Islam in Europe

Published: November 29, 2015
The writer is a former caretaker finance minister and served as vice-president at the World Bank

The writer is a former caretaker finance minister and served as vice-president at the World Bank

How the West views Islam will be determined to a large extent by the attitudes Europeans develop to the followers of this faith. According to Pew Forum, the total number of Muslims in Europe in 2010 was about 44 million. A significant number of these were in the European part of Russia. The number living in the European Union (EU) was estimated at 19 million or almost four per cent of the total. The proportion will increase once the refugees who poured into the continent are absorbed.

The flow of refugees from the Middle East and Afghanistan exacerbated what many in Europe view as a problem — the presence of Islam in the continent. A suburb in northeastern Paris in an area called Department 93 is a good example of the tension that the presence and arrival of more and more Muslims is creating for Europe. George Packer’s essay in The New Yorker of August 31, 2015 described the situation — in fact a crisis — that is taking shape. “To many Parisians, the 93 signify decayed housing projects, crime, unemployment and Muslims. France has all kinds of suburbs, but the word for them, banlieus, has become pejorative, meaning slums dominated by immigrants. Conceived as utopias for workers, they have become concentration of poverty and social isolation.” One of the several residents of the suburb Packer interviewed for his article said that the highway called the Periferique that encircles Paris is a schizophrenic dynamic that separates the Muslim suburbs from the city. “For all their vitality, the banlieues feel isolated from the city, and from France itself. Parisians and tourists rarely visit them, and residents claim that journalists drop in only to report on car burnings and drug shootings.” Being from the area was a serious impediment; school graduates apply for jobs but don’t get called.

The Paris terrorist attacks of November 13, 2015 worsened the situation for Muslims in Europe. They widened the divide between them and the rest. Following the attacks, Francois Hollande, the French president, declared war on radicalism. He undertook a whirlwind tour of several Western capitals as well as Moscow to drum up support for his initiative. While President Barack Obama was cautious in pledging what his country was prepared to do, Russia’s Vladimir Putin saw an opportunity for his country in the French overtures. Long shunned by the West, in Hollande’s war against radicalism, the Russian president saw a way of getting his country back into Western Europe.

The east-west divide in the EU — in particular with reference to the continent’s attitude towards Islam and Muslims — was laid bare by the refugee crisis of 2015. When joining the EU, nations were asked to pledge support to a raft of so-called European values, including open markets, transparent government, respect for an independent media, open borders, cultural diversity, protection of minorities and rejection of xenophobia. The former East European nations accepted the conditions when they became EU members, but changed little in the behaviour or attitude. This was in part because they were considerably more homogenous than the countries in the western part of the continent. Poland, for instance, was 98 per cent white and 98 per cent Catholic. Also, East European countries had no history of colonialism. Unlike France, Belgium, Britain, Italy and the Netherlands, their people have not lived and worked with people of different colour, creed and religion. As The New York Times’ Rick Lyman reported from Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban had “taken a particularly uncompromising approach, demanding more help from Brussels in dealing with tens of thousands who continue to enter his country while insisting that Hungary is under no obligation to endanger its traditional Christian values by accepting large numbers of Muslims”.

He was not alone in voicing that sentiment. Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico said his country will accept only Christian refugees as it would be “false solidarity” to force Muslims to settle in a country without a single mosque. “This refugee flow has outraged the right wing,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “If you scratch the surface, why are they so upset? It’s not jobs or the ability to manage them or social welfare. What it is really about is that they are Muslims.”

These negative attitudes may ease with time. As the mostly young and well-educated refugees begin to contribute meaningfully to the economies of their adopted countries, their presence may get to be less resented. The EU in its twice-yearly economic forecast released in late November 2015 estimated that it will receive an additional three million persons over the next three years, bringing the total to four million. The Commission estimated that overall migrant flows would add additional regional growth of 0.2 to 0.3 per cent of GDP by 2020. Extra public spending to help the refugees settle in their new homes will increase GDP in the short term, while medium-term growth should be boosted by an increase in labour supply. Germany is set to benefit the most. Where the new arrivals are highly skilled, the country’s GDP would increase by 0.2 per cent this year, rising to 0.4 to 0.5 per cent by 2020.           

