A research fellow at the Centre for European Islamic Thought in Copenhagen, Denmark, will present a discussion about Muslims and identity at 1 p.m. Thursday at the University of Houston-Victoria.
The speech, which is open to the public, will take place in the Alcorn Auditorium of the UHV University West Building, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St.
Riem Spielhaus served as adviser for the commissioner for migration, refugees and integration of the German Federal Government. Her discussion, “Muslims and Identity: A Transatlantic Conversation,” will cover identity in the U.S., and similarities between Muslims in Europe and Mexican immigrants in the U.S.
“I have been to Texas before, but I am excited to come back and talk about how Muslim immigrant issues in Europe are similar to those faced by immigrants from Latin American countries,” Spielhaus said. “Many immigrants get identified as part of the same group even though they may not identify with each other. You may have Mexicans who are academics in Mexico but are thought of as workers in the U.S. Or you might have people from different countries, such as Mexico and Guatemala, identified as all part of the same group. It is interesting to see how it affects people’s identities.”
Spielhaus said questions about immigration and identity can spawn bigger questions, such as what it means to be German, French, British or even European.
“I use the examples of Turks immigrating to Germany, or people from India moving to the U.K.,” Spielhaus said. “After World War II, there were worker shortages in these countries, so they were invited to come. Now we have second-generation immigrants still living there, and they are part of these societies. They bring a different perspective on identity and religious identity.”
Spielhaus has taught Arabic language classes, courses on Muslims in minority situations and Islamic studies courses.
UHV’s Macarena Herna´ndez, the Victoria Advocate Endowed Professor of the Humanities, said Spielhaus is a noted scholar who can bring a global perspective to the immigration issues faced in Texas.
“The Turks in Germany face a situation much like the Mexican braceros in the mid-20th century in the U.S.,” Herna´ndez said of the guest-worker program spurred by demand for agricultural labor.
Herna´ndez said Spielhaus represents a community that Americans know very little about but are a large part of the global population.
“This will be a great opportunity for students and the community to hear from an Islamic scholar at a time when we don’t have a lot of public conversations about Muslims,” Herna´ndez said. “It’s a good way to teach our students to be global citizens.”