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Muslims of Europe - the “other” Europeans

Muslims of Europe - the “other” Europeans

Issue 64 January 2010

Review by Tahereh Hadian

H. A. Hellyer discusses the presence of Muslims in Europe historically and the concept of “Muslim Europeans”. He unfolds the contribution Islam and Muslims have had in the Western civilization in terms of art, culture, math, science, astronomy, physics, etc. He mentions that Islam is not an alien component in European culture and has been part of it. He refers to the benefits Europe has made from the golden ages of Islamic civilizations and the translations of works of philosophers such as Ibn Rushd, and Averros. Islam has been part of Europe and has played into the current character of European societies.

There has been a long legacy of hatred and exclusion towards Islam and Muslims in Europe; not to say that Muslims have stopped immigrating to Europe. The 9/11 attacks in New York reinforced and revived the animosity in Europe and the US. The London and Madrid bombings again fuelled hostility between Europeans and the Muslims. Yet the majority of Europeans did not attribute the terrorist actions and the radicalism to Islam as a religion. An important matter which shifted the perception about Muslims in Europe was that these bombings did not occur in Islamic countries but rather happened on European lands. This led to reconsidering the status of Muslims in Europe and its compatibility with Western European tradition, to say pluralism combined with Islamic principles, as a specific reading of law and how the two can coexist. The reconciliation of the two Islamic and European traditions, not the essential reality of the Muslims being in Europe, is the subject that H. A Hellyer discusses in Muslims of Europe.

The composition of the EU and the inclusion of Slovenia, Cyprus and Lithuania with significant Muslim populations, and the growing number of Muslims in Europe, have created a new platform for Muslims to redefine their rights in Europe. European laws, such as the right to religion, were not granted to Muslims in the same way it has been to other religious groups, but this has now improved in several European countries.

Muslims. H. A. Hellyer states: “European societies and their Muslim communities thus find themselves in fascinating states of affairs... in the hope of finding a future of mutual benefit.” He concludes that the main debates and discourses on Islam in the West is no longer Islam and Europe but rather “European Islam”.  

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