Post 10: Fundamentalism in Islam

Today, we are seeing a huge movement in Islam by Muslim fundamentalists. The fundamentalist movement began in the 20th century as a response to colonialism and the Westernized rulers put in place once the colonial powers retreated from these countries. Though these countries had gained their independence, they did not feel well represented by the Westernized rulers who were more likely to favor Western customs and policies than the culture and traditions of their own citizens. Though the struggle between the Western world and the Muslim world has existed for centuries, these situations rekindled these struggles and showcased the West as an enemy.

Because of this, we see “jihadi” conflicts rising up in the late 1900’s as citizens began fighting to overthrow their rulers in favor of a government that was more inclined to their interests. Thus, a 20th century movement of ijtihad, or “reasoned struggle” to accommodate Islam with modern times, was overshadowed by a new, fundamentalist movement in the 21st century.

According to the No-Nonsense Guide to Islam, the fundamentalist movement developed from an innate fear of innovation. Fundamentalists do not want to change how Islam was interpreted or practiced from medieval times. However, the Guide argues that this way of thinking is not actually based on Muslim tradition that can be traced back to Muhammed or the Qur’an; rather, it is based on two central ideas.

First is the belief held by fundamentalists that they possess the Truth, as opposed to believing in the truth of Islam. With this idea, fundamentalists conclude that their beliefs and religion are the only correct way, and anyone who disagrees is not a true Muslim. Secondly, fundamentalists support the creation of an Islamic state, as they view Islam and state as one and the same. However, Islamic teachings emphasize the danger of geographical boundaries and view nationalism as less important as following Islamic teachings, no matter where a Muslim may live.

In any country where fundamentalists have acquired power, sharia law – Islamic law – has been enacted. Very little of sharia is actually based on the Qur’an, but rather was formulated during Muslim imperialism of the 8th and 9th centuries. Thus, rules and traditions contained in sharia reflect the attitudes, beliefs, and ideas of this time.

As we dig further, we can see how the edicts of sharia contradict with Islamic teachings found directly in the Qur’an and from Mohammed. For example, because this was a period of Muslim imperialism, people of other identities or nationalities were seen as lower class. This is reflected in sharia’s clear distinction between fundamentalist Muslims and “all others,” who can even be seen as enemies deserving nothing less than death in the most extreme interpretations of sharia. In contrast, the Qur’an teaches that “there is no compulsion in religion” and that all people are equal, on a lower level than God.

Fundamentalists are also extremely concerned with hudud laws, a portion of the sharia concerned with the maximum punishment to be allotted for certain crimes. Fundamentalists believe that if a nation enacts hudud laws, it is a demonstration that the country is enforcing Islam completely. Thus, we as western societies see these fundamentalist Islamic societies as being “obsessed with punishment.”

However, Islamic societies have not always been so concerned with punishment. As taught by Mohammed, hudud punishments are actually discouraged by Islam, and “can only be given in a perfect and just society where economic opportunity for all and social equality are the established norms.” This means that, only in a society where each person has enough money and resources to satisfy all of their needs, where a person would never need to steal to get by, is hadud punishment acceptable.

Another issue that many in the West cite as a problem is a disrespect for women’s rights, which is not only perpetuated by fundamentalist Muslims but in some cases by other, more moderate Muslims as well. However, beginning in the 1980’s and 90’s, a movement emerged in Muslim countries around the world that is now known as “Islamic feminism.”

As discussed in the essay From Islamic Feminism to a Muslim Holistic Feminism by Margot Badran, there are a few differences between Islamic feminism and “secular feminism.” First, secular feminism emerged as a social movement, focusing on equality in the public sphere through policy and human rights arguments.  However, the traditionally-held ideas of the family were mostly left untouched, as these were considered private matters.

On the other hand, Islamic feminism is a religious discourse. Muslim women began their own ijtihad – or religious investigation –  looking to the Qur’an to find evidence and create a discourse against the discrimination commonly seen in their societies. This discourse has been most useful in altering Muslims’ beliefs in regards to the family structure. For example, Islamic feminism has played a large role in breaking down the idea that the family is a separate domain from the public and in destroying the idea that Islam and the Qur’an requires a patriarchal family and society.  Secular and Islamic feminism have each benefited from the other, and each is still working towards their end goals of equality for women in all spheres of life.

islamic feminism

It will be interesting to watch how the Islamic fundamentalist movement will evolve globally. Because many in the US may not have much exposure to the Islamic religion, is important for all people to understand the wide spectrum of beliefs on which Muslims may lie.

