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Europe’s Angry Muslims

Muslims entered Europe as temporary workers during the postwar European economic boom, and eventually settled, bringing their families and their religion. They have inexorably and surreptitiously altered the continent’s cultural, political and security landscape. Governments gave out residency and work permits without consulting their respective citizens. Until the 1980s immigration was not the important political issue it is now. Bombings in London, riots in Paris, outrage over the veil and cartoons have shocked both Muslims and non-Muslims.
In this new release, Robert S. Leiken presents an engaging study of Muslims in Europe. The author, who defines himself as a “connoisseur of slums”, takes us inside some of Europe’s most notorious Muslims enclaves. Aware that analyzing Muslim anger in all European countries would end up in a book meant for a specialist but not the general public, Leiken decided to target both. “Europe’s Angry Muslims, The Revolt of the Second Generation”, focuses on the three European countries with the most Muslims: Britain, France and Germany. Spain is not included because the perpetrators of the March 2003 Madrid train bombings were first-generation immigrants.
The author excels in his comparative studies of both France and Great Britain. In the first of four parts, the author tackles France which hosted Europe’s first angry Muslims. Members of the Muslim Brothers fleeing repressive regimes in Egypt, Syria and Tunisia came to France in the 1960s. They recruited mainly, visiting students and exiles and not immigrants or their offspring. They eventually founded in 1983, a French antenna under the name of (UOIF) the Union of French Islamic Organizations. This group, incidentally, attracted neither workers nor slum dwellers.
Some 22 years later, France was rocked by a violent uprising in its immigrant enclaves. The government’s harsh reaction and biased reports gave the false impression that a radical Muslim movement was growing inside and outside of France.
The neoconservative Middle East expert, Daniel Pipes even wrote that the rioting by Muslim youth might signal a turning point in European history. However, the Director General of the domestic intelligence service, Pascal Mailhos, held completely opposite views on the subject. In an interview published in Le Monde, he said that “radical Islamists had no part in the violence”.
The Union of French Islamic Organizations criticized the behavior of the rioters and Tariq Ramadan, Europe’s leading Islamist denounced “the adolescent stupidity” of the rioters who “burn the very vehicles that carry their relatives”.
The singular characteristics of Islam in France were brought to light, a year earlier, by two scholars Jonathan Laurence and Justin Vaisse, in their analysis of the August 2004 abduction of two French journalists in Iraq by a terrorist Islamic Army who threatened to kill them if the “anti-hijab law” was not annulled. French Muslims protested against, what Tariq Ramadan called “an odious blackmail”. French Muslims “refusal to play into the kidnappers’ vision of a uniform, transnational umma” and their acceptance of the headscarf law “revealed the depth of integration and nationalization of Islam in France” concluded both Laurence and Vaisse.
As for the reasons behind the 2005 autumn unrest, they have been brilliantly detailed by Hugues Lagrange and Marco Oberti.
“This discrimination, between what the republican model of integration promises in terms of equality of opportunity, of meritocracy, of rights and of citizenship, and the real situation of stigmatization, of segregation, stemming from their social hazard and that of their parents and their immigrant origins, constitutes one of the major causes of the frustration and the resentment of French youth”.
The second generation of Europe’s Muslim immigrants is neither recognized at home nor in their parent’s country of origin. This might explain why many are attracted to the Muslim concept of a global community. However, the majority feels a stronger tie to France and this allegiance is clearly seen in the 2006 Pew Research Center survey. In Britain, only 7 percent of Muslims replied that they were British citizens first, in Germany 13 percent said they were Germans first, while 42 percent of the French admitted they were French citizens first.
In Great Britain, citizenship was granted from 1948 to 1962 to hundreds of millions of its colonial subjects but this wave of immigrants never turned the United Kingdom into a multicultural society. Leiken rightly says, “British Muslims were integrated politically but remained separate socially. Not surprisingly, their allegiance was to their community and not to Britain”.
Consequently, Muslim postmigrants suffered from a deep sense of alienation. Their parents, who wished to be elsewhere, raised them as virtual foreigners among scornful neighbors and schoolmates.
A Bangladeshi postmigrant living in Britain summarizes the feelings felt by a whole generation when he explains which country, he considers his “mental and psychological” home.
“I know what you want me to say… you want me to say, Bangladesh, don’t you? But the truth is Bangladesh is not my home. It is just a place where my parents came from. I have been back to Bangladesh twice… On both occasions, I felt weird. I met cousins I never knew I had. I saw it as a holiday and you can never call a holiday place a home. I was born here and this is my home although as a person of color, I don’t think I am welcome here.”
Young Muslims were looking for something new. They were rejecting their ethnic identity in favor of a search for the true Islam. The author believes that the April 1993 massacre in Srebrenica where Serbians killed eight thousand Bosnian men and boys in an enclave protected by the United Nations sparked second-generation radicalism in Britain, especially in London which became a rallying point for everyone. From there on, preachers and scholars like Omar Bakri and Abu Qatada as well as Islamic political parties invaded the Muslim public scene.
Germany opened its doors to Turkish immigrants who were accepted as guest workers that is, laborers recruited by employers, because of a labor shortage due to its economic recovery. Turkish citizens, mostly from Anatolia have become the largest group of guest workers. From 1962 to 1974, their numbers grew from 13,000 to 800,000. Presently, there are between 3.8 and 4.3 million Muslims residing in Germany, approximately 5 percent of the total population. Like in other European countries, immigrant families were united, not through national elections but by the courts.
If immigration is considered an important threat, an even more serious topic concerning what it means to be German as well as whether Germany should have a dominant culture, is the subject of a heated dispute.
Unlike, France and England where nation-building and state formation began in the Middle-Ages, Germany became a loose confederacy, united by language and culture. This explains why a number of German states have been quite willing to accept the religious claims of their Muslim populations. In North-Rhine-Westphalia, the teaching of Islam is required in public schools. Yet, the school drop-out rate for Turkish German postmigrants is nearly three times as high as among native Germans. One reporter concluded that the children of Turkish immigrants in Germany are failing so much at school that they are in danger of turning into a permanent underclass.
In his concluding remarks about Germany, Leiken says: “It is the most fragile NATO ally, one with a large alienated Muslim second generation that is particularly susceptible to the Taleban and Al-Qaeda’s Turkic allies in a country deeply divided not only over immigration and terrorism but even over its own raison d’etre. If France is the past of European jihad, and Britain its present, Germany could be its future.”
At the end of the book, we are reminded that other European countries like Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands are also measuring the danger of second-generation radicalization. Leiken’s unbiased analysis about Europe’s angry Muslims should be read by all people whose anger toward Islam and Muslims is often caused by ignorance, misconceptions, hatred and racism. A solution to this ongoing problem requires first to understand all the mistakes which have created this social quagmire and to implement a just policy for a more positive future.
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