Across Europe, Worries on Islam Spread to Center

Bonnie

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Well now.. here's a dilemna:rolleyes:


By DAN BILEFSKY and IAN FISHER
Published: October 11, 2006
BRUSSELS, Oct. 10 — Europe appears to be crossing an invisible line regarding its Muslim minorities: more people in the political mainstream are arguing that Islam cannot be reconciled with European values.

“You saw what happened with the pope,” said Patrick Gonman, 43, the owner of Raga, a funky wine bar in downtown Antwerp, 25 miles from here. “He said Islam is an aggressive religion. And the next day they kill a nun somewhere and make his point.

“Rationality is gone.”

Mr. Gonman is hardly an extremist. In fact, he organized a protest last week in which 20 bars and restaurants closed on the night when a far-right party with an anti-Muslim message held a rally nearby.

His worry is shared by centrists across Europe angry at terror attacks in the name of religion on a continent that has largely abandoned it, and disturbed that any criticism of Islam or Muslim immigration provokes threats of violence.

For years those who raised their voices were mostly on the far right. Now those normally seen as moderates — ordinary people as well as politicians — are asking whether once unquestioned values of tolerance and multiculturalism should have limits.

Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of Britain, a prominent Labor politician, seemed to sum up the moment when he wrote last week that he felt uncomfortable addressing women whose faces were covered with a veil. The veil, he wrote, is a “visible statement of separation and difference.”

When Pope Benedict XVI made the speech last month that included a quotation calling aspects of Islam “evil and inhuman,” it seemed to unleash such feelings. Muslims berated him for stigmatizing their culture, while non-Muslims applauded him for bravely speaking a hard truth.

The line between open criticism of another group or religion and bigotry can be a thin one, and many Muslims worry that it is being crossed more and more.

Whatever the motivations, “the reality is that views on both sides are becoming more extreme,” said Imam Wahid Pedersen, a prominent Dane who is a convert to Islam. “It has become politically correct to attack Islam, and this is making it hard for moderates on both sides to remain reasonable.” Mr. Pedersen fears that onetime moderates are baiting Muslims, the very people they say should integrate into Europe.

The worries about extremism are real. The Belgian far-right party, Vlaams Belang, took 20.5 percent of the vote in city elections last Sunday, five percentage points higher than in 2000. In Antwerp, its base, though, its performance improved barely, suggesting to some experts that its power might be peaking.

In Austria this month, right-wing parties also polled well, on a campaign promise that had rarely been made openly: that Austria should start to deport its immigrants. Vlaams Belang, too, has suggested “repatriation” for immigrants who do not made greater efforts to integrate.

The idea is unthinkable to mainstream leaders, but many Muslims still fear that the day — or at least a debate on the topic — may be a terror attack away.

“I think the time will come,” said Amir Shafe, 34, a Pakistani who earns a good living selling clothes at a market in Antwerp. He deplores terrorism and said he himself did not sense hostility in Belgium. But he said, “We are now thinking of going back to our country, before that time comes.”

Many experts note that there is a deep and troubled history between Islam and Europe, with the Crusaders and the Ottoman Empire jostling each other for centuries and bloodily defining the boundaries of Christianity and Islam. A sense of guilt over Europe’s colonial past and then World War II, when intolerance exploded into mass murder, allowed a large migration to occur without any uncomfortable debates over the real differences between migrant and host.

Then the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, jolted Europe into new awareness and worry.

The subsequent bombings in Madrid and London, and the murder of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Dutch-born Moroccan stand as examples of the extreme. But many Europeans — even those who generally support immigration — have begun talking more bluntly about cultural differences, specifically about Muslims’ deep religious beliefs and social values, which are far more conservative than those of most Europeans on issues like women’s rights and homosexuality.

“A lot of people, progressive ones — we are not talking about nationalists or the extreme right — are saying, ‘Now we have this religion, it plays a role and it challenges our assumptions about what we learned in the 60’s and 70’s,’ ” said Joost Lagendik, a Dutch member of the European Parliament for the Green Left Party, who is active on Muslim issues.
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http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/11/world/europe/11muslims.html?_r=1&ref=world&oref=slogin
 

onedomino

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Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of Britain, a prominent Labor politician, seemed to sum up the moment when he wrote last week that he felt uncomfortable addressing women whose faces were covered with a veil. The veil, he wrote, is a “visible statement of separation and difference.”
Everyday I see this at the University of California. Veiled women, eyes averted, simultaneously separating themselves and making a loud visible statement that they are different. Jack Straw is right, the combination is quite unsettling. Beyond the extremism, and the failure of “moderate” Muslims to condemn extremism (where are these people, why are they silent?), it is the second class, subservient role that Islam inflicts upon women that I find most disturbing.
 
