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Inside the Beltway

Washington politics and government with a New Mexico flavor

Talk focuses on Muslims in Europe

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WASHINGTON — If Europe were to update its relationship status with Islam on Facebook, it would undoubtedly select “it’s complicated.”

Boston College professor Jonathan Laurence, author of “The Emancipation of Europe’s Muslims,” will explore the precarious and sometimes-volatile nature of that relationship in a lecture in Albuquerque titled “Mosque and State in Europe: Muslim Minorities and Civic Citizenship.”

The lecture, the third installment in the Albuquerque International Association’s series analyzing the emergence of political Islam and the implications for the U.S. and its allies, is Friday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the UNM Continuing Education Building.

“The story of the last decade or so is one in which governments are starting to take seriously the need to integrate their Muslim minorities and to take the religious aspects of that seriously in large part because it is also a security issue,” Laurence said in a Journal interview.

He said among many European countries, there are now Islamic religion classes for Muslim students in public schools, a trend that some non-Muslims find alarming.

“There are now Muslim chaplains in the armed forces,” Laurence said. “A lot of this can appear mundane but it has an effect on the integration experience of this minority, and whether they are able to practice their religion freely. The alternatives within Islam can be quite threatening.

“It’s wise to not make an issue out of headscarves or halal meat,” Laurence added. “Even if one doesn’t wish to encourage a totally religious community, you still have to do these basic acts of accommodation or recognition if you want to have a moderate outcome.”

Laurence said that America hasn’t experienced a similar level of conflict with its own Muslim population due largely to a function of numbers.

“The proportion of people with a Muslim background in Europe is four times greater,” he said. “But there are also differences in how these people adopt their respective destinations. In Europe, it was largely a manual labor migration. … In the United States, they are on average better educated, earn more and we tend to have a lot of high-skilled migration. That means it’s a different population.

“There’s a difference if you’re coming on an assembly line or coming in as a surgeon,” he added. “That makes a big difference.”

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