Why ‘Islamophobia’ is less thinly veiled in Europe
Europe have had more of them for longer – that’s why there’s a backlash. Can you imagine having to see women as pictured below, walking your streets on a daily basis? No thanks! Go back to your sand pits and leave us evil westerners alone. There you are welcome to stone adulterers and build your places of worship – we promise not to interfere!
Text below in red is my ranting…
Rooful Ali is an accountant who commutes, “suited and booted,” to his corporate office in London from Northamptonshire, England, where he grew up in a Bangladeshi family. His avocation is photography. But he also finds time to direct the first Europe-wide association of Muslim professionals.
The group includes marine biologists, lawyers, professors, astrophysicists, executives, doctors, artists, and political and civic figures in 10 countries – chosen for their accomplishments. They give inspirational talks and mentoring workshops for young people in the Muslim community.
Mr. Ali is part of a second generation of Muslims just starting to get traction in Europe. It is a generation that drives their kids to school, worries about office deadlines, loves sports, participates in the arts, and owns businesses. Ali and some of the 70 others in his professional network believe that Muslims can give something to European society by acting as role models within their own community. (I can hear the violins in the background!)
Yet in the current political and social climate in Europe – where a larger and more visible Muslim presence is causing a backlash – they face strong head winds. Not only is mainstream Europe looking more askance at Muslims, but younger Muslims with higher expectations and hope for belonging are growing more restless.
“Much of the depiction of Muslims is without sufficient knowledge,” Ali says. “Iraq, Afghanistan, the Taliban – that’s how we are seen. It’s sad. We would like to showcase who we are in a good way.” (Yes, please show us who you really are – we are just dumb-dumbs that can’t figure out anything for ourselves)
It is Europe, not the United States, where the West and Islam exist in closest daily proximity. Some 20 million to 30 million Muslims live here, making up about 4 percent of the population compared with less than 1 percent in America (America, count your blessings). Mosques, once an urban phenomenon, are found in far corners of the Continent. Muslims are more visible on European streets, and most are not professionals, but work in retail, agriculture, food service, and labor. (there are those blasted violins again!)
In the US, the controversy over the proposed Islamic center near ground zero has brought some of the most visible instances of public Islam-bashing, mostly on the right side of the political spectrum – a departure from the line taken by President Bush after 9/11 not to equate Islam with terrorism. (hey, author, no matter how you try to make us feel bad about not wanting an “Islamic center” near GZ, we just don’t care about your PC opinion – did you lose 3000 innocent people in the name of a religion?)
But in Europe a pushback against immigrants, many of whom are Muslim, has been under way for much longer. A postwar Europe long priding itself on cosmopolitan tolerance is facing a population seen as different – at a time of concern about the economy, jobs, and when mainstream Europe isn’t quite sure about its security and its future.
“Values of national identity and patriotism are starting to take shape over an older argument in Europe about tolerance, plurality, freedom of expression,” says Edward Mortimer, vice president of the Salzburg Seminar in Austria, which helped launch the Muslim professionals network. (thank the Lord! – you say this as if it’s a bad thing to be patriotic?)
The past year has a brought a wide range of anti-Islamic measures. Switzerland passed a referendum to ban minarets on mosques. Belgium has prohibited the burqa, or full-length veil worn by Muslim women, and France is about to. (about time)
In June, voters in the Netherlands – whose second-largest city, Rotterdam, has a majority population of ethnic minorities – made the party of anti-Islam political figure Geert Wilders the third largest in Dutch politics. Mr. Wilders’s platform calls for banning the Koran and new mosques, taxing head scarves, and ending immigration from Muslim countries. Wilders is now in negotiations to join the ruling coalition. He is also scheduled to appear on Sept. 11 alongside former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich at a ground zero commemoration in New York. (at least Mr Wilders has his priorities right – now let’s hope he doesn’t get blown up by these tolerant, religious, peace-loving moderates!)