European Islam

Not to be confused with Islam in Europe.

European Islam or Euro-Islam is a hypothesized new branch of Islam, which some believe is or should be emerging in Europe. This new kind of Islam would combine the duties and principles of Islam with the contemporary European cultures, including Europe's post-Enlightenment values and traditions such as human rights, rule of law, democracy and gender equality.

Historical European Islam

Further information: Islam in Europe
Muslim-majority areas in Europe

Islamic traditions are found in Europe primarily in the former territory of the Ottoman Empire (the Balkans, Crimea and the Caucasus), as well as in Russian Tatarstan. The Iberian peninsula had a Muslim presence in various parts, but was wholly re-conquered into Christendom by 1492.


Main article: Islam in Albania

In 1923, the Albanian Muslim congress convened at Tirana decided to break with the Ottoman Caliphate, establishing a new form of prayer (standing, instead of the traditional salat ritual), and banishing polygamy and the mandatory use of veil (hijab) by women in public.[1]


Islam was established in Bosnia under the Ottoman rule. In the late 19th century, with the passage to Austria-Hungary, Islam in Bosnia organised under a common institution, called the Islamic Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina headed by a reis-ul-ulema. The same organisation survived during monarchic and communist Yugoslavia. After the independence of post-Yugoslav states, the Islamic Community splintered along national lines (of Bosnia, Sandžak-Serbia, and Croatia).


Main article: Islam in Poland

Although by the 18th century most of the Tatars serving in the military had become polonized, while the lower classes of the Muslim community gradually adopted the Old Belarusian language (per the research and classification of Yan Stankyevich and A. K. Antanovich), the Sunni and Tatar traditions were preserved. This led to formation of a distinctive Muslim culture of Central Europe, in which elements of Muslim orthodoxy mixed with religious tolerance and a relatively liberal society. The Polish Tatars are regarded as a model example of success in socio-cultural integration with the mostly Christian society.[2] For instance, the women in Lipka Tatar society traditionally had the same rights as men, were granted equal status and could attend common non-segregated schools.

Use of the term

The term euro Islam was introduced at a conference in Birmingham in the UK in 1988. Leader and initiator of the conference was Carl E. Olivestam, senior lecturer at Umeå University, also Director at the Board of Universities and Colleges in Sweden. Islam formed in England, Germany and France, examples of European countries with large Islamic populations, could be named Euroislam. The term was thrown out by Carl E. Olivestam and met immediately strongly resonating in the conference. The term was first published in the Swedish handbook: Kyrkor och alternativa rörelser. (Churches and alternative Movements). Malmö: Gleerup. Libris 7272392.ISBN 91-40-61346-1. There are two European Muslims who dominate the debate on Euro-Islam: Bassam Tibi, and Tariq Ramadan, who adopted the term in 1999 but uses it in a different meaning. While Tibi argues for Europeanizing Islam,[3] Ramadan wants an Islamic "counter culture" in Europe.[4]

Academic community

In recent years, research on Muslim communities in Europe has shifted from labor and social policy concerns to issues of 'religion' and 'culture'. In particular, there has been a growing interest in the possible emergence of a specifically 'European Islam'. The collective hypothesis that seems to be forming is - according to sociologist Nadia Fadil - that in coming years Islam will adapt to 'new' European structures in a way that will enable Muslims to consider themselves full European citizens.[5]

Tariq Ramadan

Tariq Ramadan is considered to be one of the coiners of the term "European Islam". Ramadan calls for creating a new European-Muslim identity in his book "To Be a European Muslim" (1999).[6] He demands participation of Muslims in social and cultural life in conformation with European culture and Muslim ethics and says Muslims should disassociate themselves from Saudi Arabia[7] and from terrorism. He also thinks that European Muslims "need to separate Islamic principles from their cultures of origin and anchor them in the cultural reality of Western Europe."[8] However, Ramadan says that "Europeans also must start considering Islam as a European religion."[9]

