"So which city was the best?"

After getting back to the states mid-afternoon yesterday and proceeding to sleep from 7pm to 4am, I spent my first full day back unpacking and going to lunch with my grandparents.

One of the first things they asked me is which city I liked the best. As I was explaining my answer I found myself mostly comparing the state of the public transportation systems in each of the three cities of Berlin, Paris, and London. What I soon realized is that my descriptions could also be applied to how each country attempts to interact with their Muslim populations.

My impression of Berlin was a relaxed ruthlessness. On one hand its very trusting, you can get on the efficient underground without even having a ticket. On the other hand if you get caught doing this, you are subject to a hefty fine. In the same way, Germany is very accepting of refugees from Syria, a group broadly referred to as Muslims here, and has programs to integrate them into society. But if and when members of that community do something wrong, the backlash is severe, and the community is becoming more and more demonized each time.

The public transport in Paris was nonexistent. The strikes made the transport unreliable, so we rented a bus for class events and for any other things we had to walk. Again, this description works for the situations of Muslims as well. In France we saw attempts to domesticate and silence Muslims, to make them less visible and more fitting with French values. This of course causes, and was caused by, great unrest in the public.

London was a carefully monitored system, sometimes frustratingly so. In order to get into the subway system you have to tap your Oyster card or scan your ticket. You also have to do this on your way out. This works fine until the magnetic strip on your tickets wears out and you have to search for a London Underground Employee to let you through. What we learned in London is that Muslims are a carefully scrutinized group in the U.K. They are constantly being monitored by the media and politicians alike, and if they get caught doing something wrong, travel, among other things, becomes a lot more difficult.

Everyone learned a lot about how Muslims do and do not fit into various European communities. We learned that the situation in each country is affected by many different sets of factors, but certain trends can be traced through each of them. It's my hope that we can all use this information to better understand how our Muslim neighbors are fitting into our communities at home.

Speaking of home, I have to get back to unpacking. Thanks for joining us on this adventure, until next time!

A ticket for the Berlin Public Transport.
The class piled into a rented bus in Paris.
The London Underground weeklong ticket, which wore out on me the first day.
The most common phrase to hear in London, "Mind the Gap" is said and printed all over the Underground.