Much has been written recently about Islam in Europe and America. Whilst both American and European Muslims are constantly battling with issues of identity and where home truly is, each group is also dealing with specific issues. American Muslims are having to deal with echoes of 911, the rise of Trump, the perils of flying whilst Muslim (especially on American Airlines), and the rest. European Muslims are having to deal with issues of the influx of Muslim refugees, burkinis, ISIS terror cells, Brexit, the rise of right-wing nationalism in individual European countries, the threatening Arabisation of Europe, and many other issues.
What to make of all this? In order to try and understand, in however small a capacity, what is happening and why I have listed below several quotes which, I hope, are somewhat informative, thought provoking, and opinion generating. As much as one can, enjoy!
Apparently, one in five people in America don’t think Barack Obama is a Christian, they think he’s a Muslim, although he goes to church every week. These people, they don’t think him going to church every week makes him a Christian, they think it just makes him a bad Muslim. – Andy Parsons, comedian
Cultures decline and fall. The decline and fall of Islam was the rise of Europe. Don’t forget that Europe rose with the introduction of all the Islamic sciences that came into it with the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the fall of Granada in 1492. This is the transformation of the West. This is when all these great works were translated into Latin. The translation movement was amazing. It stimulated Europe and they took it and they’ve been going for five hundred years now. But the truth is the Muslims were going for a thousand years before that. People forget, when you look in terms of the long-term vision of it, what happened in the Muslim World will happen here, it’s only a matter of time. The Romans had their time. Civilizations have their time. They decline and fall. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, from an interview in The Cairo Review, Fall 2015
For those who say we do not want Muslims in Europe, I am sorry. We have always been here. When were we not here? England became Christian in the 8th century, the Muslims were already in Europe. The Muslims were already in Europe when this country became Christian. We have always been here and we are here to stay. But we need to be upright people. We need to be people that people want to live next to you because they feel their children are safe in your presence. They feel their houses are safe in your presence. They feel their stores are safe in your presence. That is the way the Muslims should be. And all of those who are disgracing this religion, they are disgracing the Messenger of Allah (S). Really. And unity will not come in this community until we begin to take this position. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, from a speech given in England
I think you have to start with some level of empathy. Part of what is happening now is just a complete loss of empathy between all sides. I mean, if you’re a black kid you have no empathy for the legitimate fears of a white cop. If you’re a white cop you completely dismiss the concerns about racial profiling from that black kid, who might be a college student for all you know. No empathy. If you are a white working class person, you say “Oh, these Muslims, these Muslims…” But you forget, we have six million Muslims in America right now. They have the lowest crime rate of any group. Thomas Jefferson had a Koran. Islam is not some new phenomenon in the United States. The radicalisation of Islam overseas is but, you know, your doctor, your dentist, your cab driver, might be a Muslim. [So] What are you talking about?! But we are starting to lose track of each other’s basic humanity. That is very dangerous in a country, and when that happens you have demagogues on all sides. And what is happening, I think, is because…it’s not…sure, the economic pain here compared to, you know, Haiti – hey, look, we’re all living high on the hog. But that’s not what people react to. They react to their expectations. And their expectations are that tomorrow will be worse than yesterday. That opens the door for demagogues. – Van Jones, political commentator, speaking on CNN, 20 Jul 2016
In America I’m asked, ‘Why does Islam hate the West?’ Abroad I’m asked, ‘Why does the West hate Islam?’ And all this time I’m asking myself, ‘Who is Islam? And who is the West? And how come I’ve never met either of them?’ – Wahajat Ali, author, from a radio discussion entitled Fear Of A Muslim Planet
Most people are unaware of the incredible contribution that Islam has made to human civilization. We call our numerals Arabic numerals. Many of our stars have Arabic names because the great Muslim astronomers were the ones that wrote the most advanced books on astronomy. When I went to Turkey I was so struck by how much of European civilization came from the influence of the Ottomans. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, from an interview in The Cairo Review, Fall 2015
The vast majority of the people who are doing the mass shootings in America aren’t Muslims at all…You are seven times more likely to be killed by a right wing extremist — a racist or an anti-government nutjob — seven times more likely than a Muslim…If I came on TV and said let’s start racially profiling white men, let’s start racially profiling young, white men who are loners with bowl haircuts, people would think, ‘Wow, that’s a pretty unfortunate conclusion for you to come to.’ If a Christian shoots somebody, we don’t say a Christian shot them. But if a Muslim shoots somebody, we say a Muslim shot them. I think that’s starting to muddy the waters. – Van Jones, political commentator, speaking on CNN, July 2016
Traditional images of God seem to have lost their appeal in modern American and European culture. It is not that God’s existence has been disproved –– philosophers continue to debate the proofs inconclusively, and no informed and honest observer of the philosophical scene really thinks a case has been established either way, or ever will be. No, God has simply become boring and irrelevant. We no longer care for big men with white beards. We no longer feel the weight of tremendous guilt that drove the Pilgrim onto his Progress. Jesus has sunk into the pages of irrecoverable history, and it seems impossible to draw him out again in a new resurrection which might make him a powerful image of infinity for more than a tiny handful of our contemporaries. The sad thing –– and it is sad, for it is a loss of a kind of perception, the atrophy of a distinctively human way of seeing –– is that there seems to be nothing to replace such images, to show us how ‘to be one with the infinite in the midst of the finite and to be eternal in a moment’. – from the book God: A Guide For The Perplexed by Keith Ward
Western people think that religion is a scaffolding that we built our civilization with and now that it’s built we can get rid of the scaffolding. I think there’s a very strong argument that it is the civilization, and if you get rid of it you’re left with buildings that are devoid of meaning. I think that’s what a lot of Western people are struggling with. The Muslims don’t have that crisis. Their crisis is that buildings are derelict but they still have meaning in them. And they don’t have the wherewithal to renovate. Renovation is a beautiful word, because in the Islamic tradition people are called to renovate, to renew. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, from an interview in The Cairo Review, Fall 2015
With Brexit engulfing the land, a people divided more than they’ve been in living memory, and terrorist activity on the rise, privacy seems as if it might slip from our grasp. “Yeah man, scary times,” says Ahmed, sounding genuinely afraid. “What happened in 1930s Europe, we had a rise in inequality, financial crisis and collapse, polarisation of the political parties, the rise of the far left and the far right, disillusionment [towards] the establishment, and the systemic scapegoating of ethnic minorities,” he says, drawing contemporary parallels. “So yeah, you don’t need to tell me we live in scary times, man. I’m Muslim.” – Riz Ahmed, actor, from an interview in the Guardian, 23 July 2016