New Book: The Oxford Handbook of European Islam (Jocelyne Cesari, Editor)

European Islam CoverThe Oxford Handbook of European Islam is the first collection to present a comprehensive approach to the multiple and changing ways Islam has been studied across European countries. Parts one to three address the state of knowledge of Islam and Muslims within a selection of European countries, while presenting a critical view of the most up-to-date data specific to each country. These chapters analyse the immigration cycles and policies related to the presence of Muslims, tackling issues such as discrimination, post-colonial identity, adaptation, and assimilation. The thematic chapters, in parts four and five, examine secularism, radicalization, Shari’a, Hijab, and Islamophobia with the goal of synthesizing different national discussion into a more comparative theoretical framework. The Handbook attempts to balance cutting edge assessment with the knowledge that the content itself will eventually be superseded by events. Featuring eighteen newly-commissioned essays by noted scholars in the field, this volume will provide an excellent resource for students and scholars interested in European Studies, immigration, Islamic studies, and the sociology of religion.

A Muslim President for France in 2022?

Michel Houellebecq's new book "Submission" describes France led by a Muslim President in 2022. (Photo: The London Telegraph)
Michel Houellebecq’s new book “Submission” describes France led by a Muslim President in 2022. (Photo: The London Telegraph)

France, 2022: a Muslim is elected president of the Republic. This is the plot of Michel Houellebecq’s new book. Submission paints a portrait of France led by an Islamic party, where the Sorbonne is an Islamic university and the president is named Mohammed Ben Abbes. The book’s release followed Eric Zemmour’s controversial remarks about French Muslims. University professor Franck Fregosi contends that books such as Houellebecq’s demonstrate “the anxieties of their writers but also of society.”

Submission describes a France whose political policies are limited to those of the National Front or to a religious authority. In 2022 the “Muslim Brotherhood,” a political party invented by Houellebecq, defeats the National Front. The country is shaken, as is the book’s nihilistic protagonist Francois. The university professor is reluctant to convert to Islam in order to keep his power at the “Islamic University of Paris-Sorbonne,” where the secretaries all wear headscarves.

“We’ve built a kind of social fear of an Islam without any nuances…Islam is the scapegoat, it is the cause of all of French society’s ills,” says Fregosi.
Houellebecq’s scenario is “completely implausible,” argues political scientist Philippe Braud. “Muslims are only 10% of the French population. This number will not change, even if there is an increase in immigration,” he says.

Houellebecq caused controversy in 2001 when he stated, “The most stupid religion is Islam.” He has been known to take extreme positions concerning immigration in Europe. President François Hollande recently stated that one in four Frenchmen are immigrants or born to immigrant parents and called for there to be “no room for speech that exploits the fear of France’s dissolution.”

The mobilization of PEGIDA and the German debate on Islam and immigration

Pegida supporters march against perceived Islamization in Dresden, German. (Robert Michael/AFP/Getty Images)
Pegida supporters march against perceived Islamization in Dresden, German. (Robert Michael/AFP/Getty Images)

The right-wing protest movement Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the occident (PEGIDA) has provoked a broad discussion within German public on issues such as racism, refugees, Muslim immigrants and fatigue. Approximately 15.000 people have been joining the Monday marches, which take place every Monday in the city of Dresden, in East Germany. Other PEGIDA branches have initiated marches in cities in North-Rhine Westphalia, such as Bonn and Düsseldorf, in order to broaden the range of the movement.

The movement claims to march across Germany against the “Islamization” and “illegal” immigrants, who are said to exploit the German economy and to free ride the social welfare system of the Federal Republic.

A significant number of PEGIDA´s protestors are mainstream Germans coming from each socio-economic and political scale of society. However, some of the leading members and organizers of PEGIDA belong to the extreme right-wing movement, are active Neo-Nazis and possess criminal records.

According to a YouGov public opinion poll conducted between December 16 and December 18 2014, 49% of all Germans show understanding for the demonstrations of PEGIDA. While 30% of Germans show full understanding for the protests, 19% do partly agree with the claims of PEGIDA and 23% reject the protests. PEGIDA´s protest issues are accepted by 73% of Germans, which raise their concerns about the spread of Islam in Germany. The feeling of phobia (Angst, in German) towards refugee flows is highly recognizable when asking about the number of asylum seekers. Approximately 59% of Germans agree with the statement that Germany accepts “too many” refugees, while 30% disagree with the refugee policy of the German State accepting “clearly too many” refugees.

