Post 8 – Muslims/Islam in Europe

Islam in Europe has been a very controversial topic since the emergence of radical Islamist groups like ISIS. In the book “Islam: Europe’s Second Religion”, it is mentioned that Muslims have failed to integrate into Europe.  Zemni and Parker explain the “failure of integration” of Muslims in Europe saying that; migrant groups cannot “get ahead”. Migrants have failed to adopt styles and practices of daily life considered compatible with the norms of the hegemonic national cultures. Muslims will continue to be seen has “others” because the migrants who came for guest work in the 1970s were all Muslim (Algeria, Morocco, or Turkey). Zemni and Parker mentioned that Europeans could problemize the migrant’s presence without appearing prejudiced, but rather to do so under the pretense of defending European values by, delinking the migrant from nationality and linking them onto a civilizational/cultural matrix. Because of migrants’ low socioeconomic status they were perceived as “culturally different” and through this the debate on communalism gained prominence. They cannot integrate into European society because they will always be viewed as “others”.  Zemni and Parker also mentioned that the failure of integration of Muslims is also because the assumptions underpinning what is really meant by the notion of integration are rarely questioned.

muslimdressThe way Europeans think about integration and multiculturalism is problematic because, they feel that integration means that the “others” have to assimilate, if cultural conflicts continue in Europe (even though Europe is multicultural), it is because the “others” have not adapted to the dominant culture. Europeans put the blame on the culture of the migrants instead of looking at their own culture as a possible problem. An example can be seen in domestic violence cases. For instance, a Belgian couple and a Muslim couple both engage in domestic violence, they are looked at completely different. The Belgian man is negatively judged by the society because his violence is a personal flaw. People try to look for reasons to account for his anger (financial problems, etc. ). For the Muslim man, Europeans attest his behavior to the Qu’ran, saying that there are verses that justify beating his wife; it’s a part of the culture. Europeans not only justify actions like domestic violence by using the Qu’ran, they also bring in the gender systems of Western and Middle Easterners.

The Islamic gender system is different from that of the French because for Muslims, Muslim women are oppressed and Western women are liberated. The veil is a declaration of the need to curb the dangerous sexuality of women (and mend), as response to the risks associated with vital impulses. It is a recognition of the threat sex poses for society and politics. Westerners see that as oppression because they are covered from the male gaze. Freedom is being able to have a male see you sexually.  The French, on the other hand, celebrate sex and sexuality as free of social and political risk. Because men can see them sexually because they do not cover their features, then that is seen as liberation. The Islamic headscarf poses a challenge to the French republic’s ideal of “abstract individualism” because they are not under the gaze of men. The headscarf signals to men that they are not sexually interested and, since French is a patriarchy, that is seen as oppressive. I find it really surprising that feminists and educated women attribute the headscarf to oppression because they are denying the male gaze for men to see them sexually. If anything, we should look at our own culture that glorifies being half naked to attract a male partner. I also find it sad that, in general, because someone practices a different religion as displays it through dress, that it puts fear in people.

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