What is a Muslim? Who are Islam? Are Muslim and Islam the same thing?
These are all questions asked around the world everyday. A lot of times Muslim is used as a broad term to describe people from the middle east or people of color. Islam is talked about in a way that is not popular in America but it is growing rapidly in Europe. There are many myths about Muslims that Justin Vaisse talks about in his article called Muslims in Europe: A short Introduction. In the article he lists four common myths that people think about Muslims in Europe and around the world.
Myth 1: Being Muslim constitutes a fixed identity, sufficient to fully characterize a person. Muslim is commonly thought of as a nationality rather than a religion characterization. Because of where the people are from or what they look like they are labeled as a Muslim. That would be like saying any white person who lives in the south is Baptist or conservative. This may be true in some cases, just like some Middle Easterners may be Muslim, its not always correct to assume that by geographical location or looks to determine who that person identifies with religiously.
Myth 2: 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.
Looking at these charts and facts about religion in the two places in the world, you can see that most religions in the Middle East are Muslim and only about 10% in Europe are Muslim. I argue that foreign people in Europe should have their own voice and people should not stereotype them for being Muslim just because of where they are from. However, it is easy to think they would be Muslim based on the pie chart, seeing that almost the while country is of Muslim faith.
Myth 3: “Muslims in Europe form a distinct cohesive and bitter group”, in the words of a 2005 Foreign Affairs Article. There is not much to say about this myth besides that this is pulling from one article. Muslims in Europe are not that cohesive according to Vaisse. Like most of the culture, religion isn’t the #1 most important aspect of people lives and isn’t always the topic of discussion. When Middle Eastern’s move to Europe they adapt to the culture and act like the natives in this aspect.
Myth 4: Muslims are demographically gaining on the “native” population. You don’t have to be a math savvy person to see that the small percentage of Muslims is not enough to say they are gaining on the native population. Is it increasing each year? Yes. But will it take over the native population? Doubtful.
It is important to make a distinction between religious and political dimensions of Islam. In Islam, Europe’s Second Religion by Shireen T. Hunter, it talks about the differences between the two and how it is important for people to see that they are not the same. By saying there is no distinction between the two it says that they are not open to the new culture and will not integrate into society. This is not the case at all. Muslims do have to follow ‘ibadat in religious situations such as praying but in normal life situations they are free to do what they please. Muslims do have to separate themselves during religious practices because that is what they are ordered to do and Europeans do not understand the language of the religion but they do not have to separate themselves socially.
Challenges in education and social rifts that Muslims face in Europe are wide spread and are happening everyday. In education they are having a hard time teaching to Muslims because they do not fully know who they are. Education is such an important aspect to being a successful human in society that the students only focus on that rather than who they are as a person and what is really important to them. Schools should stress morals and values just as much as education in school. In social rifts challenges stem from the poor economic and social state that Europe is going through right now. The communities that get hit the hardest are the ones with higher populations of immigrants. They have a harder time fitting in and getting full time, long term jobs. This only makes the communities have a harder time of coming out of the economic hole but it makes the social aspect more difficult as well. Starting with short term jobs and starting to work together as a country will be the start of a social and economic change in Europe.
Hunter. Islam, Europe Second Religion. Preface & Introduction; Ch. 11 Europeanization of Islam
Sardar & Davies. Islam. Intro Ch. 2: What is Islam? Ch. 6: Islam and the West.
Justin Vaisse. “Muslims in Europe: A Short Introduction