Minaret ban reflects Europeans’ confusion about their secular identity

In this article, the author argues that Europe was not sure about its religious or secular identity and was therefore unable to deal with the challenges of the new Islamic presence. Referring to Christopher Caldwell’s recent study “Islam in Europe: Reflections on the Revolution in Europe”, the author claims that a minority with strong cultural and religious beliefs has a significant influence on a majority society, if that majority has “weaker beliefs and sense of identity”. This is allegedly the case for Switzerland and Europe in general.

Rarefied Islamophobia

There is an increasing trend among European intellectuals, politicians, and essayists to describe Islam as a major cause of the current identity crisis of most European countries. Christopher Caldwell’s book, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West [see “New Book Stokes Fear of a Muslim Europe” by Bruce B. Lawrence], is based on the same simple premise that permeates today’s political and public discourse on Islam: Europe’s Muslims are responsible for the radical transformation and increased vulnerability of the continent’s culture and identity.

Germany has misread Islam

When Wolfgang Schäuble convoked a multi-year “Islam Conference” in 2006 to ease relations between German society and its Muslim minority, the interior minister made a statement – “Islam is a part of Germany” – that was viewed as a groundbreaking and generous concession. Today it looks more like a statement of the obvious. At the final session of the conference on Thursday, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) released a study on “Muslim Life in Germany”. It found that there are vastly more Muslims in Germany than most specialists and pundits had assumed. Where most estimates held the Muslim population at around 3m, the more comprehensive BAMF study places it around 4m, and possibly as high as 4.3m. That means Muslims make up not 4 per cent of the population, but 6 per cent. Does this matter? Of course it does. The new numbers are grist to the mill of those who say the authorities have not been straight with them about the scope of immigration. More important, the size of a community affects a country’s options for integrating it. The bigger it is, the harder it is. Against this, the BAMF study offers one basic reason for optimism: diversity. We should think not of a monolith of millions of like-minded newcomers but of a mosaic of communities, 10,000 here, 10,000 there. If Germany’s Muslims cannot agree among themselves, then how, in the end, can they develop a loyalty or allegiance to anything other than the German state? The multi-facetedness of German Muslim life is an implicit rebuttal of the sense that Muslims are “taking over”. Christopher Caldwell reports.