European conundrum: Integration of Muslims or securitisation of Islam?

December 2, 2013

 

Across Europe, the general feeling is that integration of Muslim immigrants has failed and that multicultural policies are responsible for this failure.

However, a closer look at data on integration of Muslims reveals a more nuanced reality, writes Jocelyne Cesari, Senior Research Fellow at the Berkley Center of Georgetown University and Director of the Islam in the West programme at Harvard University.

First, it is important to distinguish between socio-economic, cultural and political integration.

On the economic front, the results are daunting. Despite the emergence of a Muslim middle class, the high number of Muslims in lower socio-economic groups is reaching the point that some talk of a Muslim underclass.

This means that Muslims are affected by lower social mobility and persistent discrimination, even when their levels of education or resources are comparable to other immigrant groups. In other words, discrimination seems to exist for immigrants or citizens with a Muslim background.

When it comes to political integration however, data gathered across European countries show that Muslims do participate politically and on some occasions even more so than their ‘non-Muslim’ peers. They also present specific features. For example, they tend to participate less in formal politics (vote/party membership) than in informal political activity like civic action or voluntary work.

Muslims also display higher left-leaning political identification than their non-Muslim fellow citizens.

The most striking finding is that they not only identify themselves highly with Islam, but also to European citizenship. The opposite is true for non-Muslims who do not express the same attachment to their religious tradition. This difference does not exist in the United States, where Muslims perform at the same level as other religious groups when it comes to religious self-identification.

Therefore, the alarming political discourse on the lack of cultural and religious integration of Muslims is ill-placed.

The perception of Islam as a threat is one reason for this gap between the social reality of Muslims and the political discourse on Islam. Anti-terrorism and security concerns fuel a desire to compromise liberties and restrict Islam from the public space.

The outcome is an increasing securitisation of Islam that includes a number of actions through which the normal rule of law is suspended in favour of exceptional measures. This is justified by extraordinary situations that threaten the survival of the political community.

This securitisation aims to respond to Islam as if it were an existential threat and therefore justifies extraordinary measures to contain it. Securitisation of Islam is discernible in speech and rhetoric, such as the justification for the War on Terror and the persistent linking of Islam with political violence.

Our research shows, however, that securitisation not only encompasses speech acts but also administrative and political measures not directly related to terrorism. For example, limitations on Islamic practices (minarets, the hijab, the burqa, male circumcision) as well as the restriction of immigration and citizenship. In this regard, these measures reinforce the perception of Islam and Muslims as ‘others within the West’.

Consequently, Muslims are under increased political scrutiny and control, especially those who assert their religious affiliation through their dress and engagement in public religious activities. Furthermore, the signs of these activities, such as mosques and minarets, have become highly suspect. In these conditions, not only radical groups are seen as a threat but also all visible aspects of the Islamic religion.

Securitisation of Islam regards Islam as a monolithic ideology spreading from Europe all the way to Iraq and Afghanistan. According to this perception, Muslims are determined by history and fit a mold from which they cannot escape. They are defined by their so-called conformity to the past and their inability to address the current challenges of political development and liberal religious thinking.

This perception justifies the imaginary creation of an insurmountable boundary between modern and pre-modern times, between secularism and Islam, and therefore supports exceptional political measures to fight against supposedly anti-modern and anti-Western forces. It leaves very little space for Islam in liberal democracies and it fuels the extreme polarisation of Islam versus the West on which European and Muslim extremist groups thrive.

One way to overcome the exclusion of Muslims in the West would be to include Islam in the narratives of European countries through a reframing of national history textbooks to locate this religious tradition and its diverse cultures within the boundaries of each national community. Another proven way to increase the legitimacy of any given group is through greater political representation in mainstream institutions (political parties, assemblies, and governmental agencies). Concrete action on these ideas has yet to materialise.

 

World Review: http://www.worldreview.info/content/european-conundrum-integration-muslims-or-securitisation-islam

Study: Muslim job candidates may face discrimination in Republican states

November 26, 2013

 

A new study by Carnegie Mellon University found that in the most Republican states in the country, employers may be less likely to interview job candidates whose social networking profiles indicate that the applicants are Muslim.

As part of a social experiment, the researchers created four fictitious job candidates – each with a unique name that most likely points to someone who is male, U.S. born and Caucasian. The candidates had identical resumes. The researchers also created social network profiles for each of the candidates that revealed either his sexual orientation or whether he was a Muslim or Christian. All other information, including the profile photograph used for each candidate, was the same. The resumes, which did not mention the candidates’ online profile, were then sent out to more than 4,000 employers nationwide with job openings.

