Eclectic Grounds

conflicts and conversation

Posts Tagged ‘europe

The minaret vote and public symbols of Islam in Europe: a sign of progress?

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Following the Swiss anti-minaret referendum, I quoted Tariq Ramadam who argues that the referendum reflects a rejection of public symbolics of Islam in Europe. The contested symbols, he says, are different in each European country but the mindset behind it is essentially the same.

Nilüfer Göle believes that these symbolic battles mark a new stage in the process of immigration to Europe:

Just like the other silent symbol, the veil, minarets reveal the presence of Muslims both pious and female in public life. This visibility certifies the presence of Muslims in European society and their desire to remain there, demanding freedom of conscience, freedom to practice their religion and also the freedom to dress according to their personal interpretation of their religion. Paradoxically, Islam becomes a political and cultural source for identifying immigrants, their quest for acknowledgment. They in turn manifest their particular citizenship within the European public arena. This visibility marks the end of a stage in the migratory phenomenon, that of integration, as well as experiences and ways of appropriating the public sphere in Europe. It is the difficulty in acknowledging this passage from foreigner to citizen that lies beneath the controversies surrounding Islam.

Might the Swiss minaret rows be seen in a positive light in the end? Is it the last mobilisation of the ignorant and fearful against a changing public sphere; one that accommodates Islam as a component of European civil society? Is it a futile attempt to undo the development of a more inclusive concept of citizenship? Let us hope for it.

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Gays against immigrants? – the ‘nationalisation’ of gay rights

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Darkmatter recenty had an excellent post on a topic that has interested me for a while: it is about how sexual tolerance is becoming a tool that is used to present immigrant groups in Germany as inferior.

Darkmatter picks up a report from the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung on a report on the issue: 

According to Süddeutsche, the study showed that ‘migrant kids in particular strongly rejected homosexuality’, and that German kids were more likely to be weltoffen, that is, open minded or cosmopolitan. While on the one hand all migrant subjects are hereby constituted as a single category – that is, not German and hence not weltoffen – there is at the same time a hierarchy constructed within the migrant community through the problematization of religion.

and examines the report against the backgrop of the “integration discourse”

The question of open-mindedness (Weltoffenheit) is directly linked to the question of ‘integration’: those marked out by a religious identity are considered unable or unwilling to integrate. German values (symbolized, of course, by ‘cosmopolitan’ Berlin, the nation’s moral as well as political capital) are accordingly placed under threat by Islamic migrants. 

The conclusion is that

Homophobia is thus simultaneously nationalized and racialized. In an act of audacious historical revisionism, Germany becomes equated with gay rights (as an expression of its general regard for ‘human rights’), while Islam is constituted as homophobic (and thus outside a discourse of ‘human rights’). Gay rights are thus mobilized in anti-immigration discourse as a key signifier of European cultural superiority, as (white) gay Germans assert their membership of the national community through the construction of the figure of the homophobic Muslim.

[…] 

As gay rights become articulated to the nation and used as markers of European, Western or ‘civilizational’ superiority, they are simultaneously becoming detached from their historical relation to a left-wing politics. Borders and battle lines that were once thought set and certain in our wars of position are suddenly revealed to be in flux, as political antagonisms are more than ever before ‘being formulated in terms of moral categories’, and the seductive lexicon of liberation struggles is mined by a variety of dubious social actors intent on providing for themselves a veneer of ethical legitimacy. As sexuality has come to play a major role in shaping dominant Western attitudes towards cultural difference, scholars and activists the world over are becoming starkly aware of the normative racial bias in hegemonic forms of sexual politics.

Darkmatter adds an extensive overview of the connection between postcolonialism and sexuality in the context of counterterrorism and national assertion against multiculturalism. It reveals the ‘whiteness’ of theories on sexuality and the implicit racism that comes with it. It worth reading.

It notable in this context that anti-immigrant discourses from the right seem to be quite pragmatic in incorporating rather leftist political issues and constituencies for the purpose of creating a national identity against immigrants or cultural difference – not only when it comes to sexuality. Another example is the  the sudden embracement of animal rights against halal Muslim practices of slaughtering, or also the conservative flirt with women’s rights and laicism used to alienate Muslims  – by a party that calls itself “Christian Democrats” (see Jytte Klausen‘s excellent book about it).