International migration and transnationalism
Large-scale international migration is one of the defining features of globalisation. It is estimated that some 175 million people live outside of their countries of origin. According to the United Nations' International Migration Report (2000), one person out of ten living in the developed nations is a migrant. In France, some 14 million French citizens-nearly a quarter of the country's population-have at least one immigrant parent or grandparent. An overwhelming majority of Australia's population consists of migrants from over a hundred countries.
The term diaspora emerged in the context of the expulsion of the Jewish people from their homeland in the first century AD and their migration and dispersal across various parts of the world. The term is now used to describe expatriate communities which have left their countries of origin and have settled in other countries in pursuit of education, professional training, employment and business or have sought political asylum. Transnational disporas have become increasingly visible in all major cities around the world.
Transnational diasporic communities are bound together by shared ties of common descent, nationality, culture, ethnicity, religion, language and identity and have maintained their links with their native countries, thanks to modern information and communication technologies. The emergence of diasporas has radically altered the notions of time and space in relation to the construction of human communities. Paul Gilroy, a British sociologist, in his book The Black Atlantic (1993), has used the evocative term the Black Atlantic to describe a massive cultural network spanning Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean and Britain, which has been a source of identity, continuity and strength for millions of people of African origin.
The Internet is playing an increasingly important role in reinforcing a sense of identity in diasporic communities. Thus the people of Trinidadian origin, dispersed across several countries, are actively engaged in forging family and friendship networks through the Internet and are thus sharing and reinforcing their sense of a national identity in a global virtual space.
By and large, diasporic communities simultaneously inhabit two distinct cultural spaces represented by their countries of origin and their adopted homelands. These twin spaces are intersected by such factors as ethnicity, gender and class. The most challenging task faced by diasporic communities is to strike a balance between integration in the host society and the preservation of their own ethnic and cultural identity.
Large numbers of Muslims live outside of their countries of origin. There is, for example, a sizeable Arab diaspora which is dispersed across Europe, USA, Canada, South and Central America and Australasia. The largest concentration of Arabs outside the Middle East is in Brazil, which has over 12 million Brazilians of Arab ancestry. There are large Arab communities in South and Central America. In Chile, for example, there is a 300,000-strong Palestinian diaspora. There are 100,000 Palestinians living in El Salvador. People of Arab origin have occupied important political positions in South and Central America. The president of Ecuador, Abdala Bucaran, the country's former vice president, Alberto Dahik, and the former prime minister of Jamaica, Edward Leaga, are of Lebanese origin. The president of El Salvador, Antonio Saca, is of Palestinian origin while the former president of Argentina, Carlos Menen, is of Syrian origin. In the US there are about 3.5 million people of Arab descent.
There is a substantial Arab diaspora in Europe. An estimated quarter of a million Palestinians live in Europe. Approximately 100,000 Arabs live in Britain, forming 1.7 per cent of the population. About 80,000 Arabs live in Sweden. In Marseille, France, Arabs make up nearly 25% of the total population.
Over one million Iranians have emigrated in recent decades to Europe, North America, Australia and Turkey. There are approximately 500,000 Iranians living in Los Angeles. Iranian expatriates number about 110,000 in Germany, 100,000 in the UK, and some 62,000 in France.
There is a sizeable Kurdish diaspora, estimated at about 850,000, mainly of Turkish origin, in Western Europe. There are some 500,000-600,000 Kurds in Germany, 100,000 in France, and about 70,000 in the Netherlands.
Muslim diasporas, like the global Muslim population, are characterized by a great deal of diversity in respect of nationality, ethnicity, language, cultural traditions, sects and denominations. Muslims in the US, for example, have come from more than 80 national backgrounds. Muslim communities in Europe, North and Latin America and Australia have migrated from over 80 countries. Europe is home to a sizeable Muslim population estimated at more than 30 million. The largest concentrations of Muslims in Europe are to be found in France (over 5 million), Germany (3.3 million), Britain (1.6 million), Italy (600,000), the Netherlands (500,000), Spain (450,000), Belgium (300,000) and Sweden (300,000). In most European countries, Islam is now the second largest religion after Christianity. The number of Muslims in the US, Canada, and Latin America is around 17 million.
