“Multikulti” or Assimilation? The Question of European Identity

7 February 2011

In this opinion piece, Paul Schulmeister argues that despite the doubts raised by debates concerning the integration of foreigners in Europe, the notion of European identity does exist, and must be promoted. While on the one hand, we should not exaggerate concerning the difficulties that foreigners have had in integrating, on the other hand we should not shy away from wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” or giving a piggy bank as a present.

According to Schulmeister, European identity ultimately rests on the concepts of freedom and justice; the rationality of the Enlightenment; and a striving towards the absolute, which is tempered by scientific relativism. While the German Chancellor Merkel says that “‘Multikulti’ has failed,” what she means is that the ideology of multiculturalism has failed, given that multiculturalism has become a part of everyday life. Schulmeister states that “lip service to European leitkultur” is simply not enough: for immigrants that choose Europe as their new homeland, there must be an unreserved recognition of democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and equality of the sexes.

Islam en Español: In Conversion, a New Identity

Majority of Hispanics in the United States are Catholic, some studies have estimated that there are as many as 200,000 Hispanic converts to Islam in this country. AT the North Hudson Islamic Educational Center in Union City, N.J., there are Spanish-language classes on the Koran and an annual Latino Muslim Day. About 35 percent of the center’s congregation is Hispanic, and there are frequent conversions in which Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Mexicans, Cubans and others recite the Shahadah, a declaration of belief.

New Book: Nahid Afrose Kabir, “Young British Muslims: Identity, Culture, Politics and the Media”, Edinburgh University Press

In Britain’s highly politicized social climate in the aftermath of the 7/7 London bombings, this book provides an in-depth understanding of British Muslim identity. The author conducted ethnographic fieldwork in the form of in-depth, semi-structured interviews of over 200 young Muslims in five British cities: London, Leicester, Bradford, Leeds and Cardiff.

Kabir’s careful analysis of interview responses offers insights into the hopes and aspirations of British Muslims from remarkably diverse ethnicities. By emphasizing the importance of biculturalism, the author conveys a realistic and hopeful vision for their successful integration into British society.

Young British Muslims is available for purchase from Edinburgh University Press.

Nahid Afrose Kabir is a visiting fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, USA. She is the author of Muslims in Australia: Immigration, Race Relations and Cultural History (London: Routledge 2005).

Call for Papers: “Multiculturalism in a Globalised Society: European Muslims, Identity and Citizenship”

Venue: Park Campus, University of Northampton,
Northampton NN2 7AL, UK

This conference gathers academics, journalists, researchers, policy makers, youth workers, civil society organisations and other members of the public to discuss issues around Muslims in Europe, identity, citizenship and belonging. It aims to address issues relating to Muslims’ engagement or disengagement with the mainstream European society; what challenges are there for their positive participation in the success of the multiculturalism model. It will also aim to map out Muslims’ use of the media and the extent to which that helps define who they are.

Conference themes:

This conference will cover (but not necessarily limited to) the following areas of enquiry:

– European or Muslim: What do Muslims in Europe believe to be their identity?

– Multiculturalism and Integration: What does this actually mean?

– Active citizenship: What does this mean in Islamic terms?

– The relationship between British Muslims and the global Muslim community – the Ummah.

– The rise of political Islam – Islamism

– Post 9/11 Radicalisation and terrorism

– New media and youth/women empowerment.

– Youth subcultures and new media, what is going on?

– What functions are the internet and satellite TV playing in engaging/disengaging Muslim communities?

Call for submissions:
Abstracts of no more than 400 words, along with a short bio should be submitted by the 15th October 2010. Papers should reflect one or more of the conference themes mentioned above. Particularly welcome are papers based on empirical work and a clear research method (s).

Submission deadlines:
Submission of abstracts: 15th October 2010
Notification of acceptance: 3rd November 2010
Submission of full papers: 26th January 2011
Selected conference papers will be published in an edited volume.

