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.