The first generation of Muslim migrants in most European countries was recruited as cheap labour for the post-War reconstruction of European societies. Initially, European states believed that migrant labour would be a transient phase and the immigrants would return to their native countries after the expiry of their contract. However, the demand for cheap labour in the rapidly developing European economies continued unabated. Meanwhile, various European states allowed family reunification for immigrants. Consequently, the first generation of immigrants decided to stay back in the receiving countries where their children were born and raised. In France, for example, more than 30% of immigrants belong to a second, French-born generation.
A large number of asylum seekers from Iran, Afghanistan, Palestine, Albania, Bulgaria Chechnya and Bosnia have augmented the number of Muslim migrants in Western countries.
By and large, Muslim immigrants, especially the first generation, in Europe, USA, Latin America and Australia, maintain close contacts with their countries of origin through visits and marriage alliances. Increased facilities for travel, modern information and communication technologies and the electronic and print media have reinforced the cultural links of diasporic Muslim communities with their homelands. Satellite television, telephone and the Internet have emerged as highly important instruments in strengthening such ties. Al Jazeera, an independent television channel started in Qatar in 1996, has become enormously popular not only in the Arab world but also among the Arabic-speaking diaspora in Europe, North America and Australia, with an estimated audience of more than 40 million.
Muslim diasporic communities are often under pressure to assimilate into mainstream society. The second and third generations of Muslim immigrants born and raised in Western countries are particularly vulnerable to the pressures of assimilation and globalisation. Unlike their parents or grandparents, they have no emotional ties with their homeland. The influence of the surrounding environment is reflected in their language, peer group, lifestyle and attitudes. The children of the Syrian-Lebanese immigrants in Argentina, for example, no longer speak Arabic, their mother tongue, and are not interested in learning it. In our globalising era, the role of parents and other members of the family has been greatly reduced. Peer group, global media, school and networks in the wider society now play a much larger role in the socialisation process. Muslim children and adolescents living in Western countries as well as in the metropolitan cities of Asia and Africa are being increasingly exposed to influences which are often at variance with Islamic values and traditions. Muslim youth are becoming increasingly influenced by the global culture, including individualism and consumerism, the free mixing of sexes and dating, hip hop culture and American rap music, discotheques and nightclubs, and drugs. This has brought about distance and alienation between the older and younger generations.
The descendents of immigrants born and raised in Western countries are faced with a peculiar predicament. While they identify themselves with the country of their birth and residence, they are not fully accepted by the wider society on account of their ethnicity and identity. On the other hand, their identification with the homeland and culture of their parents or grandparents is at best mixed and ambivalent. Consequently, they experience fragmented, confused identities.
In addition to exogenous challenges, Muslim minorities, like the Muslim peoples in general, are faced with a set of endogenous or internal challenges and problems. The most insidious challenge faced by Muslims across the world is widespread social and cultural fragmentation and dissension and lack of communitarian unity and consensus. This fragmentation and dissension is largely due to ethnic divisions, national affiliations and sectarian and denominational differences. It is reflected in the structure and organization of mosques, madrasas and local organizations. In Australia, for example, mosques are designated according to the ethnic identity of the dominant segment in the local Muslim community. There is, for example, the Albanian Mosque in Victoria and the Lakemba Mosque built by the Lebanese Muslim Association in Sydney. The Lebanese Muslim Association, Bosnian Islamic Society and Islamic Egyptian Society in Australia betray the pervasive influence of regional, ethnic and sectarian divisions among Muslim minorities. Friday and Id sermons in many mosques across large parts of the world are delivered in the language of the dominant segment of the local Muslim community. In Hong Kong, the Wan Chai Mosque is mainly patronised by Muslims of Chinese origin while the Kowloon Mosque is used primarily by immigrant Muslims from India and Pakistan. A Chinese imam from China proper leads the prayers at the Wan Chai Mosque while an Indian or Pakistani person serves as imam at the Kowloon Mosque. In Suriname there are more than 150 mosques. Indonesian Muslims comprise nearly 65% of the Muslim population and Muslims of Indian origin comprise about 30% of the population. The remainder are African converts. The organization of mosques in Suriname reflects the ethnic division in the local Muslim population. Since the Friday sermon and religious discourses at the Indian mosques are conducted in Urdu, Indonesians rarely pray in these mosques.