Please send all submissions and enquiries to Dr Noureddine Miladi (conference coordinator), E-mail: noureddine.miladi@northampton.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0)1604 892104

Ben Kader, a Nebulous and Painful Identity

22 August 2010
The Editions de l’Aire will soon be publishing a French translation of Zurich author Daniel Groetsch’s novel Ben Kader. The novel shifts between Algiers in 1957 and Zurich in 2001, and explores the contrasts between father and son, adopted and assumed identities, Eastern and Western cultures, Islam and Christianity.
Ben Kader himself is believed to be Arab during the Algerian War of Independence; however, he is in reality descended from an immigrant Armenian family. His son in today’s Zurich is derided by a travel agent as “not a real Swiss… he didn’t really feel like he had the same culture as us, he was lacking something like an identity.” A book that juxtaposes two characters and two worlds with one question: who am I?

The Emerging American Muslim Civic Identity

By EBOO PATEL

The recent spate of high-profile news on Muslim-Americans can be summed up easily: horror and terror. The high-profile actions of the few are overshadowing a trend that is capturing the many: the emergence of an American Muslim civic identity, which is to say, how Islam inspires its followers to be better citizens in America.

Dutch Robber Fakes Moroccan Identity

A robber in the Dutch town of Hoofddorp used a Moroccan accent in order to mislead police and hide his identity. The 16 year old committed multiple robberies including a gas station, video library, tanning salon and hotels, causing considerable unrest in the town. He has been sentenced to a year of youth detention.

Re-imagining European Identity Politics and the Social Integration of Muslims

In this timely work, Alexander Castilla deconstructs the myth of the so-called clash of Islam and democracy, and examines the forces involving the social integration and religious accommodation of Muslims in Catalonia, Spain during the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States and the March 11, 2004 terrorist attacks in Spain. In adapting to the pressures of globalization and to their own religiously plural, yet increasingly secular society, the Catalans sought to strike a delicate balance between the accommodation and integration of Muslims, while building on Catalonia’s nation building project which focused on the historical continuity of Catalan language and culture.

Re-imagining European Identity Politics and the Social Integration of Muslims defines how the claims of immigrant Muslims influence the ongoing construction of a Catalan national identity. It also explores the primary demands for religious accommodation which Muslims sought in the beginning of the 21st century and why it is necessary to separate political and religious powers. Looking at the role of Muslim religious leaders in the context of secular society is of particular significance because the contemporary issues surrounding the separation of politics and religion is far from being resolved not only in Catalonia, but also in greater Spain and in other European countries with significant Muslim communities such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Holland and France.

Re-imagining European Identity Politics and the Social Integration of Muslims represents the first comprehensive study in English about the social integration of Muslims living in Catalonia and combines an historical, socio-political and philosophical analysis about Islam and democracy and contributes to the literature on peace and security studies, as well as to studies of migration, citizenship and nationalism.

Published by VDM Verlag Dr. Müller, the book is now available on Amazon.com.

Islam overshadows integration in Norwegian debate

In a contribution to a debate in Norwegian Aftenposten, Editor and Media Researcher Knut Olav Åmås writes that ethnic and religious minorities in Norway are being categorized – and tend to categorize themselves – in terms of their religious or ethnic belonging.

Columnists of Muslim background feel forced to discuss religious issues and claim to be manouvered in to a defense position. Åmås also reports that many Muslims feel reluctant to parttake in debates in fear of threats.

Knut Olav Åmås notice two voices amongst Muslim-Pakistani immigrants. One that claims the debate in Norway is conflict-oriented and promotes strong views and posts. But there are also warnings of an victim mentality amongst Norwegian Muslims.

By Norwegian standards, the large Pakistani immigrant minority is generally successful and economically well integrated. But maybe, Åmås says, they play an unproportionally big role in media. This leads to a debate where the issue of integration is overshadowed by discussions about Islam. Åmås calls for voices of other religious and ethnic minorities in Norway.