When Azzedine Belthoub was growing up in the shantytowns outside of Nanterre, France, 40 years ago, the people who came to take the young North African kids to swim in the community pool, to register them for school and give them candy and comic books, were Marxists. The French Communist Party offered a political voice for the working classes, including the growing number of North African immigrants imported to fill labor shortages after World War II.In similar news, the AP's Anthony Deutsch has reported that (dank u to GS) "The Netherlands' intelligence service [has warned] that radical Islamic ideology is spreading to thousands of young Dutch Muslims through Internet sites and online chat rooms." …
Today, Islam plays that role, especially in France, where men like Belthoub, wearing long beards and short djellabas, reach out to the poor and disillusioned in the country's working-class neighborhoods.
Young Arabs and Africans here have turned to Islam with the same fervor that the idealistic youth of the 1960s turned toward Marxism.
"Now, religion has become our identity," Belthoub said last week, sitting in a friend's apartment in a largely Muslim suburb north of Paris.
The question is whether Islam in Europe will follow the same path that communism did here, shedding its revolutionary extremism, electing mayors and legislators and assimilating itself into normal democratic political life.
As with Marxism in the 1960s, Islam in Europe has its radical fringe and its pragmatic mainstream. The latter is much the broader, intent on expanding Muslims' political power in French society. It has consciously mimicked many of the tactics of the left, including organizing summer camps where urban young people learn the tenets of the movement.
… Islam's growth in Europe as the most vibrant ideology of the downtrodden is part of a wave of religiosity that has swept the Arab world in the past 30 years, propelled by frustration over feeble economies, uneven distribution of wealth and the absence of political freedom.
Like communism, it represents for many of its devoted adherents a transnational ideology tilting toward an eventual utopian vision, in this case of a vast, if not global, caliphate governed according to sharia, the legal code based on the Koran.
But the religion's appeal reaches beyond the communities of Arab and African immigrants born to the faith. … "Islam has replaced Marxism as the ideology of contestation," says Olivier Roy, a French scholar of European Islam. "When the left collapsed, the Islamists stepped in."
… The map of France's Islamists today largely matches that of the country's Marxists from decades ago. Many predominantly Muslim municipalities are still under Communist-led administrations, but Islamic organizations are now the active ones. …
Thursday, December 30, 2004
In France, "Islam has replaced Marxism as the ideology of contestation" with a transnational ideology tilting toward an eventual utopian vision
In his Letter from France, Craig S Smith reports in the International Herald Tribune that in Europe, Islam fills Marxism's old shoes: