Europe's apprehensions: Muslim's perspectives

Daily: The Nation
Date: 26.03.04

‘Islam spread through preaching or by sword’ is still a topic of discussion in the Western
media. In this context, if Islam takes over Europe through preaching is a lesser
apprehension in intensity than if Islam takes over Europe by sword—the ‘Reverse Crusade’.
Looking from another angle, ‘If Islam takes over Europe’ is such an ultimate apprehension
that gives birth to its twin apprehension, the ‘Reverse Crusade’. Hence the importance of
twin apprehensions after the famous former twin towers.

The twin apprehensions are an outcome of two major phenomena existing in Europe
related to the Muslim immigrants. First is the ‘nature of cultural assimilation’ while the
second is ‘direction of loyalty’ of the Muslim immigrants.

The European countries and the Muslim countries came closer to each other, individually or
collectively, several times in the past history, leaving aside the entry of the Muslims,
somehow, to Spain or Balkan. Vladimir Illyich Lenin mentioned his observation in 1916 in his
famous book Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, “ In these backward countries
(colonies) profits are usually high, for capital is scarce, the price of land is relatively low,
wages are low, and raw materials are cheap”. Such a favourable situation when joined up
with the urgency of the ‘sustained economic growth’ in Europe, the process of
colonialization followed. In this way, the colonial masters of Europe and the subjects of Afro-
Asia got introduced to each other.  

In the post-World War II era, the link so established was transformed from master-subject to
master-labour relationship for the reconstruction of Europe under the famous Marshall
Plan. Resultantly, a migration process affecting the demographic balance of the world in
South to North direction ensued. This resulted in a beginning of an era of North-South
relationship encompassing culture, tradition, custom, language, colour, ethnicity, and faith.  

During the Cold War, the world was generally divided into blocs. The division paved the way
for the political reasons, predominantly, to seek asylum in Europe. However, the decade of
1991 to 2001 (the post-Cold War period) witnessed economic reasons overwhelming the
asylum seekers to settle in any European country. The same decade also registered more
migrations to Europe from developing countries of the world, especially from the Muslim
countries, in one way or another.  

The decade of 1991-2001 will be remembered in the history of the world as a decade of
reinvigoration of Human Rights, Freedom, Democracy, Capitalism, and Liberty etc.
Heterogeneity was accepted as a way of life as well as a point of distinction for a European
society. The political process of introducing amendments to immigration policies to keep
‘open-arms’ for non-nationals and non-Europeans was increased. The same also remained
an eventual reason of enjoying a developmental edge of one European country over

One of the main reasons of a cultural assimilation is a frequency of intermarriages—as
mentioned by Ruby Jo Reeves Kennedy in his article “Single or Triple Melting Pot?”
[American Journal of Sociology 49(1944): 331-339]. He considers the process of
‘intermarriage’ a crucial indicator of assimilation. However, the same indicator is lacking in
the UK, where immigrants from South-Asia reside; in France, where immigrants from North
Africa live; and in Germany, where immigrants from Turkey dwell. In these countries the
phenomenon of marrying from one’s sub-community or ethnicity or even to import a bride or
bridegroom from the parent country is still common in the once immigrants and now
nationality holder Muslims. Resultantly, the cultural non-assimilation has emerged instead
of the cultural assimilation.

In a Muslim country, religion remains a driving force affecting both Man and State even in
day-to-day affairs when we talk of a triangle of Man, Religion, and State. Hence, in such a
triangle, Religion stands at the top of the pyramid. Such position of Religion in a State
makes a national less loyal to his State but more to his Religion. That is why, in the Muslim
countries, there is more tendency of transnational loyalty depicting Pan-Islamism.

In contrast, in a European country, Religion became absent from the triangle. The
relationship between Man and State became direct and interdependent. To govern such a
country, there was a room for the Roman law. Hence, it seems that basically Roman law
replaced commandment aspect of Religion. The State so formed became a Nation-state
based on territorial loyalty of its subjects.

In this backdrop, the natural outcome of the Muslim immigrations (having economic reasons
underneath) coupled with nostalgia of religion (as a commanding force) to these Nation-
states (who were based on territorial loyalty), was enough to keep the immigrants isolated
in a European society. With the increase in immigration number of co-religionist members,
the aloofness from the host society increased further and led to the emergence of sub-
communities inside a European country. Unfamiliarity with the local language and lack of
education were the additional factors, besides economic deprivation. This kind of structure
of a society wherein various sub-communities are living side by side but with distinct
boundaries is especially visible in the UK, Netherlands, France and Germany.

The Europe of post-9/11 event has been attaining entirely a new shape than before. Now,
the multiculturalism is seen as ‘an unfinished agenda of the assimilation process’. The
political manifestation of which is introduction of a ban on wearing a headscarf of women
under the disguise of ‘custom’ of France. It is a first sign of non-acceptance of the Muslim
individuality on contrary to the parameters of European Human Rights and Liberty. The
same is the discussion going on in other European countries like Germany. Moreover, the
direction of loyalty of the Muslim immigrants has also come up on agenda of amendment in
immigration and settlement rules. The main emphasis, obviously, is to get loyalty declared—
publicly—to State by the Muslim immigrants. Hence, the oath excludes Religion as a
supreme authority to look up to. The recent initiation of such phenomenon in the UK is a
convincing example.

In other words, methods are being devised to make homogeneity a nature of cultural
assimilation—by vanishing the boundaries based on multiculturalism, as well as to enhance
the importance of the host State over one’s Religion—by affecting the direction of an
immigrant’s loyalty.

The aforementioned discussion reflects that the common foundation on which the two
apprehensions rest is basically religion, Islam. That is to say, this is because of Islam and
its related norms and values that affect the nature of the cultural assimilation as well as the
direction of one’s loyalty simultaneously.

Surprisingly, on the forefront of devising methods to shake the common foundation are no
one else but the two former colonial powers—the UK and France—of whom the Muslims
were the subjects. In fact, there should have been more understanding between the once
ruler towards the once ruled. Both of the countries should have been well aware of the role
of Islam in individual and collective lives of the Muslims. Instead of patronizing, they are
showing ‘a reluctant dependency’ on their Muslim citizens to keep them busy in their service
industry and labour markets. Both of the countries had experienced existence and role of
the Islamic militants during their rule over the Muslim areas. Both of them were and are
aware of the extent of representation of such militant forces for the Muslim community as a
whole. What they did not do during their colonial rule, they have started doing it now. The
others are just to follow suit. Once begins, no one knows its limit.

As per history, the concept of  ‘sustained economic growth’ was the main compulsory force
for Europe to opt for and maintain colonization. Similarly, it seems that, in this 21rst century,
the same concept is compelling Europe to adopt some measures to gain ‘economic
sympathy’ of the contemporary Super Power. The trick of which lies in creating certain
apprehensions and subsequently attaching them to the spread of Islam lest the latter might
take over Europe—to deprive Europeans of Liberty, Freedom and what not.

Europe of today is forgetting one important fact that for the ‘sustained economic growth’
sustained supply of oil from a geographically nearer place is more vital than ‘economic
sympathy’ of a Super Power who is physically quite far-off. In this respect, if the unrest so
created amongst the Muslim ranks casts constraints on the ‘sustained economic growth’—
either internally or externally or together—Europe of tomorrow may be fishing in troubled
waters alone.  

Back to columns in 2004