Muslim diasporic communities, especially in Western countries, are increasingly using modern information and communication technologies to maintain and reinforce links with their homeland and with shared cultural traditions. The descendents of Palestinian refugees born and raised in Western countries are now discovering, thanks to homepages on the Internet, their religious and cultural traditions as well as the villages of their parents and grandparents. The growing use of computer technology is thus transforming the Palestinian refugees living in North America and Europe into a transnational virtual community and facilitating the reconstruction of their identity.
The Internet is playing a highly significant role in connecting the members of the Iranian diaspora to their homeland. One of the online Iranian magazines has links to more than 150 online newspapers and magazines in the Persian language. Interestingly, Iran's online newspapers appear much before the print editions are available on news stands in Tehran and other cities. In Stockholm, local Iranian radio stations download programmes from the Internet and rebroadcast them for the local Iranian community.
Islam in Germany
The history of the relations between Germany and the Islamic world goes back to the 8th century when Charlemagne, King of the Franks (742-814), established diplomatic relations with the Abbasid Caliph, Harun al-Rashid. The latter sent a water-clock with automata as a gift to Charlemagne.
A group of Turkish Muslims arrived in Germany in the wake of the establishment of diplomatic, military and economic relations between Germany and the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century. Some Muslim soldiers served in the army of Frederick William I of Prussia. In 1798 a Muslim cemetery was established in Columbia Dam, Berlin, when the Ottoman envoy to Germany, Ali Aziz Effendi, died there. The cemetery still exists. The first mosque in the country was built in Berlin in 1915 to cater to the religious needs of 15000 Muslim prisoners of war held in World War I.
A wave of Muslim immigrants, mainly from Turkey, began arriving in the country in the early 1960s when Germany was embarking on the reconstruction of its war-ravaged economy and needed extra hands to operate its machines and foundries. However, by the late 1970s and the early 1980s German industries began to decline, following which the government shut the door to new immigrants from Turkey. It also encouraged the migrant workers-often by offering financial incentives--to return to their native countries. By 1984 about 250,000 foreigners, mostly Turks, left Germany, but subsequently the return flow slowed down because Turkey had few jobs to offer to the returnees.
In the earlier decades of immigration, Germany followed what came to be known as the guestworker model. It was believed that the migrant workers would return to their native countries after the expiry of their work permits. But most of them had begun to feel at home in their adopted country and hence preferred to stay back. In the 1990s the government permitted family reunification following which a large number of Turkish Muslims invited their families to join them.
Composition of population
The population of Muslims in Germany is estimated at 3.3 million, the second-largest Muslim population in Europe after France. There are an estimated 3.8 million Turks in Western Europe, more than 2.6 million in Germany alone, forming the country's largest foreign population. The Turkish population is fairly diverse in composition. There are some 600,000 Alevis, who practise an easy-going form of Islam, and about the same number of Kurds. Other Muslim groups include migrants from the Balkans, the Middle East, Iran and Afghanistan. The number of Muslims of Arab origin living in Germany is estimated at between 280,000 and 400,000. The majority of them have migrated from Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Iraq.
Germany has become an immigration country. Nearly 8 per cent of the country's population consists of foreigners or foreign-born citizens. In Stuttgart, capital of the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, almost 40% of the city's residents have a migration background, in the sense that at least one of the parents is of foreign descent. Approximately 40,000 to 50,000 residents of Stuttgart are Muslim, forming about 8% of the population. Berlin has a sizeable Muslim population, estimated at 220,000. The Muslim population of Munich is between 80,000 and 120,000, nearly 10% of the city's population.
Economic and educational profile
Muslim immigrants in Germany have made a significant contribution to the country's economy. They relieve the shortage of skilled labour that plagues many industries in the country. In the late 1980s the steel and coal industries of the Ruhr slumped in the face of foreign competition. After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the government withdrew subsidies to industries in West Berlin, following which more than 200,000 workers, most of them Turks, lost their jobs. Many of them started their own small businesses. Turkish Muslims own more than 70,000 small and medium-sized business establishments, mostly snack parlours, across the country. Doner kebabs, invented by Turks in Berlin, are very popular among German youth.
