Islamophobia and challenges of Muslim integration in West
March 16, 2012
Integration has been defined as an act of incorporating a racial or religious group into a community. European parliament defines integration as “a society’s ability to integrate all its members into new arrangements of active citizenship that ensures the long-term well being of all in a diverse society.” Three forms of integration have been identified within this broad definition. i.e. social, economic and political. Its meaning is taken similar to that of multiculturalism. Both are considered to be complementary ideas.
Integration is a widely discussed topic currently in western Europe, specifically in the aftermath of 9/11, Madrid bombings, 7/7 bombings, Danish carton controversy and burqa ban in France. Many people are questioning If Muslims will be able to integrate in the European society. As Tariq Ramadan says, “the realities of daily discrimination, suspicion and rejection has not gone away and many Muslims are having a hard time of it in Europe. The road to coexistence is something of a mine field, not so much because of discriminatory legal system, but because of an increasingly widespread prejudice that “Islam and Muslims” are by definition incapable of integration.”
According to Samuel P. Huntigton, failed integration which can take many forms such as higher unemployment, poor educational results and the erection of so called parallel societies in which Muslims are believed to purposely separate themselves from broader society has led some Muslims to find a greater religious identity that can find many forms of expression from wearing of the headscarves to the erection of radical mosques that indoctrinate alienated youth with fundamentalist attitude.
Therefore, there are many challenges in the face of integration process in Western Europe. There are many factors which are hindering the process of integration. Some of these factors are:
Islamophobia, right wing politics, immigration and state policies and laws which are hindering the process of integration. These factors are widely discussed as follows:
Although, there is no legally agreed definition of islamophobia, policies to combat it are taken under the concepts of racism and racial discrimination which are universally accepted by governments and international organizations.
Islamophobia has been defined as an irrational fear and hatred of muslims as an identifiable group. This term was first used in artist Etiene Denit and ethnographer Sliman Bin Ibrahim’s L’Orient Vu de l’ Occident which briefly referred to an “islamophobi delirium”. It was popularized during the 1990s and 1980s. However, it came to forefront after the publication of Runnymede’s Trust report Islamophobia: a challenge to us all.
ECRI, the council of European commission against racism and intolerance, has published two general policy recommendations which are general policy recommendation no.5 “combating intolerance and discrimination against Muslims”; and general policy recommendation no.7 on “national legislation to combat racism and racial discrimination”. In addition, ECRI’s general policy recommendation no.8 states that: “as a result of fight against terrorism engaged since the events of September 11 2001, certain groups of persons notably Jews, Arabs, Muslims, certain asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants, certain visible minorities and persons perceived as belonging to such groups have become particularly vulnerable to racism or to racial discrimination across many fields of public life including education, employment, housing, access to goods and services, access to public places and freedom of movement.”
Thus, Islaomphobia is taken under the general definition of racial discrimination. However Islamophobia which is taken as the fear of Islam is more pronounced against Muslims. Islamophobic attitudes in western Europe help in fuelling hostility between Muslims and other groups. Islamophobia is due to different perception of Islam, specifically in the aftermath of 9/11, and viewing Islam and West in the light of clash of civilization as proposed by Samuel P. Huntington.
According to Jocylene Cesari, “instances of failed integration are the by-product of socioeconomic inequalities, systemic discrimination of religious minorities and rising Islamophobia.”
According to Runnymede Trust report, many Muslims are facing racial discrimination and there are rising instances of Islamophobia.
There are behaviours which characterize Islamophobia in general:
1. Islam is seen as a monolithic, static block unresponsive to change.
2. Islam is seen as separate and detached, not having values in common with other cultures.
3. It is seen as inferior to the West.
4. It is seen as violent, aggressive and threatening, and involved in clash of civilizations.
5. It is seen as a violent political ideology used for military or political advantage.
6. Criticisms made of the West by Muslims are rejected outrightly.
7. Hostility towards Muslims is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society.
8. Hostility against Muslims is seen as natural and normal.
Islamophobia is thus one of the challenges in the way of integration, and it needs to be countered through dialogue and cooperation between Muslims and other communities. There is a need to move away from Anti-Islam rhetoric and extremist views on both sides and engage in dialogue. Only then Muslims can be integrated in their society, specifically in western European countries.