Post 12: Conclusions on Integration of Muslims in Europe

In the book Islam, Europe’s Second Religion, Lief Stenburg discusses the integration of Muslims in Scandinavia. He breaks this integration down into four levels. The first is “the general integration of Muslims, in order to make Islam and Muslims an accepted part of the country’s everyday life.” Integration at this level has been difficult and slow-moving, as Scandinavians are still learning to accept Muslims and to interact with them, and Muslims are still learning to leave their comfort zones found in their local Islamic communities.

The second level of integration is at the political level. Fully integrated citizens would participate fully in the politics of their home country. However, this is not the case of many Muslims in Scandinavia, who think that any participation in government, particularly at the national level, is futile in reaching their goals. Due to existing prejudices and the small number of Muslims in Scandinavia, it is also difficult for a Muslim politician to be elected.

muslim voting

Muslims have also not integrated well at the level of religious rituals. The book gives an example of Muslims protesting the restrictions on slaughtering animals passed by the Freedom of Religion Act. Looking at this example, there is a large difference between what is accepted and practiced by Muslims and Scandinavians as far as the topic of religious rituals.

The last level of integration is ideologically. Muslims must learn to change their way of thinking in order to accept their Western home while still practicing their faith. This process has begun taking place, as Muslims reinterpret the Quran and begin to create a so-called “Euro-Islam.”

I. L. Garcia and A. I. P. Contreras discuss similar issues of integration found in Spain in the same book. While Spain does have a history of Muslim rule in the past few centuries, most Muslims were driven out as Catholicism in Spain grew in popularity. Additionally, Spain has never had a long-lasting colony in a Muslim country, meaning that any citizens of Spain’s colonies that moved to Spain were likely not Muslim. Thus, Spain has only begun receiving Muslim immigrants in the last 20 years.

Spain also sees different degrees of Muslim immigration based on the various groups of Muslims found in the country. For example, naturalized Muslims and Spanish converts enjoy very high integration into Spanish society. However, Muslim immigrants who have traveled to Spain for economic or other reasons demonstrate a lower level of integration, as they cannot participate in political life and often interact only within their local Muslim communities.

With these two chapters, we have concluded our study of Islam, Europe’s Second Religion. In the final remarks, editor Shireen Hunter points out a few conclusions of this book. First, Hunter concludes that “the process of Islam’s and Muslims’ interaction with European societies…is taking place within a historical context of inherited and deep-rooted cultural and religious prejudices. While prejudices are difficult to overcome, strides are being made for Muslims to be accepted and integrated into the European community. During this process, Muslims will likely find themselves reinterpreting Islam as they strive to bring together Islam and modernism.

Hunter also discusses that the best option for these immigrants is “integration without complete assimilation.” This phrase means that, while Muslims may become an integral part of the European society and begin participating in political and social life, they will still preserve their own beliefs and values, rather than taking on those of native Europeans.

Though Muslim populations in Europe differ in their cultural, religious, and political beliefs, one thing is common for almost all of them: they often constitute the underprivileged class and are economically worse-off than their European counterparts. Hopefully, as Muslims begin to integrate more fully into their respective societies, they will also be able to break out of this cycle of poverty and deprivation, and be labeled simply as “Europeans,” just like everyone else.

Sources:
Hunter. Islam, Europe’s Second Religion.

Post 12 : The end or a new beginning?

WEEK FOURTEEN                  Post #12             

  1. a) What are the four levels of integration of Muslims in the Scandinavian countries discussed by the authors?

The four levels of integration discussed by the authors:

–       General integration:  It would be if Muslims would be totally assimilated and integrated in the normal life in Scandinavian countries. It would mean that even if they wish to stay close to their community, they would still have access to education, to jobs for men and women (a law for women to be able to wear headscarf maybe?) and to fully feel at home and wanted. However, in Scandinavian countries like in many countries, many Muslims are put aside and are not fully integrated and it is hard for them to get a house or a job.

–       Political: not a lot of Muslims are present in the political system which may make it hard for them to be heard and therefore be represented. We have seen that a good step toward integration is to be part also of the political life.

–       Religious rituals: They are not permitted according to the Scandinavian countries law.

