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25. February 2008

Junge Musliminnen in Europa Heba Elias ©Carolin Gagidis-Rappenberg

Making use of the moral authority

A debate by Edit Schlaffer (Kleine Zeitung, Feb 23rd, 2008)

As of this moment, all of Austria is a platform for integration. This was the announcement of Minister Platter upon the presentation of the Integration Report just two weeks ago. But what exactly does this mean?

The minister likely has other concerns at the moment, but now the topic is on the table. Strategies for positive and acceptable forms of cultural coexistence are already being drafted and implemented across Europe. We can learn from this.

Take, for example, Hazel Blears: formally responsible for counter terrorism, now Minister for Community Affairs in England. She started a unique initiative to efficiently promote integration in everyday life. Her target audience is Muslim women who she wishes to strengthened and emboldened in their families as well as in their communities to take an active role in the integration process. During our talk, the Minister was flanked by two advisors, both of whom were wearing headscarves. “When I took office six months ago, I knew that I would immediately have to start traveling around the country, to listen to the women in the Muslim communities. I have done this, and their grievances were revealing.”
The tone of the conversation was always the same: the women were frustrated that the government usually only addressed their concerns through a very small group of traditional, predominantly male representatives.
The English model is an exceptionally well endowed program, which encompasses an entire range of measures: self-assurance programs for women so that they are better equipped for argumentation both at home and in public. They should learn, for example, to use the Quran in their struggle to have their rights recognized.

Professional motivational training agencies are developing specific programs to involve women in all areas of public life. Actors and actresses are engaging in role-play with mothers to help them protect their children when they notice that they are being pulled into the sphere of influence of extremists.
Young women are learning how to constructively and consistently deal with traditionally-oriented men who seek to patronize or even threaten them. This initiative is a long-term process, of course, but it lays the foundation for a dialogue in which all of the parties involved will have a voice – especially those who are usually the subject of the discussion.
The moral authority of Muslim women can thus be used to bring about a positive shift within their community and in the dialogue between cultures. This is how the silent majority and the moderate voices of the center can become visible and be heard. This is an experiment strongly recommended for adaptation à la Austria.


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