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Bonnie

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Hmm sounds like Europe or some in Europe are singing our song now??? Hope it's not too late?
 

Matrixx8

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Well now.. here's a dilemna:rolleyes:
I'm not convinced. Living in the Netherlands, I find very little evidence of problems with the immigrant community. Most people who end up here from the Middle East do so because they are escaping authoritarian or economic oppression in their countries of birth. The biological imperative teaches us that human beings are very much alike. Cultural differences tend to dissipate when people move into new cultural surroundings. As an American who has lived in Europe for the past 30-some years, I can attest to that fact.

I agree that there is a general problem with religion as such, particularly when it encompasses conservative values that are hostile to evolutionary theory, political equality, sexual orientation and empowerment of women. On the other hand, there is a natural pressure in European societies, for example, to put such beliefs in perspective. As we can see from groups that represent Muslims in various European countries, the voices are generally moderate and the message is -- as long as every one respects the rule of law -- people can live side by side peaceably despite different cultural or religious beliefs.

That is the nature of multiculturalism. And so far it has worked quite well.

I think our NYT report lacks credibility. It is one of those routine reports where the author cites a few elitist views, no scientific studies, and concludes that his or her tiny sampling is somehow indicative of attitudes in general.

Based on my experience living in Europe, I doubt that the problem is anywhere close to the impression that this article gives.

There are simply no facts that I know of to support such conclusions.
 
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Bonnie

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I'm not convinced. Living in the Netherlands, I find very little evidence of problems with the immigrant community. Most people who end up here from the Middle East do so because they are escaping authoritarian or economic oppression in their countries of birth. The biological imperative teaches us that human beings are very much alike. Cultural differences tend to dissipate when people move into new cultural surroundings. As an American who has lived in Europe for the past 30-some years, I can attest to that fact.

I agree that there is a general problem with religion as such, particularly when it encompasses conservative values that are hostile to evolutionary theory, political equality, sexual orientation and empowerment of women. On the other hand, there is a natural pressure in European societies, for example, to put such beliefs in perspective. As we can see from groups that represent Muslims in various European countries, the voices are generally moderate and the message is -- as long as every one respects the rule of law -- people can live side by side peaceably despite different cultural or religious beliefs.

That is the nature of multiculturalism. And so far it has worked quite well.

I think our NYT report lacks credibility. It is one of those routine reports where the author cites a few elitist views, no scientific studies, and concludes that his or her tiny sampling is somehow indicative of attitudes in general.

Based on my experience living in Europe, I doubt that the problem is anywhere close to the impression that this article gives.

There are simply no facts that I know of to support such conclusions.
I think it is heading into a problem not just in the area of religious zealotry but also in terms of voting populations. It may take a while but the seeds have been planted by Muslims living outside the Middle East who are not content to assimilate into European culture, but rather are doing a slow whittling away inserting themselves not only in a political way, but also in more aggressive ways fueling riots in France for example. Same holds true for us in the U.S. regarding Mexicans and other Illegals. Diseases that have long been stamped out here such as Whooping cough are now resurfacing due to influx, and it's affecting citizens.
 

padisha emperor

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Everyday I see this at the University of California. Veiled women, eyes averted, simultaneously separating themselves and making a loud visible statement that they are different. Jack Straw is right, the combination is quite unsettling. Beyond the extremism, and the failure of “moderate” Muslims to condemn extremism (where are these people, why are they silent?), it is the second class, subservient role that Islam inflicts upon women that I find most disturbing.

It's why the french Parliament voted a law about the religious symbols, to forbide the veil in the schools, for the republican egality. It has been felt like an agression from State into the religious area, but in fact it was to stop the differences in schools...
The religious liberty have to been respected, but in the schools, everybody is the same.
Everybody critisized France when this law has been voted, but now, it seems that in other countries, the veil is in the center of government's aims...
 

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