Islam in Europe: Diversity, Identity and Influence

Events over recent years have increased the global interest in Islam. This volume seeks to combat generalisations about the Muslim presence in Europe by illuminating its diversity across Europe and offering a more realistic, highly differentiated picture. It contends with the monist concept of identity that suggests Islam is the shared and main definition of Muslims living in Europe. The contributors also explore the influence of the European Union on the Muslim communities within its borders, and examine how the EU is in turn affected by the Muslim presence in Europe. This book comes at a critical moment in the evolution of the place of Islam within Europe and will appeal to scholars, students and practitioners in the fields of European studies, politics and policies of the European Union, sociology, sociology of religion, and international relations. It also addresses the wider framework of uncertainties and unease about religion in Europe (Cambridge UP).

Table of Contents

    Introduction—Effie Fokas
    Christians and Muslims: memory, amity, and enmities—Tarek Mitri
    The Question of Euro-Islam: restriction or opportunity?— Jorgen Nielsen
    Muslim identities in Europe: the snare of exceptionalism—Jocelyne Cesari
    From exile to diaspora: the development of transnational Islam in Europe—Werner Schiffauer
    Bosnian Islam as “european Islam”: limits and shifts of a concept—Xavier Bougarel
    Islam in the European Commission’s system of regulation of Religion—Berengere Massignon
    Development, discrimination and reverse discrimination: effects of EU integration and regional change on the Muslims of Southeast Europe—Dia Anagnostou
    Breaching the infernal cycle? Turkey, the European Union and Religion—Valerie Amiraux
    Afterword—Aziz Al-Azmeh

The Identity Debate: What does it mean to be British?

It is the debate on everybody’s lips – just how British are we? Last week came plans for a British Day. Then Gordon Brown spoke of ‘British jobs for British people’. As a new study demands we celebrate ‘where we live’ to combat social division, is there any way to define a nation’s values? Report by Ned Temko, Jo Revill and Amelia Hill Luton yesterday morning was bathed in early summer sunshine. A Women’s Institute stall peddled home-made cakes outside the Arndale Shopping Centre. Giggling Asian schoolgirls in full veils, or niqabs, shared benches with African immigrants and eastern Europeans. It was, on the face of it, an advert for happy multi-culturalism. But it is precisely places like this ancient English market town, now more famous for its airport, which Gordon Brown and other politicians have in mind in their fevered efforts to bind an increasingly diverse nation together with some shared sense of ‘Britishness’. Luton, by all appearances a tranquil mix of its estimated 140 different nationalities, gained unwanted notoriety after the cars used by the British-born 7/7 suicide bombers turned up in a local car park. One recent African Muslim immigrant yesterday remarked: ‘Britishness is a hazy thing. Even if we want to adopt the culture of this country, the dictates of religion remain a far clearer and more precise identity. This isn’t immigrants’ fault. It doesn’t mean anything sinister about loyalty to Britain. It’s human nature.’

A Question of Identity

When it comes to popular prejudice and state repression, the Muslim experience in the US does not seem to have differed much from the rest of the western world since September 11, 2001. Klein was pushing at an open door. A Gallup poll this summer showed that 39% of Americans supported a requirement for Muslims in the US, including American citizens, to carry special identification. In 2005 the Council on American Islamic Relations (Cair) recorded a 30% increase in the number of complaints received about Islamophobic treatment. But while many Muslims in the US looked to Europe in the hope that it might provide a counterbalance to America’s disastrous foreign policy, they also look across the Atlantic in horror at the experiences of their co-religionists. There lies the paradox: the country that has done more than any other to foment Islamic fundamentalism abroad has so far witnessed relatively little of it at home. “Europe is not coping well with the emergence of Islam,” says the executive director of Cair, Nihad Awad. “It has taken a long time for them to accept that Islam is part of its future and also part of its past.” The different experiences have emerged partly, it seems, because the Muslim communities on either side of the Atlantic are so different. The patterns of migration have differed. A large proportion of Muslims who came to America arrived with qualifications and were looking for professional work. As a result, they are generally well educated and well off.