–       Ideological: It is good since the Muslims in Sweden especially are willing to promote a Euro-Islam to be able to be more integrated. Both sides Muslims and non-Muslims want to live together which is good for multiculturalism.

  1. b) Why is there not a greater impact of Islam in modern-day Spanish society given the history of Islam in Spain? Discuss different degrees of Muslim integration within the Spanish society.

There is less Muslims in Spain than there is in other European countries such as France and Germany, however as the book says and they have been present since a while. Since there isn’t a lot of Muslims, their influence is lessened.  A reason why there isn’t a lot of Muslims may be explained by the fact that Spain doesn’t have any colonies in countries where the majority of the population is Muslims. Today, there are mainly two types of Muslims living in Spain:

–       Spanish who converted to Islam and naturalized Muslims

–       Immigrants who moved to Spain. However, they are less integrated since they are not very integrated into the Spanish everyday life (like in many European countries).

  1. c) Concluding remarks and thoughts – what stands out? What is your take on the remarks?

To conclude this chapter and semester, we can say that the process of integration in European countries is almost the same everywhere. We can find two types of countries, the ones that are willing to work on integrating the Muslims to assimilate them like France or Germany but are failing in doing so because of laws that are too specific or restrictive. And there are countries that accepts the Muslims but don’t do anything to integrate them at all which creates a real divide between minorities. Now, one of the challenge of our century is to find a way, without war to all live together. To grant freedom to all and to accept each other differences.

Post 12, Week 14 — “Division, Both Ways”

Islamic peoples are a growing demographic all across Europe, including the northern regions a little farther from the Muslim world. Scandinavian countries have seen immigrant populations raise as well, and have seen their own unique culture evolve from this. In Lief Stenberg’s chapter of Islam: Europe’s Second Religion, Lief takes the time to analyze the unique aspects of Muslim immigration in Scandinavia, and what happens once the people have moved there. The first dimension of this integration, as Lief puts it, is “The general integration of Muslims, in order to make Muslims an accepted part of the country’s everyday life. Yet, so far, Muslims have not been integrated at this level.” Two reasons for this, he says, are the “communalism among Muslims plus segregation in housing and in the labor market.” By separating themselves from the surrounding culture, these immigrants maintain a border between the two peoples. On the other side, by forcing immigrants into certain neighborhoods and industries, the Swedes are further radicalizing a growing percentage of their population. Tove Lifvendahl, writing for UK’s The Specter, says “Over the past 15 years, some 650,000 asylum-seekers made their way to Sweden. Of the 163,000 who arrived last year, 32,000 were granted asylum. Sweden accepts more refugees in proportion to size of population than any other nation in the developed world — when it comes to offering shelter, no one does it better. But when it comes to integrating those we take in (or finding the extra housing, schools and healthcare needed for them), we don’t do so well.” The second dimension of this integration has to do with political activism. Lief says “Integration at this level is very low. Very few Muslims are active in the Scandinavian political life at a national level, and these are few who can be characterized as leaders or representatives of Islam and Muslims.” Political division can easily sprout up in these communities between observant and secular Muslims, and how they approach political issues. This leads into Lief’s third dimension, “The level of religious rituals.” These rituals are a serious dividing line between both practicing Muslims and secular Muslims, as well as with the surrounding nation’s social landscape. Finally, the fourth dimension is “The ideological level. At this level, the situation for Muslims in Sweden is quite positive. Today, Muslim individuals and organizations more than express the idea that they are a part of the development of what they call Euro-Islam.” So while integration may be taking extra time or experiencing setbacks, there is at least some optimism for attaining a happy medium in Sweden. Often shifts in perception have to happen before cultural changes can come about, so I think that time is a critical factor in shaping how native Swedes see their new neighbors and countrymen.