Readers should note that the study’s authors did not design the pool of open jobs to be representative of all jobs available in the country, or in Republican-leaning or Democrat-leaning states. The number of job vacancies varied from state to state, and overall, a smaller share of all open jobs was located in Republican states.

In both Republican and Democratic states, there was no difference between the call backs received by the gay candidate as compared with the straight candidate. But in the Republican states, the Christian candidate received more interview calls than the Muslim candidate. In the 10 states with the highest proportion of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney voters in the 2012 election, 17% of Christian applicants received interview calls, compared with 2% of the Muslim job candidates. There were no differences in call backs received by the Christian and Muslim candidates in the 10 states with the lowest proportion of Romney voters.

The study is not the first to pick up on perceived negative views of Muslims in America. Nearly half of Muslim Americans pointed to either negative views about Muslims (29%) or discrimination and prejudice (20%) as the most pressing issues facing their community in a 2011 Pew Research Center survey. At the same time, however, more than half (56%) of Muslim Americans surveyed also said that they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country.

The Carnegie Mellon study also seems to support our findings about workplace treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. An overwhelming proportion of LGBT Americans say they are more accepted in society today than they were 10 years ago, according to our 2013 survey. When asked about specific experiences with discrimination, 5% of LGBT Americans say that in the past year they have been treated unfairly by an employer because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

 

Pew Research Center: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/11/26/study-muslim-job-candidates-may-face-discrimination-in-republican-states/

“Maybe we are hated” – The experience and impact of anti-Muslim hate on British Muslim women

“Maybe we are hated” – The experience and impact of anti-Muslim hate on British Muslim women

 

Authors: Dr Chris Allen, Dr Arshad Isakjee and Özlem Ögtem Young

 

Overview and website: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/social-policy/departments/applied-social-studies/news-and-events/2013/11/lifting-the-veil-on-anti-muslim-hate-crimes-against-british-women.aspx

Young Muslims and social networks

November 16, 2013

 

Social networks such as Facebook are becoming as popular among Muslim youth as among all parts of the society. However protecting data and youth privacy associations are concerned about the amount of misinformation distributed in the digital world. Conservative Muslims warn Muslim users to avoid visiting websites, which would lead to what is described in the Koran as “Fitna”, meaning the loss of faith.

German Salafists such as the populist Pierre Vogel use facebook to address young Muslims. Having more than 10.000 Facebook fans, they call female Muslims to upload photos with the the niqab only. Their face should is supposed to be covered in public.

According to Akif Sahin, a social media manager in Hamburg, Muslim youth are vulnerable to misinformation and negative influences diffused by extremists – especially as young Muslims search for guidance on their religious and cultural identity. This aspect is often abused by extremists, such as Islamist and Islamophobe groups, which would begin to agitate Muslims against each other.

 

Spiegel: http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/web/muslime-auf-facebook-keine-angst-vorm-fitnabook-a-933570.html

 

67% of the Spanish citizens see as unacceptable to expel a student for wearing the hijab

November 5, 2013

 

67 percent of Spanish citizens see as unacceptable  to expel a student from class for wearing the headscarf or the ‘ hijab ‘, according to the preliminary results of the ‘2012 Survey on intercultural local social coexistence ‘ conducted by Obra Social ‘La Caixa’.

 

Europa Press: http://www.europapress.es/epsocial/noticia-67-espanoles-ve-inaceptable-expulse-alumna-llevar-velo-islamico-encuesta-20131105145712.html

26% of the Spanish citizens admit to fear Muslim people

November 5, 2013

 

The 26 % of the Spanish people addmit to fear Muslims, so says the preliminary data from a study to be released shortly by the La Caixa Foundation on social life of municipalities with a high percentage of immigrants .

The main conclusion is that ” the economic crisis did not worsen the living in the territories of high diversity,” unlike what happened in other European countries, where expressions of xenophobia have multiplied,” although there is a slight deterioration of the coexistence in some aspects, especially regarding some attitudes towards immigration.”

 

El Mundo: http://www.elmundo.es/espana/2013/11/05/5279015061fd3de7188b4578.html

Universities cancel Muslim cleric’s speaking tour over concerns about his anti-gay views

November 7, 2013

 

A Muslim cleric who preaches that gay people are worse than animals is at the centre of a fierce “free speech” row after being invited to speak at universities across the country. Mufti Ismail Menk was due to visit six universities – Oxford, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Cardiff and Glasgow – next week. But the speaking tour was cancelled after student unions and university officials expressed concern about his views. The Zimbabwean cleric, who studied in Saudi Arabia, has described same-sex acts as “filthy,” “wrong” and synonymous with “acts of immorality”. He has been recorded as saying: “With all due respect to the animals, [gay people] are worse than those animals.”

