“Muslims of Europe: The ‘Other’ Europeans”

The interchange between Muslims and Europe has a long and complicated history, dating back to before the idea of ‘Europe’ was born, and the earliest years of Islam. There has been a Muslim presence on the European continent before, but never has it been so significant, particularly in Western Europe. With more Muslims in Europe than in many countries of the Muslim world, they have found themselves in the position of challenging what it means to be a European in a secular society of the 21st century. At the same time, the European context has caused many Muslims to re-think what is essential to them in religious terms in their new reality.

In this work, H.A. Hellyer analyses the prospects for a European future where pluralism is accepted within unified societies, and the presence of a Muslim community that is of Europe, not simply in it. He draws upon his academic expertise in a variety of disciplines, including sociology, politics and religious studies, in order to give the reader a thorough theoretical backdrop. Uniquely, he combines this knowledge with his background as an independent scholar engaged in policy networks and institutions. The result is a work that has drawn critical acclaim from some of the most noted scholars in the West on a very important topic.

This is the first of a series of events that will be held on the themes of Dr. Hellyer’s book in 2009/10 in Europe, North America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Pluralism is certainly one of the key issues facing us today, and Dr. Hellyer’s book is a fresh perspective on an age-old topic.

Muslims of Europe: The ‘Other’ Europeans

The interchange between Muslims and Europe has a long and complicated history, dating back to before the idea of ‘Europe’ was born, and the earliest years of Islam. There has been a Muslim presence on the European continent before, but never has it been so significant, particularly in Western Europe. With more Muslims in Europe than in many countries of the Muslim world, they have found themselves in the position of challenging what it means to be a European in a secular society of the 21st century. At the same time, the European context has caused many Muslims to re-think what is essential to them in religious terms in their new reality.

In this work, H.A. Hellyer analyses the prospects for a European future where pluralism is accepted within unified societies, and the presence of a Muslim community that is of Europe, not simply in it. He draws upon his
academic expertise in a variety of disciplines, including sociology, politics and religious studies, in order to give the reader a thorough theoretical backdrop. Uniquely, he combines this knowledge with his background as an independent scholar engaged in policy networks and institutions. The result is a work that has drawn critical acclaim from some of the most noted scholars in the West on a very important topic.

Biography of H.A. Hellyer
H.A. Hellyer is Fellow at the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations at the University of Warwick (UK) and Director of the West Muslim world relations research consultancy, the Visionary Consultants Group (UK, Egypt & Malaysia). A United Nations ŒGlobal Expert¹ on minority-majority relations, political philosophy, and the interplay between religion and modernity, Dr. Hellyer was Ford Fellow of the Project on US Islamic World Relations at
the Brookings Institution.

As Senior Research Fellow at Warwick University, he was ESRC Placement Fellow at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office from October 2007 to April 2008, offering independent advice on Muslim European communities. In the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings, Dr Hellyer was nominated as Deputy Convenor of the UK Government¹s Home Office working group on Muslim communities, to provide independent counsel and critique.

A prolific commentator in Western media and media in the Muslim world, he is currently completing work on his next book entitled ³Muslims on the Margins: Muslim Minorities in Southeast Asia, Africa and the West².

Please visit www.hahellyer.com for further information about the book and the author.

Yearbook of Muslims in Europe

The Yearbook of Muslims in Europe will provide an up-to-date account of the situation of Muslims in Europe. Covering 37 countries of western, central and south-eastern Europe, the Yearbook will consist of three sections. The first section presents a country-by-country summary of essential data with basic statistics with evaluations of their reliability, surveys of legal status and arrangements, organizations, etc. providing an annually updated reference source. The second section will contain analysis and research articles on issues and themes of current relevance written by experts in the field. The final section will provide reviews of recently published books of significance.

