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three - Muslims, equality and secularism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 January 2022

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Summary

Introduction

Most European countries do not collect data on non-White citizens and residents, only on foreigners, but it seems that more than 5% and possibly up to 10% of citizens of EU15 are of non-European descent. Currently most of the largest, in particular the capital, cities of North West Europe, are about 15%–30% non-White (that is, people of non-European descent). Even without further large-scale immigration, being a young, fertile population, these proportions will grow for at least one generation more before they stabilise, reaching or exceeding 50% in some cities in the next few decades. The trend will include some of the larger urban centres of South Europe. A high degree of racial/ethnic/religious mix in its principal cities will be the norm in 21st-century Europe, and will characterise its national economic, cultural and political life, as it has done in 20th-century US (and will do so in the 21st). Of course there will also be important differences between Western Europe and the US. Among these is the fact that the majority of non-White citizens in European countries are Muslims (the UK, where Muslims form about a third of non-White citizens or minority ethnic groups is the exception). With an estimated 15 million plus Muslims in Western Europe today, about 4% of the population (Savage, 2004), they are larger than the combined populations of Finland, Denmark and Ireland. Many people in Europe fear this newly settled population. It is popularly associated with terrorism, and many centre-left intellectuals and social scientists see it as threatening the Enlightenment heritage of Europe. In virtually every country in Western Europe, there is a perception that Muslims are making politically exceptional, culturally unreasonable or theologically alien demands on European states. To counter this I shall show in this chapter that the claims Muslims are making in fact parallel comparable arguments about gender or ethnic equality. Seeing the issue in that context shows how European and contemporary the logic of mainstream Muslim identity politics is. In addition I argue that multicultural politics must embrace a moderate secularism and resist radical secularism. I shall focus on the case of Britain in particular.

British equality movements

Muslim assertiveness became a feature of majority–minority relations only from around the early 1990s; prior to this, racial equality discourse and politics were dominated by the idea that the dominant post-immigration issue was ‘colour racism’.

Type
Chapter
Information
Religion, Spirituality and the Social Sciences
Challenging Marginalisation
, pp. 37 - 50
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2008

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