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European Muslims’ identity crisis

European Muslims’ identity crisis

With French lawmakers pushing for a burqa ban and Switzerland forbidding the construction of minarets, many Muslims in Europe have started questioning their place in society.

January 28, 2010 2:41 by

Muslim women in France should be banned from wearing burqas in public institutions, according to a report issued by a French parliamentary committee earlier this week. The proposed ban will apply to banks, post offices, hospitals, schools and public transportation, but will not apply to the streets.

“The wearing of the full veil is a challenge to our republic. This is unacceptable… We must condemn this excess,” the report said.

The committee was formed after French President Nicolas Sarkozy told lawmakers last June that the traditional Muslim garment was “not welcome” in France.

“Behind the full veil hide scandalous practices that are contrary to our history,” said Andre Gerin, the president of the committee and a Communist MP. “In order to say no to the full veil we are determined to wage a controlled political battle against fundamentalism… [so that] we can work towards an Islam which is compatible with the republic.”

While Gerin did caution that the report should not “lead to a debate about religion”, the burqa ban in France has led to a more complicated debate: that of Muslim identity in Europe.

Hasni Abidi, the director of the Study and Research Center for the Arab and Mediterranean World in Switzerland, questions whether the issue warrants so much attention in Parliament, given that only 1,800 women in France actually wear the burqa.

Speaking at a conference organized by the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research in Abu Dhabi, Abidi said that the recent referendum in Switzerland, where a majority of the people supported a ban on the construction of minarets, has also fueled the issue of the Muslim identity in Europe.

With Islam rising rapidly-it is the fastest growing religion in the world-there is a fear of a possible “Islamization” taking place across Europe, says Abidi. Some people say that secularism is under threat in France, because Muslims are increasing their demands and causing problems, according to Abidi.

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  1. Dismanirie on January 30, 2010 5:55 am

    The acid test for any citizen is how he or she describes themselves. Most of Europe is comprised of secular states in which religion plays no rôle in legislation or government. Therefore the citizens are French, or German, or Dutch, or British or Italian. They do not classify themselves as Catholic Spanish, or Anglican English, or Jewish Italian.

    Those muslims who are truly European are those who would describe themselves as Swiss, or Danish, or Swedish, without qualifying the nationality by their religion.

    Any person walking around dressed as a druid, or with a homburg hat and overcoat on a summer’s day, or in saffron robes and bare feet in midwinter is going to draw attention to themselves. So it is for those women who choose to wear burqa, niqab, or whatever it may be called. If you wish to be different, do not expect to be accepted by the society you have chosen to live in.

    You can see people riding bicycles naked in the Englisher Garten in Munich. If they chose to do the same thing in Istanbul, they would be inviting arrest.

    We all have a lot to learn from one another, and successful integration requires that certain affectations of the minority must be more readily accepted by the majority. It also means the the minority should expect no special rights which exempt them from conformity.

  2. mike ali on January 30, 2010 6:00 am

    Many people are against and many are with and so on. we are wasting too much time on many issues like this and others. why cant leave it free as every one in europe and america trying to let us belive in freedom and democracy. in such decisions where is the freedom and where is the deomocarcy.
    on the other side , we have similar issues like this is saudi arabia where not allowed church, temple, etc.. any thing even to bring a bible with you and been caught in any entry point, it will be destroyed immediately.
    If any one believe in GOD , no matter his religion, he must know that no religion is against freedom , or against other religion or ewncouraging us to kill or what ever. religion is for peace and help and guide and good things only and only. The main and major probelm is with the leaders of nations, religions etc,, who are just looking for personal benefit and not for whole public and not for GOD message.
    hope to see other cooments from others and let us wake up and start like a struggle against such leaders who creat all these problems for every one and lt us kill each other instead of looking for the real and actual reasons.