British Muslims commemorate Srebrenica genocide

The British Muslims commemorated the Srebrenica genocide by paying homage to more than 8,000 Bosnia Muslims men and boys massacred by Serb forces despite being in a UN-protected safe area in July 1995 during the civil war in former Yugoslavia. The Muslim Council of Britain in a message on the occasion said, “The massacres of defenceless Muslims in Bosnia and Srebrenica will continue to bleed the hearts of Muslims in Europe and beyond. It is vital that we bring about awareness of the genocide, especially on the back of recent wave of Islamophobia and attacks on Muslims, their properties and places of worship across Europe.” The MCB Secretary-General Dr.Muhammad Abdul Bari added: “This new phenomenon is symbolised in Britain recently by the bombing of mosques and other Muslim buildings, and across Europe, by the shocking and brutal murder of a Muslim woman in Germany killed because she chose to wear a headscarf.” The MCB also distributed a Khutba prepared by the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, Rais-ul-Ulama Dr. Mustafa Cerilć about the Genocide, which was read during the Friday prayers across mosques in the United Kingdom.

Islam in Europe: Which Model?

The international conference “Islam in Europe: Which Model?” was recently held in Casablanca the 20th and 21st of June within the framework of a series of conferences and meetings organized by the Council of the Moroccan Community Abroad (CCME or Conseil de la Communauté Marocaine à l’Etranger). The conference called into question Islam and Muslims in Europe and their capacity to adapt to European society, particularly vis-à-vis Western notions of freedom, democracy and secularism. A similar conference took place in Fez a few months earlier examining the juridical status of Islam in Europe.

The more than twenty presentations in Casablanca focused on three topics:

First, the geography of Islam in Europe. Several papers examined the historical geography of Islam in Europe with reference to the Andalusian model. This topic also allowed for discussion on the linkage in contemporary Europe between immigration and Islam and the silence on converts within the country of reception. Lastly, there was discussion related to the difficulties of young Muslims in Europe to maintain a “correct” approach toward Islam, particularly with the rise in popularity of extremist views.

Second, relationships and religious practices. Other speakers emphasized the challenge of individualism in Europe on their religious faith and practices. One example is the notion of “secular Islam” currently being touted by some European thinkers. Some activism on this front has been mobilized, particularly related to rituals which have gone beyond the mosques to ethnic and national spaces of Muslims in Europe. Relationships are mostly hindered by a lack of knowledge of Islam by non-Muslims. Some progress on this front has been made by satellite television and the internet, but more formal structures are necessary to give a positive model of Muslims in Europe. Concern was voiced about how, for instance, a focus on the hijab has silenced the broader situation of Muslim women in Europe.

Third, young people. On this topic, papers emphasized education, in both familial and organizational contexts. Some suggested the need to pay homage to Muslim cultural sources in pedagogy to ensure Muslim values.

The conference also considered the space of the Moroccan model to contribute to the construction of the presence of Muslims in Europe, especially related to its openness, pluralism and the acceptance of the other.

Hope for Muslims in Europe?

President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo on Thursday may or may not succeed in rebuilding America’s fractured relationship with the Muslim world. But the US leader’s clear respect for Islam and Muslims as well as his plea for partnership, tolerance and respect for other faiths are music to the ears of many European Muslims who live in the hope that their own leaders will be able — one day — to celebrate diversity with equal passion and sincerity. They may have to wait a long time. European leaders — with some notable exceptions such as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair — rarely praise, honour or even mention their 20-million strong Muslim minority in public speeches. True, many European governments now promote ‘intercultural dialogue’ and hold ‘inter-faith’ meetings to build bridges with their Muslim population. But these often tend to be formal, almost ritualistic affairs, with little in terms of practical follow-up. Shada Islam reports