We’re Not Seen As Scots As We Don’t Drink’; Revealed: Fragile National Identity Of Young Muslims

By Mona McAlinden YOUNG Muslim men born in Scotland do not feel completely Scottish because they believe the prevailing drinking culture excludes them. A three-year study by a Glasgow University researcher also found that young Asians faced racist abuse on a daily basis. The research – based on interviews and focus groups involving mostly teenage males from the Muslim community in Glasgow and Edinburgh – reveals a “fragile Scottish national identity”, despite the vast majority of those involved being born and educated in this country. The belief among male Muslims aged 16-25 that drinking alcohol and going to nightclubs is a major part of Scottish culture acts as a barrier to feeling completely Scottish, according to the study. Some of the interviewees spoke of how the drinking culture, described by one as a “Scottish trademark”, further excludes young Muslim men by increasing the likelihood of racist abuse or attacks. Dr Peter Hopkins, a research fellow in the university’s Centre for the Child and Society, said: “The participants see drinking as an integral part of life in Scotland, not just among young people but among Scots generally. Some mentioned that the drinking culture actually encouraged racism as they felt that people were more likely to be racist if they had a drink in them. “Many of their comments appear to suggest that the young men think that they would feel more Scottish, and be less likely to experience racism, if they actively participated in drinking and clubbing. They felt that would make them part of the mainstream culture and that white Scots wouldn’t see them as different. But they were drawing on a stereotype that drinking is important to all Scots.” The study reveals that a small minority of Muslim men are actively embracing aspects of what they regard as Scottish culture by visiting nightclubs and drinking alcohol, against the wishes of their family and some of their peers. The report highlights a no-win situation for those living in Scotland’s largest cities as they feel “excluded” from Scottish society by trying to adhere to their religious principles but are also isolated from the Muslim community if they stretch the boundaries of their religious beliefs. One interviewee from Edinburgh said: “I don’t indulge in the pub culture and things like that, so I can’t say I’m completely Scottish. Alcohol plays a big part in people’s lives. Something like the Hogmanay set-up, yeah, it’s New Year but I don’t consider it my New Year.” Another major barrier to young Muslim males feeling a sense of Scottish national identity, according to the report, is the level of racist abuse they face on a daily basis. Although many said they felt part of Scotland because they were educated here, have a Scottish accent and follow football, the interviewees said the insidious nature of the racism distances them from Scottish society. Many reported that racist name-calling was perpetrated mostly by young white people but is not only confined to that generation. Hopkins explained: “Many suggest that markers of their religious identity, such as keeping a beard, lead to a lack of job opportunities as employers choose to appoint people who are not visibly Muslim.” ?One Glaswegian Asian said: “My sister used to always wear the headscarf and she got knocked back when she went for quite a few interviews … she actually got a job the second time after not wearing it.” While Hopkins admits it may be easy for the young men to argue that they are unemployed because of their religion, as opposed to possible unsuitability for the job, he says the frequency of such comments suggests that some employers are racist and Islamophobic. He continued: “They face racism on a daily basis everywhere – in school and on the streets, especially after the September 11 attacks. In response to that, some were apprehensive about going to mosques, scared of going out on their own and withdrew from their social networks. There was some talk about no-go areas, normally in the most deprived parts of the city.” Osama Saeed, for the Muslim Association of Britain, agreed that some face a no-win situation. He said: “Some young Muslims have been distanced from feeling Scottish and part of Scottish culture because they feel alienated by racist abuse. “Life in Scotland is sometimes a very difficult balancing act for young Muslim men because so much revolves around drinking here, whether it’s after work or socialising at the weekends. “So there is pressure to conform with the habits of mainstream society but young Muslims also risk upsetting their family if they try to do so.” Scottish actor Atta Yakub, who starred in Ken Loach’s mixed-race romance Ae Fond Kiss in 2003, has also experienced racism but refuses to allow that to affect his sense of Scottishness. “It’s disappointing to hear that because it shouldn’t make them feel or act any differently, regardless of what other people might say.” Despite a high-profile career which inevitably involves endless events and ceremonies, Yakub says he feels no pressure to drink alcohol to socialise. “Unfortunately there is quite a lot of focus on drinking in Scotland. But if I go to a bar it doesn’t mean I have to drink. You can still get involved in the culture and make a go of it without compromising your principles, rather than sitting back saying I can’t do that. I would rather invite Scottish people into our community and culture and go out for dinner on Saturday night instead. “It’s hard trying to get the best of both worlds, there’s only certain parents who are liberal enough to have that understanding. But it comes back to a generational thing — there’s an element of having to balance things that some parents don’t allow just now.”

