Islam and Muslims are a hot topic these days with increasing terrorist attacks and emergence. With the help of the media, Westerners and Europeans have stereotypes about Muslims and Islam. European philosophers tarnished Islam and Muslims with poems, songs, etc. to give a bad image to Muslims and even the Prophet Muhammad. But, Europe gained so much from Muslims, education-wise. I feel the fear of advancement drove them to slander the religion and the people. This history of slander has continued on today with myths that people in Europe believe to be true. A few myths about Islam are that being Muslim constitutes a fixed identity, sufficient to fully characterize a person. Muslims in Europe are, in one way or the other, inherently foreign, the equivalent of visiting Middle-Easterners who are alien to the “native” culture. Muslims in Europe form a “distinct, cohesive and bitter group.” The last myth that Justin Vaisse mentions is, Muslims are demographically gaining on the “native” population. Being of a certain religion does not overshadow everything else about a person. When Europeans and Westerners hear the world ‘muslim’, they automatically assume that they are Arab and come from the Middle East. People seem to forget that people convert or that they can be natives of a country and be a different religion. Muslim is not a race or and ethnicity, it is a religion. Why is the reaction different when someone says they are a Christian or are Catholic? Islam and Muslims have been in Europe since the 8th century, so saying that Muslims and Islam are alien to Europe is wrong. Europe learned from Muslims in the Arab world (mathematics, etc.), Europeans studied abroad in the Middle East. Muslims, at the most, make up 1.5-6% of the populations in Europe (varies between countries), they are in no way gaining on the “native” population. News articles print these exaggerated stories to instill fear in “native” Europeans and Westerners, and create Islamophobia. These people are ignorant of Islam and believe that their religion and political views go hand-in-hand.
This is why it is important to make the distinction between religious and political dimensions in Islam because religious beliefs and practices do not dictate one’s political beliefs. Islam as a religion is a link to God and a way of life, how to live according to Muhammad, the messenger of God. Political views are shared between communities that are the basis of an economic or political system. Political views deal with laws regarding judicial systems, etc. of nation, not the individual. Religious and political distinction is not the only challenge that Muslims face in the West. Education and social rifts are also challenges that plague Muslims. Education in Europe brings challenges to Muslim like the quality of education for children. Pupils, students, and academics don’t really know who they are. Schools, for all children, teach blurry lines regarding cultural identity and religious illiteracy, they are just being led. Social rifts in Europe also create challenges for Muslims. Unemployment, social exclusion, delinquency, and economic marginalization are developing and haunting citizens. Violence, insecurity, and racism are happening in cities, towns, etc. which creates xenophobia because of ignorant people believing false news or traditions. Ramadan suggests that, to face these challenges, genuine dialogue, joint activities (in education especially), and necessarily dynamic coexistence. Muslims should acquire the confident feeling that they are at home and be more involved in European society. Open discussion about people’s ignorance of Muslims and Islam is the first step for Europe and the West to change the normalization of Islamophobia and xenophobia that has existed for centuries.