Europe: Survey says 31 percent of Muslims in Europe suffer discrimination

A survey of ethnic minorities in Europe says that 31 percent of Muslims across the EU feel that they were discriminated against in 2008, and many fail to report racist incidents because of a lack of trust in the authorities. The report was compiled by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and surveyed 23,500 members of ethnic minorities and migrant communities in Europe. It collated the opinions of Muslims living in 14 European nations and minorities in general from the 27 EU member states. It found that about 30 percent of the discrimination cases occurred when Muslims were looking for work or at work, while 14 percent took place in restaurants, bars, or dealings with landlords. “The high levels of discrimination in employment are worrying,” FRA director Morten Kjaerum said. “Employment is a key part of the integration process. The survey found that 81 percent of those interviewed did not report discriminatory acts, largely because they believed that reporting them would not do anything. The report also found that wearing traditional or religious clothing does not increase discrimination. And most of the Muslims surveyed did not consider religion as the main reason for discrimination. Only ten percent of Muslims who experienced prejudice said this was solely due to their religious beliefs while over half of the respondents felt their ethnic origin was the reason for the discrimination. A full report can be read at the last link below.

Living Islam in Europe: Muslim Traditions in European Contexts

The collaborative research project on “Muslims in Europe and Their Societies of Origin in Asia and Africa” invites contributions to a conference to be held from 7 to 9 May 2009 at the Centre for Modern Oriental Studies, Berlin, Germany. This conference will present the results of the programme for the current research phase embedded in a wider context of academic scholarship. In consonance with the project the conference will discuss the various ways in which religious actors and institutions of Islam are taking root in today’s Europe. While recent scholarship has primarily focused on processes of secularisation of Muslims in Europe, this conference seeks to go further by discussing Muslim groups and individu- als following religious lifestyles. In this process issues have emerged that have preoccupied politicians, public opinion as much as scholars throughout the last decades: Can European social and political realities be reconciled with growing religious plurality in general and religious projects deriving from Islam in particular – and if so, on what premises? What are the concepts, aims, needs and fears Muslim actors pursue and confront in the public arena, and what institutions do they develop to channel their objectives? To what extent are European political and social realities reflected or inscribed in their religious, political, social and economic activities?

Turkish sociologist begins broad analysis of Islam in Europe

With TL 3.5 million in support from the European Commission, France-based Turkish sociologist Dr. Nilüfer Göle is beginning the most comprehensive study to date on Islam in Europe. Göle is known for a number of research projects and books on the subject of Islam and Europe, with her most recent book, “Interpenetrations: Europe and Islam,” translated into Turkish last month.

Speaking with the Anatolia news agency, Göle, in Turkey for the Europe-Islam Synthesis Project, said her latest venture was important in representing a broad, unified effort as opposed to a plethora of cooperative projects. Among the subjects she will probe as part of the project is the connection between the religion of Islam and the European public space. Islam is a concept that exists both inside and outside Europe, which gives rise to a number of anachronisms when the topic is raised in European circles, she said. For this reason, her work will attempt not just to “read” Muslims in Europe, but also to “read” the interactions between Europeans and Muslims. Islam at the center of hot debates across Europe

Göle calls Islam the most exciting topic in Europe, with the headscarf playing a major role, having become a topic of public debate in France, Germany, Norway and other European nations. “To understand today’s Islam, [Muslim women] covering [their hair] is a key topic. The headscarf issue sparked two years of lively debate in France, ending in the creation of new legislation. For one, the headscarf issue became a component of European legislation — when this happened, it was written into the public memory, albeit in an anachronistic and contentious manner. But it became a European issue,” she said.

Göle’s work will also have important repercussions on the analysis of the Islam factor in Turkey’s European Union membership process. “Turkey’s [EU] candidacy has moved beyond the constraints of Turkey’s applications to become an issue of Europe’s identification of itself. My focus is on this topic precisely: beyond Turkey’s performance in its candidacy, the question of what kind of an identity Europe will create for itself. The answer to this question is that Europe has begun to make clear its identity through its comportment toward Turkey’s membership. The idea of Turkish membership became a reason for the beginning of introspection for Europe. It sparked it. And here Islam is not a passive factor, it is an active factor,” she said.

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.