  3. OFiroz on January 30, 2010 8:48 am

    Banning Burqa by France Govt. is tolerable as the Govt. and public fear possible terror attack coming from behind the veil, but Muslims as whole been treated by westerners in their country is just not right. They treat Muslim brothers like a third citizen in most of the places. Recently I read an article about Barak Obama on a web site saying look whom you Americans voted and elected; Obama is a “Moslim”! As in it is a dirtiest sin in the world!
    And we Arab countries are treating, feeding and pampering westerners like VVIP’s!!!
    I just wanted to say – Not all westerners are bad, so do all Muslims.

  4. Tag wook on January 30, 2010 10:05 am

    I really don’t understand why so much dust is raised on these matters. Everything has to be give and take, it cannot be one-sided. Does any Musilim country allow other religions to opeate freely in their country? Why can’t they allow churches, temples and other praying places to be constructed in their country, or allow freedom for people to follow any religious practice without Goverenment interference?

  5. Mike on January 30, 2010 10:54 am

    I have a legitimate question though… why aren’t non Muslims ALLOWED to find a position in the Muslim world? Why is Islamism imposed on us and when we give a taste of their own medicine, we are called racists or intolerants towards the Muslim culture?

    Look at Saudi or the latest ridiculous laws Dubai is applying? And mind you, if we dare speak our minds, we get slammed in jail… can anyone pls. answer me? please?

  6. Kookaburra on January 31, 2010 8:26 am

    Ignorance produces this contempt. Some cultures are concerned about changing thier culture, so Switzerland does not want minarets and Saudi does not want Bibles or people born and live in Dubai 30 years/their whole life can still never be citizens. If leaders decide what tolerance is, do they always represent the majority? and it the majority has voted against something, it has to be accepted by the minority – that’s the way it works even if we don’t like it. We have to consider ourselves fortunate to be able to live in countries of our choice and accept their requirements. Perhaps in the case of France, it could be considered a way to dissassociate the thought that a terrorist would hide under a veil and so help reduce the animosity towards Islam, ie terrorists can be non muslim. So there could be a good outcome to the French ban on the veil

  7. Andrew on January 31, 2010 11:47 am

    OFiroz: “I just wanted to say – Not all westerners are bad, so do all Muslims.”

    Oh, how gracious of you. The reason that the Arab world is “treating, feeding and pampering westerners like VVIP’s!!!” is because you want development, and we collectively have a lot more of the skills. That’s a whole other conversation, however:

    ” … but Muslims as whole been treated by westerners in their country is just not right.”

    Yes I agree fully; freedom to worship, the right to become a resident, then a citizen and have voting rights … despicable treatment. The fact some idiot have the right to publish something saying Obama is a Muslim, and why did you vote for him etc. etc. is due to freedom of speech. Yes people take it too far, but it’s granted right.

    As Mike said, why are non-Muslim countries expected to grant the same preference given to Muslims in officially muslim nations. We as guests live in your countries, respect your laws, customs and traditions. If we don’t we’re asked to leave … please feel free to apply the same standard to yourselves in our countries. If you find yourself unable to conform, please do leave.

  8. RObert on February 1, 2010 7:54 am

    I couldn’t have put it better myself Andrew.

    I have to say that I believe the arab world have it right. If you don’t like it, then leave – after all, it is their country. Unfortunately, we are too PC in Europe to apply the same rules.

  9. Grant on February 3, 2010 1:25 pm

    To talk like this is just hypocrisy.

    Christians face an Identity Crisis in the Middle East

    There are no church buildings allowed in Saudi Arabia. Even practicing Christianity will have you thrown in jail, interrogated and your family deported (and eventually yourself).

    And in Malaysia some children are even deprived a primary school education if they do not convert to Islam.

    Which Christian country treats people like this?

    If people want to emigrate to a Christian country they need to fit in. They need to adapt not stand out. Otherwise why be there? Better to then emigrate to a Muslim country like Saudi Arabia. Oh I forgot Saudi Arabia does not allow citizenship for their Muslim brothers (though Christian countries do).


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