Post 8: Controversy in Europe

In the book, “Islam, Europe’s Second Religion,” Sami Zemni and Christopher Parker go into detail about what they describe as the “failure of integration.” This is describing the “failure of migrants/immigrants of non-European origin to integrate into host societies” (Parker, 2002). This name is a reflection of two demographic movements that occurred in the last half century that have been problematic. Zemni and Parker explain, “The first is the migration of laborers and their families from developing countries to fill low-wage jobs in European economies” between 1950 and 1970 and the second “relates to the dramatic increase in the number of people fleeing conflict and/or political and economic insecurity in their home countries (Parker, 2002). In the past, groups from Turkey, Morocco, or Algeria were considered outcasts or as described in the book “others.” Today, the “others” are Muslims, which is a reflection of the Islamist movements. Zemni and Parker go onto explain that debates come from cultural terms instead of migration, societal discrimination, or class politics (Parker, 2002). The reason this is so problematic is because critics believe that it was not coincidental, and people “take for granted that different cultures represent fundamentally fixed, closed, and opposing visions of social and political life” (Parker, 2002).


This issue creates real problems for the Muslim community. Many Muslims are hesitant to migrate in order to broaden their civic participation. On top of all this, the “real” risk described is that these can become self-fulfilling. As described as an example in the book: “it is never asked whether the Muslim migrant, whose social and political engagement and awareness do not extend far beyond the horizons of neighborhood and family, is, in fact, fundamentally ‘less integrated’ than the Flemish inhabitant of a working-class neighborhood whose horizons, similarly, do not extend too far beyond the local pub” (Parker, 2002).

The Islamic gender system is different from the French in more ways then one. In Wallach’s book, “Politics of the Veil,” she describes the disapproval of the Islamic headscarf. Wallach explains, “there was something sexually amiss about girls in headscarves; it was as if both too little and too much were being revealed” (Scott, 2002). This poses lots of questions, since headscarves were a known sign of modesty and unavailability—how can headscarves reveal too much? If anything I would think that it would reveal too little, since more of their body is covered. Wallach explains “Muslim modestly is taken to be sexually aberrant by French observers” (Scott, 2002). There is much controversy between Muslims and the French that come with the use of the veil. Muslims view veils as “a recognition of the threat sex poses for society and politics” (Scott, 2002). The French, on the other hand, celebrate sex and sexuality, and believe that it is free of social and political risk. Wallach points out that Islam afflicts women as the French bring them up. After reading into this debate, I think all of Wallach’s points are valid. Islam and the French republic have very different views on what is right and what is wrong in terms of their opposing gender systems, which they are subject to. Muslims go against the French’s view on “abstract individualism” and “laicite.” I agree with Wallach when she explains that the French gender system is not only superior but “natural,” and I think that this controversy will continue to be an issue in the future since both views are very strong and prevalent.

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Parker C., Zemni, S. (2002). Islam, Europe’s Second Religion. Wesport , CT : Praeger .

Scott, J. Wallach. (2002). Politics of the Veil. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.



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