New debates about Islam in Europe

Talib Shareef, Yaya J. Fanusie, and Muhammad Fraser-Rahim, three African American Muslims with experience in a diverse array of American institutions, including the US Air Force, the CIA, and the Department of Homeland Security, respectively, recently wrote an article in Foreign Policy.  There, the authors cite and evaluate the existing narratives in circulation on Islam and its proper place in Europe in the wake of the beheading of a French teacher by “an extremist Muslim” for showing critical depictions of the Prophet during a civics class on free expression.

The authors believe that such events occasion unapt narratives of Islam and specifically of Muslims in Europe, ranging from alleging that Islam is “inherently” violent on the one hand, to dismissing such violent acts as mere responses to Islamophobia on the other. The authors proffer a third and alternative explanation to such acts of violence, which they describe as some Muslims bringing “one-dimensional, old-world thinking to the pluralistic environments in the West.”

The solution, the authors continue, is “building a balanced Muslim identity,” at which point they invoke the example of the Muslim African American community in the United States – a community that the authors believe has been successful and in peaceful existence because Islam “developed organically and internally,” unlike in many countries across Europe where Muslim communities are increasingly under the influence of other Muslim-majority countries.

Reiterating their belief in an organic form of Islam in the West, the authors conclude that “[t]he best model for Muslim life in the West comes from the West.”


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