French Mosque’s Symbolism Varies With Beholder

As Western Europe is plunged into a new bout of anxiety over the impact of post-colonial Muslim immigration — reeling in varying ways from the implications of a recent Swiss vote to ban minarets altogether — some scholars see a destructive dynamic, with assimilation feeding a reaction that, in turn, spawns resentment, particularly among young Muslims.

Vincent Geisser, a scholar of Islam and immigration at the French National Center for Scientific Research, believes that the more Europe’s Muslims establish themselves as a permanent part of the national scene, the more they frighten some who believe that their national identity could be altered forever.

“Today in Europe the fear of Islam crystallizes all other fears,” Mr. Geisser said. “In Switzerland, it’s minarets. In France, it’s the veil, the burqa and the beard.”

The large new mosque, which its builders call “the symbol of Marseillais Islam,” is a source of pride here in France’s second-largest city, which is at least 25 percent Muslim. But it is also cause for alarm, Mr. Geisser said, embodying the paradox that visible signs of integration set off xenophobic anxiety. “All these symbols reveal a deeper, more lasting presence of Islam,” he said. “It’s the passage of something temporary to something that is implanted and takes root.”
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– Source / Full Story: French Mosque’s Symbolism Varies With Beholder , Steven Erlanger, New York Times, Dec. 27, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog


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This post was last updated: Nov. 21, 2013