Muslim immigrants in Germany are less educated than the native Germans and have a higher unemployment rate. Children of immigrants are much more likely to be in the lower division schools and leave school without a diploma. A sixth of migration-background pupils drop out of school, compared with less than a tenth of native Germans. Forty-seven per cent of foreign-born people have less than secondary school education and fewer than 15% have a university degree. Though the second and third generation Muslims are better educated than their parents, they are far behind the ethnic Germans in education. In the 2003 international PISA test the maths score of second-generation Turks placed them more than two years behind their German peers. The problem is worsened due to the ignorance of large numbers of Turkish immigrants of German language. Most Turkish parents fail to attend the get-togethers over coffee that schools offer.
The unemployment rate among Muslims is more than double the overall national rate of 7.8 per cent. The immigrants account for 36% of the population at or near the poverty line and 29% of the unemployed. Although Germany, unlike France, has no ethnic ghettos, immigrants by and large lead isolated lives in parallel societies, without any real contact or interaction with the local population.
Religious and cultural autonomy
Germany (as well as other European countries) provides excellent prospects and opportunities for education and professional training, which play a key role in career advancement.
By and large, Muslims living in Germany enjoy substantial religious and cultural autonomy. They are free not only to practise their religion but also to preach and propagate. It is significant to note that more than 50,000 native Germans, mostly women, have embraced Islam in the past few years. Muslims have the freedom to construct mosques and other places of prayer and worship. There are some 2,500 places of Islamic worship and about 140 conventional mosques with domes and minarets. (In Switzerland, on the other hand, mosques are not allowed to have minarets.) In most of the states, Muslim women have the freedom to wear the Islamic headscarf in school and at the university. (In contrast, France does not permit the wearing of the Islamic headscarf in educational institutions.) Muslim girls in Germany are exempt from coed gym and swimming classes in schools.
Muslims living in Germany are allowed to slaughter animals according to their religious rituals and to have halal meat shops. Muslim associations in several states of Germany enjoy the status of religion-based communities, like churches and synagogues. In Hamburg, language teachers, even with Turkish nationality, are treated as civil servants. The cultural freedom available to Muslims living in Germany can be gauged from the fact that there are more than 40 Turkish-language TV stations and nearly 20 in Arabic. Some German companies (such as Ford in Cologne and Fraport in Frankfurt) provide separate spaces for prayers for Muslim employees and consideration is given to their dietary requirements in canteens.
The substantial religious and cultural freedom enjoyed by Muslims in Germany has been made possible, conjointly, by the determined efforts of Muslims, the positive role of the Federal Constitutional Court, and wide-ranging efforts by the government.
Muslims in Germany have sought their legitimate rights within the constitutional framework. In response to petitions filed by Muslim organizations, Germany's Federal Constitutional Court decreed in 2002 that Muslims should be allowed to slaughter animals according to their religious rituals. Earlier, they had to import halal meat from Belgium, France, Britain and other European countries. Similarly, Muslim organizations have successfully secured exemption for Muslim girls from swimming lessons in schools if they are not sexually segregated.
In 2003 an interesting case relating to the wearing of headscarf by a teacher in the class room came up before the Constitutional Court. The plaintiff, a Muslim woman of Afghan descent named Fereshta Ludin, had lived in Germany from 1987 and had acquired German nationality in 1995. In 1998, she had completed her education to become a teacher in an elementary school in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, but was refused commission because she was not willing to remove her headscarf in class. In her petition to the Constitutional Court she maintained that her wearing of the headscarf represented individual and religiously motivated conduct that was protected by the German constitution. The Constitutional Court gave the verdict in her favour, saying that the wearing of the headscarf by a civil servant in front of a class of students is constitutionally protected by the principle of freedom of religion.
In recent years the German government has taken several initiatives to address their legitimate concerns and grievances and to facilitate their integration into mainstream society. A number of federally financed language and civics classes are being run across the country, which have benefited 250,000 immigrants. Several states provide special German language coaching to the children of immigrants so as to enable them to enter primary school without any hurdles.
