Friday, April 29, 2011

The burqa ban and an increasingly Islamophobic Europe

When British author Rudyard Kipling wrote his famous ballad of East and West he could never have imagined the relevance this theme would have over 120 years later. The opening line “East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet” is much-quoted and yet often misinterpreted.

It is a sad fact that the EU is becoming increasingly Islamophobic and that since 9/11, Europe’s apprehension for its own as well as the worldwide Muslim populations has been surging. Over the past decade there has been a progressively right-wing swing in the European electorate, and it is a trend that is accelerating. The fact that this negative trend seems to be driven by populist politicians makes it even worse, not to mention irresponsible and dangerous. Nowhere is this more true than in some of the larger member states -- France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Denmark -- which all have large Muslim communities. Unlike the US, Europe has failed to embrace multiculturalism, with an ever-widening gap between perception and reality becoming evident. Many believe that Muslims are flooding in, taking jobs and would like to turn Europe into a land ruled by Islamic law. Yet, Muslims represent only 3 percent of the population.

Islamic dress, particularly the burqa, has become a focus for wrenching political disputes. The recent decision by France to ban the burqa is an example of this negative trend.

Amanda Paul in Zaman. More

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