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 Aarti Nagraj
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.