The state of Hesse started simple German language programmes, called Mama Lernt Deutsch (Mama Learns German), for the benefit of Muslim women from immigrant families. Classes are conducted during the day when the kids are in school and the mothers have some free time. The programmes have facilities for childcare for babies and toddlers. School principals and teachers report that the mothers enrolled in the programme meet with their children's teachers more often and participate in other school activities more actively and frequently. Teachers also report that children with mothers who attend the course are now doing much better in school. In addition to improving their communication skills, the programme has proved to be effective in facilitating the integration of immigrant families. The success and popularity of the programme have led to its adoption across the country as well as in Austria.
A highly significant initiative taken by Germany's interior ministry in the last couple of years is the organization of Islam conference. In September 2006, Germany's interior minister, Wolfgang Schauble, organised a hugely successful conference on Islam in Berlin, to which key state officials as well as representatives of Muslim organizations were invited. The minister began his opening address by declaring that Muslims are indeed a part of Germany, which sent out a highly significant signal to Muslims as well as to the wider society. The conference set in motion a process of dialogue and conciliation. Another conference in the series was organised in 2007.
In March 2008, the interior minister said that schools in Germany should offer a course on Islam, along with courses on Christianity and Judaism, as a required religion class in the future. He said an agreement to this effect had been reached with Muslim community leaders and the scheme would soon be implemented.
As a consequence of the religious and cultural autonomy that is available to Muslims in Germany, they feel at home and are much more integrated in the wider society than in countries like France, Switzerland and Italy. Will Kymlicka, a leading Canadian political theorist, argues that ethnic groups deserve protection of their cultures since such protections further their integration into mainstream society. There seems to be positive correlation between the public recognition of the cultures and identities of minorities and the degree of social and cultural spaces available to them, and their integration into the wider society. A reassuring and enabling environment-free from xenophobia, mistrust and hostility-is likely to facilitate and strengthen their involvement and engagement with the wider society and to channel their capabilities, energies and resources in a socially productive direction. On the other hand, repressed identities are often the breeding ground of separatism, alienation and extremism. The experience of Germany confirms this observation.
Integration and identity
Nearly two-thirds of Turkish Muslims living in Germany have retained their Turkish nationality. According to official figures, as of 2006, there are 3.3 million Muslims living in Germany, of whom 1 million are German citizens. The majority of Muslims living in Germany-mostly Turks--simultaneously and comfortably inhabit two cultural worlds, their country of origin and their adopted homeland.
The renowned German Muslim scholar, Murad Hoffman, advises his fellow Muslims in Germany and in other European countries to uphold the Islamic identity, ignore their ethnic divisions and get integrated into the wider society. He says Muslims living in Western countries suffer from internal ethnic divisions. Some Muslims in Germany, for example, say that they pray in a Moroccan, Tunisian or Turkish mosque, instead of saying that they pray in a mosque.
After 9/11 there has come about a resurgence of Islamic identity and consciousness among Muslims in Germany (as among Muslims in large parts of the world). A recent survey carried out by Germany's interior ministry revealed that 29% of adult Muslims in Germany attend mosques regularly and nearly 90% of them describe themselves as believers.
Over the past few years, Muslims living in Germany have founded several religious and cultural organizations. In Cologne, the Muslim Women's Training Centre (Begegnungs-und-Fortbildungszentrum Muslimischer Frauen) carries out a wide range of activities and programmes for Muslim women, including facilities for education, training and counselling. One of the important objectives of the organization is to foster an atmosphere of understanding, dialogue and accommodation between Muslims and the wider German society.
Muslims living in Germany are beset not only with the challenges of discrimination and stigmatization but also with internal problems. A major problem relates to deeply-entrenched national, ethnic and sectarian divisions in Muslim communities. Young Muslim boys and girls studying together in the university are often attracted to each other and want to marry someone of their choice. But their parents insist that they should marry someone from the same national and ethnic background. The younger generation of Muslims born and raised in Germany would understandably like to marry a partner who would share their cultural background, language and interests. The attitude of parents often creates confusion in their minds.
A creeping problem confronting Muslims in Germany is the care of the elderly. Of 2.7 million Muslims of Turkish origin, 320,000 are now of retirement age and their number is expected to double by 2020. Since most of the retirees do not have German nationality, they have no pension or health benefit facilities and have limited resources. Their children and grandchildren are too busy to look after them. The state and some voluntary organizations have stepped in to provide some help to such people. In Berlin the first private nursing home in the country exclusively for Turkish people opened in 2006. It will eventually offer beds and other facilities for 155 people. It has a prayer room and a kitchen where halal food is cooked for the inmates. In Frankfurt, the state of Hesse finances a retirement home with a section for Muslim inmates.