Sources:
No-Nonsense Guide to Islam. Sardar and Davies.
From Islamic Feminism to a Muslim Holistic Feminism. Margot Badran
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Post 9: Not So Comical

The Disposessed, an article/comic by Alia Malek and Josh Neufeld, attempts to create a visual representation of the refugee crisis happening all over the globe. It follows groups of refugees traveling from the Middle East to different places in Europe, cataloging different struggles these people may face. I particularly thought it was effective how they had groups coming together and splitting up again, taking different routes to their destinations. With any large scale migration like this, groups form and fall apart again, people join and separate constantly so I think that was astute to include. Also having Naela and her family use fake IDs was interesting to me, I hadn’t thought of that as part of the equation. These families constantly run into obstacles, treachery, and predatory business owners that take advantage of these refugees in a vulnerable situation. Suddenly, everything costs more for them and their trip is not quite so straightforward. With countries closing borders, unreliable transportation, and lodging that is uncomfortable at best, these people are up against incredible odds just to try to move to another land. What struck me is that to the countries these people are moving through, how are they different from tourists? Maybe less disposable income, but they are still just traveling through and are looking for a place to stay and some transportation. Why treat them so differently, from a state perspective? They may have different needs or cultural values, but I can’t see how they can’t be accommodated  at least temporarily.

Post 9: From Confrontation to Compatibility

This week, we investigated further into the long and often dangerous journey that many refugees take in leaving their homeland to find a better home elsewhere. An article titled The Dispossessed in the Foreign Affairs does a terrific job of presenting the statistics of refugee migration during the past 35 years.

Though we in the Western world are largely concerned with refugees arriving in Europe and in the United States, these western countries actually accept very few refugees compared to others. For example, Lebanon has over 200 refugees per 1000 inhabitants in their country, the largest percentage of refugees to citizens in the world. Other countries such as Jordan, Nauru, Chad, and Turkey follow directly behind Lebanon. Countries like the United States would look very different if enough refugees crossed our borders to constitute 20% of our population.

refugees per 1000 inhabitants

With such a high number of refugees moving into these countries, many are experiencing the lowering of wages, as the job market becomes saturated, while rent is simultaneously rising. Somehow, these countries are staying afloat, but such a large influx of people is bound to cause political and economic challenges that even wealthy countries would find difficulty in successfully addressing.

The Disposessed also includes a comic, detailing the long, stressful journey of two Syrians from their home in Latakia, Syria to Sweden. Though the comic describes their journey and one can imagine the emotions that a person might feel along the way, I don’t think that it does justice to accurately describe the refugee situation; We, as the readers, do not hear the emotions in each character’s voice, and the comic drawings can only convey so much detail.

The film My Escape helps to convey more clearly the situation of many refugees as they flee their old homes. In the film, we see the journeys of several different refugees, all heading towards Europe. We see a man and his nephew walking through the desert, led by smugglers, from Kabul, Afghanistan to Saindak, Pakistan. They are later made to hide in an empty fuel tank of a passenger bus with two other refugees in order to get to Europe.

desert

In another part of the film, we hear the story of how one man was robbed with his group while walking through the desert, and another group was kidnapped. We see smugglers packing 100+ refugees into the back of a truck, and mafia members, carrying guns, forcing an unsafe number of people into a small, inflatable boat to cross the water between Turkey and Greece. I was amazed at what these people were willing to do in order to find a better life –  and the viewer realizes just how bad a situation must be in order for a person to be willing to go through something so horrible.

boat.jpg

Unfortunately, once these people arrive at their destination, they are often met with hostility, particularly Muslims. In their article Islam and the West: Narratives of Conflict and Conflict Transformation, Funk and Said bring to light the difference between intercultural confrontation and intercultural compatibility.

The authors find that in modern society, there is a cultural tension between Western citizens and Middle Eastern, Muslim citizens. Both sides tend to become trapped inside of their own stories and identities, viewing the other side as the strange, immoral “other” that is unable to integrate into their own society. This understanding of the “other” helps each group to understand and reinforce their own identity. Through this intercultural confrontation, actual differences in culture are exaggerated, whether through the news, Hollywood, or the media. With this view of the “other,” each side begins to think that security can only be found in either repressing or changing the “other.”

