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Refugees in Europe: Between Ramadan’s dreams and Morin’s realism

The refugee crisis in Europe has revived the problems between Muslims and the West.

Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran

Published: Updated:

The refugee crisis in Europe has revived the problems between Muslims and the West. Discussions on identity, freedom and state-related matters have resurfaced and led to academic debates. Anxiety is developing over this challenge as another identity is taking roots in Europe within a humanitarian context that has the potential to cause a political problem. Resentment over Arab names spreading among newborns has already triggered debate.

Around 3,000 neo-Nazis and extremist right-wing supporters participated a recent protest in Berlin against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy. The police was expecting few hundred neo-Nazis to participate; however, it was surprised that a lot more attended. This is a major challenge on the ideological, social and political fronts and is bound to be debated across different platforms.

Swiss academic and writer Tariq Ramadan appears on European media outlets as a representative of the “moderate” Islamic view dealing with the problem of refugees and their integration. His views are considered as part of efforts to better understand Islam and resolve the current problems between Muslims and Christians.

I have written many articles on the subject; however the book Au péril des idées (The risking of the ideas) was released last week in Arabic and it’s about the dialogue between Ramadan and philosopher Edgar Morin. It’s an interesting dialogue between a Muslim jurist and an academic who contemplates about sharia laws and a philosopher who has always raised questions about religion.

In the book, Ramadan displays a range of verbal and semantic diversity. He disagrees with the term “integration” in the context of refugees and instead calls for “rootedness” as it is more appropriate. He feels that younger generations have become French as they speak French and live like the French.

Tariq Ramadan rejects the term “integration” because he believes it does not demonstrate the progress which Muslims have made in Europe by becoming “rooted” in these countries

Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran

Ramadan writes: “Muslims’ demands that others respect their values, culture, religion and even their memory are legitimate requests. These demands are irrefutable evidence to this historical rootedness. When young men whistle when they hear the French national anthem during a football game against the Algerian team, they’re saying in what’s certainly a reckless yet clear manner that: Algeria is our origin, history and memory which we are proud of while France is our present and disgrace; and we’re whistling to oppose racism!”

Integration vs rootedness

Ramadan’s point on rootedness was, however, tarnished by the part on national anthem and racism. When there is uncertainty over the depth of Muslim identity toward the second country, this identity must be the substitute and the more rooted one while confronting speeches like those of Ramadan when he calls for an isolated approach.

Let us take a look at the second generation of refugees of Arab descent in France. We can see that those with a French identity – who understand the significant meaning of the state and who are involved in the secular system – are the most forthcoming when it comes to thanking their country of origin while believing in French values. This can be seen in the dialogues with Zinedine Zidane, the former French national team captain.

Ramadan however speaks of historical legacy and the possibility of racial discrimination. He skips integration and calls for reviving of the old roots in the same text where he speaks about “rootedness” as an alternative to integration.

Edgar Morin responds to Ramadan saying: “A very strong component remains linked in an unspecific period of time to a deep feeling of injustice.” The point is that prolonging patterns of injustice and the continuous contemplation in identity-related matters will make refugees go through difficult and unsuccessful experiences and their situation will resemble that of isolated entities in some parts of Europe”. This will indeed make integration difficult.

Ramadan rejects the term “integration” because he believes it does not demonstrate the progress which Muslims have made in Europe as they have become “rooted” in these countries. He uses the experience of Arabs in France, particularly those belonging to the second and third generations.

What’s more inclusive than integration is “education.” Refugees who arrived from Muslim countries were used to receiving education designed to “guard instilled ideas.” However there’s now an urgent need to adopt an educational system that is based on equality, comparative theology and criticism. Refugees need such approaches. Some high schools for refugees in Germany have already started doing this.

The dialogue between Ramadan and Morin exposes two different mindsets. Morin is a strict, scientific and conceptual philosopher while Ramadan still demands European countries to benefit from “the implementation of Islamic sharia.”

This is the tragedy of millions of distressed people and it is further escalating toward the unknown! A century ago, France’s great poet Charles Baudelaire wrote: “The poor’s bag of money and old homeland...is that hallway open to unknown horizons.”

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Mar. 17, 2016.
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Fahad Shoqiran is a Saudi writer and researcher who also founded the Riyadh philosophers group. His writings have appeared in pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Alarabiya.net, among others. He also blogs on philosophies, cultures and arts. He tweets @shoqiran.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.