Bassam Tibi

Euroislam is a neologism introduced by the political scientist Bassam Tibi in 1992.[10] The term reflects a concept for the integration of Muslims as European citizens, often assuming a liberal and progressive interpretation based on the idea of Europeanizing Islam. Bassam Tibi dissociates himself from the Islamists, who reject Euro-Islam. He estimates that they amount to 3%-5% of the Muslims currently living in Europe. He says they are nevertheless a dangerous minority since they want to "hijack" the Muslim community and other values of civil society. Tibi speaks of the need of Muslims to become "European citizens of the heart".[11] Tibi insists that Euro-Islam means acceptance of separation of church and state as well as a full Muslim embracing of European values.[12] As contrast he sees the ghettoization of the Muslims with potential for conflict.[13] Therefore, Euro-Islam is for Tibi a way out from the issue of the ethnicization of Muslim migration in Europe and a democratic alternative to the so-called "ethnicity of fear".[14]

Maria Luisa Maniscalco

Maria Luisa Maniscalco, professor of Sociology at the University of Roma Tre, in her book "European Islam. Sociology of an encounter", considers that in a process of "Europeanisation" of Muslims and "Islamization" of Europe directions of change are diverse.[15] While family law, the status of women, religious freedom, social justice and criminal laws are still areas of high controversy within Islam, in Europe and elsewhere, and in comparison with European societies, attempts to Islamize modernity performed in European territory and in dialogue with Europe express creativity and innovation capacity. According to Maniscalco, when different segments of the Muslim world in Europe will propose themselves and will act as "active minorities", being able to take leadership and provide new impetus towards a dynamic and positive meeting, this will be significant for the future of Europe.[16]

Xavier Bougarel

Xavier Bougarel, research fellow at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in the Ottoman and Turkish Studies unit, thinks that Balkan Muslims are playing an important role in the evolution of Islam in Europe towards a European Islam. With the possible EU enlargement towards the Balkans, about eight million Muslims would become EU citizens, doubling the number of Muslims in the EU-27 bloc.[17] Bougarel explores Balkan Islam which is often called "European Islam " because it resulted from indigenous and largely secularized in opposition to "a non- European Islam" that embody not only the predominantly Muslim countries but also the Muslim populations newly settled in Western Europe. Xavier Bougarel proposes to replace these culturalist visions by an accurate comparison taking into account the nuances of the realities of Islam in Western Europe and in the Balkans.[18]

Jocelyne Cesari

Jocelyne Cesari, research associate at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University and director of Islamopedia Online, says that while Islam is perceived as colliding with European secular values "Islam is simply a religion."[9] According to Cesari, Muslims need to reveal the "genuine tolerant face of Islam, to show its diversity and reveal to the world that an intellectual such as Muhammad Abduh is the best example for a modern thinker."[9]

Cesari talks of the secularization of individual Islamic practices and of Islamic institutions, as well as the efforts Muslims are making to maintain the relevancy of Islamic legal systems and what she calls the "gender jihad"[19] She thinks that Islam should be merged into European culture and that Islamic culture should be added to Europe's educational curricula.[9]

Jørgen S. Nielsen

Jørgen S. Nielsen, professor of Islamic studies at the University of Copenhagen says that "Europeanizing" Islam "requires changes in relations between the sexes, in relations between parents and children, significant changes in attitudes to people of other religions, and in attitudes toward the state."[20] Nielsen believes that this is happening. While only a minority of Muslims is assimilating completely with secular European culture, "the majority are sticking to their religion but divorcing it from the cultural tradition and redressing it in a new culture." Nielsen also argues that the emergence of a European Islam is not only linked to the Muslim communities in Europe, but also to structures inherited from European society and the State.[21]

Other approaches to integration

Robert S. Leiken

Robert S. Leiken says that both the multiculturalism and assimilation methods failed and that an integration policy still needs to be developed, something which will not happen overnight.[9]