Plan For New British-Muslim Identity Islamic School Offers Antidote To ‘Modern’ Extremism

LONDON: Two hundred students, giggling and gathering on the playground, are the best antidote to Islamic extremism, although they may not realise it yet. Students at Britain’s first state-funded Islamic school are pint-sized but carry the huge responsibility of forging a new identity for Muslims, one which is neither secular nor extremist, but “organic, dynamic and chaotic”, according to their headmaster. “We’re creating a British-Muslim identity and ethic, and we’re not in the business of preserving any particular culture,” Abdullah Trevathan said, describing the motley group of 23 nationalities, mostly of mixed descent, that make up the Islamiya Primary School. The youths are famous across Britain, and not just because their north London school was founded by the folksinger Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, in 1983. A decade after winning state funding-a right long accorded to Protestant and Catholic schools-they now attend one of the top primary schools in the country, learning the required state curriculum, plus religion and Arabic. At seven, pupils begin attending services at the mosque. Headscarves are optional for the youngest, and become part of the uniform at nine years of age. Cartesian analysis, questioning and debate are encouraged, replacing madrassa-style rote learning of the Quran. At its founding, during the era of Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher, there were “fears about us having Molotov cocktail classes”, Trevathan told AFP in a recent interview. Such blatant Islamophobia has been largely silenced in the wake of Islamiya’s successes and in some ways the school has become iconic of the diversity touted by Britain’s Labour-led government. But the chief English schools inspector touched off fresh debate in January, worrying publicly that Islamic schools could pose a “challenge to our coherence as a nation”. Five of some 100 Muslim schools in England are now state funded, with the rest independent, and are joined by more than 50 Jewish schools and about 100 Evangelical Christian schools-in addition to existing Catholic and Protestant structures. Far from teaching radicalism and separatism, Islamiya has become a model of diversity, preaching tolerance not only to students but their families and the larger community, assembled from a jumble of Sunni and Shiite Muslim, Arab, Asian and European, privileged and poor backgrounds. “Islam is not served by centralization, it is served by diversity,” Trevathan said. The school’s adherence to traditional classical Islam, or the “scholastic approach responding to the problems of modern-day Britain”, contrasts with the “modernist” stand he said was embodied by both secularists and fundamentalists seeking to impose their uniform, universal view.

