Leadership Council for Human Rights

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Friday, February 10, 2006

CHRC Hosts Roundtable on Muslim Integration in Europe

February 9, 2006

Washington, DC – The Congressional Human Rights Caucus hosted Pulitzer Prize winning Wall Street Journal reporter Ian Johnson Thursday for the briefing, “Muslim Integration in Germany and Europe: ‘Melting Pot’ or Rise in Fundamentalism.”

Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-CA), who chaired the roundtable event, said that while Europe does need to root out the specific threats from its Muslim population of 20 million, “All of us have rights, and we need to protect immigrants and their rights.”

Johnson, who has spent seven years covering China and five years as WSJ’s Berlin correspondent, said that when he arrived in Germany in 2001 he pinpointed a stagnant economy and immigration as the two key issues facing Europe. Europe needs immigrants due to its declining birthrate and because “it needs an infusion of new ideas and talents,” Johnson said. “By virtue of geography those people come from the Arab world.”

With the influx of Muslim immigrants over the 20th century came two types of Islam – a non-political, benign form of the religion, as well as a small strain of political, radical Islam. The Muslim Brotherhood, an ideological movement which began in Egypt in the 1920s, has established a strong presence throughout Europe. The Muslim Brotherhood’s most important post outside of the Arab world is the mosque it controls in Munich, Johnson said.

While the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology is widespread throughout Europe, it is not representative of most Muslims. Since the Brotherhood and groups like it (under the umbrella of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe) are very organized, however, it sets the agenda, policy and tone for the Muslim communities in European nations. The Federation approaches its agenda from the perspective of human rights and religious freedom, which Johnson called “deceptive,” because its real agenda is one of fundamentalism. European governments deal with the Brotherhood and other similar groups, however, because they are united and they know how to play the bureaucratic game.

Easily susceptible to fundamentalist Islam preached by the Brotherhood are poor, second and third generation immigrants who have not found jobs or been integrated into the European education system. Some Muslim young people “don’t view themselves as part of society,” Johnson said, in part explaining their resentments. Unemployment rates among young adults, especially immigrants, are “astronomical.” “Socio-economic problems radicalize Europe’s Muslim population,” Johnson said. In countries (like France) where there is a “colonial history” – France colonized Algeria, and many Algerian immigrants now live in France – tensions run even higher.


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