This tension between the West and the Middle East has existed for centuries. Islam has consistently been held as a rival to traditionally Christian areas, emphasized as violent, corrupt, fanatic, and intolerant since the Middle Ages. On the other hand, Muslims were driven out of Spain in the 15th century, and the Ottoman empire collapsed in Eastern Europe. Thus, Muslims feel that they were “excluded from history” in the western world, banished to the east and Middle East. Additionally, many traditionally Muslim areas in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia became colonies of more advanced European nations and were exploited for resources and labor.

Thus, these historical contexts have served to sour relations between the two groups for centuries. However, Funk and Said present intercultural compatibility as another way that these two sides can approach relations and hopefully head towards a more peaceful, tolerant future. By focusing on the values that are shared between the two societies, such as respect for learning and a desire for peace and tolerance, both sides may begin to realize that our differences are much less than our similarities. Additionally, increasing contact between the two cultures and attempting to genuinely understand the “other” can begin to build up this intercultural compatibility.

coexist

This process will take time, as it is difficult to convince people to change their minds. However, as we as a society become more aware of our prejudices against the “other,” we will hopefully be able to better understand and coexist peacefully.

Sources:
The Dispossessed. The Foreign Affairs.
My Escape/Meine Flucht: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtMlN3nqL4c&t=950s
Islam and the West: Narratives of Conflict and Conflict Transformation. Funk and Said.

 

 

Post 9 : Refugees or Immigrants

index

1. What is your assessment of the Foreign Affairs The Dispossessed article and the film? Does the comic do justice to the refugee situation? Is it a good analysis of the crisis? Does Islam play a role? Even if you only watched a part of the film My Escape what is your assessment of the film? What caught your attention?

Our century is facing drastic challenges all around the world. One of the biggest being the refugees that are coming by thousands to different countries. They don’t only come in hope for a better life but in hope from freedom and safety which are basic human rights. And we know that they did so at the risk of their lives many losing members of their family in the sea. I liked the Foreign Affair article, The Dispossessed because it shows the troubles refugees have when they flee away from their home. The authors portray the refugee’s stories as a comic while they follow families that are looking for asylum through the mean of any way of travel. This article is interesting also because it happening right now as I’m writing these words and a lot of papers are written about the social and political issues. By showing the journey of these family it brings us closer to them emotionally I think. The authors connected with the readers and made the families relatable. This article really helps the reader better understand the refugee crisis, in my opinion.

I would say that Islam play a role in the way that it gives people hope. They believe that God is good and that He’s going to help them through this obstacle.

I watched a few minutes of the movie. What struck me the most is how people are telling their journey so bravely. They tell their story like we would tell ours. It is unthinkable what they are going through and yet they still go on with their life and try their best to reach their main goal which is a better life. The little boy we see at the beginning of the video is so young and he has worries about the police coming to arrest them at such a young age that no children should have. But yet, again, this is their reality. I like those kind of documentary because it shows people, remind them that it could be us if we had been unlucky and were born at the wrong place at the wrong moment. They should show this documentary more often on national television of every country. Immigrants and refugees are two different words I think.

         2. Based on the article, Islam and the West: Narratives of Conflict and Conflict Transformation, discuss the story of intercultural confrontation and intercultural compatibility and how they affect conflict transformation. Do you agree with that type of conflict management?

In the article, Islam and the West: Narratives of Conflict and Conflict Transformation, the authors discuss of intercultural confrontation and intercultural compatibility and how they affect conflict transformation. They affect conflict transformation because it raises questions on how to handle the big numbers of refugees coming. Indeed, it is good that they are able to flee their home but the challenge for the host country is to know how to integrate and assimilate with them in order for the immigration to be successful for both sides. However, this refugee’s crisis has led to negative thoughts and stereotype that creates a gap between the population and the refugees. I would say that people in the developed countries see them as less worth that them as inferior. And they forget sometimes that the refugees are people just like us no matter where they come from or they faith. I have to admit that I found myself thinking unconsciously sometimes. Then, I remember that there is no men better than another.

The media is portraying Islamic culture in a certain way that push many Muslims from the rest of the world and only focuses on differences between the western world and the Islamic culture. By viewing these groups in such negative ways and not accepting assimilation definitely has its pros and cons. Many regions in the world are afraid of losing their identity and cultures, therefore they think they should not accept refugees and immigrants since they think the refugees won’t integrate but instead be their own people in the host country. However, when we think more deeply about it these refugees and immigrants are people just like anyone else who are looking for freedom and safety.