Representatives of the government, while condemning the protests, showed some propensity for dialogue and understanding. The former president of the German Federal parliament Wolfgang Thierse spoke in favor of dialogue with PEGIDA. “Politics needs better explanation”, he added. He continued by stating the need for politicians to explain the necessity of immigration. While one should confront Neo-Nazis, he said, he should also avoid to criminalize tens of thousands of citizens. According to Mt. Thierse, this answer is too simple as displacement, denationalization and fears (Angst) of people caused by Islamist terror require attention by politicians.
In the same line, the Christian Democratic Federal Minister of Interior, Thomas de Maizière (CDU), showed concern but also understanding for the issues of the demonstrators of PEGIDA. The speaker of the Federal government Steffen Seibert also condemned any kind of racism and hatred against religious or ethnic minorities. However, he said, one needs to consider all aspects of immigration, informing “concerned citizens”, whether Germany is able to handle everything.

A very different position is that of the chief of the left socialist party (Die Linke), Bernd Riexinger. He declared that such comments by the government lead to the 1990s, a period which marked the climax of xenophobic attacks and fire assaults against immigrants and refugees. According to Riexinger, established parties allow racism to become socially acceptable and thus help creating a political climate that encourages violent right-wing gangs.
Critical comments came also from the chief of the Green party (Grüne), Cem Özdemir, who asked all democratic parties to draw clear lines between themselves and PEGIDA. The secretary of the refugee organization Pro Asyl, Günter Burkhardt, warned not to underestimate the right-wing movement, as PEGIDA questions basic rights such as religious freedom and asylum. According to Burkhardt, the goal of the movement is to establish racism within the political discourse and diffusing resentment, by presenting them as “democratic expression of freedom”. If politicians and the public showed understanding and trivialize these protests as expressions of diffuse “Angst”, the strategy of PEGIDA would succeed. Even more strongly, the Social Democratic Federal Minister of Judiciary, Heiko Maas (SPD) described the Monday marches as a “shame for Germany”. The chair of the central council of Jews, Josef Schuster defined PEGIDA as dangerous.

In an interview, Cem Özdemir complained about the reactions of mainstream parties to the success of the right-wing in Germany. The main parties, he says, adapt to the issues that caused the relative success of the new right-wing party “Alternative for Germany” (AFD) and PEGIDA and therefore drift to the political right. Proposals initiated by the “Christian Social Party” (CSU) demanding immigrants to speak German at home would strengthen, in his opinion, the perception of PEGIDA and AFD adherents to be representatives of a “silent majority”. Parties were blamed also by the chair of the council of Muslims, Aiman Mazyek. He declared that parties as partly responsible for the Anti-Islam demonstrations. In this opinion, there is a lack of communication and dialogue between politicians and people. PEGIDA, according to Mazyek, symptomizes the fear of people towards the future: people fearing of losing their jobs are searching for scapegoats. PEGIDA leaders, he concludes, are doing nothing but exploiting the fear of people.

Press Release from Bertrand Dutheil de la Rocher, Republic-Secularism Advisor to Marine Le Pen

Bertrand Dutheil de la Rocher released a press statement discussing Islam in France. He states, “In recent days, discussions are circulating in social networks about Islam in France that involve the Marine Blue Gathering. The law is of a contingent nature. Its extent and its contents are decided according to the common good, variable at different times, by the people, either directly or through their elected representatives.” He reminded the public that “individual liberties are only restricted by necessity…Religious liberty is therefore a right so long as it does not contradict republican law and does not harm others. It’s up to every religion to conform to these conditions of secularism. However, no one can forget that for centuries, the genius of the French nation has expressed itself through Catholicism, notably in its Gallican and Jansenist readings.”

He added that “It’s up to Muslims of France to adapt their religious practices in accepting that, in the public sphere, the contingent law of the Republic is above the law of God, even if they think it is of a transcendent nature.” He stated that every religion’s funding must come from its believers, it cannot come from public money nor from grants from abroad. “To combat secularism is to undermine the social contract and attack citizens who have other metaphysical ideas. The Republic must defend itself against the risk of subversion,” he added. “The fact that there is no clergy in Sunnism risks to encourage its believers huddle in communitarianism,” he said, “ so they do not find themselves isolated in uncertainty and facing their responsibilities, especially when crimes are committed in the name of their faith.”

“With Marine Le Pen, the Marine Blue Gathering wants to assimilate all Frenchmen into the same people beyond their religion and origins. In order for this assimilation to take place, it is necessary to immediately halt all immigration, illegal of course, but also legal. With the country facing mass unemployment, France cannot give newcomers the basics. We must also fight the nation’s denigration by its elites. All Frenchmen must be proud to be French, proud of their French history. The ownership of each person of the national novel is a condition of citizenship. The school must again become a place for the transmission of knowledge,” he concluded.

