Saturday, January 12, 2008

Muslims of Europe Charter

The news is bright and comforting : 400 European muslim organisations have signed and published a charter on the position, role and attitude of muslims in Europe.
(See here)

The text talks about the fundamental nature of Islam, religious identity, citizenship, equality, and aims to build bridges among muslims and between Islam(s) and European societ(y)(ies).. I applaud the initiative and welcome Islam's willingness to engage with its pluriform socio-political environments.

From the charter :

The rationale for such a charter includes:
- The contribution of Islam to modern Europe as well as the rooted Islamic presence as represented by Muslims in many of the Eastern European states. Likewise, the establishment of Muslim communities in several Western European countries has witnessed a shift from a transitory presence of foreign migrants to a more permanent presence.
- The Muslim presence in Europe requires a framework of citizenship based on justice, equality of rights, with respect for difference, and the recognition of Muslims as a European religious community.
- In line with the expansion and development of the European Union, there is a need for greater co-operation among Muslims of Europe.
- The need to enhance the values of mutual understanding, working for peace and the welfare of society, moderation and inter-cultural dialogue, removed from all inclinations of extremism and exclusion.
- The importance of Islam in the world and its spiritual, human and civilisational potential requires a rapprochement with the West, and Europe in particular, in order to ensure justice and peace in the world.
These considerations have led European Muslim organisations to formulate this charter in the hope of enhancing the role of Muslims in benefiting European society and to help it build bridges with the rest of the Muslim world.


Still, good intentions may not suffice. The Belgian TV magazine Terzake mingled with Flemish muslims to find out what they thought about the charter, and the position of Islam in relation to civil law. The comments are a bit of a cold shower, in that most seem to considers themselves above or beyond the law of the land, and under the rule of Allah first.

The following video is in Flemish. Some comments are telling, as they speak of 'opponents' when depicting non-muslims, describe women as 'equivalent' (and not 'equal') to men, and rank muslim solidarity above civil engagement.
If we really are in the midst of a loud clash of civilisations, it seems muslims themselves contribute liberally to it, and uphold with vigor the us/them distinction that islam apologists attribute to Europe's rightwingers exclusively.

Later in the program, Terzake interviews islam researcher Nadia Fadil (sorry, no video available) who legitimizes and corroborates muslim exceptionalism. In answer to a question about muslim collaboration with the police and the security apparatus, she states that it is "only normal that muslims will not betray their own". A revelatory comment. Christians have been known to 'betray' other Christian burglars before, how come that is not possible in Islam ?

Strikingly, I have never once heard Fadil admonish her own. In her public appearances she maintains the role of an overprotective mother who will excuse her kin on everything and point the finger at all the others. It is deeply saddening to find highly educated Arab people like herself hiding behind the ignorance and/or short-sightedness of large parts of their own community, rather than leading the way in formulating a viable project of engagement.

Terzake video-interview
Download the full text of the muslim charter here

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