Every country need to work on how to integrate and accept differences in order to become one “melting pot” like the United States is. Or used to be at least.

 

Post 9: The “Other”

The thing that first caught my attention of the film My Escape, was that all of the video was caught on smart phones by the refugees themselves. It made the experience more realistic because it was shot from their point of view. I was shocked mostly because, despite my excessive work with refugees, I still have an image of them being poor and underprivileged. Most of the groups shown in the film however, were middle class citizens like I am. my escapeI was also amazed at how willing many of them were to put their story on Facebook or Youtube. I am used to refugees from say North Korea, who will not let their faces be in a picture or names be used for anything to protect their families left behind.

I appreciated all of the different stories brought together. It did not just focus on refugees fleeing from one country, but from several countries. Not all of them made their way by boat. Some of the families had to walk through the Sahara Desert and its brutal heat. Each story was different. It also highlighted the fact that the people fleeing did not only have to worry about the police, but also the possibility of traffickers or kidnappers. Knowmy escape 2ing who to trust must have been difficult. In every situation, the refugees could only bring what they could carry. Even that was often sifted through by the smugglers or robbers along the way.

The comic in the Foreign Affairs article provides a similar insight into the path of a refugee. It lacked a lot of the detail that the film provided. I appreciated how it stick with just two families instead of several. In this way, we were able to see how things did and did not go according to plan.

Neither film nor article addressed the role of Islam directly. I based on the two, I would not say that it played a huge role in the refugee crisis at all. Both portrayals focus more on the travel section of the refugee crisis and not their arrival into the new country or the reasons as to why they left.

The article, Islam and the West: Narratives of Conflict and Conflict Transformation, describes the story of intercultural confrontation through the Western view and the Middle East. They both have similar views about the other one being inferior. While some views may be present, such as Islam in the Middle East, they are frequently blown out of proportion, the Middle East holds only a small percentage of all Islam. Some views are even conflicting, such as inarticulate women completely covered by veils versus the bellydancers that are both attributed to the Middle East.

The basis for the views are rooted deep in history as each set themselves apart from the “others”. The Christian West often described Islam as the low sinners. Most of the claims made by the Christians were out of being self conscience. The Muslim world cared little about the emerging west until the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1492. After this point, The Muslim world began to see the oppressive tendencies of the West as they began to colonize in the Middle East.

The article also describes the story of intercultural compatibility which looks towards the similarities of the groups instead of searching for cultural differences. First, it takes the stress off the conflicts between groups and puts equal importances on conflicts within groups. It is important to recognize the difference. Not every one in the West has the exact same view point, and neither does everyone in the Middle East. By accepting that there are subcultures within the over arching culture, many disputes could be solved. Second, just as tension can be found in history, so can many similarities. Besides the fact that Islam and Christianity stem from the same Abrahamic monotheists tradition, it also brought together the West with the progression of the Far East. The two cultures are intertwine even more so today. There are large Islamic migrant groups living throughout the West as well as western commercialism present all throughout the Middle East.

I agree that intercultural compatibility is a great start to solving conflicts. Conflicting parties often get stuck in the “us” vs “them” mindset and focus on the extremes. As similarities are found, the two parties are brought on to more equal playing fields. It is much more productive to discuss solutions with someone of similar values or ideals than someone viewed as below you.

Post 9 Week 8 – “Integration in Europe”

Muslims in Europe have faced a myriad of obstacles in assimilating to their new nations. Ranging from social pressures, political restrictions, all the way to violence. These difficulties could be attributed to the nature of Islam as a religion and social force, but I think that the conditions in these host countries are having a profound effect as well. France in particular, having the largest Islamic population, has run into problems bringing in these immigrants in recent decades. Hunter gives three factors in why France has such a struggle, “(1)  The particular nature of the French notion of secularism, (laicité) which is more strict than in other European countries and even has antireligion dimensions; (2) The close and complex relationship between France and its colonies, especially Algeria…(3) Assimilationist tendencies in France, which have traditionally been very strong” France has a national identity, coming all the way from the French Revolution, that encourages religion to be kept a private matter, outside of the public eye, and this tradition can be stifling to some religious traditions that immigrants may want to practice. Since the 80’s, perceptions of Muslims in Europe have been changing and these have a way of framing relations going forward. There is a common perception that Muslims immigrating is a threat or a problem to be dealt with, rather than an opportunity for positive interaction between these communities. Seeing these people as an “other” divides the communities and hinders communication going forward. “The shift in this image is synchronic with the advent of Islamist movements in the Arab and Muslim world and the world political scene. Suddenly, Islam was something in movement, something in resurgence or revival. Migrants, whose ‘problems’ had been seen as a consequence of their low socioeconomic status during decades, were perceived as ‘culturally different’” Now that these people were seen as part of a larger cultural movement, rather than just new Europeans seeking a better life. These assumptions can become self-fulfilling and force people into their own preconceived notions, keeping everyone from actually learning together, so fighting these opinions is important. Issues like Burkini Bans in France are indicative of a larger social problem. By seeing these pieces of clothing as harmful to French society, they are only widening the gap between native French people and their new immigrant countrymen. The biggest force here is perception, if Europeans take the time to relate to the Muslim immigrants and learn about their culture, I think that more satisfactory conclusions can be reached and people an actually start to live and work together.

