Austrian tolerance!

It really sounds like some sort of a disease, "your husband is suffering from an advanced stage of 'Austriantolerance' madam, and there's nothing we can do about that, we are very sorry!" – could be a sentence from a cheesy science fiction movie. The funny part is, this is not too far from the truth, the only difference is that it's not a disease by itself, but rather a symptom of a social disease called Islamophobia.

I am sure many people noticed the new wave of Islamophobia that is taking place in various parts of Europe. Be it legislation such as the ban of Hijab, Niqab, Burqini, or Minarets, the rise of right-winged parties, or even the refusal of accepting Turkey as a member of the European Union. I've always enjoyed listening to the funny justifications given by different countries in Europe for their actions. You know like forcefully inserting Hijab into the law for banning 'religious symbols' in French schools, even though they know it is not a symbol, I mean come on guys, who are you fooling?

Anyway, the latest amusement I got in this context was the result of a survey that was carried in Austria about the way Islam is viewed in the country. The poll came out with a number of interesting findings, like the fact that "Austrians older than 50, people with lower education and those living in the countryside feared Islam the most", according to The most interesting finding of the poll however was that 71 percent of polled Austrians believed that "Islam does not match western beliefs in democracy, freedom and tolerance!

Emphasis on the last word of the sentence – 'tolerance'. A statement like this one that judges a major world religion such as Islam to be intolerant, is in itself an indication of intolerant society. Let aside the other manifestations of intolerance in many other European countries.

Don't get me wrong, I do respect Europe, and have a very high esteem for European worldview, and that is exactly why I am particularly disappointed in this 'un-European' attitude towards Islam. It was in Europe itself that Islam created a model that is acknowledged by even European historians to be the best case of tolerance and coexistence between various religious groups. I am talking about Andalusia.

I am not denying that the current state of Muslim countries, and Muslims in general is nothing to brag about, but what I am trying to say is that the Islamic civilization, at the peak of its blossoming, produced a model that is 'brag-worthy' for tolerance and coexistence. Why can't Europe, during the peak of its civilization be tolerable to its own Muslim citizens? Let aside accepting a Muslim country into the EU!

If this is the maximum tolerance Europe can show, then excuse me guys – you just don't have it. Therefore, claiming that Islam does not match western beliefs would be a correct claim, but only because Europe has not yet risen to the level of tolerance practiced in Islamic civilization.

© Kuwait Times 2010

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