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Outreach attempts to create “Euro Islam”

August 4, 2011

This WSJ article made me wonder about the blending of religion and culture and the impact the Muslim immigrant population is having on Europe. A German community is holding interreligious understanding classes for Muslims, and apparently such courses are cropping up in other European cities as well in an effort to create what some have termed “Euro Islam.”

With ongoing tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims in Europe, can these outreach efforts work? Hard to say. Just what are they trying to accomplish? And what are they telling Muslim immigrants about the value of their culture and religion? That it can only be tolerated if it conforms to European values? I’m not sure how I feel about this. Right now, I just have lots of questions.

But here’s an excerpt. WSJ’s James Angelos writes:

The deadly twin terror attacks in Norway on July 22, carried out by a fanatic who saw himself at war against the “Islamization” of the Continent, has refocused attention on Europe’s decades-long reluctance to embrace its Muslim communities. There are more than 44 million Muslims living in Europe, according to a recent Pew Research Center study, about 6% of Europe’s population. By 2030, that percentage will grow to 8%, the study projects.

Much of the resurgent popularity of Europe’s far right in recent years has been fueled by populist fears that the rise of immigration in Europe—particularly in Muslim communities that remain connected to their native languages and cultures—is washing away European or national cultural identities.

Europeans may have to get over their own cultural elitism. On the other hand, I understand having concern about cultural and religious influences that would be seen as undesirable by progressive secularists and Christians. I think classes and interfaith/cross-cultural dialogue will help address some of the animosity and distrust and ignorance on both “sides,” as it were. Religious education, in my opinion, essential. But only the people open to learning and connecting with “the other” will show up to these gatherings.

How do you reach the lunatics before it’s too late?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Shaun L. Swegman permalink
    August 4, 2011 12:56 pm

    I too have some mixed feelings about this. For one, I firmly believe that if you are moving to another country for a better life, you should be the one making most of the effort of adapting to your adopted home’s culture, and not expect them to change their home and their culture to accommodate you. It is reprehensible to me for someone to flee their country for a better life, and then try to turn their new country into the old one. If you are immigrating to another country, you should choose one that offers the kind of lifestyle you wish for yourself, because it is wrong to go into someone else’s home and try to impose your rule upon them.

    At the same time, I feel that the host country should make efforts to welcome and accept those who have chosen to make it home. The message should be that those who wish to live with us in harmony are welcome. Those who don’t can stay where they are.

    I don’t subscribe to multi-culturalism. Nobody ever will convince me that a culture that encourages a father to murder her daughter after she was raped because it brought dishonor to her family is as valid as one that places a high value on life and human rights. That’s not to say that I believe all Muslims are like that, more an example of how cultures can and should be evaluated by the degree of suffering they impose upon those who live within them. A culture that induces pain should not be valued the same as one that does not, regardless of where it’s from.

    At the same time, I appreciate living in a country with a culture that has been influenced by several other cultures. Rock & Roll, beer and fajitas are all things I wouldn’t be enjoying were it not for that blend. I can see both sides of the culture issue. Different cultures are something to appreciate, even learn from, and it is nice to be exposed to them.

    However, eventually there won’t be different cultures if they blend incessantly. The world will become one great big boring suburb, with the same chain restaurants serving the same foods to people who all look the same. I think part of celebrating diversity is maintaining it to some degree, and for that reason I side somewhat with Europe’s cultural protectionists.

    I don’t think a little influence from other cultures will hurt Europe. But I do think that they should be watchful of preserving the culture they already have, because it is something good and worth saving.

    • eeflynn permalink*
      August 4, 2011 1:38 pm

      Um, Shaun, can you just take over this blog? Because you said (so articulately) all the stuff that was going through my head but that I can’t seem to put into coherent sentences.

  2. Shaun L. Swegman permalink
    August 10, 2011 8:14 pm

    I could never do this blog half as well as you do, Eileen. But I’m glad to chime in here and there.

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