The thing about immigration in Spain is that for many years, there has already been an established Muslim population. Originating from military conquests long ago, descendants of these Moors from Africa still inhabit certain areas of Spain. They are a community with an established culture and place in Spanish society, but little political voice. One would think that having this community before the refugees arrived would have helped them, but that isn’t always the case. Laws and customs in Spain favor the established Muslims and their traditions, but often do not assist the immigrants much. Garcia and Contreras, again writing in Hunter’s Islam, Europe’s Second Religion, say “The level of integration is very high in the case of naturalized Muslims and Spanish converts. However, the majority of the Muslim community in Spain consists of immigrants who have settled in Spain only for economic reasons and who have achieved a more limited level of integration.” One main problem that they run into is that because of their fragmentation as a group, they struggle to appoint one figurehead to represent them to the state. Divisions between immigrants and native Spanish Muslims cause their political voice to be divided, and because of that, often unheard. Finally, the social institutions put in place have been outgrown, with the addition of large amounts of immigrants into the society. As Spain moves forward with a different demographic profile, it will have to push for new ways to address their population and integrate these immigrants. “In sum, the Muslim community, with its growing numbers and varying degrees of integration in Spanish society, is characterized by lack of cohesion.”

I think that one thing that stands out, in many cases involving immigrants and political voice, is that these people are divided. Whether it be between secular and practicing Muslims, or between natives and immigrants, the community is always divided. I think that if they could come together as one voice, their people could create a lot more change for themselves at the political level. It doesn’t have to be in compromise of their beliefs, more in a sense of working together for common goals. I think this would help them communicate in their new European countries and also create legislation that works best for everyone involved. At the base of it, I think it all comes down to cooperation, and recognizing that people are different from each other. And that’s okay.

Blog 12: Scandinavia, Spain and Ending Thoughts

There are four levels of integration of Muslims in the Scandinavian countries which are the general integration, political, religious, and ideological.

  1. General Integration

The overall success of this level of integration is that noticeable. Complete success would mean Islam and Muslims would be accepted in the countries’ everyday life. The Scandinavian countries fall short of perfect integration in places such as the housing sector. As we have seen in countries all across Europe, Muslims in Scandinavia have a desire to stay within a Muslim community. Along with that, the housing is segregated as well as in the working field. Hand and hand with the segregation is the general negative perception of Muslims held by Scandinavians. It is a mindset much like the one Americans have. We can see first hand in our country there is a lot more that needs to be changed individually before laws really make a difference. This does not mean laws to promote integration are a bad thing. Sweden for example, is promoting equality in the work force be passing laws that will limit discrimination based on religion by allowing women to wear headscarves and such to work.

  1. Political

There appears to be very few Muslims active in Scandinavian politics. Even the few that are may not be considered a devout Muslim. The authors of this section discuss the two different prototypes. One of which is a middle aged man who advocates for the Muslim organizations that they are a part of. This prototype puts Swedish politics as second to the politics of their social organizations. The second prototype is the female convert. They would follow more of a secular approach, much more active in Scandinavian politics and advocating for women’s rights.

  1. Religious Rituals

In many countries, including Sweden, the rituals outlined in the Quran are not permitted by law. However, there are other laws, such as the Freedom of Religion Act that are actively being protested by Muslims to be able to follow their teachings.

  1. Ideological

In Sweden, this level of integration has some hope. Muslims in Sweden reject the controversies and problems found in many Middle Eastern Islamic Countries. They want to promote a more true Islam in Europe which they call Euro-Islam. This stance has required a new look at the Islamic faith that may be good for European Muslims who wish to integrate more.

In Spain there is a long history of Islam. The Ottoman Empire had its roots in southern Spain resulting in an ancient influence. Despite that influence, Spain’s Muslim population is relatively low. Two reasons for that, as discussed through the chapters, immigration has just been opened in the past twenty years also they have no lasting colonies in Muslim countries.

Due to the long history of Islam in the country, there are two main types of Muslims living in Spain. There are the Spanish converts and naturalized Muslims and then there are the immigrated Muslims. Latter group makes up the larger amount of Muslims in the country, but find a much more difficult time integrating. The Spanish converts are built into the culture of Spain. The laws in Spain passed to improve integration of the Muslim communities benefits the nonimmigrants to a much higher degree than the immigrants.

mosque-of-cordoba-spain
Mosque in Cordoba, Spain built in 987 AD

The conclusion chapter summarizes most of what has been seen throughout the different countries. It walks through the patterns of diversity and unity, the patterns of muslim-europeans interaction, persisting disparities and limits to multiculturalism and the relations with the Muslim world. What stuck out to me was the section on “Islam no longer a transition phenomenon.” The section highlights the shift in the view towards Muslims. Originally they were viewed as temporary. As time went on the immigrants began building mosques and other infrastructure marking their intent to stay in their new countries. The host countries now have to “deal” with the new cultural group. Are we moving towards a new shift in thinking as the Muslim populations grow larger and more prominent or are we still stuck in that second mindset of their presence being a new problem? How long before we will be able to accept the population as our own?

