This week’s European court of justice ruling to allow the hijab to be banned in the workplace has drawn yet another line in the sand. It is time to move from Europe opine Muslim commentators everywhere; time to flee the coming catastrophe. Muslims should return to their Muslim lands, we are told, to remove themselves from harm’s way.
How ironic. A number of Muslim-majority countries themselves had workplace hijab-bans in place until recently, and Europe was often a refuge in those times. Europe is a continent of contradictions. It has its left and right. Those that welcome refugees and those that despise them. Liberalism and illiberalism.
Muslims are a small minority (less than 7%), often a convenient scapegoat in times of economic crisis, and yet many Muslims (and other minorities) cherish the freedom to believe and practice their faith as they please that Europe has generally granted them over the past few decades. Of course there are exceptions: French White Supremacy has always had a problem with the descendants of nations it brutally colonised, and there are worldwide trends of a push towards the right.
But in reality there is ease and difficulty intertwined for the Muslim citizens of Europe, just like anywhere. Filtered through the lens of social media and the Muslim imagination, the situation may look dire, but the same is true of the US, Turkey, Pakistan and beyond.
We all need a place to call home. Europe is our home. I’m not sure that exit strategies are helpful at this juncture.