<<< Das Kreuz mit dem Halbmond: Ethnische und religiöse Transformationen in europäischen Kontexten / The Crux of Islam in Europe: Ethnic and Religious Transformations in European Contexts
Whither European Islam?
Muslims in the Balkans and in Western Europe Compared
Ina Merdjanova (Director of the Center for Interreligious Dialogue and Conflict Prevention, Sofia University)
Muslim presence in Europe has been growing steadily in the last decades. According to estimates, about 15 million Muslims live in various West European countries today, in addition to the 8 million citizens of Islamic faith in the Balkans. Those two large communities differ enormously between themselves - but also within - in terms of their historical, geographic, ethnic, and linguistic background, as well as in terms of their cultural and ideological diversification. Notwithstanding local variation, they are both involved in the simultaneous processes of European unification, on the one hand, and globalization, on the other. The European context, coupled with Muslims’ assuming of what Eickelman and Piscatori call “an Islamically defined continuity to their ways of doing things,” has prompted attempts at elaborating a concept of a European Islam that aims at defining what actually being a Muslim in Europe means. Although those attempts have been neither concerted nor systematic, they indicate an emerging struggle over who is to speak on behalf of the European Muslims.
Indeed, the notion of a European Islam has been increasingly recurrent in the political vocabulary in all parts of Europe. Still far from being sufficiently conceptualized, it is becoming a working idea, particularly with regard to continuous efforts for the accommodation and institutionalization of Islam throughout the Old Continent.
This paper proposes to explore various – often competing – modes of engagement of Muslims in the Balkans and in Western Europe with the project of a European Islam, as well as the possibilities and constraints of the project itself.