Friday, November 12, 2010

Europe and Islam.

There are simmering tensions growing in Europe, between its native Christian population and the immigrant Muslim one. Traveling throughout Europe,  I came in contact with local people that expressed their thoughts and feelings about their country's Muslim minorities, that in many cases were not positive.

Coming from Greece, a country that associates Islam mainly with Turkey and the Ottoman Empire, it sounded natural. The opinions of course I was getting in their majority were coming mostly from a more populist aspect, that of the unemployed European who must compete with non natives for the same jobs and welfare.

The root of the issue is hardly religious. Europe is a secular continent and the times that  the Europeans and Muslims were fighting to prove the superiority of their God are gone. Different countries have different problems with the Muslim communities.

In Greece any rise of it's Muslim population is seen as a threat, since our largest neighbor is Turkey with 71 million population. Many even believe that the rise of immigration of people from Muslim countries into Greece, is a Turkish policy to weaken the Greek-Orthodox nature of our country, thus "Islamizing" Greece.

It happened when we were under Ottoman rule. The Ottomans were using forced Muslim immigration into the northern Greek region of Macedonia to weaken the Christian and Greek element, thus making their grip more firm onto the region. So any rise of the immigrant Muslim population, especially through Turkey, reminds to the Greeks those times.

Other countries of Europe have a different approach to the issue, depending their own past relations with Islamic countries. Some of them used to be colonial powers and their view of Islam differ. Racism of course is ever present in our societies and contributes to the problem. As varied is the European public opinion on immigration from Islamic countries, it is of course the relation of the Muslim immigrants for Europe and their adopted countries.

Muslim immigrants do not come from one single nation. They are from various countries, each with its own distinctive culture, heritage and religious beliefs. Some are closer to European values, some far from them. It is not fair to treat them all in the same way.

Most Europeans fear the loss of their ethnic identity, culture and way of life from the huge influx of non European immigrants. That results to the rejection of any different culture and the rise of nationalism. The fact that we are in war in the Middle East with some Muslim nations and the role of our media do not help. These two facts contribute to the rising fear of people of Islamic background.

Could this rising "threat" be manufactured? In the past we had the constant threat of the Communists and their regimes but now that they are gone, do we need another bogey-man to threaten us? I was never threatened by Iraq for example before 9/11, or the Afghan militia and didn't even heard of their will to destroy all Western nations.

All of a sudden Muslims in Europe are being targeted and  there is a mistrust created between the two communities. But if we do have problems with Islam, then why don't we curve immigration from Islamic countries and encourage immigration from Latin America that already have European culture and the Christian faith?

In the past Christians and Pagans were also arguing and fighting on European soil. The result was the creation of Christianity as we know it today, created by the Roman Emperor Constantine. Christian and Pagan beliefs were mixed to create a new version of Christianity with pagan elements, and the total control of the psyche and way of thinking of the Europeans begun. Will the new infighting lead to the unification of the two religions and the creation of a new one?

I have to admit though, us Europeans are a hypocrite breed. In Switzerland they allow Muslims in their land, but they do not want to see the minarets anymore. They do not mind a Turk serving them in a restaurant, but it is the minaret that reminds them of the spread of Islam in Switzerland. And in France and Britain, the two countries that boasted to the rest of us about their tolerance and multicultural societies, we now see their policies fail.

Personally I do not agree with the radical branches of Islam. It is unacceptable to give a citizenship and nationality to someone who rejects the secular laws and constitution of the state that she or he wants to live in. If you reject that, how can you demand acceptance from the others? If you adopt a new country, you adopt also the laws of it.

And if a cartoonist or Dutch politician have personal issues with Islam and create cartoons or films against it, why does this have to become a thorn between the two communities? We have freedom of speech in Europe. There is a secular Muslim country called Turkey, so I would like to see a European version of Islam. You can be European and you can be Muslim. The first does not forbid the second one.

But definitely you can not be European if your ideas about religion, homosexuality and women are set in a radical Islamic mentality. We in Europe fought hard to get rid of that Catholic and Orthodox Church control and manipulation of our lives. We have liberated our women, accepted homosexuals as equals, we are not going backwards!Either we are dealing with radical Catholicism, any other Christian sect, or radical Islam our attitude should be one; rejection.

We allow Muslims to come here but with no real interest in integrating them. We need fairer and reformed immigration policies and work on our relations with the Muslim world. In the past it was the Arabs that kept ancient Greek scripts and studied them, developing Maths and Algebra. Not the Europeans that were living in the Middle Ages and the control of the Christian Church.

Hopefully in the future we will have lots to learn from them again, and themselves from us.

No comments: