Muslim Women in Europe caught between traditions and secular ethos

Linked with Seyran Ates – Turkey.

Published on Islamic, by Sylvia Poggioli, March 2008.

As immigrants from the Muslim world continue to settle in Europe, governments are beginning to question the notion of multiculturalism, the immigration model that has prevailed for decades in most parts of the continent.

This model has often led to the creation of separate, parallel societies ignorant of one another, and also to a large Muslim underclass.

Berlin lawyer Seyran Ates, a Turkish-German women’s rights activist, says that in Europe, there are two societies with two different value systems living side by side, but separate from one another.


Woman wearing full face veil, the niqab

Officials are now beginning to focus on the status of women; there is a growing belief that the empowerment of women is a key factor in helping their communities integrate into mainstream society. But, at the same time, the closer Muslim women get to European secular culture, the further they move away from their traditions and families a dilemma that often leads to solitude and alienation.

In Europe, large numbers of Muslims men and women are victims of discrimination. And Muslim women who observe a strict dress code are seen as a challenge to European notions of secularism and modernity. In addition, women are subject to the rules of their faith and some cultural traditions. They are often invested with the task of representing family honour particularly by patriarchs who fear the family structure might be undermined if their women yield to the seduction of Western society.

But many young European-born Muslim women are beginning to rebel against arranged and forced marriages the traditional practice of marrying a cousin from the homeland picked by their parents and they want to marry a person of their own choosing … (full text).

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