How woman can shape the story in Europe

women's studiesAs a college student, I was often confused and frustrated that my university offered classes on women's studies. I did not understand what the big deal was. But after a time, I learned that unique perspectives can be gained through a study of the history of women, a sociological study of women at a certain time and place or a study of female poets in the late 1800s. Such studies can lead to misperceptions if they are not properly balanced, but overall the knowledge contributed to furthering my education of how the world got to where it is now. Such is the case with this New York Times Magazine article on female German Muslims and the challenges they face. Written by Peter Schneider, a writer based in Berlin, it pre-empts what could be a huge story in a matter of years, or even months, giving readers a roadmap of the territory, which is something magazines and their writers tend to excel. It is a frightening piece overall, that is at sometimes shocking.

Here's the territory on which Schneider guides us:

Heavily veiled women wearing long coats even in summer are becoming an increasingly familiar sight in German Muslim neighborhoods. According to Necla Kelek's research, they are mostly under-age girls who have been bought -- often for a handsome payment -- in the Turkish heartland villages of Anatolia by mothers whose sons in Germany are ready to marry. The girls are then flown to Germany, and "with every new imported bride," Kelek says, "the parallel society grows." Meanwhile, Ates summarizes, "Turkish men who wish to marry and live by Shariah can do so with far less impediment in Berlin than in Istanbul."

Before the murder of Hatun Surucu there were enough warnings to engage the Germans in a debate about the parallel society growing in their midst. There have been 49 known "honor crimes," most involving female victims, during the past nine years -- 16 in Berlin alone. Such crimes are reported in the "miscellaneous" column along with other family tragedies and given a five-line treatment. Indeed, it's possible that the murder of Hatun Surucu never would have made the headlines at all but for another piece of news that stirred up the press. Just a few hundred yards from where Surucu was killed, at the Thomas Morus High School, three Muslim students soon openly declared their approval of the murder. Shortly before that, the same students had bullied a fellow pupil because her clothing was "not in keeping with the religious regulations." Volker Steffens, the school's director, decided to make the matter public in a letter to students, parents and teachers. More than anything else, it was the students' open praise of the murder that made the crime against Hatun Surucu the talk of Berlin and soon of all Germany.

In a skillful way, Schneider ties this article into the issue of terrorism and national identity that is facing European countries. Terrorist attacks in first Spain, then the London bombings and now riots in France are causing European governments to re-think their immigration policies, their police powers and even their own identities as countries, as Schneider explains:

Germans' confidence that their nation can continue as it had been - integrating immigrants without an integration policy, remaining true to the traditional German identity, preserving the reassuring post-1945 chronology of advancing modernism - is on the line. It turns out that in the heart of German cities a society is growing up that turns modernity on its head. ...

The German-Turkish author Necla Kelek sums it up this way in "The Foreign Bride": "The guest workers turned into Turks, and the Turks turned into Muslims."

Schneider ties it all together in this paragraph with a striking condemnation of Islam and how it must change if it is to integrate with the Western world:

Politicians and religious scholars of all faiths are right in pointing out that there are many varieties of Islam, that Islamism and Islam should not be confused, that there is no line in the Koran that would justify murder. But the assertion that radical Islamic fundamentalism and Islam have nothing to do with each other is like asserting that there was no link between Stalinism and Communism. The fact is that disregard for women's rights -- especially the right to sexual self-determination -- is an integral component of almost all Islamic societies, including those in the West. Unless this issue is solved, with a corresponding reform of Islam as practiced in the West, there will never be a successful acculturation.

Can this integration happen? Coverage of this story -- the eventual collision between Islam and Western societies in Europe -- has been spotty here in the United States. The coverage is certainly different in Europe, but I'm not talking about major front-page take-outs in the Economist or Le Monde. I'm talking about the everyday stories that engrain an issue into a community's consciousness (check out some examples here, here and here). If any GetReligion readers out there know of some good ones, please pass them on to us.

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