In part two of the Miller-McCune interview with Islamic scholar Reza Aslan, we explore the various manifestations of Islamophobia in Europe, from the banning of minarets and religious clothing to the rise of ultra-right wing anti-Islam parties. Aslan — the author of No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam and Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East, published this month — addresses the mythos surrounding Europe's Muslim population while offering some positive alternatives to the negative rhetoric and fear-mongering perpetrated both in Europe and here in the U.S.
Miller-McCune: Muslims generally tend to assimilate when they come to this country. This is not the case in Europe. Your thoughts?
Reza Aslan: It's certainly true, but part of it has to do with circumstance. On the one hand, the United States is a country of immigrants, so the process in which new arrivals are integrated into American society doesn't require organizations, whether government or nongovernment or community groups, to help new immigrants feel more a part of society. There are dozens of such organizations throughout Europe. There's also a real socioeconomic aspect.
Muslims who immigrated to Europe came primarily after World War II, invited as guest workers to clean up the devastation. And for the most part, they were treated precisely as guest workers. They were not given an opportunity to really assimilate into the culture. They were more or less put into ethnically isolated communities and neighborhoods, and they didn't mind. They themselves really thought this was temporary. They sent a lot of their money back to their home countries.