Thursday, June 29, 2006

muslim citizens, not citizen muslims

I have long argued that there is a difference in attitudes between muslims in the UK/Europe and those in America. The main difference is that in the former, they are former subjects of a colonial empire, and therefore there is a deep wall of racism, resentment, and distrust that cuts both ways. The net effect is to put a barrier to true integration as a citizen with a sense of a genuine stake in the societal identity. This barrier can ccertainly be overcome (spectacularly, in fact - for example, look at Zedan). But that takes an effort of will, as well as education, the latter being something that muslims in UK and Europe have socioeconomic copnstraints upon their access that is analogous to the same as the Black ppulation does here in the United States.

Muslims in America, in contrast, attained entry via the usual (and terribly convoluted) immigration process. Their children grew up without the societal baggage of colonialism upon its victims or perpetrators. As a rule, muslim immigrants tended to be professionals or highly skilled; part of the gauntlet that one must overcome to gain entry and visas. Mulsims are not a labor class in the US, they are mostly upper middle class and highly educated.

So in a very deep sense, the differences between muslims here and across the pond are class-based, and carry a historical resonance. Tariq Ramadan has managed to overcome thse obstacles and still articulates a compelling case for muslims in Europe to embrace identity and take full part in their society; the more muslims follow his call, the easier it will be to break down those obstacles. It is exactly analogous to how the Jews in the US overcame institutionlaized racism and hatred.

There is no reason that muslims in Europe can't be full citizens of their nations.

There have been a number of good articles in the media on these issues recently. Via Matoko and Thabet and other sources:

The Economist has a very in-depth article on the topic of assimilation, which goes into more detail about the barriers to identity in Europe relative to the US.

The Guardian analyzes the results of the Pew Global Attitudes Project and finds that attitudes of mulsims and westerners towards each other are quite variable - and surprising.

The New York Times shows how the post-colonial attitudes in Europe still dominate interactions with the muslim community - for example, by infantilizing their belief system.

The New York Times Magazine has an article on outreach to the muslim community in London to enlist their aid in combating terror attacks.

'Aqoul points us to a wire story that shows how European muslims aren't "silent" about terror - they just want to live their lives.

and finally, The Prospect magazine interviews Tariq Ramadan.

As I have argued earlier - for example, with respect to the Dubai Ports World deal - muslims may be a problem, but they are also an essential part of the solution. True success in fighting off extremism requires recognition of what muslim communities have to offer, and enabling them to contribute to society as equal members.

1 comment:

  1. there are many points to your argument aziz, but, i would offer there are striking counter-examples to your post/neo-colonialism thesis: hindus and sikhs in the UK do far better than muslims and they are colonials (excluding ismailis who come from east africa). in fact, sikhs and muslim mirpuris ("pakistanis") are racially and linguistically and socioeconomically of about the same origin. in the netherlands moroccans have a serious adversarial relationship with the gov., but they were not colonial subjects, the hindus and blacks from suriname were, and they have few issues. in norway pakistanis are a serious problem, but pakistan was not a norwegian possession. simlarly, the kurds and turks in sweden and germany don't have to do with colonialism because these were not colonial nations (germany's colonies were taken away after world war I).

    i will put the finger are 3 factors:

    1) SES selection bias
    2) diverse ethnic origins (there isn't one muslim ethnic group who syngerizes ethnicity and religion)
    3) large number of native converts