Post 11 Week 13 ” We Are All One People”

Islam in Europe has so many complex dimensions, even varying by which particular country is being discussed. European-Muslim relations are different in Germany than in, say, France. In Italy, the Muslim community has very different qualities than those found across Europe, a different identity. Stefano Allievi, in Hunter’s Islam, Europe’s Second Religion, gives four distinguishing factors for this community. “(1) diversity of countries of origin, (2) rapid pace of entry and settlement, (3) higher number of irregular immigrants, and (4) higher level of geographic dispersion.” These add up to a drastically different Muslim community in Italy, where the immigrants are more effectively assimilated. These people have come from numerous different countries, meaning no one nationality has overwhelming numbers. Also, they are more spread out, creating less insular communities where their previous country’s traditions and customs are more likely to manifest. This is similar to the situation in the United States, where Muslim people have a greater sense of identity with the host country. In his article, Why the US Doesn’t Have a Muslim Problem, and Europe Does, Naveed Jamali discusses how the US came to its current state. Studies by the Pew Research Center have found that Muslim populations in America are largely average Americans, who live in harmony with their communities. The Pew Center found that 43% of US Muslims think Muslim immigrants should mostly adopt American practices and lifestyles, with just 26% wanting immigrants to remain distinct.

NUMBERS

However, Jamali may be working under a bias, as demonstrated by his origin story. He has family members in Europe, disenfranchised with their situation and national identity. he may see Europe as unwelcoming because his relatives feel no connection, but that may not be the case for everyone. However, since this article was published the national dialogue about Islam has changed drastically in America. With the rise of Donald Trump and American nationalism, foreigners are seen less favorably than in the near past. As fear of terrorism and foreign cultures has spread, we have seen rising rates of attacks on Muslim immigrants and families, a national attitude that these people should “go back to where they are from.” With the ban on immigration from certain Muslim countries, relations between these people have taken a sour turn. I personally don’t know how the American Muslim community is handling these issues, but I have seen certain things firsthand that give me hope.

 

maxresdefaultAfter the ban was announced, here in Columbia at the local mosque, citizens took the time to make sure these people felt welcome. Kind notes and flowers covered the steps of Columbia’s mosque, letting them know we support them and meant them no harm. That is the kind of city I want to live in, one that sticks together and supports people who need help. As long as Americans stand with each other like this, and let the government know that we are NOT afraid, there is still a chance for people to live together in peace. And i think countries like Italy are also paving the way for a more unified tomorrow, there’s no reason people cannot work together and live in the same countries, even with their diverse backgrounds.

Residents_bring_flowers__protest_travel_ban_outside_of_Columbia_mosque_2017-01-30_60be7f

Post 11 : Immigration rhyme with Integration

WEEK THIRTEEN          Post #11

 

A girl holds a placard during a protest called "Not in my name" of Italian muslims against terrorism, in downtown Milan

  1. How does the Muslim immigrant population in Italy differ from that in other European countries? What factors have contributed to the lack of an “intesa” with the Islamic community in Italy?

 

The Muslim immigrant population in Italy differs from that in other European countries for the reason they came. Indeed, many came to France or Germany to rebuild the countries after World War II. They mostly came as temporary workers but then instead of going back to their home country they stayed in the country where they worked, got the citizenship and then build families. Now, France and Germany have three or four generations of Muslim immigrants who came after the war. However, the Muslims came to Italy to work or get an education.

 

Also, every religion in Italy can have an “Intesa” in order to be recognized. However, there are some barriers which keeps Italian to be fully integrated. Indeed, the language, their culture and the fact that many Muslims don’t have the Italian citizenship.  So, as far as Italian authorities are concerned, Islam doesn’t exist. This means that mosques cannot receive public funds, Islamic weddings have no legal value and Muslim workers aren’t entitled to take days off for religious holidays.

  1. Jamali reading: Why does the U.S. not have a “Muslim problem” when comparing to Europe? How does the Muslim population in the U.S. differ from that in Europe? What biases might this author have? What has changed since the article was published?