Published in The Express Tribune, November 30th,  2015.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • Allah Hafiz
    Nov 29, 2015 - 11:45PM

    Hi Asalamwallikum

    Did anybody noticed that why japan had not had any episode of islamic terrorism or why dont japanese prime minister visit any muslim country…..Japanese premiere visits india and western country but not any muslim country.If anybody got answer….please clarify on this forum…its interesting and can provide case for why some countries are so peaceful and developed….Recommend

  • Nana
    Nov 30, 2015 - 12:03AM

    Who is East? Before One book, One Khilafa/Pope/Politburo Chairman/Wall Street Unique McDonald Burger, there was native spirituality mixed with Eastern Meditation & Yoga was prevalent. As West becomes older and wise it is turning to Yoga & Meditation. Whom do you think Western world befriend and welcome young generation of natives from these befriended natives. Answer is obvious, you will see large import of Indian Dharmiks to the west to maintain their power plants, hospitals, multinationals, pharma companies, educational institutions and even spiritual institutions. Recommend

  • SuperNeo
    Nov 30, 2015 - 7:47AM

    @Allah Hafiz:
    Simple !!!
    Maintain distance with problem an problematic peoples to have peace in your country.Recommend

  • darvesh
    Nov 30, 2015 - 9:17AM

    Yes they need some reasons to alleviate rampant poverty in India without hurting self respect of natives-Yoga or few plants as you have mentioned, are some examples.Recommend

  • Omar dar
    Nov 30, 2015 - 9:42AM

    This is a great article. Enjoyed reading it and found it useful because it added to my knowledge. I look forward to reading your column every week.Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Nov 30, 2015 - 6:14PM

    Germany is set to benefit the most. Where the new arrivals are highly skilled, the country’s GDP would increase by 0.2 per cent this year, rising to 0.4 to 0.5 per cent by 2020.

    After pasting all the information published in the media, the author did come across to the truth. The federal republic of Germany is the leading economy in Europe and the leading export economy in the world, which has until now been paying a large sum for the lethargic and sick economies of the Eastern Europe. Not any more is the message from the German Government leadership to Poland and Slavakia if they are turning their backs on solidarity and compassion for the next in their midst. Mr orban of Hungary forgot his heritage of being ruled by the Ottomans who brought Buda and Pest into one and did not build a single mosque, but praying in the churches with the christians.
    The author needs to look, across the horizon of the major industrial countries of Europe to appreciate the part played by the migrant community, mostly muslims in mining and steel industry but also in chemical, automobile and electronic engineering as well as in building the infra structure net work of highways and motorways, all of which were erased in WW2 fiasco..
    France is one of the countries which has failed to adequately address the needs of the second and third generations youth who after attaining the higher education in universities are left alone to live with their workers parants and grandparents as unemployed. There have been riots in the suburbs of major cities on account of this but none of the projects initiated by the Government were realised.

    This must change now under the socialist Government with a legislation,, in the wake of criminals who are being indoctrinated from the outside world via internet video messages to destroy their own roots?

    Rex Minor..Recommend

  • Clockboy Ahmed
    Nov 30, 2015 - 7:53PM

    @Allah Hafiz:
    Simple. Japan has accepted Indonesian and Bangladeshi among Muslims in substantial number, and further they are planning to give up Shinto/Buddhism and become devote Muslims. Samurai warriors are looking forward to get converted into Razakars.Recommend

  • True
    Dec 1, 2015 - 3:13AM

    @Clockboy Ahmed:
    And the downfall begins 10..9…8…7……….Recommend

  • Komal S
    Dec 1, 2015 - 1:06PM

    Muslim intellects should be careful in telling europeans their responsibility. These countries have seen the challenges France, Britain and other western european countries face with significant muslim minorities. Lot of these muslim minorities are powering the ISIS both from funding and also by joining their forces. If i were Hungary or any other country, the logical question would be, can i avoid this headache. There is a logical reason for this paranoia. Germany has been brave, but i would doubt if Merkel would have been this pro-active if there were elections round the corner. This is politically suicidal in any democratic european country.
    You can make Europeans villain for this, but please give us recent examples where Islamic countries lead by example on refugee crisis or minority treatment etc… Even the most heavily oppressed Rohingya muslims was given home in the so called western countries and some muslim countries let them die in the boat.Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Dec 1, 2015 - 6:07PM

    @Komal S:
    Muslim intellects should be careful in telling europeans their responsibility.

    Muslim intellects in Europe are Europeans and stand on their own aware of their rights and responsibilities in the country they live in. There have been two significant developments in recent years namely the rebirth of nationalism in European countries and the culture of violence in almost all muslim countriesd, both independent of one another. This has been polarised further due to the destabilisation in the middle east( near to the European continent) caused by foreign military interventions.
    We are witnessing just the beginning, how it will progress is the challenge for the people and the political leadership.

    Rex Minor Recommend

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