Secularism, State Policies, and Muslims in Europe

Islam has increasingly become an internal affair in several western European countries, where the Muslim population has grown to ten to fifteen million. In recent years, the European public has intensely discussed Muslims and Islam on several occasions, from terrorist attacks in London and Madrid to the debates on Danish cartoons. In short, there is today a “Muslim question” in the minds of many European politicians when it comes to the issues of immigration, integration, and security. European states have pursued diverse policies to regulate their Muslim populations. The most controversial of these policies is France’s recent ban on wearing Muslim headscarves in public schools, which has been discussed in France and abroad since 1989. Other European countries, however, have taken Muslim students’ headscarves as a part of their individual freedom and have not prohibited them.