Europe’s other big existential problem — coming to terms with the Muslim immigrants and Islamic communities in its midst — looks several steps further from resolution than the euro zone financial crisis
opines John Vinocur
in the International Herald Tribune
…no valid European response is at hand for the dilemma of how Europe manages to cope with millions of Muslim migrants and with it a two-sided subtext of terrorism, political killings, bigotry and fear.
The standard, ineffectual, individual reflexes remain: political correctness, anti-Muslim populist screeching and European it-will-go-awayism.
But the issue is moving. It has evolved beyond questions of integration to focus on how Muslim immigrants ought to accommodate European law and custom. New French and German reports focus with considerable pessimism on incompatibilities taking root in what resemble parallel Muslim societies.
… Almost three months after Anders Behring Breivik’s day of hate-driven mass murder in Norway, there is nothing close to a European consensus about the meaning of his act, or any kind of public momentum to come up with joint European solutions to the broader issue of Muslim immigration.
Within the E.U. Constitution, immigration policy, with some exceptions, is largely a matter for individual states. The result is incoherence on the subject on the European scale. And without European cover, or the umbrella of an explanation that they’re doing the right thing for Europe, national politicians are hesitant to act decisively on touchy issues like job creation programs for migrants — perhaps the ultimate spur to integration — or setting parameters for their assimilation.
Europe’s inaction and seemingly wishful thinking about the possibilities for integration collide hard with the French and German reports on the most divisive aspects of separate cultural communities.
The French report involves months of investigation in Clichy-sous-Bois and Montfermeil, two Paris suburbs where rioting in 2005, largely involving Muslim youth, resulted in the declaration of a national state of emergency. The 325-page report was produced by l’Institut Montaigne, a research organization, and led by Gilles Kepel, a political scientist and Arabist, who first wrote in 1987 on the emergence of Muslim communities in France [see No Pasarán's previous post on the subject].
Asserting that Clichy-Montfermeil was “emblematic,” the report found the riots and their aftermath there had shaken the French “tale” of Muslims accepting the values of the republic.
At the same time, it said that Muslim identity in the area had intensified, that Halal, the Islamic standard for what is acceptable or illicit in daily life, had become “ubiquitous,” and that marriage among Muslims was increasing to the point of obliterating the French notion that intermarriage outside the community would be the ultimate path to its integration.
It also spoke of fears developing that “civility” — in this case, a shared sense of general propriety — was endangered even among the suburbs’ young children.
This was in spite of millions of euros being invested since the riots by the government into refurbishing or rebuilding the communities’ dilapidated housing project and public areas.
Mr. Kepel insisted that engagement in Islam was a response to, not the cause of, the community’s seeming alienation.
…The depth of Muslim immigration’s problems now involve so much despair (and political risk) that they can appear as disincentives for moderate discussion in national election periods.