«A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion School of Philosophy, ...»
one may further break its community of followers into smaller autonomous groups due to different sectarian beliefs as well as adherence to various Sufi practices. Pakistani Muslims, for example, though stereotypically grouped as one due to their ethnic origin and religion in general, may practically comprise those of the Sunni tradition and the Shia tradition, and then those of Deobandi sect and Barelvi sect. While these denominations traditionally share many similar beliefs and observances, they also diverge critically in some central articles of faith, leading to a conflict where each may even go as far as pronouncing the other as ‘kafir’. The Barelvis and the Deobandis, for example, disagree seriously in their view of the image of Muhammad; whereas the former emphasize the over-devotion of the prophet as a semi-divine figure, the latter view him as a mere mortal while acknowledging his ideal prophetic character. The Alevis in Germany, for example, do not regard prayer and fasting during the month of Ramadan as being relevant to their religious lifestyle, whereas these practices are relatively vital to the Muslims of the Sunni and Shiite sects (in Haug et al., 2010).
Additionally, it must be highlighted that most of the first generation of Muslim immigrants who came to Europe were from rural areas in their place of origin. This most likely had a bearing on their outlook on family and social values, which reportedly tended to be conservative and rigid, despite this conservatism seeming to clash outwardly with the demands of their new liberal culture. Among the traditional values that were given a high priority were modesty in the public sphere, traditional gender roles, obedience to parents, and denunciation of sexual deviations (according to traditional Muslim belief) such as pre- and extra-marital sex and homosexuality. This
era of the subsequent generations.
Nevertheless, prior to the late 80s, the general European public had not been quite aware of Islam. In fact, there had been little, if any, allusion to a ‘Muslim’ political problem in most parts of Western Europe. The Muslims had been seen by the wider society and even by themselves as ‘immigrants’ or ‘blacks’ for political purposes (Malik, 2009). In some parts of Britain for example, it was relatively common to hear of ‘Paki-bashing’ (the act of physical or verbal attacks against South Asians due to racial prejudice), particularly during the 60s when hostility towards immigration and immigrants became more apparent. Elsewhere in France and Germany, racist rhetoric in politics was not uncommon. It may perhaps be suggested that the ‘color’ question was predominantly on the front burner in most parts of Western Europe, with political discourse dominated by racial issues such as discrimination, equality, civil rights, welfare, unemployment, crime, riot and the like.
2.2 Political Islam: The Modern Problem As implied previously, Islam as a religion began to attain greater limelight in Western Europe following the occurrence of political events from the 80s, which allegedly began with the Muslim outrage over the publication of Salman Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’ that convulsed both the West and the Muslim world. Although this controversy has been narrated many times, most notably by scholars such as Kepel (1997) and Malik (2009), it is important to revisit some of its key issues to illustrate how a novel could feasibly bring simmering cultural tensions to a head and then become an important prelude to subsequent global Muslim crises.
the idea that it was believed to present a satirical portrayal of Islam, by way of derogatory allusions to elements traditionally held in reverence by many Muslims, particularly the conservatives. For example, Malik (2009) explains that Rushdie was accused of exploiting Islamic characters such as the Prophet and his wives, painting them in derogatory colors, and placing them in obscene circumstances, but the making of all of which the author himself had strongly denied. Adding fuel to fire was what followed in 1989 in the form of an edict issued by the then supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, which condemned the British author along with the novel’s editors and publishers to death as a warning against non-Muslims not to ridicule fundamental Muslim beliefs. Rushdie and many of the book’s foreign translators and publishers began to receive death threats following Khomeini’s proclamation, the most tragic outcome of which was later the death of the Japanese translator Hitoshi Igarashi in 1991 and more than thirty civilians during the Sivas massacre of 1993. Although Khomeini’s edict was eventually abrogated in 1988 by the Iranian government of Muhammad Khatami, the preceding Iranian government had equivocally supported the killing of Rushdie for many years and offered a bounty for it, which prompted several European countries to suspend their diplomatic ties with Iran. Meanwhile, many countries in the Islamic world such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Malaysia, and Egypt reacted by implementing a ban on the novel’s publication, while in the United Kingdom, public demonstrations broke out in the cities of Bolton and Bradford within a one-month gap, the latter attaining international fame due to extensive media broadcasts.
and Britain. There was reportedly little to no evidence that it was as highly controversial in other European countries with Muslim population as it was in the afore-mentioned areas (Malik, 2009). Correspondingly, many scholars and thinkers such as the late Benazir Bhutto questioned whether what fanned the flames of the issue was truly distress over the satirization of religious beliefs, especially as it was reported that a big number of those who were infuriated by the novel’s publication had not even read it. As for Khomeini’s fatwa, Kepel (1997, p.139) suggests that it was merely ‘an opportunity to assert his ideological hegemony as champion of Islam, especially as his Saudi rivals had mobilized their international networks of influence in the anti-Rushdie campaign’.
Anthony (2009) also supports this rivalry-based exploitation of the Satanic Verses issue, saying that both Saudi Arabia and Iran saw in the outrage in Britain opportunity to reassert their claim to be the global leader of Islam. Notwithstanding the aforementioned theories, Muslim reaction to the Satanic Verses and Khomeini’s edict led to arising questions concerning Islam’s compatibility with the West, as the issues of blasphemy and freedom of expression went global. The Satanic Verses controversy has since come to be identified by many as the symbolic beginning of a putative cultural conflict between the West and Islam.
Succeeding this controversy not long after was the Headscarf Affair (l’affaire du foulard) in France in 1989, when three young girls were expelled from their school for wearing headscarves tangibly out of a concern to preserve the principle of Laïcité.
