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– Twenty-First Century Crusades?
Prediction 1 -
tension and backlash against Muslims in Europe
Islamophobia rising in Europe?
By Stefan Nicola
KEHL AM RHEIN, Germany (UPI) -- Danish cartoons enrage the Arab world, a
German immigrant test singles out Muslims and opposition grows to admit
Turkey and its 70 million Muslims into the European Union -- a ghost is
haunting Europe, the ghost of Islamophobia.
|...the conflict between
Denmark and the Arab world is ever-mounting...
At least that`s what Islamic organizations across the continent say.
Does Europe face a clash of cultures?
In Denmark, round one seems to have already started. The Arab world has
reacted with outrage to a series of caricatures depicting the Prophet
Mohammad, published last September by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.
The 12 drawings were reprinted in a Norwegian paper this month,
including an image of Mohammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb.
Depicting images of Mohammad is considered a sin in Islam.
Several Arab governments (including Egypt, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia)
have called on the Danish government to apologize, but in Copenhagen,
officials argue they won`t apologize for a newspaper because that would
interfere with the country`s free-press rules. But in a TV interview,
Danish premier Anders Fogh Rasmussen distanced himself from the
drawings: \'I would never publicize pictures of Jesus or Mohammad that
might offend other people.\'
Although the newspaper on Monday issued an apology for having offended
Muslims throughout the world, the conflict between Denmark and the Arab
world is ever-mounting: Arab countries have ordered home their Danish
ambassadors, Danish products are being boycotted in several
Muslim-dominated countries, and Danish and Norwegian flags are being
burned on sidewalks all over the Middle East.
On Monday, a group of armed Palestinians stormed a European Union office
in the Gaza strip, a day after al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades distributed
flyers urging Scandinavians to leave the area within 72 hours.
Right-wing Danish lawmakers have apparently decided to hit back, with
racist propaganda there making it into the media daily.
\'All countries in the West are infiltrated by Muslims. They are nice to
us while they wait until they are enough to kill us,\' said Mogens Camre,
a MEP from the right-wing Danish People`s Party, or DVP.
Ake Sander, one of Sweden`s leading experts on religion and Islam at
Gothenburg University in Sweden, Tuesday told United Press International
via telephone that the cartoon affair was not the tip of an iceberg, but
rather an isolated incident.
\'Islamophobia has undoubtedly risen in Denmark, not so much in the rest
of Scandinavia, however,\' he said. \'But there are countries in Europe
where Islamophobia has measurably increased, such as Austria and Great
Sander, alongside several colleagues throughout Europe, conducted a
European Commission-sponsored study on Islam-related fears in 25
European nations, which will be released next month.
Islam is already the EU`s second-most popular religion, and it could one
day claim the top spot if the Western European affinity to atheism
continues, and Turkey and its 70 million Muslims join the bloc.
But an ever-growing opposition to that move has settled in nearly all
Western European countries, including generally pro-European nations
such as Germany and the Netherlands.
\'A lot of people still equate Islam with terrorism,\' Sander said,
adding the recent bombings in Madrid and London have taken the conflict
from the United States to Europe. Imams that preach hate do exist, but
they are in a small minority, he said.
The fear of anyone wearing a hijab, combined with the problems of
integration suffered by a number of Muslims in Europe, has led to a spat
in Germany over one state`s immigration test.<!--page-->
The conservative state government of Baden-Wuerttemberg has decided to
single out Muslims trying for a German passport for tougher questioning
to find out if they really mean business when they sign an oath to the
constitution. Questions touch on sensitive topics including
homosexuality, domestic violence, promiscuity and equality of the sexes.
They range from: \'Imagine that your adult son comes to you and says he
is homosexual and plans to live with another man. How do you react?\'
and \'Your daughter or sister comes home and says she has been sexually
abused. What do you do?\' to \'What do you think if a man in Germany is
married to two women at the same time?\'
Muslim organizations in Germany have reacted with outrage. Earlier this
week, 12 of them issued a joint statement condemning the new method.
\'The fact that only Muslims have to take this test implies that the
commitment to Islam could mean a threat to security and it thus clearly
segregates Muslims. It also encourages prejudices about Islam, massively
violates the private sphere and the freedom of speech and opinion of the
people questioned,\' it read.
The German state has so far refused to take back the new policy, arguing
the application of the test would be expanded to include all immigrants
whose true intentions are doubtful.
Muslims are increasingly self-confident when it comes to addressing such
controversial issues and in recent years have reacted very strongly,
\'Now they are more often in the offensive after being in the defensive
for many years.\'
In several European countries, integration of immigrants, often Muslims,
is failing. Germany`s Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said it was
one of his top goals to better his country`s integration efforts after
witnessing the riots in neighboring France last fall.
Sander said several things need to improve to bring down Islamophobia
and improve integration, including giving Muslims a chance to speak for
\'It`s still very hard for them to make a career in politics, but they
have to be given channels to voice their frustrations and grievances in
the European society.\'
Bettering the socio-economic status of Muslims is another way to
integrate them, albeit a tough task, he said.
\'Unemployment among young people in Sweden is high, and young men and
women with Muslim identities get cut first,\' he said. \'I get papers
written by an author with an Arab name and it doesn`t get published. I`d
put my name on it and it get published right away.\'