Following the October 17, 2020 beheading of a French schoolteacher who showed his students cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, and the subsequent attacks committed by Muslims in France and Austria, articles in the Egyptian press came out against the self-seclusion of Muslim communities in the West.
In a recent column in the daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm, Egyptian author, journalist and women's rights activist Dr. 'Azza Kamel wrote that isolating themselves in ghettos causes Muslims a crisis of identity, prevents them from assimilating in their surroundings and pushes them into the arms of terrorism and extremist Islam. This, she said, causes people to associate Islam with terror and harms the Muslims themselves more than anyone else. She stressed that vulgar cartoons do not have the power to sully the Prophet's honor, and that the Muslims in Europe should preserve his honor by gaining education and engaging with the surrounding society.
Egyptian writer Nabil 'Amar also addressed the topic of the Muslims' self-isolation and the problems it creates. Writing in the daily Al-Ahram under the title "Voluntary Enclaves Of Exile", he argued that today's Muslim ghettos have replaced the Jewish ghettos of the past, but that, while the Jews assimilated in the surrounding societies and penetrated the centers of culture and decision-making without losing their unique identity, the Muslims surround themselves with walls, so that their ghettos become hothouses for cultivating murderers and human bombs. He stated that the only solution is exiting the ghettos, while stressing that this does not mean discarding the Muslims' unique values and culture.
'Azza Kamel and Nabil 'Amar (Sources: Al-Masri Al-Yawm, Egypt; akhbarak.net)
The following are translated excerpts from their articles:
Dr. 'Azza Kamel: Violence And Murder Are Not The Way To Defend The Prophet's Honor
'Azza Kamel wrote: "In Europe and America there are entire neighborhoods inhabited exclusively by Muslims, sort of ghettos, in which immigrants from the same origin, or from different origins but sharing the same language and history, voluntarily concentrate and isolate themselves. [As a result] they enter a vicious circle of conflicted identity and non-integration, which catapults them into the furnace of extremism and violence [and causes them] to endorse the ideas and tendencies of fundamentalist currents that spread their poison by means of fatwas [religious rulings] and laws against the secular infidel West… which upholds [the values of] the modern civil state.
"People spread these fatwas in their homes, mosques and workplaces and on social media. The immigrants typically live in a state of schizophrenia and twofold alienation, [divorced both from their original] religious beliefs and traditions and from the norms and rules of Western society. As a result, [fundamentalist] religion becomes their sole identity, and this exacerbates the sense of loathing and hatred towards [Western] society.
"Hundreds of 'honor' killings occur: fathers, brothers and uncles kill their young female relatives who were born abroad and who, trying to integrate into the reality they inhabit, make friends with young Westerners, [both] men and women, while [their families try to] marry them off to some relative in order to prevent dishonor to the family.
"This schizophrenia and inability to integrate is translated into terror attacks by individuals and groups, and into a loud demand to implement the Islamic shari'a, which, in [the fundamentalists'] opinion, will save the West from its iniquity and heresy. At the same time, the populist far right gains power [in the West], and calls to purge the Western communities of Muslims, for it regards them all as scary terrorists.
"And then [someone publishes] cartoons [of the Prophet Muhammad, causing] the supporters of the Prophet and of Islam [to call for revenge], which results in brutal and barbaric massacres and beheadings that place Islam on the terror list. Comments by Western leaders are sadly mistranslated into Arabic, and people do not verify the validity [of the translation]. This inflames Muslim [anger] throughout the world… causing conflicts whose only victims are the immigrants themselves.
"In France, thousands of people took to the streets to condemn Islam and the Muslims. As a result, many [Muslim] schools and mosques were shut down and many teachers lost their jobs. Following the slaughter of the teacher [Samuel Paty] and three [other French] citizens, the number of children who went online to view the offensive [Muhammad] cartoons reached millions.
