woensdag 24 december 2014

Is Islamic compartmentalization possible and desirable?

In the debate about the integration of groups of newcomers in our country it is frequently suggested that the model of social-religious compartmentalization, as existed in the Netherlands during the twentieth century, could be valuable once more. Especially for the integration of Muslims the creation of an Islamic compartment (‘pillar’) could possibly serve us, so it is thought. Because such a compartment, with its own schools, broadcasting companies and  political parties, would on the one hand allow participation in the general Dutch society, and on the other hand secure the religious and cultural identity of Muslims.

But it does not seem to work that way. In some places Islamic schools have closed their doors, the establishment of a Muslim broadcasting company is difficult, and Islamic political parties are scarse.

The question is why the establishment of an Islamic pillar is so difficult. Especially since at first glance there is much similarity to the position of the major drivers of compartmentalism in the nineteenth century: the Reformed ‘little people’ and the Catholics. Both groups were somewhat socially disadvantaged, derived their identity largely to a (sometimes very) orthodox faith, and lived quite segregated. Compartmentalization offered them opportunities to gain social influence and thus promote their emancipation in society.

The similarity between those (former) groups and current Muslims is certainly situated in the disadvanced condition, and in the orthodox character of the group faith. But perhaps less in the desire for emancipation, and the absence of that desire could explain why an Islamic pillar is not going to emerge.

Because emancipation can also mean dilution of the original group identity. In any case, that dilution has clearly struck the Christian groups. In parliament, for example, Christian parties around 1960 had 80 of the 150 seats, now only 21. Schools which are still Catholic in name often often are not very conscioius about their identity, and originally Christian broadcasters are now having hard times.

My point is that this dilution was perhaps not very threatening for the respective groups of Christians, because many of the professed Christian values, such as equality of people and justice, had already found their place in the secular environment. Maybe that emancipation and the associated dilution of faith traditions coúld only take place because similar values remained intact. Namely, embodied in the liberal-democratic state which you can safely say  is a product of the Western-Christian tradition.

It is exactly that reassurance that may well be missing for Muslims. Emancipation, namely within the frame of the Western rule of law, and the associated dilution of traditions could give them the feeling of keeping nothing to hold on. Because the liberal-democratic state has not grown out of their tradition, so inner kinship therewith is missing. Dilution then really feels threatening, because being bereft of one’s identity is not an option.

Meanwhile emancipation and ingrowth into the Dutch law nevertheless find place. But now on the basis of personal choices of individuals, not of a collective arrangement. Integration expert Frank Tubergen notes that religious involvement decreases among Muslims, and that (therefore?) integration is going all right.

Are (therefore) also Muslims going all right?

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