Discrimination and stigmatization
Though Muslims in Germany enjoy substantial religious and cultural freedom, they also sometimes experience discrimination and stigmatization on account of their ethnic and religious background. This is reflected in occasional attacks on mosques and cemeteries by neo-Nazi and other extremist groups and in the opposition to the construction of new mosques. The 2004 annual report of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia pointed out that the record of most European countries in combating racism and xenophobia is at best mixed. The report revealed that the British police received nearly 53,000 complaints of racist attacks on immigrants and foreigners in 2004, followed by Germany with 6,474 incidents. A Turkish mosque in Essen was burned down by the neo-Nazis a few years ago.
More than two-thirds of Turks in Germany see themselves as victims of discrimination and stigmatization. By and large, the German media portray a distorted image of Muslims. The police often act in a biased and high-handed manner in dealing with Muslims. The situation has worsened after 9/11.
Since Germany follows the federal system, states have considerable freedom to enact their own legislation. The state of Baden-Wurttemberg has banned the wearing of headscarves in educational institutions and government offices. In February 2006, the government of Baden-Wurttemberg introduced a set of new "discussion guidelines-consisting of 30 questions-for applicants for German citizenship. The tenor of the questions weighs heavily against Muslim applicants. One of the questions in the "discussion guidelines" says: "Imagine that your son comes to you and declares that he is a homosexual and would like to live with another man. How would you react?" An opinion poll found that 76% of Germans agree on these questions.
It is often difficult to get permission for the construction or expansion of mosques from the local authorities. Even when permission is obtained, landlords and neighbours often raise objections. Mosques are generally situated in the poorer and immigrant quarters of the city, in leftover or marginal locations such as defunct industrial sites or unused garages. One mosque is located in the vicinity of the red light district.
A glaring example of the opposition to the construction of mosques in Germany is provided by the controversy surrounding the proposed construction of a large mosque in Cologne. Cologne has nearly 30 mosques, but most of them are located in backyards or dilapidated factory buildings. Cologne has an estimated Muslim population of 120,000, most of them being of Turkish origin. The proposed mosque, to be constructed under the aegis of the Turkish Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, will be built at the site of an existing mosque which is inadequate for the religious needs of the city's population. The mosque will cover an area of approximately 48,000 square feet with a capacity of 2000-4000 persons and will have twin minarets with a height of about 50 metres. It is expected to be completed in 2009 at an estimated expenditure of 15-20 million pounds.
Cologne has the greatest Gothic cathedral in Germany. The height of the proposed mosque's minarets is about a third of the cathedral's spires. The mosque will be situated about two miles from the cathedral. The managing committee of the mosque has agreed to the stipulation laid down by the city council that the call to prayer would not be broadcast over loudspeakers outside the building.
Though the plan of the mosque has been approved by the city council, it has created a controversy in the city's population. The opposition has come mainly from a far-right party, Pro Koln, which has five of the 90 seats in the city council. On June 16, 2007, about 200 people gathered in a protest organised by Pro Koln against the construction of the mosque. The protest is joined by Ralph Giordano, a prominent German Jewish writer and Holocaust survivor, who says that the mosque would be "an expression of the creeping Islamization of our land". He urged the mayor of Cologne and the city council to stop the construction of the mosque.
Interestingly, those who are in favour of the mosque include many Roman Catholic clergy. Cologne's St. Theodore Catholic Church has decided to raise funds for the mosque. It is equally interesting that the architect of the mosque is Paul Bohm, who specializes in building churches.
An earlier incident of opposition to the construction of a mosque occurred in Munich in 2006. Protest meetings were held, signatures were collected and a petition was filed with the Bavarian parliament. But the city's mayor, Christian Ude, welcomed the mosque plan and brushed aside the protests.
The attitude of ethnic Germans towards Muslims is slowly changing for the better. The share of Germans who think too many foreigners live among them has shrunk from a large majority a quarter century ago to a narrow one now. This is a hopeful sign for the Muslim community and for the wider German society.