The Islamic headscarf is a “threat” to the French’s idea of “abstract individualism” because it is something new and foreign still, they see it as a restrictive garment. In the 21st century, at least in many developed parts of the world, such garments are seen as oppressive to women and their rights. They are seen as garments of religious nature, and as such should be kept in private as France is an officially secular country. Again, the burkini debate brings into conflict these two ideologies and forces people to talk about them. There are so many misconceptions around these garments, such as what exactly a burqa is. Many think that a burqa is the main clothing for all immigrants, but actually they are only worn in a select few countries and rarely in Europe. The more popular head covering for these women is a niqab, which covers the lower half of the face but keeps the eyes visible. These mistakes play into the larger debate and keep people from having rational, informed discussions. I, personally, think that these garments aren’t a huge problem. If these countries in Europe are so invested in “abstract individuality” then I think they should let these people express themselves, which extends to wearing what you would like. One of my rules of thumb is that I believe in the greatest amount of personal liberty to each person as possible. This liberty should be nearly infinite, right up until the moment it infringes on someone else’s right to exercise their freedoms. The instant my way of life interferes with someone else’s, that’s where a step must be taken back. If these Muslim women are not harming anyone or infringing, I see no reason to restrict them from wearing what they like.

Post 8: “Us” vs. “Them”?

 

Currently, we are seeing the influx of many Muslim people of all nationalities into Europe. Some are a result of conflict in Africa and the Middle East, while others may come for other reasons such as employment. These new and different cultures are often times seen as at odds with the “European” culture – the values and ideologies set forth by the European Union and many of the western countries that are a part of the EU.

There is a problem of Europeans grouping all followers of Islam together, even though they might come from very different cultures and countries. To provide a similar example, one would likely not label an American person and a German person who both happen to be Christian together as “Christians.” It’s more likely that they would be labeled by their respective country of origin. So, why do Europeans generally lump together Muslims from a multitude of countries?

The authors Zemni and Parker of Chapter 13: Islam, the European Union, and the Challenge of Multiculturalism of the book Islam, Europe’s Second Religion, argue that it is easier to see a migrant’s presence as problematic when it is related to cultural/religious norms, rather than a person’s nationality or income level. With this viewpoint, it becomes a struggle between “us” – the Europeans – and “them” – the Muslim migrants. According to Zemni and Parker, while nationality or legal citizenship can be changed, “cultures are seen as fixed.” Thus, many Europeans hold the view that Muslims will never be capable of integrating into the secular European society because their culture – fixed at birth – cannot be changed or altered.

Muslim women.png

This viewpoint can be very problematic in thinking about Islam in Europe. Islam is seen as rejecting European culture and is therefore a threat to European values. One example of this is seen in France, where there is debate over allowing headscarves in public.

In France, the separation of church and state also means that “conspicuous” signs of religion are outlawed in the public sector, such as in the workplace or in schools. “Discreet” signs of religion, however, are allowed. This law is known as “laïcité.” Interestingly, Wallach, author of Politics of the Veil, notes that the French word for “conspicuous” can also have a sexual connotation – in the way that a low-cut shirt is conspicuous and noticeable.

Thus, Wallach points out, there is a dichotomy between the conspicuousness – the obviousness – of a headscarf as a religious symbol, and the conspicuousness – the sexuality – of the headscarf. For Muslims, the headscarf is a sign of modesty. Some Muslims, recognizing the inherent sexuality of women and men and believing that a person’s honor relies on modesty, have decided to address the issue by covering the women’s bodies.