"Offensive images or vulgar comments do not have the power to sully the Prophet's honor, nor can his honor be defended through butchery, murder, bloodshed, hostility and hatred. Religion is defended through vibrant democratic dialogue, by [following] the law and embracing humane values, by rejecting the culture of terror and [whoever] implements it, by integrating into society in a correct and genuine manner, and by improving the education and knowledge of the Muslim diaspora."
Nabil 'Amar: The Ghettos In Which Europe's Muslims Enclose Themselves Are Hothouses Of Terror And Human Bombs
Journalist Nabil 'Amar wrote in the daily Al-Ahram: "Why do some Muslims become human bombs that explode among innocent people and tear them limb from limb, as though their religious devotion is reflected in [lighting] a fuse [and detonating] an explosive charge? This notion is unique to misguided Muslim organizations, which embrace aggression and violence in violation of their religion, [but] in accordance with interpretations that appear in books of [Islamic] heritage. These interpretations were written in times of fitna [strife], war and aggression, and must be disregarded [today]. [Yet] among the world's 1.8 billion Muslims, tens of thousands, who belong to armed religious organizations, continue to adhere to them. Another important question is: How can Muslims who live in the West and study there still fail to transcend their original culture and primitive mentality? I contend that this reflects a mentality crisis and cultural backwardness…
"How odd. How can the followers of a faith whose essence is understanding, observation and a rational [view of] the universe as means of approaching Allah still be controlled by instincts that dictate their behavior whenever they feel anger or hatred? That is the crisis afflicting some Muslim communities in the West. These [communities live in] Muslim ghettos, which have replaced the traditional Jewish ghettos, the most prevalent kind of ghettos in human history. That is, they completely isolate themselves from their surroundings and demand [to reproduce] the environment from which they came and seclude themselves there. They live in Britain, France, Belgium, Spain or Germany, yet they preserve a mentality rooted in the religious traditions and perceptions of the Middle Eastern deserts. They wear modern clothes, but they are steeped to their necks in old ideologies and perceptions.
It goes without saying that we are not calling on [the Muslims in the West] to discard their unique culture and tradition and replace it with the culture and values of the Western societies. The people of the East have their own traditions and values, and they are entitled to reject some of the moral standards of the Western societies that are incompatible with Islam. But the West, too, has some exalted values pertaining to life and work, as a result of its economic and scientific progress in the last 400 years. The Muslims can respect [these values], especially since they are essentially compatible with the directives of Islam, such as the values of honest work, skill, perseverance, order and cleanliness, punctuality, and cooperation with others regardless of their skin color, religion, etc.
But many of the immigrants fail to accomplish this cultural integration. I believe that the clerics do not help them accomplish it, but rather constantly seek to maintain a sharp distinction between the cultures by flooding the immigrants with [the ideology of] the old books of heritage, out of fear that Western culture will overwhelm them and completely divest them of their original culture. This is also what caused the Muslim immigrants to build their new ghettos. Yes, the Jews no longer live in ghettos… and their place has been taken by Muslims all over the world. [But] I wish the Muslims could model their ghettos on the Jewish ones, for the Jews engaged in trade and study, and [eventually] became integrated and entered the very centers of knowledge, culture, art and decision-making. They studied, understood, internalized knowledge and then used it to enter society and influence it. They lived like the people around them, yet [at the same time] preserved their own traditions and values.
Conversely, most of the Muslims [living] in these societies completely distance themselves [and hide] behind the secluding walls they have built between themselves and their new surroundings. Even if they attend [Western] schools and universities, they engage in goal-oriented study in which the mind becomes a warehouse of facts, like a scrap yard. Facts are just raw material that builds up and becomes knowledge, but they do not have much value if they are not applied to life, social, professional and cultural relationships, work and all aspects of everyday existence. The Jewish ghetto was a separate enclave, but it was part of the surrounding society. The Muslim ghetto is an enclave of voluntary exile, and in enclaves of voluntary exile it is easy to cultivate murderers and human bombs, and there is no solution except to exit them."