Immigration Street will show ‘thriving’ community

July 29, 2014

“Immigration Street”, a follow-up to Benefits Street, is being filmed in Southampton, despite residents campaigning against it. Channel 4 and Love Productions were criticised for showing people on benefits in a negative way in their previous programme. Mohammed Afzal Khan, secretary of nearby Abu Bakr Mosque on Argyle Road, agreed to be filmed and told BBC Asian Network: “This is a thriving community; there are Asians here and Polish. So far they have asked me questions about Islam and Muslims in general and about this mosque, which have been positive and I am pleased to be taking part.”

At the meeting Kieran Smith, creative director of Love Productions, said: “We would never come and film a series in order to cause division, or where there is harmony, cause disharmony.”

Councillor Satvir Kaur, who grew up in the area, said: “Just like me, the majority of people who live in Derby Road are not first generation immigrants. They will be second or third generation. This begs the question, at what point do me and my neighbours stop being classed or considered as immigrants and start being considered British?”

Subsequent immigration on family members in Austria

July 10, 2014

The proof of German language skills for family members, who want to immigrate to Austria, is against the treaty of association, which was signed between Turkey and [EWG] EU back in the early sixties (12. Sept. 1963). Austrian law has already been adjusted in 2012. The Austrian press is discussing the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union with regard to the “right” approach to immigration, as well as integration process for people from Turkey.

Erdogan’s visit to Vienna and the Austrian Foreign Minister’s reaction

June 20, 2014

The upcoming visit of the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan ensures that some Austrian politicians will react very emotionally. Beside the Austrian Foreign Minister, however, some rightwing politicians criticize the Turkish Prime Minister. Nonetheless, some politicians are accusing Erdogan of splitting the Turkish community in Austria. The Austrian Foreign Minister already tweeted that Erdogan should choose his words carefully towards his fellowmen and he should not influence the integration process of Turkish migrants in Austria in a negative way. Soon afterwards a Turkish politician reacted; he tweeted that the “young” Austrian Foreign Minister should apologize for his words addressed towards the Turkish Prime Minister.

Discussion about the Turkish “Matura”

June 11, 2014

Austrian gymnasiums are going to establish Turkish “Matura” (general qualification for university entrance). Apart from the rightwing party FPÖ there is no resistance against that effort. The FPÖ opinion in that case is, that a Turkish Matura will negatively affect the integration process of the Turkish migrants.

What European allies can Marine Le Pen count on?

May 28, 2014

Despite an elevated voter participation rate compared to the 2009 elections, (42.5% in 2014 versus 40.5% in 2009), the Front national dominated the recent May 2014 European Parliament elections. Front national leader Marine Le Pen garnered 24.9% of the total French vote, beating out the UMP (20.3%) and the Parti socialiste (13.9%).

The FN has quadrupled its success since the 2009 elections and will now have 24 representatives in the European Parliament, where Marine Le Pen and her father, Jean Marie Le Pen both hold seats. The party’s success worries many French Muslims, as Marine Le Pen’s rhetoric is often anti-immigration.

“Too anti-Islam…too extreme” explains why other far-right parties in Europe refuse to ally with the FN in Parliament. Among such parties are the United Kingdom’s UKIP, Denmark’s UF, and the PS in Finland.

The party’s success puts it at the threshold for the number of seats required to form a parliamentary group, which requires 25 seats. However, in order to do so the elected leaders must come from at least seven countries. For the moment, the FN only has four allies: Italy’s LN, Austria’s FPO, Belgium’s VB and PVV in the Netherlands.

Local religious leaders unite for change in immigration law

April 4, 2014

 

Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders in Southern California hold vigil calling for a revamp in federal immigration laws.

Several of Southern California’s most prominent religious leaders held a vigil for immigration reform in downtown Los Angeles on Friday, underscoring a growing interfaith effort to change the nation’s laws.

Immigrants who are in the United States illegally “need mercy and they need justice,” said Archbishop Jose Gomez, welcoming an array of Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders to the gathering at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
“Times have changed,” said Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. “Some have framed the issue as a monolithic issue of a particular denomination. But that is a myth. The immigration issue transcends all creeds, all colors, all languages.

“It does not matter whether my particular people are suffering,” he said. “But we look at it as our people are suffering. And we stand with those suffering people.”

Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-interfaith-immigration-20140405,0,4994674.story#ixzz2yE27uDp5

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-immigrant-vigil-la-20140404,0,4480623.story#axzz2yE3oOxsF