However, to many Europeans, the headscarf is seen as a symbol that brings attention to the sexuality and gender of a woman in a negative manner. In this way, the French view the headscarf as “conspicuous” in both meanings of the word. The French, along with other western countries, preach that all people are equal.

Opponents of the headscarf in France cite many reasons why the headscarf should not be allowed to be worn in France. While some argue that it breaks the rules of laïcité, others believe that the headscarf demeans women and takes away certain rights. One French critic even argued that the headscarf takes away the femininity of women, as women cannot be feminine without the visual appreciation of their bodies by men. In another comment on headscarves, Chirac notes that some men see them as an “aggression of women” in denying men their natural right to “see behind the veil.”

Muslims Rally Against France's Ban On Religious Headscarves

Throughout the argument, we see the insistence of the French that their gender equality system is “universally desirable” and that no woman would choose to wear a headscarf if she was not made to. In a quote from the French Minister of the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy, “Let us bring pressure to bear so that the rights of French women apply also to immigrant women.” In this statement, he is talking about the right of equality between men and women and the right for women to wear whatever they choose.

Beneath this “equality” lies the question that many want to ignore: If we (men and women) are all the same, then why has gender been such an obstacle to equality? Why do we still see examples of inequality in society? Wallach’s main thesis in Chapter 5 of his book argues that “Islam’s insistence on recognizing the differences posed by sexuality revealed more than the French wanted to see about the limits of their system.”

In my opinion, the rights of French women do apply to immigrant, Muslim women. In acknowledging that women have rights to equality, we must also acknowledge that all women have the right to choose what they wear. If Muslim women choose to cover their bodies, rather than expose them, then they are exercising their right and practicing what they believe. What a woman chooses to wear is inconsequential to the persistent issue of gender inequality, as “uncovered bodies are no more a guarantee of equality than covered ones.” Gender inequality runs much deeper than what a woman wears, and we as a society should be focusing on these deeper issues.

Sources:
Hunter. Islam, Europe’s Second Religion.
Wallach. Politics of the Veil.

 

Post 8: Expression of Self

Zemni and Parker explain the “failure of integration” of Muslims in Europe in an interesting way. The two point out that the failure of integration is often put on to the incoming cultures. Europeans have accepted that there is a multicultural presence in their countries as a way to deflect the direct accusations of being racist. The view of Multiculturalism causes in Europe does not encourage healthy acceptance of cultures, but one of hostility.

What I mean to say is that each culture has its own distinct customs through out Europe. Muslims for example, can easily be seen by the headscarves they wear or their practice of praying five times a day no matter where they are at.

Countries such as France have set laws to keep church and state separate. For the native citizens, this changes their daily routine very little. Muslims, however, are no longer allowed to wear their headscarves. When the Muslim society does not conform to the practices of France, they are seen as the aggressors actively rebelling against the government. The natives do not take the time to consider the practices of the new culture.

The Europeans are stuck in a mind set that, if the Muslims do not strip themselves from their religious identity, then they have no desire to be apart of the countries identity. The blame is put on the outsider. Europeans could open their minds, and try to mix the cultures so that Muslims feel comfortable in their new country. Taking away the religious aspect of a culture does a wonderful job of alienating a people group. There is then little desire for Muslims to want to join in a culture that actively works against them.

The Islamic gender system and the French gender system are solutions to the same problem. The Islamic culture acknowledges the fact that a woman’s body and looks provide a distraction to the men in the society. The distraction prevents the government workers and leaders from performing their duties to their full capabilities. To solve this problem, the Islamic gender system developed. Women are required to cover themselves with loose garments and headscarves. They are also not allowed to be in direct contact with men out side of their families. The men also wear loose garments so as not to advertise their bodies.

The French society and feminist movement strives for equality among men and women. There is still no perfect equality, but the women of France now have a right to vote and are making gains in government positions.  In their strive for equality, the French are taken aback by the oppressive nature of the Islamic gender system. The French women take pride in their ability to express their own bodies and not have to hide them. The headscarf poses a threat the to freedom of individualism that many French Citizens have fought for. It looks to cover what is unique about each and every woman. headscarf distinction

I understand where the French are coming from in wanting the women to feel free to express themselves in anyway that they choose. The French seem to believe that the headscarves are forced on the women and if given a chance that the women would choose not to wear the scarves. The opposite seems to be true. Many women who receive the fines for violating the ban have been young women recently converted to the faith. By banning the religious symbol from the public spaces of France, the state has taken away a very obvious way of the Muslim women of expressing who they are. It forces the Muslims to fit into the French culture and strips them of their unique individualism.

