Economist package offers an upbeat slant on Islam in modern Europe and America

The shrinkage of U.S. newsmagazines, which at their best combined readable style with deep reporting and research, is as lamentable as the decline or death of so many dailies.

This makes Britain’s 176-year-old The Economist pretty much essential reading, especially for international affairs and (yes) economics. A yearly subscription runs – gasp -- $190, compared with the currently discounted $30 for U.S. competitor Time (where The Guy toiled for three decades).

Roughly once a month, The Economist  reaches beyond the current news to insert a hefty “Special Report” package of articles on some broader topic. The Feb. 16 edition offered a package about Islam in Europe plus  a bit about North America, 11 pages and seven articles in all, plus an editorial up front. Since the  material is behind a pay wall, here are some of the reports and contentions religion writers will want to keep in mind.

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The “Here to Stay” headline announced the over-all theme, that Muslims are no longer temporary workers but a permanent sector of society. Though foreign-dominated Islam in Europe still expands, native-born Muslims will soon outnumber immigrants.

The weekly proposed that while second-generation Muslims often felt alienated, with some open to extremism, the third generation is becoming more moderate. We’re told this third generation is gradually “building a Western Islam” no longer beholden to the old countries and Mideast paymasters, and embracing a variety of forms ranging from ultra-traditionalist to revisionist. Important if this pans out

Muslims in America long considered themselves “a cut above” those in Europe, more middle-class or professional, more integrated in society, and having a more harmonious relationship with their chosen nation. But polling indicates reaction against jihadi attacks, and Trump-era nationalism, are changing that. 

“A tiny radicalized fringe group is tarring Islam in the West with an undeserved brush,” The Economist said, depicting the threat of Islam-inspired murder within western countries as relatively modest. It counted 3,670 terror deaths in the West across the past two decades, with most of those from one assault, on September 11, 2001. Jihadists killed 150 Europeans in 2015, but only 14 in 2018.  

Is all this too upbeat? Time (and perhaps Time) will tell. Consider that the hopes of the “Arab Spring,” assessed  in a 2013 Economist  Special Report,  haven’t worked out. 

The Economist put today’s western Muslims into four categories.

(1) “Salafists” are the religious traditionalists who perpetuate old world cultures and shun immersion into secular culture.

(2) “Political Islam” is integrationist and wants believers to be assertive within their newly chosen societies.

( 3) “Liberals” combine western lifestyles with various Islamic traits.

(4) “Secular” Muslims have left the religion but retain what one leader calls “a folkloric relationship to Islam.”  

Numbers: The West over-all has more than 10,000 mosques. On the disputed count for U.S. Muslims, the magazine said “about 3.5 million,” or 1.1 percent of the population as of 2016, without citing a source. It compared that with 5.7 million in France, 4.1 million in Britain, 3 million in Germany, 2.9 million in Italy, and 1.2  million in Spain. Excluding Russia and Turkey, Europe now has 26 million Muslims , about 5 percent of the population and with a notably young average age. That’s substantial, but a small segment of the global Muslim population, put at 1.8 billion. 

A potential U.S.  story: The magazine reports that a new Islamic seminary is due to open this year, staffed only by western teachers and freed from strict Salafist adherence to 7thCentury precedents. Its leader is Yasir Qadhi (also spelled “Kazi”), deemed by The Economist to be U.S.  Islam’s “best-known preacher.”  Qadhi is Saudi-trained with a Yale Ph.D. and teaches at Rhodes College in Memphis. Contacts:  kaziy@rhodes.edu and 901-843-3795. 

The Economist package also provides considerable detail on the situation in Europe, country by country. Non-subscribers might consider buying copies, available via  economist@fosterprinting.com or 866 – 879-9144. 

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