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December 06, 2009

Is the "Swiss Problem" the Fault of Muslim Men?
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Isaac Chotiner flags an interesting claim from Ian Buruma in the New Yorker - that Muslim integration in the Netherlands started going downhill when Muslim women started joining their worker husbands. Chotiner takes an interesting hypothesis and makes it even more interesting by suggesting that the presence of women in a sexually permissive society put men in fanatical protective mode.

It's plausible, I suppose, but it would be hard to demonstrate a causal link because Muslim women started arriving at precisely the same time - the late 60s, 70s, and 80s - that the Islamic revival in the Middle East was coming into its own. So what might appear to be a result of the mass arrival of wives might actually be the result of a more generalized movement toward an explicit Islamism. The two might also amplify each other's effects. I suppose it's also worth noting that people often forget that the Middle East was not particularly religious or Islamized for much of the 20th century. The dominant ideology was secular nationalism. Secular nationalism gave way to Islamist fervor - an evidently "religious" phenomenon fueled by political developments. If politics propelled religious conservatism (and radicalization) - which, in my view, it quite evidently did - then religious conservatism cannot be explained primarily by religion.


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Muslims and human rights groups have expressed outrage at the decision, depicting it as an attack on Islam and a setback for religious freedom. Of the country's 400,000 Muslims, representing less than 5 per cent of the population, the largest group are of European background, with ancestors from the historically Muslim Balkan countries of southeast Europe,in other words, they are as culturally and historically European as any Christian Swiss citizen.

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