banks in Namibia that have tried to decrease the problems of repaying a loan by creating joint liability. Peer monitoring seems to be an effective mechanism to enforce repayment (Mulunga, 2010).

        Currently, there is some digital technology making a difference with micro-credits and handling finances. There is a paperless money product called e-Wallet that has apparently been working in Namibia. In 2015, there was around 750,000 e-Wallets of which 420,000 were active (The Namibian, 2015). e-Wallet allows for money to be sent or a payment to be made through phones. There are some sketchy things about it though. For instance, after six months of inactivity, a dormancy fee is introduced to cover costs. There is also a daily sending limit of N$2,000  and the limit to the amount of money in your e-Wallet can only be N$2,000. This means that if someone tries to send you money, it will be declined until you spend some of your money (The Namibian, 2015). But overall, e-Wallet has given Namibians access to financial services with or without a bank account, which was previously not possible.


Works Cited

Confidénte. (2014, March 12). FNB encourages Namibians to save money. Retrieved from: http://www.confidente.com.na/2014/03/fnb-encourages-namibians-to-save-money/

 Mulunga, A. (2010, December). Factors Affecting the growth of Microfinance Institutions in        Namibia. Retrieved from: http://www.academia.edu/6839256/Factors_Affecting_the_Growth_of_Microfinance_Institutions_in_Namibia

The Namibian. (2015, June 11). FNB explains how e-Wallet works. Retrieved from: http://www.namibian.com.na/index.php?id=137975&page=archive-read

Post #4

Investments & Democracy 

Part I: Find a ‘cheetah’ in your country & show its work.

          I chose a feminist organization called Women’s leadership Centre that is based in Windhoek, Namibia and started up in 2012. This organization works to empower women in the community by promoting women’s writing and other forms of personal and creative expression as a form of resistance to discrimination and oppression embedded in their patriarchal cultures and society (Women’s Leadership Centre). The members of this group envision a society in which all women actively engage in shaping politics, practices and values of both public and private spaces. The members work toward this vision by information-sharing, education and training, research writing, art, photography and distribute feminist texts within their society.

         I found this was in align with the “cheetah” mindset because this organization is actively working toward change and looking toward the future, a future that is equal, respectful and promotes human rights. Some of the projects that they are working on include advocating for the promotion and protection of lesbian women’s human rights; a campaign that provides a platform for poor women and other marginalized women to engage in political parties and elections; and a project that trains and teaches women about their human rights, which helps women question their cultures issues of gender inequality, violence against women, and young women/girls risk of HIV and AIDS.

2. Chapter 3 of Radelet’s Emerging Africa talks extensively about democracy building as well as discusses how one defines democracy, what is elemental and how are democracies ranked and judged. How does your country rank? Explore the following sites:

             According to Think Tank Freedom House, Namibia is a free country with an aggregate score of 77 out of 100. Namibia’s press freedom status is partly free. Their political rights, civil liberties and freedom rating is 2 out of 7.  Here are some more specific ranked categories:

  • Electoral process: 10/12
  • Political pluralism and participation is 11/16
  • Functioning of government is 9/12
  • Freedom of expression and belief is 14/16
  • Associational and organizational rights are 12/12
  • Rule of law is 11/16
  • Personal autonomy and individual rights are 10/16

Namibia’s Polity IV index seems to have stayed on a constant 6 point line from 1990-2013 (see graph below).

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“Namibia’s Polity IV index.”

There is a YALI Regional Leadership Center in Pretoria, South Africa that people in Namibia could go to and participate in. The Regional Leadership Centers provide quality leadership training, support entrepreneurship and enhances professional development and networking.

An interesting article I found on AllAfrica was about how an ad agency put up giant blown-up condoms on termite mounds to remind people on the holiday, to be safe, “especially if a holiday party gets hot.” (Namibia’s Economist, 2016).

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“Be Safe.”

Another article that I liked was about how charcoal made from eucalyptus trees could help clean polluted water. “Improving the quality of drinking and irrigation water by lowering the microbiological hazards and food safety risks would be beneficial to people’s health and the environment” (News24wire, 2017).

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“Homemade Charcoal.”

Part II:

  1. What are effective health investments?

An effective health investment is malaria prevention, which means investing in an insecticide-treated bed net. Children who sleep under a treated net has a 30 percent less risk of being infected with malaria and the average return is $88 every year over the child’s entire adult work life (Banerjee & Duflo, p.45). It is also effective to invest in diarrhea prevention, which means purchasing three miracle drugs: chlorine bleach for purifying dirty water, salt, and sugar- the key ingredients of the oral rehydration solution (ORS). This would save the many children who have been dying from diarrhea every year. Investing in clean water and sanitation helps both these health problems tremendously- the number of severe diarrhea cases fall by one-half, and the number of malaria cases fall by one-third (Banerjee & Duflo, p. 47). It was interesting to read about access to clean water and sanitation is a social issue. Water has to be piped to each house, which means high-caste households would have to share water with low-caste households. You can imagine the unfortunate resistance of rich households wanting to share water with malaria and diarrhea-invested poor people.

Other effective health investments include getting children immunized, deworming drugs, exclusive breast-feeding until six months, routine antenatal procedures such as a tetanus shot for the expectant mother, vitamin B against night blindness, iron pills and iron-fortified flour against anemia.