Post 8 : Islam in France

 It is really interesting for me to give a “non-bias” point of view on this subject since I’m a French born citizen. My mother’s family is Muslim and my father’s family is Catholic. I personally consider myself as Atheist and I wasn’t raised in any religion even though I went to a catholic religious class when I was little. Because I took my Dad’s last name which is Italian, most people have no idea that I’m 50% Algerian when they look at me.

When I refer in this post as “we” it will be me and the French people since I consider myself French.

islam-france1

  1. How do Zemni and Parker explain the “failure of integration” of Muslims in Europe? Why is the way Europeans think about integration and multiculturalism problematic in the discourse surrounding Islam and Muslims in Europe? Explain and give examples.

We can talk about a failure of integration in Europe because Muslim people did not assimilate the values and way of living of their host countries, over the years. They count as a community inside the country instead of being fully integrated and referred to as French. However, Hunter wrote that half of the immigrants from Algeria have the French nationality. Sami Zemni and Christopher Parker explain the “failure of integration” of Muslims in Europe in chapter 13 of their book, Islam, Europe’s Second Religion. Zemni and Parkers implies that people usually point negative facts or actions from the Muslim communities and don’t talk enough about the positive actions and facts happening between Muslim people and people of other faiths or nationality. By pointing only, the negative aspects, people have then a bad image of Muslims people and therefore categorize them as bad. People then put every Muslim in the same “bag” whether they do bad or good things for the country. Like I wrote in my previous post, Muslims are perceived as “others”, they are seen as different people with different life views, cultural norms, religious outlooks, etc. All these reasons gave the negative connotation that Muslims cannot and should not be accepted into European society.

  1. How is the Islamic gender system different from that of the French? Why does the Islamic headscarf pose a challenge to the French republic’s ideal of “abstract individualism” and “laïcité”?  What are your own thoughts on this debate and controversy?

The Islamic gender system is different from the French one for many reasons. First, France, like many European countries puts emphasis on equality between genders. The French believe that men and women should be treated equally not only in social situations but also in the work world and in everyday life. The Islamic gender system is different since the Sharia is the Islamic law and we know that a woman is worth half a man according to the Qur’an. Women do not have the same rights and liberties as a man. It might seem unbelievable for people living in developed countries but this is the reality of their culture, religion and society. However, I can say that in France more and more Muslims people do not think this way regarding the status of the woman and they do respect them equally. More Muslims women go the university and try to find a job before getting married and having children. However, if they are wearing the headscarf they have a big chance of not getting employed for a good job.

A big issue in France is the Islamic headscarf and the challenge for the goal of “laïcité”. “Laïcité”, refers to French secularity, like I said in my previous post again which is the absence of religious involvement in government affairs, especially the prohibition of religious influence in the determination of state polices. Also, we cannot show/wear any signs of religion on us.

There is in France a very strong separation between church and state. We believe in a secular nation where religion cannot threaten schooling or government. For example, it is forbidden for a teacher to tell his students what is his religion. The teachers also can’t give their preferences. That is why coming to the US, I was surprised when my teacher openly said he was Christian. The “laïcité” and the Hijab concepts kind of contradict how we see the Islamic headscarf as a threat. The French see it as old-fashioned and repressive, but for the Muslims, it is their way of life and has been in them for thousands of years. The French claim to see the use of a headscarf as an attack on women’s rights when in fact it is just a part of the Islamic religion and in most cases the women wearing the headscarf chose to do so on their own. However, it is a problem in my country because it’s a physical reminder of the Islamic religion and separates individuals by religion in public which is forbidden in our law.

 My opinion is complicated. I do think that people should be able to wear what they want whether it is a short or a headscarf. I live in a city where I have seen the difference in numbers of girls wearing the headscarf over the years. It used to be one or two woman but now most of them wear it even though they were born in France and went to school in France. I just wonder why they would want to wear it. I do think there are other ways to “protect” themselves and their body without wearing one. It creates a real separation between them and the other girls, even though I think it is not a good reason to be put aside because of what someone is wearing. My last thought would be that if a woman follows the religion to the letter and do everything that is written in the Qur’an (not eat pork, not swear, pray 5 times a day, do not look a man in the eye, only do good…) then she should wear it. It is my personal opinion only. I know that for every religion, some people say they are religious but their behavior contradicts their belief.