British Asians In Identity Crisis, Post 9/11

By AMIT ROY London: A growing number of young people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin have been so traumatised by the aftermath of 9/11 that they now prefer to identify themselves as “British Muslims” rather than as “British Asian”, a provocative BBC radio documentary claimed on Tuesday night. The programme on BBC Radio 4, Don’t Call Me Asian, was presented by journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, who began by admitting: “A few years ago I, too, would have described myself as a British Asian. But these days I am just as likely to say that I am a British Muslim.” He explained: “I remember that the reason I used Asian was because it offered less ammunition to racists than saying or admitting I was Pakistani.” In his quest to prove that others have also rejected the term “British Asian” and now want to be defined exclusively by their religion, Manzoor interviewed a number of young people. One man of Pakistani origin insisted: “I think the word Asian is dead. Recent events globally and for me personally have made me re-examine what my identity is and hence I call myself British Muslim. Previously I would call myself Asian or Pakistani.” When Manzoor interviewed young Hindus who apparently no longer want to be called British Asian, an Indian girl commented: “Initially, if I had to fill out a form I would say British Asian. Events like September 11 have shaken us all up and we don’t wish to be under that banner of Asian any more.” A young Bangladeshi woman at university revealed that she self-consciously tried out a hijab at home and then started wearing it outside. “I became more conscious of who I was and what I did and how that affected every area of my life,” she said. Aftab Hussain, who works for a theatre company, found himself quizzed by his non-Muslim friends, “Why does Islam say this or that?” He eventually found himself “having to go away and learn about my religion. It has made young people more proactive about being Muslim”. Mohammed Mamdani, the founder of Muslim Youth Helpline, told Manzoor: “Many young Muslims are in a very fearful state where they don’t know how they fit into a society which constantly refers to their religion in terms of terrorism or radicalisation. This is also propagating the marginalisation and alienation of young Muslims”. According to Tariq Madood, professor of sociology at Bristol University, media portrayal of young Muslims hasn’t helped. “If there are disturbances at Bradford and the BBC is describing them as ‘Asian youths’, Hindus and Sikhs will get up and say, ‘Well, actually, what is the point of calling them Asian youths when they are Pakistani Muslims?’ ” Madood went on: “People want to be more assertive of the identities that they themselves choose to prioritise and this is partly because they want to promote their own good image and partly to disassociate themselves from what they see as the bad images with which they are being confused.” Manzoor interviewed young people attending the annual conference of the National Hindu Federation in London, where a young woman told him that she was travelling on the underground when “I was asked by a young white male whether I was Muslim and whether my people were responsible for September 11. And I said, I am not Muslim and my people weren’t responsible for September 11. So going on from there I do want my own identity now”. But a more representative sample of young Asians, taken, say, at a music concert, would probably find only one out of 100 keen to be defined purely in religious terms. At Oldham College in a city rocked by riots over three years ago, a youth of Pakistani origin argued: “We are Asian and that’s what we are. I call myself British Asian.” Manzoor interviewed the academic Lord Bhikhu Parekh, who disapproved of the tendency for people to define themselves only as Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. “The tendency of a community to define itself entirely in religious terms and to collapse its complete complex identity – political, cultural and others – into a single, one-dimensional religious identity is a very worrying phenomenon,” he said. “No individual is simply a Muslim. He is also a Pakistani or an Indian, he is also a male, he is also a professor, and then for him to say, ‘All those things don’t matter at all, the only thing that matters about me is that I am a Muslim,’ is in itself worrying. That leads to a great impoverishment of an individual’s capacity to understand himself or herself.” “If somebody were to say to me he defines himself as a Muslim and therefore he sees me as a Hindu, I would feel he was not only impoverishing himself but he was doing a lot of harm by abridging my identity. It then becomes difficult to operate in a relatively secular society,” Parekh added.

Where Islam Is Popery And Muslims, The Enemy Within: The BNP Manipulates Dormant Folk Memories Of British Identity

By Jeremy Seabrook The British National party is expected to make gains in the council elections in the former mill towns of Lancashire and West Yorkshire and in Black Country sites of industrial dereliction. But its “success” should be judged less in terms of seats won than in its disturbing ability to connect with an older story of the meaning of Britishness. For the BNP, Islam is the new Popery. The superstition and malevolence once projected on to Catholicism appear to be made manifest once more in the fanaticism and extremism which new holy warriors believe they have located in Islam. Folk memory is a powerful generator of fables for those who know how to manipulate them. The tale the BNP tells today, in the rundown streets of the fearful old and the disinherited young, is about the spread of an alien creed, aided by the fifth column of an enemy within, and of hordes of migrant strangers at our border. The detail – “islands of Islam in our communities”, “a race relations industry kowtowing to the apologists for terror”, even “the imminent extinction of the white man” – however ghoulish, is less significant than the narrative of the nation in danger; for this resonates strongly with earlier versions of these islands in jeopardy.