I live in a small country in Europe named Belgium. We have “freedom of religion”. There is a strict separation between Church and State. Officially, we are a catholic country but nowadays we have mainly agnostics and atheists, our churches stay empty on sundays.
We have many different religions, and many different cultures here in Belgium. None of them posed a big problem, but Islam really is an exception.
What I have learned is that Islam is not a religion like any other. Let me explain: Most religions and most cultures are compatible with Belgian culture and law, and just fit in. Islam however, is not just a religion as how we here define “religion”. Islam is a whole package. Islam contains a political system, economic system, justice, education, culture and religion.
When Muslims come to Europe to live their lives, this creates impact.
We have Police here who’s job is to make sure that the citizens follow the law. People with Islamic roots are showing some kind of immunity against the police. They show this in how they behave towards the police, by not accepting the police as an authority. They literally say and admit that Allah, the Islamic God, is the only authority.
Every week there are cases of violence against police and it always shows the same pattern: 1 Muslim gets arrested, and then suddenly a group of sometimes up to 50 Muslims gather and attack the police. This has happened so many times that the police has decided to no longer patrol certain neighborhoods, because their authority is no longer accepted there so they are just outnumbered by the ( Islamic ) civilians. I’m not speculating about the future here, this is the reality here today in 2012.
Then there is education. We have Belgian laws which guarantee a minimum level of education. It’s a book full of facts that must be taught in every school, they are called the “end terms”. One of those subjects is evolution. The theory of evolution must be taught in both science class and history class. Creationism is not allowed. If a teacher teaches his pupils the theory of creationism instead of evolution, then this is against the end terms.
I personally know a teacher who had the task to teach evolution to her pupils. The children with an Islamic background, we are talking about 9 and 10 year olds here, said to her: “You are talking bullshit, you are just a dumb woman, my parents tell us that we should not listen to you about this evolution crap, Allah has created us and all the animals.” They are ordered by their parents to not do any homework on the theory of evolution and they deliberately fail the tests. This problem is not limited to pupils. There are 20-year olds studying to become teachers, who also deny evolution. There are various reports of Islamic teachers who got their job as a teacher, and they are teaching creationism to Islamic children, denying evolution, and not following the end terms that are actually protected by law and by separation of church and state.
They not only deny the authority of the police, they also deny our education system and its rules.
Then there is the problem of food. Islam does not accept pork as “clean” food. Therefore, they do not buy food in our supermarkets. Instead, they build their own stores which do not allow the sale of pork or alcohol. Here I have an example of one of my relatives: a family member was celebrating her birthday at work. She gave away boxes of chocolates containing alcohol. She got a complaint from an Islamic employee that she apparently had not shown respect for his “beliefs” by not having any non-Alcoholic chocolates. This might sound like a stupid small issue but I’m trying to make a point here: I’m not talking about extremist Muslims here blowing themselves up, I am talking about the everyday Muslim.
Now economy. Belgium has banks, our banking system is interweaved with economy ( ok I know this is not the ideal period to start defending banks with all the economic mess we are into but still … ). They do not use our banks: they keep their money in foreign banks located in Turkey, Morocco, Saudi-Arabia etc… because those banks follow certain Islamic rules. They are constantly draining and transferring money out of Europe. They do not accept our banking system because it’s not compliant with the Islamic view of economy.
I know I’m writing a long text here, but I hope you are still with me, because there is an important point I want to arrive to:
The number of hate crimes against homosexuals is increasing every year. It started a few years back with taunting and attacking homosexual persons around areas with gay bars. Since last year, the first murders of gays have happened, by Muslims. No provocation, just hate crimes, hate against gays. The gay community is aware of areas in Belgium where they are no longer safe simply because they are gay. This wasn’t the case 10 years ago. Then there are the increasing reports of honor killings. Just recently, a 22 year old Belgian bared the child of her 19 year old Islamic ex-boyfriend. The family of this Muslim had arranged a wife and a marriage for him, and this child would bring a shame on the whole family. That’s why he and his nephew have killed this young 22 year old girl, to save the honor of the family.
I hope I’m getting my point across here. Although Islam is being defined as a religion, it is not just that. Islam is much more, it’s a whole package, it’s a culture, it’s an entire social system.
And it’s impacting with another system. It’s not impacting with Christianity, it’s impacting with the Western world. We can see it slowly unfolding here in Europe. Slowly but certain.
Let me stress out that Muslims are more attached to their Islamic system, than the European people are attached to the Western system. This is because the Islamic system has a God as the authority, which is a more powerful psychological motivation, than the European people who just have the government as the authority. Muslims are therefore not showing as much indulgence as other Europeans, resulting in an increasing amount of rights for Muslims and a decreasing amount of rights for Europeans.
Other cultures and religions have had no problem with fitting in. But Islam is not just a religion. It’s something different.
When “Freedom of Religion” was written in the Belgian law, it wasn’t meant for something like Islam. This is the mistake and the problem that we are facing. And at this moment nobody knows how to deal with it.
tl;dr We should reconsider defining Islam as “just a religion”
Definitely something to chew over. I think part of the problem is that we all grow up in our own particular frameworks that seem obvious and invisible to us. The West is a Judeo-Christian framework that is not compatible with the Islamic framework. Which is why these people stick out like a sore thumb.
If they integrate and start synthesising both frameworks, I think we can find some common cultural ground. However the problem in Europe is that the Islamic communities are not integrating, remaining a culture within a culture, and that sort of heterogeneity isn’t something that Europe is set up to understand or deal with.
Canada on the other hand has had a lot of success integrating disparate cultures, but we do have this same problem here. We’re just not as close to the problem as, say, Belgium.