Christians and Muslims in Tomorrow’s Europe

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Damian Howard, SJ

 Damian Howard, SJ / Church Life / 15 June 2017


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On May 6, 2016, Sadiq Khan was elected Mayor of London by 57 per cent of the electorate, making him the politician with the third largest personal democratic mandate in Europe. Much of the publicity that attended his victory focused on his religious affiliation; he was now, after all, Europe’s highest profile Muslim politician. Although some rightwing commentators predictably and offensively attributed the result to a preemptive cringe before a growing Muslim population, most saw it as a token of London’s credentials as a multicultural and multireligious city at ease with itself, something to be celebrated just as it had been in the city’s Olympiad of 2012.

But not every indicator suggested so rosy a picture. A group that monitors antiMuslim hate crimes, Tell MAMA (Measuring AntiMuslim Attacks), says that the previous year had seen an astonishing 326 per cent increase in the rate of reported cases. And then a mere month after the election of Khan, the immediate aftermath of the EU Referendum (Brexit) witnessed a widespread surge in xenophobic outbursts in the city’s public spaces, many of them of an Islamophobic nature.

Islam and the Formation of Christian Identity

Clearly the kind of openness that led to the election of a Muslim Mayor cohabits perfectly easily with the bigotry and racism that demean the neighbor on the street. One way of explaining this, doubtless, is to appeal to the platitude that some people are liberally minded and others are not. This is manifestly true, but it does not get us very far.

The case could be made for seeing the two phenomena as causally intertwined. Some folk turn violent precisely because they perceive that “the other” has been domesticated; the very fact that a Sadiq Khan could be elected to a position of political power provokes an outpouring of antiMuslim resentment.

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