Differences Shape Experiences of Being Muslim in America, Europe

June 22, 2006

Source: The Economist


On June 22, 2006 The Economist reported, "Having narrowly escaped with his life from the theocrats of his native Iran, Afshin Ellian likes the relaxed, cerebral atmosphere of Leiden, the Dutch town where he now teaches law. But this 40-year-old professor is disillusioned by a Europe which he says has become too soft-minded in its dealings with Islam. It is a sign of the times, he thinks, that the country where he settled 17 years ago is about to say goodbye to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born Dutch politician who has sharply criticised the Muslim tradition in which she was raised. Having got into trouble because she once fibbed to the Dutch immigration authorities, Miss Hirsi Ali is moving to America. Some of Mr Ellian's criticisms of Europe are philosophical: it is too cynical and mercantilist a place to wage a war of ideas in defence of the Enlightenment. Some are personal: 'Five years ago, my Afghan sister-in-law emigrated to the United States, where she now works, pays taxes and takes part in public life. If she had turned up in Europe, she would still be undergoing treatment from social workers for her trauma—and she still wouldn't have got a job or won acceptance as a citizen.' Among Europeans of Middle Eastern heritage, Mr Ellian's views are rather unusual. But they would draw applause from many Europe-watchers in the United States, in whose eyes the mishandling of Islam has become the latest and gravest of Europe's self-inflicted wounds."