8 May 2013
Integration of Muslims in the European Society
One of the most pressing issues facing the European Union and its member states today is how to handle the integration of Muslims into European society. From the time waves of Muslim immigrants were brought to Europe in the 1950’s to perform low-skill labor, the place of the Muslim community within Europe has been hotly contested. Each individual state is left to its own means on how to integrate Muslims as long as their means do not violate broader European Union rules regarding human rights. The variance of their approaches provides interesting insight into the deeper political ...view middle of the document...
These events coupled with a perceived threat in the affect graying native European population and overall declining white birthrates coupled with booming Muslim fertility rates have created an extremely sensitive cultural situation in Europe.
The issue facing many European nations today is how they plan to bring their Muslim communities to a peaceful balance with the rest of their populations. Racial tensions have always been exceptionally high in Europe when it comes to non-whites. A historical resistance to cultural assimilation within the Muslim culture is another hurdle to jump. Furthermore, Muslim life is dictated by norms and customs that are not considered typically “European” such as abstinence from alcohol and certain religious diet restrictions like abstinence from eating pork.
When it comes to integrating Muslims, there are two general approaches. The first approach is the British path of multi-culturism, which emphasizes cultural individuality and a laissez-faire stance on integration. Assimilation is the opposing approach, characterized by an active government hand in culturally integrating Muslims. Both perspectives have major flaws, but present their own upsides depending on the ideals of the country.
The British multi-culturism policy is based partially in the strong historical role of religion in Britain. Although this religion had always been the church in the past, the underlying theme of religious importance is a serious factor in how they handle Muslim populations. One upside of the British approach to integration is that it encourages tolerance of other religions. Because the British government’s stance is accepting of non-white culture, it is basically conveying the message that the Muslim culture does not pose a threat to traditional British culture. Although many British citizens would disagree, the fact that the government policy officially establishes tolerance as the integral component to good cultural relations is extremely significant. One practical example of British multi-culturism policy is the policy of allowing British-Sikh policemen to wear headdresses on duty.
The approach also has some serious pitfalls. One of the major criticisms is that multi-culturism may encourage Muslims to develop within their own societies outside of mainstream British culture. UNC’s National Borders Identification Conflict project speaks to this very issue, arguing, “While emphasizing respect for differences of Muslim communities, in placing too much emphasis on individual identities the multiculturalist model gives shelter and opacity to groups that don’t want to integrate into the fold” (Nettleton and Dickey). This quote is clearly referencing extremism but it also applies in a milder sense to the peaceful majority of the Muslim population. This point is extremely relevant to the debate because it shows that too extreme a focus on identity and cultural individuality can foster development of “parallel societies.” After all,...