Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Identity and Integration among Turkish Sunni Muslims in Britain

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Identity and Integration among Turkish Sunni Muslims in Britain

Article excerpt

In Europe, there has been an increasing tendency towards the securitization of immigration regimes (2) and a retreat away from multiculturalism and integrationism towards assimilationism in immigrant incorporation policies. The main reasons for rethinking immigration policies appear to revolve around Islam and Muslims. This is manifest in the media coverage of Islam and Muslims in general, and some politicians' discourses, while it is mostly latent in government and legal discourses. (3) The re-consideration of immigrant-related policies often begins with liberal premises, including the discussion of individual versus group rights and national identity. But, it evolves based on essentialist assumptions attributed to the basic tenets of Islam and its perceived incompatibility with democratic principles. At best, such prevailing beliefs in host societies result in reluctance towards any religious demands put forth by Muslims. (4) At worst, the anxiety, stereotyping, and numerous prevailing essentialist arguments regarding Muslim culture in public debates seem to be further exacerbated in the post- 9/11 environment, in which Islam has become the proverbial "other" of the Western world within the construct of the "clash of civilizations." (5) In such a context of marginalization and mounting pressures for assimilation, Muslim immigrants have sought not only to protect their religious values but also to embrace an Islamic identity that is political in order to claim rights in the host country (6).

In Britain, such a process started with the events surrounding the Rushdie Affair in 1989, and accelerated following the events of 9/11. In response to the 2001 riots involving the immigrant communities of South Asian origin in Bradford, Oldham and Burnley, the Cantle Report diagnosed these neighborhoods as highly segregated areas:

   Separate educational arrangements, community and voluntary bodies,
   employment, places of worship, language, social and cultural
   networks, means that many communities operate on the basis of a
   series of parallel lives. These lives often do not seem to touch at
   any point, let alone overlap and promote any meaningful
   interchanges. (7)

Following such events, Muslims in Britain have been accused of forming "parallel societies," and were urged to integrate. In some cases, what is meant by integration is in fact tantamount to assimilation, since integration is described as the convergence of the immigrants with the dominant society, rather than a two-sided process. McGhee argues that, after a series of reports on community cohesion, immigration and asylum, which was called "Strength in Diversity" Consultation Strategy (2004), the British government's orientation towards an assimilationist strategy was solidified with an emphasis on security rather than looking to the root causes that hindered integration. Immigrant communities were expected to show that they were "active" citizens through engagement with the local host communities with the expectation that such relations would lead to "shared values." (8) In this context, it is important to understand how Muslim immigrants have sought to preserve and reproduce their ethnic, religious and cultural identity. When these Muslim immigrant communities strive to protect their identity, are they creating "parallel societies" within the host country or are they actually integrating?

Acculturation is a useful concept for understanding transformations of culture and values in immigrant settings. As a part of the assimilation theory, the concept of acculturation has been criticized for its oversimplification of immigrant and host society cultures, because it is linear and unidimensional. (9) Berry, however, has sought to remedy the unidimensionality of this concept by taking acculturation as a combination of integration processes working in separate domains (i.e. language, identity, attitudes, values). (10) Acculturation scholars have also sought to overcome the model's limitation in viewing acculturation as one of ". …

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