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 Islam and Muslims in Europe    by Dr Tariq Ramadan

Community vs.ghettoisation

The practice of Islam, by its very nature, exemplifies the community. Whether it be in the prayer or the fasting, the payment of the social purificatory tax (zakat) or the pilgrimage - it is this community dimension which, through brotherhood and solidarity, transcends to the very essence of a Muslim's being. Beyond his immediate family, the community is the first setting for a Muslim's social enlightenment. There are numerous Islamic teachings which guide the heart and spirit towards attaining his own individual fullness which has as it's source, the community- a place of faith and spirituality. In other words, if one refers to Islam, one must then automatically allude to a community of beings, of faith, spirituality and brotherhood. This is a fundamental component of the everyday religious practice. The constitution respects this and leaves to the religions the responsibility of defining their own philosophies. It is one thing to say it but another to affirm that Muslims should cut themselves off from any feeling or aspiration of community in order to occupy a place for themselves in the secular arena.

This being said, one should not confuse a community based on faith with an ambitious community whose sole purpose is to be isolated and to stand out within the social, political and legislative framework. This whole notion of intellectual and physical segregation is alien to the very spirit of Islam. Practicing one's faith within a community is one thing, isolating oneself from the surrounding society is another. Legally and politically speaking, Muslims must be considered as individuals who can exercise their conscious with regards to their rights and obligations as citizens. This would then imply knowledge of laws and participation in the social, political, and economic climate. To put it simply, Muslims should have a genuine feeling of belonging within the European society. The mind set prevalent among some second and third generation makes no sense-living in a bubble and ignoring the societal context without even having mastered the language, as occurs in several English regions. The community is the place for enlightenment of the spirit and should provide serenity and an intellectual vigor which permits for the blossoming of the Muslim individual as a European citizen.[7]

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