Our Earth made place for each of us

Did you ever ask yourself who are you, where do you belong, what aim do you have in your life? Sure you did, you had to, because those are the questions that help us develop our personalities. Roads of it are various, and everyone of us chose a different one. However, these days situation is getting interesting and people have need for grouping more and more. Did you notice how these days, when you read the news at least one of them will be talking about Islam, islamophobia, terrorism? That is one of the signs of grouping.

Today Muslims are generally considered as owners of bad civilisation, and Islam  as a religion of hate. Indeed though, we should look at it from other perspectives as well and see that not all is so black and white.

For example, did you know that Muslims around the world represent 23% of all people worldwide. Muslims make up a majority of the population in 49 of the 232 countries. This makes Islam the world’s second-largest religion. Biggest number of Muslims is concentrated in the Asia-Pacific region, where 62% of all Muslims reside. The world’s Muslim population living in Europe makes 3%. Over the past two decades, the number of Muslims living in Western Europe has steadily grown, rising from less than 10 million in 1990 to approximately 17 million in 2010.[1]

As an overture to this problematic let us first meet Djemal and his story.

Djemal, an Algerian Muslim, who resides in Italy, had been for some reasons in the hospital. Djemal shared a room with an Italian man, who was afraid of Muslims telling everyone around to be aware and to take care because -there is a Muslim in the hospital-. The same man actually liked Djemal very much, and found him the kindest person in the hospital. On the day he realized that Djemal is actually The Muslim, the Italian man never spoke to him again. The Italian man was the one of  those who are not dividing men to good and bad, but one of those with prejudice and fears, he was islamophobic. For him it wasn’t important anymore that Djemal was the kindest person in hospital, he is a Muslim, and that is all that mattered.[2]

As far as we can notice, the continuing growth in Europe’s Muslim population is raising lots of political and social questions. A number of question has risen towards issues such as religion in European societies, the role of women, the obligations and rights of immigrants, terrorism.

As I said in the beginning, not everything is black and white. Certainly there have been events of terror and violence from the Muslim side. If we go in the past; the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., a series of events ranging from the Madrid bombings of March 11, 2004, the murder of the Dutch filmmaker van Gogh in November 2004, followed by the London blasts of July 7, 2005, riots in the French banlieues in November 2005, and then the cartoon crisis in Denmark have caused a profound anxiety about the “Islamic threat” to security and the cultural well-being of Europe.[3] Moreover there is no need to go to past, if we take a look at the Paris attack on 07.01.2015. when 12 people were killed. Therefore, the growth of mosques, Islamic schools, head scarves, the traditional clothes, and facial hair have been turned into an anomaly in the European urban setting. The Muslim population seems to be seen as negative, dangerous and terroristic. Of course people are scared, but all people are scared, of all religions and nations when there are such brutal terroristic groups in question. However, is it the right thing to exclude and punish all Muslim population, is it the right thing to destroy a Kebab Shop, just because a man is selling Kebab, and that means that he is Muslim, and that means he is bad?

The world is becoming smaller, and what we are facing is an increasing interaction between consciousness and awareness of self-determination. With this I want to say that the feeling of belonging to some nation is in constant growth, which is making our world “smaller”, that’s why we may have problems with accepting different people from us. All this brings a ‘revival of religion’, and the ‘unsecularization’ of today’s world.[4]All these aspects may be seen in today society, and people’s will to belong somewhere, someone, to identify themselves, to self-determinate itself. Due to the need to feel different and special Muslims in Europe on their way felt as being in a hostile territory where they are equalized to the word terrorist and have been threatened from different sides.

It is important to point out that Muslims are not race nor a nation, they are people, sharing the same religion, but living world wide with different life styles, different perspectives and views, belonging to different races and nations. Today, according to Asef Bayat’s article ‘When Muslims and modernity meet’, 3 groups of Muslims are defined in Europe:

  1. Secular Muslims: those who seem to be fully “integrated” as they try to reach out to the “majority” culture, and they are frustrated by the fact that many natives do refuse to recognize them as “Europeans.” They are educated, they respect European culture and refuse radical Islam.
  2. The young extremist groups largely second-generation who rarely speak native languages, nor have much knowledge about “traditional” Islam. In other words primarily the “deculturation” of religion-the construction of a “pure,” abstract, and “fundamentalist Islam” devoid of human cultural experience and influence that inform these young Muslims.
  3. It includes the first generation immigrants who try to speak the European languages, strive to hold regular jobs, and wish to live a normal life, but are oriented to practicing many aspects of their home culture-food, fashion, rituals, or private religious practices.[5]

Bosnia and Herzegovina together with Turkey are the countries of Europe where officially the most of the Muslim population resides. When visiting these countries, people may notice that there is no difference between each other. On the other side many are surprised going there and realizing that they are Muslims, and they have mosques, and still, they are going out, they are visiting theatres, they are having fun, they are laughing and living the life.

There the EU as a body stands for multicultural idea of ‘unity in diversity’, meaning that the EU shall promote the cultural diversity of its member states, yet also advance a set of values common to all.[6] European societies and institutions should follow the example of the EU, and take  label “unity in diversity” as the main idea of their governence. Despite postulates and rules, as rules are there to be broken, reality seems different these days and hate is in growing position towards the Muslim population. However what has to be accepted from the population is that a multi-ethnic Europe means also a multi-religious citizenry; it means recognizing the reality of mosques, minarets, headscarves, even burqas in public squares along with churches and temples. For the fight against terrorism, society needs to accept transformations that cultural changes may cause; society needs good Muslims to fight bad Muslims. If we alienate good Muslims too, deprive them of their right to speak and express, we will not learn, nor be able to fight against terrorism.

One of the important problems here is in focusing/unfocusing on difference. The focus has to be shifted more towards what civilisations have in common: the relationship of human beings to their environment, the importance of family, the significance of moral leadership and indeed the meaning and purpose of life.[7]

For now what we can do is work on ourselves, not be ashamed of our own cultures and nations, as we do live in a time when nation-states, and civilisations are rising again, present them in a right way, show that multiculturalism is something positive which make us even richer than we were, that is raising the level of our tolerance, making us better people, and at the same time we will make this world a better place to live.

Written by Sabiha Kapetanovic, AEGEE- Izmir

[1] http://www.globalreligiousfutures.org/religions/muslims

[2]G. MARRANCI;  Multiculturalism, Islam And The Clash Of Civilisations Theory: RETHINKING ISLAMOPHOBIA

[3]Asef BAYAT, When Muslims and Modernity Meet,A SYMPOSIUM ON “POLITICAL ISLAM”, ISIM/Leiden University, page 507

[4] Samuel P. HUNGTINTON, The Clash of Civilizations?, Foreign Affairs; Summer 1993

[5]Asef BAYAT, When Muslims and Modernity Meet, A SYMPOSIUM ON “POLITICAL ISLAM”, ISIM/Leiden University, page 508

[6]Lisbeth AGGESTA, Mand Christopher HILL, The challenge of multiculturalism in European foreign policy, Royal Institute of International AffairsStable, 2008

[7]Jacinta O’HAGAN, Civilisational conflict? Looking for cultural enemies, Third World Quarterly, Vol 16, No 1, 1995, page 27