Retreat and isolation among practicing Muslims in Europe

The terrorist attacks that hit the Belgian capital of Brussels on March 22 are a manifestation of what could be called globalized violence...

Hassan Al Mustafa

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The terrorist attacks that hit the Belgian capital of Brussels on March 22 are a manifestation of what could be called “globalized violence.” It has become an essential feature of the rise of fundamentalism and the use of technology in carrying out acts of terror. This is turning out to be a race against time. French philosopher Edgar Morin believes that two divergent contexts give contradictory results.

Delivering a series of lectures at the Francois Mitterrand National Library of France, in 2005, Morin said that “we are witnessing the globalization of economic and technical fields; at the same time we see the presence of its resistors, including the return to religions and excessive rituals”. He also emphasized that “some rough outbreaks would make us think that religious, cultural or even civilization’s wars are possible.”

The confrontation mentioned by Morin is not necessarily religious as is promoted by the followers of ideology. It is, however, the natural result of a historic tussle, where two contradictory concepts clash. The first concept believes in “pureness” and “absolute right-ness” while representing the correct interpretation of religion; it strives for the return of the “caliphate” and establishes a fundamentalist Islamist state in accordance with an indisputable vision that does not accept differences.

The second concept is a liberal and secular one that believes in “human being” as a core value and that the relationship among individuals is based on social contracts, respect for diversity and human rights and in light of modern civil state values and the rule of law. This is what made a country like Belgium grant Muslims – whether citizens, residents or refugees – the right to worship and freedom of belief without any coercion or interference.

The problem lies in the perception of a number of Muslims in European societies and their relationship with the country they reside in

Hassan Al-Mustafa

However, the problem lies in the perception of a number of Muslims in European societies and their relationship with the country they reside in. A large segment of Muslims in Europe suffer from isolation. They feel that they are oppressed, marginalized and are racially targeted. They tend to forget the great privileges they have acquired and the high positions Muslims, Arabs and Africans occupy something that is not available to them in their home countries.

The relationship with this new identity is a very complicated matter because these Muslims practice a reverse thinking while dealing with the environment they live in. It is as if this is a transitional place or a temporary residence from which they benefit just like a traveler taking advantage of the stations he is traveling through. They are not interested in benefiting from its values, concepts and people, but instead, they continue to believe that their value system is the best and seek to impose it on others.

Marginalized suburbs?

As a result, you hear a lot in the media about “marginalized suburbs”, their rate of unemployment and other issues that are not limited to Muslim immigrants but are shared with the native population. Besides, unemployment and negligence is rampant in the countries from which these immigrants come from; it is not a new reality for them. However, the difference is that in Europe they can freely express themselves without being oppressed. This free space become their nagging yard to look for exaggerated excuses.

The marginalization referred to by Muslim immigrants is not an excuse or a product of violence, as the world saw in Brussels. What produced this terrorism is religious dogmatism as philosopher Mohammed Arkoun defines; it is those narrowed fundamentalist ideas, forming a historical and cultural reference for atonement, murder and hatred.

The dogmatism that controls the mind is what prompted its followers into isolation and formed societies with private customs, interests, and a pattern of life completely different from the liberal environment in which they lived. This happens despite the chance they have to start a dignified life based on a civil law, which does not distinguish between race, religion and color.

However, instead of respecting these laws, they have been working for their demolition in order to establish a narrow vision through coercion, under the pretext of “privacy” and “identity”. The result has been the degeneration of moral and religious values. It has ignited new hotbeds of tension that will lead to more conflict and restrictions on freedom and civil values that were gained after a long and bitter struggle.

This article was first published in Al-Riyadh on Mar. 25, 2016.
Hassan Al-Mustafa is a Saudi journalist with interest in Middle East and Gulf politics. His writing focuses on social media, Arab youth affairs and Middle East societies and their issues.

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