However, it may probably be safe to allege that the strong French reaction to such religious expression was potentially stimulated by the fear of Islamic fundamentalism that had been generated earlier by the Rushdie Affair. As observed by Cesari (2004),
world-shocking events thereafter, such as the tragedy of 9/11, the murder of Theo van Gogh, Madrid bombings of 2005, and London bombings of July 2006, Islam (as expressed by its fundamentalist strain rather than the general) has come to be perceived as a significant problem in international relations. Consequently, there has been a dramatic switch of focus from the issue of race to the issue of religion in Western Europe (Abbas, 2007). Most of the anti-Western terrorist assaults in the last few years were masterminded by the Al-Qaeda, a militant organization that has played a major factor in vehemently politicizing Islam. The murder in Toulouse in 2012 for example, where a Muslim man shot three unarmed French soldiers, a rabbi and three small children at a Jewish school to death, was reportedly due to frustration over the French involvement in Afghanistan, their opposition to the wearing of the veil, and the ordeal of the Palestinians (BBC, 2012). This may probably testify to Al-Qaeda’s influence in enkindling dismay over an ostensibly ongoing oppression of Muslims in the world and thrusting political Islam into the global limelight.
Correspondingly, many have suggested that it is the politicization of Islam rather than the religion itself that prompts the clash between the followers and non-followers of Islam. In particular, militant Islamism, as an extrinsically violent and intolerant ideology, is now emerging as a major political threat, buttressed by resentment towards ‘cultural modernity’ and ‘the realities of Western hegemony’ and the struggle to establish the superiority of political Islam (Tibi, 2009). Islamists, being the proponents of Islamism, argue that current Muslim societies have reverted to the state of Jahiliyya (traditionally interpreted in this context to mean pre-Islamic, which, in turn, supposedly carries the connotation of barbaric or amoral), resulting in the legitimate need for
can be achieved. In addition, Islamists reject the exaltation of human reason, a core value underpinning cultural modernity, over revelation, an element to which many Muslims bear witness. Thus, one of the questions that remains central in many debates concerning Muslim religious integration in the West is whether human reason and the absolute claims of the Revelation can be reconciled.
Dangers posed by Islamism continue to put much of the world, particularly the West, on vigilance for indicators of potential terrorist activity. However, when the practice of racial and ethnic profiling and the association of terrorism with a particular religion have begun to be more “aggressive” in many Western countries, particularly since 9/11, the sense of belonging among many Muslim minorities may have been adversely affected. Naturally, the problem of racism in Western Europe has become interlaced with the issue of Islamophobia. There have been many reported cases in the media where Muslims in Western Europe perceived that they were being mistreated on many different levels due to their religious affiliation. The increasing establishment of Islamic institutions and the appearance of women wearing headscarves and men wearing turbans and beards are reported to have constantly been seen as a sign of resistance among many Europeans, particularly in countries like France and Germany.
Furthermore, according to the observation made by Hunter and Serfaty (2002), many Europeans perceive any religious expression in the public sphere, whether that of Islam or other religions, as either a threat to their cultural identity and values, a challenge to their secular traditions, or a political agenda as opposed to a religious requirement.
In the context of terrorism, what appears to add to the worry of the Western world is the fact that many of the perpetrators of previous assaults did not come from
Western-born terrorists were reportedly well-blended citizens living ordinary lives among the greater society rather than those living in ghetto neighborhoods and suffering from socio-economic problems, a group which often tends to be associated with social disruption and crime. As suggested by Abbas (2007, p.4), terrorists are normally the ones ‘emotionally affected by the injustices of the world’, a weakness that dangerously facilitates Jihadi-Salafist indoctrinations by Islamist groups. Accordingly, more and more discussions are devoted to answering questions on the radicalization of the youth.
All the afore-mentioned problems have been interpreted by many as being a hindrance to the process of integration among Western European Muslims. However, many recent criticisms have also been directed at – as often expressed by the media Europe’s past inconsistent immigration policies at the expense of growing integration problems, or its miscalculated tolerance with ‘unappreciative’ immigrants. While France appears to continue to struggle with its assimilation policy, Britain and Germany have seemingly lamented – notwithstanding tonal nuances - over the failure of multiculturalism. On the one hand, multiculturalism - which theoretically gives immigrants the flexibility to retain their ethnic identity while actively exchanging cultural elements with the host in a positive way - has been criticized for giving too much freedom to the immigrants to realize their cultural expressions and create autonomous communities, which may result in the lack of unity within diversity. On the other hand, assimilation - which forces immigrants to completely internalize the host culture and prioritize nationalism - has been criticized for unrealistically expecting immigrants to shed their cultural heritage in a short period of time, which may paradoxically lead to stronger cultural resistance to the host culture.
presented with the complexities of multicultural living. With the exception of countries that favor assimilation such as France, successful integration in most other countries is reasonably a mutual effort rather than a struggle by one side. It does seem to make sense that a ‘push and pull’ effort be adopted by both European authorities and Muslim immigrants; perhaps, it can be said that the pivotal issue now is the extent to which European authorities are willing to accommodate religious needs of the Muslims and the extent to which Muslims are willing to accept the secular realities of modern Europe in order to find a middle ground that is acceptable to both sides. As already known, European Muslims of immigrant background are now mostly in their second and third generation, the majority of whom are inarguably European-born and are thus European from the social, language and cultural points of view. It is consequently no surprise that they have increasingly become the subject of current analyses of European integration.