BOOKS: by Joseph PoprzecznyNews Weekly
WHEN ISLAM AND DEMOCRACY MEET, by Jocelyne Cesari
, July 21, 2007
Muslim migrants in the Western worldWHEN ISLAM AND DEMOCRACY MEET:
Muslims in Europe and in the United States
by Jocelyne Cesari
Paperback: 280 pages
Rec. price: AUD$53.90A headline in a national newspaper last year proclaimed, "Prophet not perfect, says Islamic scholar" (The Australian, October 4, 2006).
In the subsequent article, Perth economist and chairman of Prime Minister Howard's Muslim Advisory Board, Dr Ameer Ali, was reported as saying: "The times are changing and with the change of times you also have to reinterpret the Koran. The jihadists
are interpreting the Koran literally, and that's the problem. ..."
He said Islamists would continue breeding jihadists
unless the Koran were "reinterpreted" for contemporary society.
(Dr Ali later expressed dismay at the wording of The Australian
's headline for his reported comments, and said that the paper's wrong attribution to him of the view that the Prophet was "not perfect" was "a deliberate act of mischief by the publishers").Death threats
The same article reported that a non-Islamic philosophy teacher Robert Redeker of Toulouse, France, was facing death-threats from jihadists
following his description of Mohammed as a "ruthless warlord and mass murderer".
Redeker's home address was publicised on a jihadist
website with the warning: "You will never feel secure on this earth. One billion 300 million Muslims are ready to kill you."
Although that's undoubtedly an overestimate, many Muslims certainly wish to see Redeker killed.
Unfortunately, within the secularising Judeo-Christian world (primarily Europe and the United States) have emerged sizeable Islamic minorities not all of whose members abide by St Ambrose's urging, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."
Moreover, the jihadist
tradition has understandably alienated non-Muslims worldwide and changed their outlook on neighbourliness, policing, foreign policy, continued immigration and even their choice of tourist destinations.
The author of When Islam and Democracy Meet: Muslims in Europe and in the United States
, Dr Jocelyne Cesari, is a researcher from the University of Aix-en-Provence. In her book, she analyses Islam's two largest communities beyond its traditional lands of North Africa, the Middle East, Central and South-East Asia and the Subcontinent.
She focuses on a range of themes, including: 1) Islam as a stigma, 2) the reformation of Islamic thought, 3) international leaders and charismatic speakers, and 4) the possibility of reconciliation of Islam and the West. Strangely the word "democracy" never appears in her index.
Though all her themes are important, it must be said many of Cesari's concepts and terminology tend to be aimed at the expert rather than the general reader.
The specialist terms she uses, such as "reactive identity-formation" or "the absolutised community", require some thought, as do other phrases to which she occasionally resorts, such as "McDonaldisation", "de-territorialised" and "cultural globalisation".
Cesari is currently compiling The Encyclopedia of Islam in America
, under Harvard's Islam in the West program.
Her historical and demographic overviews are certainly helpful. There are an estimated 15 to 18 million American and European Muslims (i.e., almost equal to the population of Australia).
According to Cesari, Europe has 12 million while the American figure is in dispute with one estimate three million and another twice that.
That disparity extends to other characteristics. "Five countries stand out in particular for the high number of Muslims who call them home: France, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Greece," Cesari writes.
"In each of these countries, anywhere from four to seven per cent of the current population is Muslim. In Sweden, Denmark and Norway, Muslims constitute one per cent of the total population. And Italy and Spain, are quickly becoming the new destination of choice for Muslim immigrants."Arabs
Arabs constitute the biggest group, with some 3.5 million of Moroccan origin now living in Western Europe. Turks form the next biggest group with 2.5 million in Europe, primarily in Germany.
The third largest are from the Indian subcontinent - India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh - with most of these in Britain, and thus linked to Britain's colonial past.
Says Cesari: "What is particular to the American situation is that almost half of all Muslims (46 per cent according to a 1994 estimate) are converts. Even more significant is that the majority of these come from within the Afro-American community. Thirty per cent of these African-American Muslims adopted Islam while serving prison terms.
"Unlike in Europe, however, Arabs are not at all the dominant minority (12.5 percent of all US Muslims) and are far outnumbered by ethnic groups from the Asian subcontinent (24.4 percent)."
Cesari offers an overview on "the three phases of Muslim minority presence in Europe.
The first phase, according to Cesari, was in the 1970s when Europe's Muslims first became visible with the emergence of prayer rooms that "began to pop up like mushrooms in Paris, Marseille, London, Bradford and Berlin".
"By the end of the 1990s there were more than 6,000 mosques in Western Europe," she says. "The 1980s were thus a crucial decade for the advent of Islam as a new religion in the heart of European cities."
The second phase was in the 1990s. This saw "a new phase in immigrant society begin with the increased visibility of mosques and their demand to be recognised as public buildings, equal in status to temples, churches and synagogues".
This was followed by the growth of numerous coalitions, federations and committees, established to communicate with the non-Islamic, or established, authorities.Islamic organisations
Both trans-Atlantic communities now have nationwide Islamic organisations with administering bureaucracies, organisers, youth involvement, aims and goals, leadership training, mission statements and web-sites. Cesari lists their names in two appendices, with web addresses.
Attire, the facial veil, head scarf, attitude towards women and public life - all of these and more have created mounting and ongoing tensions across Europe, with each country seeking accommodation via either multi-culturalism or assimilation of newcomers and long-time residents.
The third phase came with bids to restrict immigration into Western Europe and the contradictory outcomes that accompanied the collapse of the Soviet bloc.
Germany was particularly affected in this third phase. Between 1980 and 1990, some 60,000 Afghanis, 110,000 Iranians and 55,000 Lebanese entered Germany as refugees.
After the Turks, some 340,000 Bosnians made up the next largest group, with a further 70,000 settled in Austria, and Italy and Spain also affected.
Of the more than 1.6 million foreigners in Italy after 2001, 600,000 hail from Islamic states.
"This dawning of European Islam has occurred just as it has emerged as a social movement and a political force both in the Muslim world and on the international stage," Cesari says.
"Europe became a target of missionary and proselytising efforts, as the massive increase in the distribution of petrodollars to Europe for the creation of mosques, Islamic schools and university chairs attests to.
"While the influence of Saudi doctrine [dogmatic Wahhabism] is an established fact, it is nonetheless just one of the many options offered to European and American Muslims, and is very far from holding uncontested sway."
Cesari offers a second overview on the "deferred visibility" of Islam in North America.
America's first Muslim migration wave arrived between 1875 and 1912, with families and individuals coming from the Levant - Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine.
This was followed by second and third migrations between 1918 and 1922 and the 1930s respectively. These migrants were primarily from Middle Eastern countries following the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire.
The fourth came after World War II and involved not only those from the Middle East but also from Turkey, India, Pakistan and the Balkans. These tended to be better-educated and materially better-off, so were more easily assimilated.Relaxed quotas
The next came during the Lyndon Johnson Great Society era with the relaxed quota policy, and attracted Muslims from Africa and Asia with one estimate putting this intake at some 35,000 annually.
"Each major crisis in the Muslim world has translated into a relocation of population to the US," Cesari says. "This rise in Islam after 1965 encountered neither hostility nor real surprise on the part of American society."
Then came a series of climacteric events - especially the 1980s Tehran Embassy hostage crisis and the September 11, 2001, suicide attacks that killed 3,000 Americans - that changed perceptions and cast greater suspicion on Muslims.
"The real challenge for the coming decades lies in the ongoing development of the tension between the two poles of Western Muslim communities: the one, reformist and open to influence; the other, radical and closed in on itself," concludes Cesari.