‘Veiled Intolerance’

I forgot to mention last week how much I enjoyed Richard Wolin’s essay in The Nation on the current malaise about Muslim citizens and immigrants in Europe. Here’s a brief excerpt:

Today there are an estimated 15 million to 17 million Muslims living in Europe. Anyone who wishes to address the theme of “Europe and Islam” immediately runs up against an intractable definitional conundrum. For in Europe, the monolithic religion known as Islam is functionally nonexistent. The national origins of the European Muslim population vary dramatically from country to country. To wit: Whereas the majority of Dutch Muslims hail from Indonesia, Suriname, Morocco and Turkey, most British Muslims emigrated from the Indian subcontinent. Germany’s Muslims are predominantly Turks (Turkey is, of course, a secular republic, honoring the separation of mosque and state), whereas the origins of the French Muslim community may be traced to the Maghreb, or Saharan Africa.

The French Muslim community itself is further subdivided among Arabs, Berbers (from the mountainous Kabyle region of Algeria), Africans and converts, who compose 1 percent of French Muslims. How, then, might one classify a nonobservant Kabyle immigrant who is a French citizen, born in Algeria, educated in the French school system, who speaks Amazigh at home and French at work? Is he/she Berber, Algerian, French or, qua non­observant, even veritably Muslim? Clearly, the vagaries of religion, identity and ethnicity are multifarious, rich and potentially dizzying.

You can read it all here.