In the 13th chapter of the book Islam, Europe’s Second Religion authors Sami Zemni and Christopher Parker discuss the “failure of integration” of Muslims in Europe. They define the concept of “failure of integration” as, “..the perceived failure of migrants/immigrants of non-European origin to integrate into host societies… the social construction of the migrant – and the Muslim migrant in particular – as a problematic participant in European social and political life has occurred against the backdrop of two objective demographic movements during the last half century”. Zemni and Parker start off by explaining this failure of integration of Muslims in Europe by first explaining the chronology of migration into Europe. Starting in the 1950’s, when migration was initially encouraged, laborers and their families traveled from developing countries to fill low-wage jobs in European economies. Later by the 1970s is when this encouragement transitioned to a negative image of the immigrants after the economic downturns during the time. During the Cold War and the fallen economy and political upset in the home countries is what leads to an increase in number of immigrants fleeing their home countries and seeking refuge, especially in Western Europe. This failure to integrate was denoted to a migrant’s inability to succeed in the European economy. During the 1970s, migrants were spoken of as guest workers from countries like Turkey, Morocco, or Algeria. Europeans at first though Muslims would not fit into the society because of their cultural differences.
The way Europeans think about integration and multiculturalism is problematic because it puts Muslims in a position where they are forced to defend their ability to properly adopt the responsibilities of citizenship. Zemni and Christopher write, “Consequently, embedded within this discourse is a suspicion that the migrant – being essentially determined by his or her culture of origin – is inherently incapable of meeting and respecting the demands and responsibilities of citizenship in the “secular” European state”. This is going to provide difficulties for Muslims and the way the policy makers in Europe interact with one another. A Muslim immigrant is most likely going to feel less motivated to take part in the society they inhabit if they are being seen as incapable of interacting and seeing how others see in a community because of something such as religion differences.
In Joan Wallachs Scott’s book, Politics of the Veil, she discuses the differences of the gender systems between the Islamic system and the French. Similarly, in both systems women are viewed as secondary to men and their legal rights have been restricted. Opposing factors come in when women come into play, “Islam is seen as a system that oppresses women, French republicanism as one that liberates them”. What the French legislators insisted they were removing, by banning the headscarf, was the sign of womens inequality from the classroom. They also went onto say that there was something sexual about the headscarves because they were showing too little but at the same time too much was being revealed. They said by doing this it declared the equality of men and women and was the first principle of the republic and anyone who pledges allegiance to the republic must follow the principle. You needed to conform because anyone opposed this could never been seen as fully French. They go on to state that it was one of the tenets of laïcité. To “organize relations between the sexes” the French believe they needed to reach absolute individualism and laïcité. The French system celebrated sex and sexuality, which was a complete opposite view of the Islamic gender system, which sees sex as threatening to the society and politics. They have and ideal of “abstract individualism,” that poses a threat to their republicanism and undermines the belief of equality in France. That is why they saw the headscarf as limiting their move toward equality. Scott writes, “Equality in the French system rests on sameness. The one obstacle to sameness for many years was sexual difference: women were “the sex” and so could not be abstracted from their sex; men could be so abstracted. Hence, abstract individuals were synonymous with men”. Hence, the women are wearing headscarves and showing their female gender it positions a threat to the French republic’s “abstract individualism” and “laïcité” standards.
It is very difficult for me to voice my opinion on this because I will never fully be able to understand what it is like to be French or Muslim. But from the outside looking in, it looks like France felt the only way they could deal with their opposition was to ban the threat rather than understand the differences of the Muslim practices and their own. I do not think this is fair to the Muslims and I think what France should have done was talked to the Muslim community and try to come up with some sort of compromise. Like I said earlier, If the Muslims feel as if they aren’t a part of the community because of bans like this they will be less willing to become a part of the community and also less likely to do things to help benefit the community.
Scott, Joan W. The Politics of the Veil. Princeton University Press, 2007. Print.
Shireen, Hunter T. Islam, Europe’s Second Religion. Westport: Praeger, 2002. Print.