 

According to the reading, the U.S doesn’t have a Muslim problem, mainly thanks to the integration of the Muslim population there. According to the Pew Research Center there are 3.3 million (or 1% of the population) Muslims living in the US which represents a smaller percentage than in the European countries. When people integrate and assimilate to their new country people see them less as different or as a group that doesn’t want to blend in. What helps to be assimilated is also education, as written in the paper the Muslims there are very well educated and then get better jobs opportunities which make them happier to live there whereas in Europe immigrants are coming and even though they have access to education, they do not have access to the high position in companies so their position doesn’t evolve.

In the US, they can probably feel Muslim and American both at the same time and be proud of it. There is a real sense of patriotism for Muslim American that doesn’t really exist in Europe (display of flags) which make them more accepted than in Europe.

 

The author might be biased because he is speaking about his own family and he then doesn’t have many examples. Each family might have different experiences which can be good or bad.

Also, I think it is important to note that the US is a new country, that most of the people who came were from Europe and created a melting pot of people, who ended up being American + another nationality. First, these people came because the US offered a freedom of religion. Whereas in Europe, countries have more history and each of them have their own nationality, culture and language so it is hard to compare both of them only based on the integration.

What might have changed since the publication of the article is the political mood. More terrorist attack happened people are starting to be scared about Muslim population and the new President is contributing to these false ideas that we must stop immigration coming from Muslims countries (some of them), so people might become more racist toward the Muslim population.

 

 

 

Post 11: Italy

Italy has a slightly different background with the Muslim community than other countries within Europe. Most of their history contained little interaction with the Muslim world. Italy had no colonies in Muslim countries and had few come to their country. There was a brief time, under Musalini’s rule, that Italy proclaimed itself as the protector of the Muslim world. The senitment hardly trickled into the Italian culture. Today most of the Muslims are sunni. Many immigrants are also student that have stayed in the country due to war back home.

italian-muslims-milan
Friday Morning Prayer in Milan

In Italy there are certain benefits that religious groups can receive. These benefits originated with the Catholic church, but have since been opened to several minority religions. In order to be recognized by the government an “intesa” has to be signed signifying and agreement has been met. However, Stefano Allievi outlines a few reasons that the Muslim community has yet to do so. The largest issue, Stefano points out, is the fact that most Muslims are not Italian citizens. A majority of the immigrants hope to one day return to their home country. There are other religious groups that are also primarily not Italian citizens, but the Muslims have not been present nearly as long. There are three other issues that come together to basically make Islam an “outsider religion.” These include the different cultural practice or languages used in their institutions, the financial backing from outside countries, as well as the limited amount of Italian converts remaining fairly low.

According to Jamali in his article “Why the US doesn’t have a Muslim problem, and Europe does”, there are a few key differences in the different regions that affect the “Muslim problem.” His main source creates a limited view on what is going on resulting in a small bias. Jamali uses his family and personal experiences to explain what he sees. He follows up his personal observations with facts and statistics that compliment them.

The basic problem that Jamali is addressing is that Muslims in Europe (or Germany in his case) do not feel European. They immigrate to their new country but never fully assimilate. The feeling of isolation, Jamali argues, leads to the large number of individuals heading to Syria to join ISIS. On the other hand, Muslims immigrating to the United States have “no conflict ‘between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society.’” In his personal opinion, Jamali never felt anything other than American despite living in an all white New York suburb.

There are possibly a few different variables to the equation that Jamali also points out. To start with, there are around 19 million Muslims living in Europe, 4.2 million of which are refugees. Muslims are also moving towards becoming 8% of Europe’s population. The United States has only 3.3 million or 1% of the population. In Europe, many in the Muslim community are part of the working class and live in poor neighborhoods. In the US, Muslims “make up 10% of US physicians, are the 2nd most educated group after the Jewish population, [and] are as likely as other American households to report an income of $100,000 or more.”

Based on the facts provided by Jamali, Muslims in America seem to be doing better off than their European counterparts. This may be do to America’s history of immigrants and acceptance built into the constitution. It could also be do to the fact that there is are significantly fewer Muslims in the US population so the modern culture does not feel threatened by the influx of foreigners.

