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Castles & Mosques

photo from observers.france24.com

Currently, there are more than 16 million Muslims living in the European Union, including more than 6% of France’s population. Increasing immigration from Northern Africa and high immigrant birth rates are contributing to the growth of Europe’s Muslim population. Over the years, European countries have done a poor job of integrating Muslim immigrants into mainstream society. The effects of these failings can be seen in the rising xenophobia in EU nations and the use of European territory as a base for terrorist planning and radicalization. Most recently, European nations have used legislation to limit the rights of Muslims in the forms of dress and worship. France has banned wearing the hijab within the public education system and is working towards a full-ban on wearing the burqa, a garment covering women head-to-toe.  In 2009, a referendum was passed in Switzerland banning the construction of new minarets, distinctive architectural features of mosques. As the demographics of Europe change, some worry that Europe’s identity is becoming more difficult to define.

The failure to integrate Muslims into mainstream European society has created serious consequences. Whether incidents of violence against “offenders” of Islam, like the 2004 murder of Dutch film-maker, Theo van Gogh, terrorist plots created on European soil, or high crime rates in Muslim communities, Muslims in Europe are being increasingly pushed to the fringes of European society. Instead of focusing on limiting the expression of Islamic culture, European governments should seek to involve Muslims within European communities. Governments should focus on increasing literacy among immigrant populations, reducing segregation, and increasing economic opportunities for Muslims in Europe. Unless European Muslims feel a sense of belonging within European society and attachment to societal values, the risks of violence will only rise.

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