Azerbaijan, Baku, March 13 / Trend , U.Sadykhova /
Trend interview with
Martin Rose, Director of British Council Canada, Director of Our Shared Europe, the Council's large-scale project addressing perceptions of and by European Muslims.
Trend : Your project Our Shared Europe works on removing the major cultural challenge of today - the growing mutual mistrust between Muslim communities and European societies. What do you believe is the main challenge that causes increasing of mistrust between the western Muslim and European communities?
Martin Rose: Obviously in the last 50 years and more recently, there has been a great increase in Muslim population of Europe and there have been various problems, perhaps not huge, perhaps larger in different places, in those threaten assimilating into the European population. But obviously in the last ten years, also and particularly since 9/11, there has been increasing tensions. It goes inside of course with globalization, of course this is a whole process and it goes inside in the last few years with economical downturn. And all of these things together have brought: a) resurgence in some areas in Europe which has lead to hostility and misunderstanding as well, particularly interpretation of the way which Muslims in Europe are in relations to European communities. What we forget constantly and what can be forgotten of course when we talk about the Europeans, who maybe Muslims but the Europeans. But there is a tendency in some political and cultural thinking to continue to think that Muslims are not European. And of course there is a strong view held in some broads of the United States in the political spectrum and in some parts of European political spectrum which thinks of or pretends to think of that Europe has been Islamized or being in danger of becoming what they call "Eurabia". And I think that obviously it builds towards maybe minority opinions still, but they have the some of mistrust.
Q: Do you believe that such mistrust is based on political or cultural tensions?
A: I think it has all sorts of it, I think it is based to a large extent on ignorance. I think most Europeans know very little about Islam and Muslims and I think cultural and social mixing that's going on between Muslims and non-Muslim Europeans is actually much less, it could or should be and there are all sorts of understandable reasons. But the mistrust that grows is based on ignorance, it is fed by the economical pressure and to some extent it is clearly encouraged by people who wish for political reason, serious pressure that goes to create this mistrust and it is very hard to isolate individual factors. But it is clearly growing and it is clearly damaging and dangerous, I think.
Q: What should the Muslim community of the European countries do to stop the increasing mistrust?
A: Well, they are also sorts of difference here. One thing needs to do to contact between communities. I think that Muslim communities in Europe are increasing efforts to explain themselves and to do it well and that is very good thing. I think that one of the problems that they do have is that they are perceived, at least have been reluctant to condemn many reactions of extreme violence by Muslim actors, it is clearly not very helpful. I think that actually it is knowledge, it is success from the familiarity we need. We need to see Muslims becoming more accepted and integrated members of the European society.
Q: How do You estimate the level of integration of the Muslim community into the European social and political life?
A: I can not generalize, it varies so much from country to country, from person to person and community to community. In some places, but I do not want to specify, it is not carried out very successfully, but in other places, I think it is going very well. But you can not even generalize by country. I think that there is a long journey to travel, but I think we are going along that journey quite successfully in many places.
Q: What is the main difference between Islamophobia in Europe and in the United States where it has more political character?
A: That is a very difficult question. There is not universally accepted concept of the Islamophobia. But as we can see, in this there is much: a) a general negative reaction to Islam and to Muslims, there is a tendency to confuse the people with individual Muslims, with religion Islam and it is extremely damaging and complex area. I do not want to make hard and fast distinguish between the two. We know that there are some personal reactions in the States and personal in Europe and we know that there are some generic political anti-Muslim and anti-Islam movements in the both sides of the
Atlantic , I would not make a huge distinguishes.
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