European Commission proposal

Following the failed car bomb attacks in London and the failed Glasgow airport attack in June 2007, the European Commission started pooling ideas on how to tackle radical Islam and create a "European Islam", i.e. an Islam which is a more tolerant "European" branch of the faith.[22] EU home affairs commissioner Franco Frattini also sent out an 18-question survey asking EU member states how they address violent radicalisation, mainly related to an abusive interpretation of Islam. In addition, Mr Frattini wants to pursue and further the idea of establishing a so-called "European Islam" or "Islam de l'Europe" – something floated by France's then interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy in 2006.[22]

See also

External links


  1. A note about Albania published in Time magazine on April 14, 1923
  2. See, e.g., Wiktor-Mach, Dobroslawa (2008) "European Islam. The case of Polish Tatars", in: Hemispheres. Studies on Cultures and Societies, Centre on Non-European Countries, Polish Academy of Sciences, no. 23, pp. 135-146
  3. See Tibi's chapter "Europeanizing Islam or the Islamization of Europe: political democracy vs. cultural difference" in Timothy A. Byrnes and Peter Katzenstein (eds.), Religion in an Expanding Europe, Cambridge University Press 2006
  4. See Berman, Paul (2010). The Flight of the Intellectuals. Melville House Publishing. ISBN 978-1-933633-51-0.
  5. Fadil, N. "Muslim girls in Belgium: individual freedom through religion?".
  6. The origin of the term predates Ramadan's book. Bassam Tibi coined the term in his 1992 paper "Conditions d'un Euro-Islam," published in R. Bistolfi und F. Zabbal (Eds.), In Islams d'Europe, Paris 1995.
  7. Ramadan, Tariq (June 2000). "Who speaks for Europe's Muslims?".
  8. N. Le Quesne, "Trying to Bridge A Great Divide" in Time
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 "Enemy within". Al Ahram Weekly. 2005.
  10. Bassam Tibi, Les conditions d'un "euro-islam" in R. Bistolfi und F. Zabbal (Eds.), Islams d'Europe : intégration ou insertion communautaire?, Paris, Editions de l'Aube, 1995.
  11. See Tibi's article "A Migration Story: From Muslim Immigrants to European “Citizens of the Heart?“" in: The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs Vol.31 (Winter 2007) 1: 191-210.
  12. Paul Berman, The Flight of the Intellectuals, Melville House 2010
  13. See Bassam Tibi, "Euro-Islam: An Alternative to Islamization and Ethnicity of Fear", in: Zeyno Baran (Ed.), The Other Muslims: Moderate and Secular, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, pp. 175-191.
  14. On the ethnicization of Islam in Europe see Tibi's chapter in Roland Hsu (Ed.), Ethnic Europe: Mobility, Identity, and Conflict in a Globalized World, Stanford University Press, 2010, pp. 127-156; also Bassam Tibi, "Ethnicity of Fear? Islamic Migration and the Ethnicization of Islam in Europe," in: Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, Vol. 11, No. 1, 2010, pp. 126-157.
  15. Maria Luisa Maniscalco, Islam Europeo. Sociologia di un incontro, Milano, FrancoAngeli, 2014.
  16. Antonelli, Francesco. "La fede trovata nella cittadinanza in Il Manifesto, 20 febbraio 2015".
  17. European Policy Centre Website
  18. Xavier Bougarel, Balkans. Les différentes facettes de l’islam, in P@ges Europe, La Documentation française © DILA, 1° aprile 2014
  19. Cesari, J. When Islam and Democracy Meet: Muslims in Europe and in the United States.
  20. Peter Ford, "Europe's rising class of believers: Muslims", Christian Science Monitor, 2005-02-24
  21. Jørgen S. Nielsen, Towards a European Islam, Palgrave Macmillan, 1999.
  22. 1 2 Renata Goldirova, "Brussels questions EU capitals over approach to Islam" in the EUobserver, July 6, 2007
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