Mr Menk was believed to have been invited by the universities’ Muslim students’ associations, many of whom were still advertising the event on their Facebook pages this afternoon. Glasgow University Muslim Association described the event as a “wonderful opportunity” on social media.

Cardiff University Islamic Society changed its Facebook photo to a picture of Mr Menk. University of Leicester’s Islamic Society described him as “entertaining, yet very pious” on its social media page. Leeds University Union Islamic Society withdrew its invitation two days ago after realising his views.

The National Union of Students said Mr Menk’s “reported comments are very concerning”. Ruth Hunt of Stonewall said: “Universities should always remain mindful that they have a duty to protect all of their students and to ensure balance in university discourse.”

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/universities-cancel-muslim-clerics-speaking-tour-over-concerns-about-his-antigay-views-8927902.html

Beauty Pageants Draw Social Media Critics

“Miss America victory marred by racist slurs.” — Time, Sept. 16

Not since so-called “bra-burning” protests upended the 1968 Miss America contest have beauty pageants attracted so much controversy.

 

Last Sunday, the Miss America pageant crowned a 24-year-old of Indian descent, Nina Davuluri from Syracuse, which was seen as a sign of cultural progress until racist messages popped up on Twitter.

 

Those who had written off pageants as anachronisms of the tail-fin era suddenly found that the swimsuit-in-heels rituals were back in the cultural-wars cross-fire.

 

In the case of Miss America, no sooner had the glimmering crown been placed on Ms. Davuluri than the furor erupted.

 

 

 

 

“Congratulations Al Qaeda,” tweeted one user, @Blayne_MkItRain (the account has since been deleted). “Our Miss America is one of you.”

 

Bloggers were quickly compiling lists of the most inflammatory tweets, including a Buzzfeed listicle that generated more than five million views.

 

“Idiot racists got so mad, they started mixing up Indian, Indian-American, Arab, Muslim, and everything in between,” wrote Laura Beck on Jezebel, summarizing a collection of hate-tweets that she included in her post. “It’s (literarily) a most impressive display of dumb mixed with intolerance and even more stupidity.”

 

The cultural relevance of pageants, it seems, only spikes whenever they can be dragged through the mud.

 

All the chatter on blogs and social media did not seem to hurt the show’s popularity. According to Nielsen, the ABC broadcast of the pageant, which crowned the winner for 2014, had its best ratings in nearly decade: it drew an average of 8.6 million viewers, a 21 percent increase compared with the contest for 2013, which was in January.

America’s first Muslim fraternity gets ready for rush week

ALMThe Alpha Lambda Mu fraternity, known in Arabic as Alif Laam Meem, is preparing to welcome new students at the University of Texas, Dallas. The group encourages members to abstain from drinking and excessive partying. It is opening brand new chapters at four other college campuses this fall.

On college campuses across America, incoming freshman are crossing their fingers and pulling on their social networks to get noticed by their favorite fraternity or sorority.

This year, young, devout Muslim men can be frat boys too.

Alpha Lambdu Mu (ALM) is America’s first Muslim fraternity. It was founded in February by an inaugural group of 17 college students from the University of Texas, Dallas. The idea has gained some momentum and this fall, new chapters are opening up at Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of California-San Diego, and the University of Central Florida.

 

Some critics are asking—is this halal? It may not seem like these two concepts can mix. Islam challenges its followers to stay away from some of the things fraternities are known for—drinking, excessive partying, one night stands after late-night clubbing. But there are also many positive benefits that come from being involved in Greek life on campus, like a sense of belonging and career connections after graduation.

 

ALM founder Ali Mahmoud wanted to bridge that gap. When a childhood friend of his expressed interest in checking out the UT Dallas Greek scene purely for its social and postgraduate business connections, Mahmoud said he couldn’t blame him.

 

Philadelphia mosque to open food pantry

The Zubaida Foundation will host the grand opening of its food pantry Saturday in Lower Makefield, organizers said.

“The pantry aims to serve the working poor and others who may be homeless,” said Lee Phillips, a spokeswoman for the mosque. “This is part of the mission of Zubaida Foundation to create opportunities for its membership to do hasanaat (good deeds) for the community.”

 

The foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 2005.

Its purpose is to improve the community’s spiritual, moral and social health, Phillips said.

The mosque achieves its goals through congregational prayers, educational programs, social activities and interfaith dialogues and peace efforts with all faiths “in conformity with the teachings of Islam,” she said.