Immigration and Islam in France and the Netherlands After the post-war, WWII, era Europe faced a shortage of labor, at the same time it had to rebuild its infrastructure and economy. France and Netherlands both faced the same problem and like their counterparts in Europe they found the answer in guest-workers. These guest workers were immigrants from former colonies and other developing countries. However, these guest-workers later settled down and brought their families. This led to a larger influx of immigrations. The largest, most significant, and most controversial are the Muslim immigrants.
This study will focus on the different approaches of integration France and the Netherlands have implemented, the growing discrimination of Muslim immigrants, and the role Islam has in this dilemma. France had a long colonial history in the Maghreb, North Africa, mainly Algeria. To fill in this gap many male immigrants flocked to France in need of work. There was also a large immigration from the Mediterranean, Turkey, in this case. The largest make-up of French immigrants have been Algerians and others from the Maghreb.
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Netherlands, similar to the French had immigrants from the Mediterranean, Maghreb, and former colonies (Surinam and Antilles); the largest group being Turkish and Moroccan immigrants. These immigrants became a large factor in the rebuilding of the economy but as the economy slowed immigration became more of a problem for Western European countries. France proposed an assimilation model, where it endorsed pluralism in the private sphere. The Laicite, the separation of Church and State/private and public played a large role in the French system of assimilation.
In the public sphere you were expected to be French in language and ideals. The private sphere was left for your own beliefs and customs. This can be seen in the expression of symbols in the public schools, where wearing the veil is not allowed because it threatens this division of public and private. However, this still doesn’t explain the dilemma that many second or third generation French citizens from immigrant backgrounds face. Even though they are “French”, they are not accepted by the system???accordingly because they still aren’t “French” enough.
This creates disparity on both sides; the French politicize this dilemma by taking a harder stance on immigration and assimilation, giving rise to far-right parties like National Front under Le Pen. (GS, page 123) The immigrants unfortunately at times result to violent riots in protest and anger at the discrimination they face. The end result being stricter immigration regulations, more assimilation, and seeing “Islam” as incompatible to European standards. The Netherlands have the same end results but have come to them from a totally different background.
The Netherlands has endorsed a multicultural integration from the beginning. (Coenders, M. , Lubbers, M. , Scheepers, P. , & Verkuyten, M. (C. L. S. V)) The Netherlands have been one of the foremost in democracy and liberalism, ranking third in the world. Its capital, Amsterdam, is the hub liberal and free lifestyle. Since the 2000’s homosexual marriage and euthanasia have been legalized. (GS 192) Compared to France’s full assimilation the Netherlands has put forward a multiculturalism approach, however this has taken a drastic change in the last decade, especially against Muslim immigrants.
In the early 2000’s Pim Fortuyn, a leader of anti-immigration and pro-assimilation party (Liveable Netherlands and latter List Pim Fortuyn), voiced his opinion on Islam being a backwards religion and a threat to liberal European/Dutch ideals. Even though both countries had different policies of integration they both ended up in the same situation against Muslim immigration. How can these phenomena be explained in these democracies that embrace liberal ideals? For it was France, that in 1789, coined the motto, “All men are born free and equal”, but now it can be seen that some men are born more free and equal than others.
The realistic conflict theory explains this situation as a reaction to materialistic scarcity; jobs and housing. In the post-war era there was a surplus of jobs and also the need of cheap labor, the immigrants rushed in and filled these positions. However, after the slowing of the economic boom employment became scarcer. This led to higher un-employment rates and the native citizens started to see immigrants as a threat, leading to discrimination and pro-assimilation. Though this does explain a significant factor, there is still the growth of anti-Islamic sentiments.
The Muslims aren’t the only immigrants in France or Netherlands, but they are the ones who face the blunt of the attention. (C. L. S. V) So the realistic conflict theory falls short in explaining this. More than Two Decades of Changing Ethnic Attitudes in the Netherlands, a study done to explain the attitudes the Dutch had on immigration, saw that social and ideological contents also affect peoples outlook as much as materialistic means. (C. L. S. V) This gives explanation to far-right parties such as List Pim Fortuyn and Le Pen.
The parties that use anti-Islamic and anti-immigration sentiments as political platforms, they play on the fears’ of the people. Yet, how is it that these fears can grow and flourish in such liberal and democratic societies, the “Heralds of Democracy”? People fear what they don’t understand. Islam is this “other” and the media and politicians play on this. The Muslim immigrant populations don’t help either because they themselves are in a transition phase. They are trying to find a way to live with an Islamic background and Western ideals. Some see total assimilation as an answer others find a compromise and yet others turn to radicalism.
This struggle has been going on since the mid-19th century, between the “West” and Islam. Some essentialists like Huntington and Fukuyama, see this as the next power struggle for the “West” after the fall of the Soviet Union, “The Clash of Civilizations”. According to some 9/11 and other terrorists acts just prove this theory, however even though there are radicals, they are in the minority. The majority of Muslims don’t have problem with the “West”, most even are pro-Western, they support democracies and liberal views. Maybe, it is not the same as Europe or America but they are trying to find the middle ground and negotiate between the two.
This is no different for the immigrants in France or Netherlands. Ahmet Yukleyen in his study of social movements in the Netherlands has focused on Turkish immigrants and the role religious movements have played a role in their lives. His studies show that there is not one Islamic front in Europe or a “Euro-Islam” as some have supported. Even though the Islamic community is one ummah, they all interpret and practice Islam in slightly different ways. The fundamental tenets are the same, but Islam is flexible according to time and place; taken from a historic or even contemporary perspective this can be seen. Euro-Islam” was supposed to be the liberal Islam for European standards, the Islam with lacite, secular Islam. This view has been supported by pro-assimilates, like France. However, this didn’t turn out to be true because it would have compromised too much from Islam, it would no longer be “Islam”. What happened, like in the Netherlands, was that people joined different social/religious movements and institutions. This was truer for second and third generation Turks, who felt the need of religion more than Turkish nationalism in their lives. They saw themselves as Dutch, liberal and democratic in their views but still Muslim.
Yukleyen, names a few organizations, like Milli Gorus, the Gulen Movement, and Suleymanli. Each movement represents different set of ideals but each represents a facet of Islamic life in Europe. It also shows that Muslims can negotiate between European and Islamic ideals, finding a niche their society. Not only that, but by having dialogue and inter-faith organizations an atmosphere of tolerance and multiculturism can flourish. Maybe, dialogue and negotiation is the answer to the dilemma facing Europe and the Muslim immigrants, the inability to understand one another. Work Cited Coenders, M. Lubbers, M. , Scheepers, P. , ; Verkuyten, M. (2008). More than Two Decades of Changing Ethnic Attitudes in the Netherlands. Journal of Social Issues,??64(2), 269-285. doi:10. 1111/j. 1540-4560. 2008. 00561. x. Maillard, Dominique (2005). The Muslims in France and the French Model of Intergration. Mediterranean Quarterly. Yukleyen, A. (2009). Localizing Islam in Europe: Religious Activism among Turkish Islamic Organizations in the Netherlands. Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs,??29(3), 291-309. doi:10. 1080/13602000903166556. E. Gene Frankland. (2009). Global Studies Europe. McGraw Hill Companies.