Since the article was published in 2016, the United States has gone through a few changes that may lower the feelings of contentment for the American Muslims. There is a general sense of fear among the American public that was reflected in the 2016 elections. The new head of the US government has already moved towards legislation and opinions that show anti- Muslim sentiment. How these next four years will play out for the Muslims in America or abroad no one knows.

Post 11: Immigration and Integration

The Muslim immigrant population in Italy presents several differences from the Muslim populations in other European countries. In other areas of Europe, Muslims first immigrated as part of guest worker programs after World War II, when these countries were looking for laborers and skilled workers, particularly from one of their colonies. Therefore, these Muslims were always considered “guests” and “temporary workers” by a large percentage of the European population.

In Italy, on the other hand, Muslims did not come as temporary workers. Rather, they came as students or educated workers. Thus, in Italy, there are no clusters of immigrant Islamic communities like in other European countries, and the religion became visible as the first immigrants arrived in Italy. Italy had no predominantly Islamic colonies from which to draw skilled workers, so their Muslim population has immigrated from a wide range of countries, which usually view Islam as a dominant social and cultural force. This also means that Italy does not treat their Muslim immigrants in terms of a foreign policy, like other European countries.

In Italy, all other religions besides the Catholic church may have an “Intesa” with the Italian government, an agreement between the religion and Italian state that formally recognizes the religion and provides certain juridical and economic benefits. The Italian government is not obligated or incentivized to form an Intesa with various religions; rather, the duty lies with the religious community. Though other religions have signed an Intesa, the Muslim community has not been able to obtain one with the Italian government.

This is for several reasons. First, most Muslims are not Italian citizens, and cultural differences help to “enhance the alien image of Islam” even further than their immigrant status alone. Thus, there is already less incentive for the Italian government to come to an agreement with Muslims, and some Italians even view Muslims as “enemies” that do not deserve the legal privileges an Intesa would provide. Additionally, the community is still in the process of becoming fully established in Italy, and several different organizations are currently vying for power as the organization to represent Islam in Italy.

The lack of Intesa with the Italian government is just one example showcasing the difficulty for Muslims to integrate into European society, and other examples have been cited in previous blog posts. In his 2016 article “Why the US doesn’t have a Muslim problem, and Europe does,” Naveed Jamali, the son of Pakistani immigrants to the US, states that he believes Muslims in the US integrate better than their European counterparts.

While this may be for several reasons, one big reason might be the reason for immigration to each continent. For example, Muslims began immigrating to Europe after World War II when countries were looked for skilled workers and laborers. These people were generally less educated and in a lower economic class than native Europeans, making it difficult to integrate and to fit in with the rest of the population. Subsequent generations stay stuck in this cycle of low education and low income. Additionally, a certain bias against these less educated immigrants likely existed for Europeans.

On the other hand, Muslim immigrants to the US are generally very well educated, as they likely came to the US on work or student visas. The Muslim community in the US is actually the 2nd most educated group. Muslims in the US are integrated in society and demonstrate similar activities and participation in the community as Americans.

Jamali, however, may have some biases on the issue of integration. He states that his father moved to the US on a Fulbright scholarship, opened a successful business, and raised two sons who felt very much American despite their father’s immigrant status. In parallel, his uncle moved to Germany, where he worked as an engineer for the German Space Agency. Neither he nor his sons, however, felt fully “German.” These real-life examples of integration issues have likely influenced his opinion.

plcement sites.jpg

Since the publication of this article, we have seen a lot of hype in the media and during the election about refugees coming to the US and Germany. Many refugees, who are often less educated than Muslim immigrants from previous decades, have been allowed to enter the US. This has sometimes resulted in a clash of cultures and a fear from some Americans that these Muslims are terrorists. Thus, public opinion of Muslims and other foreigners has changed slightly since this article was published.

