Islam and the Contestation of Citizenship
In an increasingly politically and economically unified and internationalist Europe, how does a new European culture define itself? Etienne Balibar suggests one way is through creating zones of exclusion within Europe, in its cities and cosmopolitan centers, specially those centered around other ethnicities and religions, Islam most specifically. Islam occupies the liminal zones of "secular" but historically Christian Europe, and since the Crusades, Europe has defined itself against its borders in the East and the South. One way in which the history of Islamic peoples in Britain and France has played out is in the debate about multiculturalism. To what extent will the state accommodate multiple cultures and their demands for specifically different types of educational opportunities or dress codes or a different standard of separation between church and state apparatuses? Will Muslims in these countries accept Islam as a religion within the private sphere, one that does not challenge the "secular" nature of the state, or will they insist on Islam as not just a religion but a way of life, and one whose observances blur the public/private distinction? I argue that in both Britain and France, religion has replaced race in official and popular discourse as the demonised element which defines minorities and their place in society.
Keywords: Europe, Islam, Culture, Multiculturalism, Minorities
Associate Professor, English and International Studies, DePaul University