by John L. Esposito and Sheila B. Lalwani, for the San Francisco Chronicle:

The Pew Center on Religion & Public Life recently released a comprehensive study of Muslim populations around the world that should allay fears among many of an impending global Muslim takeover and debunk widely held beliefs about Muslims. The findings of “The Future of the Global Muslim Population: Projections for 2010-2030” should also challenge the public to reconsider its perception of Islam and Muslims.

Skeptics, particularly those in Europe and North America, have long sounded alarm bells regarding the growth of the Muslim population.

(more…)

By John Esposito, for the Washington Post:

One of the frequent battle cries raised by those who warn that Muslims want to overwhelm the West is that that Muslims want to impose Shariah in America and Europe. Just as critics of Islam in the West question whether Islam is compatible with democracy and Muslims can be loyal citizens, many Muslims, in light of the rise and increase of Islamophobia and threats to their civil liberties, ask if democracy can accommodate Islam. Others, Some Muslims in the West in light of have also questioned, for different reasons, whether they could be both good Muslims and loyal citizens in of “foreign” non-Muslim states based on a Western secular laws? More isolationist and militant Muslims tend to associate Western countries and societies with kufr, unbelief, and look upon its citizens as unbelievers to be avoided, converted or attacked.

While devout Jews can follow Jewish law and Christians follow their doctrines and laws and be at the same time fully American citizens, can Muslims? What is the relationship of the need to follow Shariah to Muslims living in non-Muslim societies? Is there something peculiar about Islam that presents Muslim from living in a secular pluralistic America or Europe?

(more…)

From the Economist:

HOW likely are French parliamentarians to approve the proposed “burqa ban”? Deputies get their first chance to debate the idea in parliament on Tuesday May 11th. As a first step, the National Assembly will examine a resolution, which carries symbolic value, but not legal force. Yet it will be a good test of the political mood. It is likely to be approved with thunderous cross-party support.

French backing for a burqa ban across the political spectrum is sometimes hard to understand. In many multicultural quarters of Europe, the idea is linked to the extreme or nationalist right. In Britain, for instance, the only party proposing a total burqa ban during the recent general-election campaign was the United Kingdom Independence Party, which also wants to pull the country out of the European Union. The far-right British National Party also called for a burqa ban in schools. One Labour minister replied that it was “not British” to tell people what to wear in the street. In a speech in Cairo last year, President Barack Obama argued that Western countries should not be “dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear”.

In France, however, the proposal draws backing from the mainstream left and right. President Nicolas Sarkozy, from the political right, said last year that the burqa, as the French call it (in reality, they mean the niqab, or all-over face-covering veil), was “not welcome” on French soil. Jean-François Copé, the leader of the ruling UMP party in parliament, has been the most active in pushing for a total ban (The Economist interviewed Mr Copé last week). Yet the idea is also backed by politicians of all stripes, including the Communist head of a parliamentary inquiry into a ban, and various leading Socialists.

(more…)

Image from the New Statesman

By Tariq Ramadan, for the New Statesmen:

The dust from the collapse of the twin towers had hardly settled on 11 September 2001 when the febrile search began for “moderate Muslims”, people who would provide answers, who would distance themselves from this outrage and condemn the violent acts of “Muslim extremists”, “Islamic fundamentalists” and “Islamists”. Two distinct categories of Muslim rapidly emerged: the “good” and the “bad”; the “moderates”, “liberals” and “secularists” versus the “fundamentalists”, the “extremists” and the “Islamists”.

This categorisation was not new. Literature produced during the colonial era, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially by orientalist scholars in Britain and France, depicted Muslims in the same binary manner. “Good” Muslims were those who either collaborated with the colonial enterprise or accepted the values and customs of the dominant power. The rest, the “bad” Muslims, those who “resisted” religiously, culturally or politically, were systematically denigrated, dismissed as the “other” and repressed as a “danger”. Times have changed, but the old mindsets and simplistic portrayals continue to cast a shadow over today’s intellectual, political and media debate about Islam. One reason why so many Muslim thinkers, activists and reformers today try to avoid the label of “moderate” is the perception of having sold out on their religion to the west and its suffocating terminology.

(more…)

From the Economist:

FOR American commentators who like to denounce European complacency in the face of an increasingly assertive Islam, France is an intriguing test-case. It is home to Europe’s biggest Muslim minority, numbering some 5m-6m, and it unapologetically expects Muslims to adapt to French ways. In 1994 the government began clamping down on religious symbols, including the Muslim headscarf, in state schools. Ten years later it banned all “ostentatious” religious signs, including the veil, from state schools and other public buildings. Now yet another tightening is in the works: a proposed ban on wearing the burqa in any public places.

Jean-François Copé, parliamentary leader of the ruling UMP party, this week submitted a draft law stating that “nobody, in places open to the public or on streets, may wear an outfit or an accessory whose effect is to hide the face”. A few exceptions would be made, he said, such as for carnivals. At other times, anybody refusing to take off a face-covering could be fined €750 ($1,090). He hopes parliament will debate the draft at the end of March, shortly after the regional elections.

(more…)