             I would never discriminate or judge someone wearing the headscarf. But I have to say it might be because my grandmother wears it and for me she’s a person and it doesn’t matter what she does and wear. I do not agree with it but I accept it just the way she accepts the way that I wear shorts and won’t wait for marriage to live with my boyfriend. I feel lucky that I know both sides of the story and not only what the media are portraying on Muslims people in the news.

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Picture : Google : “Law against the headscarf or against Islam?”

Post 7: An Intro to Islam in Europe

For the first part of this semester, we focused on case studies of poverty and how it can be addressed, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The rest of this semester, our class will be switching gears to focus on our second main topic: Islam in Europe.

First, it is important to give a brief introduction to Islam and its main beliefs and tenets. Islam shares a common background with both Christianity and Judaism, and even recognize Abraham and Jesus as prophets. However, Muhammed is the prophet whose guidance led to Islam. Muhammed lived during the early part of the 7th century AD, and is viewed as the “last prophet” in a long line of prophets. Many of the religious traditions practiced by Muslims were first written or created by Muhammed.

Like Christianity and Judaism, Islam is a monotheistic religion believing that there is only one all-powerful and all-seeing god. Additionally, Muslims believe in a unity of all creation, preaching and practicing respect for the life of all peoples and creatures. Muslims also believe in a “distributive social justice,” or the circulation of resources, such as money or time, to help the less fortunate and give others a hand up. Traditions and customs are another very important tenant to Islam, such as the requirement to pray 5 times daily or fasting during daylight hours throughout the month of Ramadan.

In recent years, the number of Muslims living in western countries has risen considerably, causing some cultural and religious clashes as Muslims attempt to integrate into their western communities. Prejudice exists against Muslims that can be traced all the way back to the Crusades of the 11th – 13th centuries, when Christians in Europe sent armies to secure Jerusalem, slaughtering Jews and Muslims along the way.

Muslims in Europe

Justin Vaisse, the author of a short essay Muslims in Europe, states that there are four myths that help to perpetuate prejudice against Muslims in Europe. First and second is that being Muslim is a fixed identity that trumps all others, and that Muslims in Europe form a distinct and cohesive group of their own. There are many Muslims native to Europe that take pride in their nation as well as in their religious and cultural identities, and not every Muslim believes or behaves in the same way as another; just like in Christianity, there are different “schools of thought” or denominations that believe slightly different things.

The third and fourth myths are that Muslims are alien to “native” European culture, and that they are demographically gaining on “natives” in Europe. There are many Muslims who are citizens of a European country and have been for many generations; Muslims have lived in Europe for many hundreds of years. For example, Muslims coexisted with people of other religions in Spain for over 800 years, but were driven out during the Reconquista of the 13th century. Additionally, these myths lead us to believe, first, that Muslims can never be considered “natives” in Europe, even when their families have lived there for generations. Secondly, it ignores the many Muslims that interact with and integrate into “native” communities.

As Muslims and Europeans continue to struggle to understand and accept each other, it is important for both sides to make a distinction between the religious and political dimensions of Islam, a topic that Shireen T. Hunter discusses in the book Islam, Europe’s Second Religion. In looking at religious distinctions, one must think of the guidelines – the things one must do – in order to pray/worship/practice Islam. However, in looking at political distinctions, one must only consider what one must not do. In fact, Islam encourages its followers to take “everything that is good and does not contradict their universal principles,” which is why Islam has integrated into so many different societies and cultures throughout history.

However, there are still challenges that different aspects of western, European life bring to Muslim communities. Hunter states that education is one specific aspect that presents a challenge to Muslim communities, as schools are teaching their students less and less to think critically, ask questions, and discuss difficult topics respectfully. The author argues that because of this, students are less sure of who they are and what they believe, which makes it more difficult for them to accept and understand others.

Hunter also lists social rifts as an issue for Muslim communities in Europe. Muslims see discrimination in employment and often experience higher levels of poverty and unemployment. This can lead to a vicious cycle of receiving less education and making less money over a lifetime.

In the face of these challenges, Ramadan, the month-long fast during daylight hours that is observed by Muslims annually, encourages Muslims to specifically focus on being involved in the community, donating time and money, and gaining knowledge. In this way, Ramadan encourages Muslims to specifically focus on some of the issues they are facing in Europe and to hopefully improve the relationship between European Muslims and other Europeans.

Sources:
Hunter, Shirene. Islam, Europe’s Second Religion.
Sardar and Davies. Islam.
Vaisse, Justin. Muslims in Europe.