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Muslims in Europe

Many Governments in Europe have banned women from wearing the niqab.      Meanwhile, going by the way the media reports things, Muslims in Europe pose a threat in many countries.    But is that right?  And what is the threat?    As this piece "Europe: Hotbed of Islamophobic Extremism" in The Nation so clearly shows perhaps the threat is the other way round.

"The response of Europe’s political class to the presence of Muslim minorities can be described most generously as a moral panic, and most accurately as a repressive legislative and rhetorical onslaught. A number of states from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean have gone to extraordinary lengths to ban what women can wear, what people can say, and where and how they can worship. Disproportionate in scale and disingenuous in conception, these laws—whatever their stated intent—were not about tackling any serious threat of Islamic extremism. Switzerland passed a referendum in 2009 outlawing the building of minarets; the country has four. In Denmark the same year, a call for a burqa ban prompted a study revealing that just three women wore it, while only 150 to 200 wore the niqab, a third of whom were Danish converts. “The burqa and the niqab do not have their place in the Danish society,” insisted Danish Premier Lars Rasmussen a year later. That’s true, but then they never really did.

Nor could these laws be about helping isolated communities that are culturally incapable of integration. A Gallup poll in 2009 showed that British Muslims were more likely to identify as British than British people as a whole. A Pew Research Center survey in 2006 showed that the principal concerns of Muslims in France, Germany and Spain were unemployment and Islamic extremism.

Finally, these laws couldn’t be about some broader demographic “threat” that Muslims pose to the continent. A Pew study, published in January 2011, forecast the number of Muslims in Europe’s population increasing from 6 percent in 2010 to 8 percent in 2030. There’s a higher proportion of Asians in New Jersey than Muslims in France, the country with the highest concentration in Western Europe.

So what is really driving these laws? In no small part, they’re about seeking to contain one of the most oppressed groups in Europe—one that’s been radicalized by war and occupation abroad, and unemployment, poverty and poor education at home. During a period of economic crisis, this means stepping up efforts to assimilate Muslims into a mythically unified national culture, even as they’re excluded from economic advancement, political influence and social inclusion. Popular anxiety about neoliberal globalization in general and antipathy to Brussels in particular needs scapegoats. Arjun Appadurai, in his book Fear of Small Numbers, writes: “Minorities are the flash point for a series of uncertainties that mediate between everyday life and its fast-shifting global backdrop…. This uncertainty, exacerbated by the inability of many states to secure national economic sovereignty in the era of globalization, can translate into a lack of tolerance of any sort of collective stranger.”


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