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.
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.