 

Sources:
Islam, Europe’s Second Religion: Chapter 4 – Islam in Italy. Allievi
Why the US doesn’t have a Muslim problem, and Europe does. Jamali

Post 10 Week 12

Across the entire globe, feminism has always been an uphill battle. “Feminism, because it involves the awareness and analysis of gender inequality and women’s deprivation of their rights and efforts by women to redress wrongs, poses a threat to entrenched patriarchal power and privilege” (Badran) As feminists in the Muslim world have organized and begun to fight for particular causes, there has been a backlash in the fundamentalist religious community. “Feminism which first appeared in Egypt and other Muslim majority countries during the colonial era was branded by its adversaries as Western and anti-Islamic and thus a pernicious form of colonial cultural invasion. The notion of feminism as a Western and an alien assault upon religion – and of secular as Western and anti-religious – re-enforced by Islamists, persists to this day.” Margot Badran gives Islamic Feminism two main goals, the first being “breaking down the notion that the sphere of the family constitutes a separate domain positing instead a continuum of private/family and public/society” with the second being “dismantling the notion that Islam ordains a patriarchal construction of the family.” Islamic Feminism is different from Western Feminism in many ways, both in origin and focus. “Unlike secular feminism’s emergence in the form of a social movement, Islamic feminism burst on the global scene in the late twentieth century in the form of a discourse – a trenchant religiously framed discourse of gender equality.”

Blog 10: The UK and Equality

Salman Rushdie was an English novelist of Indian descent. He was educated in the English school system and was a highly regarded writer. Salman’s publication of The Satanic Verses came as a surprise to many Muslims across the world. Despite their sect, sunni or shi’a, Muslims came together in protest. The Ayatullah Rouhullah Khomeini went as far as pronouncing Rushdie an apostate. In other words, the leader of the Iranian revolution said it was okay for Muslims to kill Salman Rushdie.The Satanic Verses

The Muslims in the U.K. looked at this betrayal of their faith with mixed feelings. A majority were against the writings and the meanings portrayed him Rushdie’s novel. There were several demonstrations against the book including a ritual burning of it. Considered blasphemy, there was an appeal made to apply and ancient British law against it that was applicable to blasphemy against Christianity texts. At the same time, many modernist supported Rushdie’s right to freedom of speech and his ability to write the novel.

The main thing brought out by Salman Rushdie was the need for the British Muslim community to become more politically organized.

Compared to several other countries in Europe, the limitations to Muslim assimilation in the U.K. are few depending on which section of the population that is observed. There are several Muslims that have made it to the upperclass of the U.K. and appear to have assimilated with no obvious difficulties.

The working class however, fields a few more burdens. Many of these are based on the views of multiculturalism, or the lack of acceptance of such. There is still a general distaste for dark skinned individuals by the whites in Britain. To these individuals, they accept the idea that there will be multiple cultures in the U.K., but they do not accept the equality of the individuals. Recently there has been a push, led by Daniele Joly, for “making a place for Muslims in British society.”

The largest problem debated is the one on school. It is here that we see the Muslim communities hesitance to fully assimilate into the Western culture of the U.K. Muslim communities support separation of girls in school, as well as allowing time for prayer, respect for Muslim dress, and halal meat in school meals. The school systems are working with the Muslim communities to meet as many of these accommodations as possible.

Basically, in years past there have been roadblocks provided by the government that prevented the Muslim communities from a smooth road to assimilation. Today, there are more guidelines to promote equality and reduce racism, at least on the government level. Now the communities have to look to move outside their home communities if they want to assimilate.

musawah_logo_1

The Musawah organization gets their name from the word “equality” in Arabic. Based of their name, you can get a basic understanding on what they are are about. More specifically, the Musawah organization is working towards equality within the family.

There are a few key messages I would like to highlight:

– Equality in the family is the foundation for equality in the society. Families in all their multiple forms should be safe and happy spaces, equally empowering for all.

– We use a holistic framework that integrates Islamic teachings, universal human rights, national constitutional guarantees of equality, and the lived realities of women and men.

– We believe that equality and justice in the Muslim family are necessary and possible

Through these key messages we get more of a scope into what the organization is about. It is mostly focused on the Muslim family where there is still a large amount of inequality, but is not limited to that. The musawah organization also works with Islamic teachings instead of against them. The Quran is cited and looked towards for answers which is useful especially to the more traditional families.

I was impressed with the approach that the Musawah organization has taken. It is the first I have heard of an organization starting with the small level problems in the family, most likely because American families are considered fairly equal. Based on the other articles I have read that have pitted the Western culture against Islamic teachings, I find it interesting that they use Islamic teachings to promote their messages.