Middle East Research and Information Project: Critical Coverage of the Middle East Since 1971

Muslims in Europe

In the spring of 2016, a small group of academics at the University of Cambridge put a motion before Regent House, the governing body of the university, to hold a discussion on the Prevent program—the British government’s counter-radicalization scheme. The scene during the discussion was palpably grim, with scholar after scholar imploring the university to refuse implementation of a program that had already spread across most public institutions and universities in the country.

Éloge de la Naïveté

Paul Silverstein 03.30.2016

The attacks in Brussels have inspired grief, fear and questions about transformative politics.

Urban Violence in France

Dorénavant la rue ne pardonne plus                                              From now on the street will not forgive
Nous n’avons rien à perdre car nous n’avons jamais rien eu            We have nothing to lose for we have nothing

Reluctant Partners

Turkey passed a milestone in its long and arduous journey toward acceptance into the exclusive club of the European Union when the EU gave Turkey a date for the start of accession talks. But major obstacles remain — chiefly resurgent anti-Muslim feeling in Europe and resurgent ethnic nationalism in Turkey.

The Republic’s “Second Religion”

The 2004 law banning "conspicuous" religious symbols (read, headscarves) in French public schools cast France as an intolerant and radically secular state hostile to the manifestation of difference, especially Muslim difference, in the public sphere. During debates about the new law, a clear distinction was drawn between French republicanism and an "Anglo-Saxon" multiculturalism decried by many French as a sure path to national disintegration. President Jacques Chirac even declared that France "would lose her soul" if she went the way of an Anglo-American pluralism that recognizes and accepts internal difference.

Lions of Tawhid in the Polder

The murder of the controversial filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a radical Islamist youth induced a deep national trauma in the Netherlands. Very quickly, debate about the murder and the subsequent outbreak of anti-Muslim violence led to a larger and disturbing debate about the place of Muslims and Islam in the traditionally tolerant country — and the meaning of tolerance itself.

“Let Us Be Moors”

Seamos moros!” wrote the Cuban poet and nationalist José Martí in 1893, in support of the Berber uprising against Spanish rule in northern Morocco. “Let us be Moors…the revolt in the Rif…is not an isolated incident, but an outbreak of the change and realignment that have entered the world. Let us be Moors…we [Cubans] who will probably die by the hand of Spain.” [1] Writing at a time when the scramble for Africa and Asia was at full throttle, Martí was accenting connections between those great power forays and Spanish depredations in Cuba, even as the rebellion of 1895 germinated on his island.

New North African Immigration to Spain

In June 1998 the Spanish government began constructing several 12-foot high fences to halt African immigrants from illegally entering Europe by way of Spain’s North African enclave territory in Melilla. Running along the ten-kilometer border separating Morocco from Melilla, these fences were scheduled for completion by January 1999. They are to be patrolled by members of the Spanish civil guard and monitored by the latest in surveillance technology: cameras, sensors and armed guards stationed in lookout towers. These rigorous new border controls are required by the European Union’s adoption of stricter measures to regulate the inflow of individuals from non-EU nations.

Rethinking Jews and Muslims

“Your Highness completed the war against the Moors,” Columbus wrote in a letter addressed to the Spanish throne, “after having chased all the Jews…and sent me to the said regions of India in order to convert the people there to our Holy Faith.” [1] In 1492 the defeat of the Muslims and the expulsion of Jews from Spain converged with the conquest of the so-called New World. The separate quincentenary commemorations in the Americas, Europe and the Middle East, however, have seldom acknowledged the linkage between these events. Although intellectually challenging and politically inspiring, “goodbye Columbus” counter-quincentenary debates have, for the most part, followed the same easy path of separating these issues.

The Europe of Columbus and Bayazid

From the perspective of Sultan Bayazid II, the Ottoman ruler in Istanbul, Columbus’ expeditions may have been a distant diversion. In fact, they belonged to a set of profound changes in relations between Islamic and Christian territories on a world scale. For the 500 years before 1492, the fortunes of Europe depended heavily on Muslims — Arabs, Turks and others — who in various guises linked Europeans to the rest of the Eurasian system of trade and empire.

The Immigrant Experience in Sweden

Mahmut Baksi was born twice. The first time, in Kozluk, a village in Turkish Kurdistan, in 1944. His left-wing and nationalist activities brought him into conflict with his landowning family and with the Turkish authorities. Mahmut chose to leave, and he sought political asylum in Sweden in 1971, where he was born the second time. The metaphor of a second birth comes from the introduction to his book of short stories, Hasan Aga, published in 1979. “I will be eight this year. I came here [to Stockholm] on May 25, 1971. This is my new birthday.