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.

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