Islam and Multiculturalism in Europe An Exposition of a Dialectical Encounter

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Nuraan Davids


Multiculturalism, liberal democracies, Muslim women, accommodationist tradition, equal citizenship


Events such as New York’s 9/11, London’s 7/7, and Paris’ Charlie Hebdohave played dramatic roles in redirecting the focus of multiculturalism in liberal European democracies. Against a backdrop of the “failure of multiculturalism” or “multiculturalism in crisis,” liberal democracies continue to struggle and stumble in their efforts to accommodate minority groups, while simultaneously trying to sustain the primary good of the majority. One stumble appears to be the effort to “emancipate” and “democratize” Muslim women by regulating their dress code. In return, liberal democracies are accused of seeking to expunge their multicultural baggage by pursuing a particular orientation of integrationism, one that disregards selfunderstandings of religious and cultural particularities. By focusing upon this issue, this article explores why multiculturalism in Europe might be perceived as failing in its response to Muslims and Islam. In weighing the increasing levels of fear and insecurity among majority groups within a context of growing social marginalization among minority groups, I argue for a reinvocation of multiculturalism as a dialectical encounter. Such an encounter, based on mutual trust and respect, will lead to the equal citizenship necessary to counter the simmering alienation and skepticism that always threaten to undermine any notion of peaceful co-existence between majority and minority groups.

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