Saturday, February 5th, British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke at a security conference in Munich. In light of the growing evidence that the United Kingdom has become a “safe haven” for Islamic militants, Mr. Cameron’s remarks strongly criticized Britain’s multicultural approach to the nation’s immigrants. The policy, initiated in the 1960s, recognizes the right of all people in Britain to live by their own traditional values. Many argue that this strategy is responsible for the fractured sense of British identity and lack of social cohesion 50 years on.
While Mr. Cameron is not the first leader to decry European “multiculturalism” – Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France have both weighed in on the potential dangers- he went so far as to encourage governments to practice less tolerance. Britain’s new leader argued that this “hands-off tolerance” had encouraged Muslims and other immigrants to cut themselves off from the mainstream, creating segregated communities in which extremism can thrive.
The British Prime Minister went on to call for an end to what he perceives to be a dangerous double standard, stating “We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values. So when a white person holds objectionable views- racism, for example- we rightly condemn them. But when equally unacceptable views or practices have come from someone who isn’t white, we’ve been too cautious, frankly even fearful, to stand up to them.”
While the Mr. Cameron’s analysis may seem simplistic, it touches upon key spaces of analysis of race, immigration, identity, inequality, and the way that the last 10 years have introduced Islam as a particular factor. In the March 2011 issue of The Sociological Forum, Sociologists, Katja M. Guenther, Sadie Pendaz, and Fortunata Songora Makene explored many of these same themes in their article “The Impact of Intersecting Dimensions of Inequality and Identity on the Racial Status of Eastern African Immigrants.” While the research of Guenther, Pendaz, and Makene focuses primarily on east African immigrants in the American mid-west, many of the theses that the authors operate on serve as interesting lenses for the European multiculturalism debate. (more…)
Jeffrey Alexander writes that “cultural trauma occurs when members of a collectivity feel they have been subjected to a horrendous event that leaves indelible marks upon their group consciousness, marking their memories forever and changing their future identity in fundamental and irrevocable ways” (2004). With this basic definition in mind, can we call the shootings that took place at the Fort Hood army base a “cultural trauma”? In this case, the identity of the United States military may have been terribly complicated. Military leaders have made many statements in the media decrying this incident as the work of a deranged individual, and have stated repeatedly that Muslims serving in the military have made sacrifices as great as those belonging to any other religious group.
However, there have been reports of growing concern in some areas of the media (such as Fox News) that directly blame the alleged shooter’s faith for the incident. Such commentators blame a climate of “political correctness” for ignoring the “warning signs” that Nidal Hasan was becoming “radicalized.” A more nuanced analysis of the situation might place Hasan in the same group of other military men and women who have been experiencing strain related to eight plus years of armed conflict in the Middle East. Although Hasan had yet to be deployed, his work as a military psychiatrist counseling the victims of post-traumatic stress syndrome made him an asset that the army could not afford to lose, and some believe that this fact above all else was the main reason that the command structure overlooked or downplayed his past disciplinary problems.
Whatever the eventual outcome of Hasan’s trial may be, the identity of the U.S. military has been thrown into a state of flux. By extension, the concept of who is a “real” American has been dealt another blow. This incident, in conjunction with the racialized discourse surrounding the birth origins of President Obama, has added to the cultural trauma of Muslim and American identity in the U.S. that has plagued the 21st century so far.
Will the Right Islam Stand Up? by Amitai Etzioni
Racism takes many forms, constantly shifting in expression in order to brace against the ever widening borders of contact between foreign cultures and ethnicities. Race has once again taken the spotlight as the contest for the US presidential election hosts the first African American presidential candidate and the country collectively examines how much race plays a role in the mind of its citizens. Religious bigotry has also played a role as whisper campaigns spread word of Obama’s supposed Muslim faith in an effort to deter votes. Recently speaking out, former Secretary of State Colin Powell asked not that we stop confusing the faith of Obama, but that we ask ourselves why a Muslim could not be a viable candidate for the United State’s highest position. Why cannot young Muslim Americans dream of one day taking over the presidency? Do we still consider Muslims foreigners we must be suspicious of? Gordon Allport’s theory of Contact proposes that prejudices will decrease if groups have equal access to one another. Cooperation over competition will lead to more harmony among groups. As our world becomes increasingly globalized the need to better understand one another becomes vital. We are each other’s neighbor.
Washington Post article
Intergroup conflict resolution article
Classical sociologists, Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim, all suggested that as societies modernized, religion would begin to lose its influence on individuals and become more of a personal choice than a public mode of cohesion and control. This secularization thesis is exemplified by Dubai, a place where Islam has converged with contemporary material luxuries, consumerism, and new notions of religious identity. The secularization of Islam here is obvious as young and middle-aged Muslims, many of whom are expatriates from countries like Egypt and Jordan, negotiate new ways of experiencing and expressing their religion. After all, with both 24-hour Mosques and indoor ski slopes at their disposal, they seem to have no choice but to explore new interpretations of their Muslim identities.
S. Calderini on Islam and Diversity