Works Cited

Banerjee, A. & Duflo, E. (2011). Poor Economics. Print.

Namibia’s Economist. (2015, December 15). Namibians Surprised by Giant Condoms on Termite Mounds. Retrieved from: http://allafrica.com/view/group/main/main/id/00048066.html

(n.a., n.d.). Women’s Leadership Centre. Retrieved from: http://www.wlc-namibia.org/index.php/projects

News24Wire. (2017, February 8). South Africa: ‘Biochar’ Could Help Clean Polluted Water. Retrieved from: http://allafrica.com/stories/201702080388.html

Post #3

Progress & Shortcomings in Africa

This blog post will explore the “Cheetah’s” generating positive impacts across Africa, how the food policy needs to be adjusted in certain countries and Namibia’s progress as a country.

Part I: Explain the meaning of the cheetah generation and the hippo generation and how these terms refer to a different way of looking at democracy and civil society.

               A “Cheetah” is the new generation of African leaders and entrepreneurs who are seeking to redefine Africa through democracy, transparency, good governance, respect for basic human rights, accountability and private sector economic opportunities by fostering strong connections with each other and the world (Radelet, 2010). There is no defined “cheetah,” but the majority are young men and women who are well-educated, living in urban areas or small villages. The cheetah generation is sick of the old ways of doing things with a drive to move their countries in a new direction. The “old ways of doing things” describes the hippo generation who are slow-moving people stuck in the past complaining about colonialism and imperialism. Many of the hippo generation leaders are corrupt power-hungry people who foster conflict and stagnation rather than promote change and growth in Africa. In turn, the cheetah’s want to invigorate change.

Part II: 

  1. How is nutrition a problem for the poor? Why do we need to rethink food policy?

Nutrition is a problem for the poor because when given the option to spend their money on nutritious food, they instead spend it on sugary, processed food that tastes better. The poor are also using less of their income on food and more on luxuries such as weddings, festivals, TVs, and radios. If poor people ate more nutritious food that gave them sustainable energy, there is greater potential for a productive work day that would increase income. But, many jobs have a set base pay for the day with no incentives that say “the more work you finish, the greater the income.” If this were the case, the poor would feel more inclined to purchase food that would sustain them.

The food policy right now is hung up on the idea that all the poor needs is cheap grain. This isn’t necessarily true and this is why we need to rethink the food policy. Banerjee and Duflo suggest creating food that tastes good but has nutrients enhanced in the food because quantity is becoming less important and quality more important. Its no longer enough to just give the poor more money because the poor do not eat any better when their incomes go up. There also needs to be an increased focus on the nutrition for unborn babies and young children. This includes providing greater deworming pills, iodized salt and fortified fish sauce. This could lead to a lifetime income gain of  $3,269 USD PPP.

 

  1. Why are witch-hunts still occurring?

Witchcraft is blamed for any tragedy that can’t be explained such as an unexpected death of a child and so witch hunts still occur because communities believe that when they kill witches they are defending themselves from malevolent, unexplainable forces (Fessenden, 2015). It is also prevalent still because everybody believes in it in the community, which reinforces the belief. The prime minister, the police chief, scholars etc believe in witchcraft and the necessity for witch hunts. If high up leaders and protectors of communities  believe in it, then it’s hard to be the minority population, who realizes the crime and immorality of witch hunts, and speak out against the powerful majority.

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“We are not witches.” (Marnchoy, 2015).

Part III: explore country – Namibia

                My country that I’m assigned to is Namibia. According to the World Bank data, their GDP is 11.492 billion with a population of 2,458,836 as of 2015.The population that is living below the national poverty line is 28 percent but that was as of 2009. As of 2014, their life expectancy rate was about 65 years old. Their GNI per capita in 2015 was 5,190. According to the UNDP, The Namibian economy has an average growth rate of 4.3 percent with an unemployment rate of 29.9 percent and HIV prevalence of 16.9 percent. Namibia’s current president is Hage Geingob. Their former president made efforts to end corruption in the government but their is still misconduct by government officials, it still has a way to go. The rule of law is weak and the judicial system suffers from a lack of resources and delays (Economic Freedom). The main concerns for Namibia according to Economic Freedom Index are property rights, corruption and financial freedom. Namibia has its successes as well too though. They have had a relatively high level of political stability, trade and monetary freedom, and foreign direct investment in the mining sector.

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“Namibia’s Economic Freedom Index.” (2016).
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“Comparing Namibia.” (Economic Freedom, 2016).

**782 words before Works Cited**


Works Cited

Fessenden, M. (2015, October 30). Why Do Witch Hunts Still Happen? Retrieved from: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/why-do-witch-hunts-still-happen-180957106/

Marnchoy. (2015, March 23). We are not witches. Retrieved from: http://youthvoices.net/discussion/modern-day-witch-hunt-0

World Bank Data. (2016). Nambia. Retrieved from: http://data.worldbank.org/country/namibia

UNDP. (2015). Summary of Poverty and Deprivation in Namibia 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.na.undp.org/content/namibia/en/home/library/poverty/nimdpovmao2015.html

The 2016 Index of Economic Freedom (2016). Namibia. Retrieved from: http://www.heritage.org/index/country/namibia#rule-of-law