Geopolitics and the European ImamOctober 26, 2011
Thoughtful piece today (link will download pdf file) from Joyce van de Bildt, writing for the Dayan Center. Van de Bildt examines one serious problem that European nations with large populations of immigrant Muslims are struggling with: religious leadership in expatriate communities that tend to impede the process of assimilation. While concerns about radicalization and fomenting of homegrown jihadis will always be present, they may in fact be overblown. However, the lack of full assimilation with Western culture and values is certainly an issue and may prove to be more dangerous than the more overt security concerns. Van de Bildt writes:
One little noticed result of the events of September 11, 2001, is that it drew the attention of European states to the problematique of an ongoing influx of foreign imams (Muslim religious leaders) into their countries. Indeed, the large majority of imams currently serving in European mosques are recruited in Muslim countries. Trained in traditional madrasas, Imam Hatip schools in Turkey or other religious institutions somewhere in the Middle East, they are generally unfamiliar with Western, multicultural societies. In an attempt to take matters into their own hands, European governments have sought to establish imam education programs at local universities. The initiative is significant in both the security and societal realms: it is an attempt to prevent the domination of radical imams and ensure that imams play a positive role in the integration of Muslims into Western society.
The issue of separation of church and state is a very tricky one here. Yes, the concerns are legitimate, but imagine the howls of protest if the state sought to step in and certify their own versions of clergy for the Catholic or Lutheran or any other Christian faith. Given that the foreign born Imams already practicing are already state certified by their home nations, makes it even more, not less, tricky, IMO.
Read the whole thing.