Islam, and the existence of Islam in Europe, is one of the most complicated issues of the contemporary world, with scholars, journalists and politicians debating the issue more and more every day.
A wide range of scholars at the İstanbul Seminars 2010 at İstanbul Bilgi University are considering the issue of Islam in Europe, including one of the most prominent Turkish scholars studying the issue, Nilüfer Göle, professor of sociology at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes (EHESS) in Paris, who calls attention to the fact that Europe is passing through an experience relatively new for itself.
“Europe had confrontations with Islam several times before in history,” says Göle in an interview with Today’s Zaman. “There had been the Crusades, colonization, the Ottoman Empire and so on. Nevertheless, there is something new in today’s confrontation: that is, Muslim immigrants from different countries now exist in their own lands, and Turkey is so near as a candidate. That’s why all these developments have led Europe to re-evaluate itself on the mirror of the Muslims.”
Confrontation of Europe with Islam
Göle indicates that Europe is passing through a similar process of experience through which non-European societies had previously passed.
“All the non-European countries and societies have been trying to see themselves in the mirror of the West,” says Göle. “If we check out the history of ideas of the 19th century, almost all the debates are constructed on this. Yet we have coped with these issues from a distance. In this context, I think Europeans are still very new in this area. They have just begun to struggle with such issues. On the other hand, we always consider the West as superior to ourselves, but this experience of the West -- re-evaluating itself in the mirror of someone else, thinking like a colony without being the dominant party -- is a brand new process for the West.
Think about Turkey. Turkey is a country that has now begun to receive immigration from several countries. Imagine that these immigrants demand more rights in Turkey. It is not that easy to cope with the ‘other’ while you are close to it. Yet, we cannot even cope with the ‘others’ living in our own society properly -- the Kurds, the [pious] Muslims, and so on. We still manage to construct a scheme of thinking, and we’ve seen that the understanding of the nation state does not ease this. It did it for some time in the 1920s with the claim that we should all be citizens.
Today, being a citizen is not sufficient for anybody. Or nobody feels that s/he’s a citizen sufficiently. We are now experiencing the debate of how we can develop this feeling of citizenship. This concerns all societies. And Europe is in a situation of shock since it has failed in this debate.”
Göle indicates that many problems today arise because of the increasing visibility of Muslims in civil society, claiming citizenship instead of being a minority or immigrant. “Muslims are shifting very important stones,” notes Göle. “Muslims have now become visible. I don’t believe these people do this deliberately in order to display their religion to everybody. But people want to live their religion, either by veiling or by constructing mosques or eating halal meat, and in this way new problems arise for Western societies.
This visibility is actually proof of the fact that these Muslims living in Europe belong there. They belong there, not only as a worker but as a citizen. To have a masjid in a factory is not a very big problem, but to construct a huge mosque in the middle of the city may cause big problems. Because it becomes visible and it becomes public, it belongs to everybody. And all in all, this means the right of citizenship.
Today’s Muslims are evolving towards the demand of the rights of citizenship. This is no longer an issue of immigrants, but of citizenship. And the best place where we can observe this is the public space. This visibility is the visibility of the differences, and Europe doesn’t accept these differences. And I think multiculturalism is no longer sufficient to understand this case.”
This article was prepared by the Islam in Europe blog - islamineurope.blogspot.com
Source: Today's Zaman (English)