Does Europe have an inquisition problem?

Source: Aljazeera

By 

Hatem Bazian is a lecturer in the Departments of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies at University of California, Berkeley.

Switzerland banned the construction of minarets, Spain and Italy have placed heavy restrictions on permits for building new mosques, and Austria adopted a law to redefine the status of Islam and Muslims in the country.

France has layered bans on the hijab, niqab and now the burkini, and the continent-widemassive surveillance of Muslims raises an important question: Will Europe for ever have an inquisition problem when dealing with its Muslim subjects?

The current stream of policies targeting Muslims across Europe harks back to an earlier and darker period in the continent’s long history, the Spanish Inquisition.

Reminiscent of the past

Certainly the Inquisition involved forced conversion to Christianity for Muslims, Jews and some Christians whom the Catholic Church saw as heretics, and expulsion for those who either refused or secretly continued to practise.

The Inquisition was a repressive regulatory structure that governed Muslim and Jewish bodies and spaces, with limits imposed on clothing, food, hygiene and movement.

Regulation included forced public consumption of pork to demonstrate a breakaway from keeping Kosher and Halal requirements.

Requirement to keep windows and doors to homes open on Fridays and Saturdays so Inquisition monitors could ascertain that no religious activities or ritual washing for prayers were taking place.

At the height of the it, both Jews and Muslims were subject to state-organised violence, torture and a reign of terror, which concluded with mass expulsions in 1492 from Spain.

The restrictions today are imposed in the name or in the defence of European secularism, but the target remains the Muslim subject, just as a mere 60 years ago it was the Jewish subject. Instituting a secular fundamentalist inquisition differs little if the outcome is the same for the victims.

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1 reply

  1. It’s important to discuss the role and expression of Islam in Western nations, but to compare the current climate to that of the Inquisition is not very constructive. European governments are not torturing and murdering citizens and refugees that hold the Islamic faith, as the Jews were tortured and murdered during the Inquisition. However, in Muslim-majority nations today, the same restrictions discussed in the article above are present against non-Islamic expressions of faith, with the restrictions being far greater and the penalties more severe. It’s a two-way discussion, and can’t solely focus on Europe.

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