Growing immigration flows and resulting cultural and religious diversity in society have been posing serious challenges to the liberal nation-state. One of these challenges is to reconcile the need to preserve national cohesion with the commitment to universal human rights and respect for diversity. These challenges have become more visible and more complex to deal with in public discourse and policy, ever since the security dimension gained prominence.
Since 9/11, the States in Europe embarked on a dual-track policy of hardening immigration and asylum procedures on the one hand, while actively engaging with Muslim immigrants to accelerate their integration on the other. The need for an urgent dialogue has both facilitated political mobilization of Muslims and opened up new avenues for their political participation. Due to lack of mainstream channels for non-citizen participation, consultative bodies and migrant-led organizations have emerged to serve as alternatives. However, political interactions between Muslim immigrant organizations and State authorities have yet to yield mutually satisfactory forms of dialogue. Among other problems, Muslim migrant representatives are often misplaced and boxed into a “religio-security” context. The new polarization in society along religious/cultural lines, coupled with trivialization of intolerant public discourse and acts of racism and xenophobia, has unleashed dynamics that can potentially undermine the spirit of tolerance necessary in a democratic society.
The core challenge remains whether the Liberal State can and is willing to accommodate the political demands expressed by the Muslims in Europe despite the fact that they were not a part of the historical compromises made with the religious establishments. These demands are widely perceived as running counter to the “depolitization of religion” that had been occurring in Europe for nearly a century. Therefore, a genuine dialogue with Muslim communities in Europe at the level of civil society is a crucial task for the 21st century.
This collaborative blog will aim to explore whether human rights can facilitate the political interactions between Muslim organizations and host country authorities in Europe by providing a common language and framework. Can human rights framework empower Muslims in this dialogue?