Individualization and Institutionalization of Islam in Europe in the Age of Securitization

By Kaya, Ayhan | Insight Turkey, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Individualization and Institutionalization of Islam in Europe in the Age of Securitization


Kaya, Ayhan, Insight Turkey


A young French-Turkish veiled woman testifies that she successfully learned to play with her multiple identities: "When I was a child I was feeling more Turkish although I had several French peers. As I became older my French identity has become more visible in the public space. Lately I have discovered another part of my identity, i.e., Islam. I have a triple identity now. And the good thing is that I can live with all those three, and I don't have to choose any of them." (1) Migration brings about new openings, encounters, bridges, doors and windows, but it may also become an attractive form of governmentality to be employed by the conservative political elite. Migration has recently been framed as a source of fear and instability for the nation-states in the West, though it was rather a source of content and happiness for both the receiving countries and the immigrants in the 1960s. What has changed in the meantime? Why is this shift in the framing of migration? Several different reasons like deindustrialization, rising productivity, unemployment, poverty and a neo-liberal political economy can be enumerated to answer such questions. This work is an attempt to answer these questions with a particular reference to a qualitative and quantitative work that I conducted about the Euro-Turks living in Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. (2) Against this background, the main emphasis of the article will be to address a contemporary issue in Western Europe: the exposure of two antithetical developments, which are the individualization and institutionalization of Islam in Europe.

The Overall Socio-political Context: The "Securitization" of Migration

During the 1960s, migration was a source of content. More recently, however, migration has been framed as a source of fear and instability for Western nation-states. What has happened since the 1960s? Why has there been this shift in the framing of migration? Reasons such as de-industrialization, rising productivity, unemployment, poverty and a neo-liberal political economy can be enumerated in answer to such questions. One should not underestimate either the influence of enormous demographic changes, led by the dissolution of the Eastern bloc. The period starting in 1989 signaled the beginning of a new epoch that resulted in massive migration flows of ethnic Germans, ethnic Hungarians, ethnic Russians and Russian Jews from one place to another. The post-Communist era has also brought about a process of re-homogenization in Western nation-states like Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands. Political instability and ethnic conflicts in the former Eastern bloc (the USSR and the former Yugoslavia) pushed some ethnic groups to emigrate to Western European countries in which they could find ethnic affinities. The mobility of millions of people has stimulated a number of nation-states such as Germany, Hungary, and Romania to ethnicize their migration policies in a way that approved of the arrival of coethnic immigrants, but disapproved of the status of existing immigrants. Germany, for instance, was not suitably equipped to absorb the spontaneous arrival of so many Aussiedlers (ethnic German immigrants coming from the East) due to the social-economic burden on the reunification of the two Germanies. This period of demographic change in Western Europe has occurred in parallel with the rise of heterophobic discourses such as the 'clash of civilizations', 'culture wars' and 'Islamophobia, as well as with the reinforcement of restrictive migration policies and territorial border security vis-avis the nationals of countries outside the European space.

The present usage of the term 'security' goes beyond its conventional limits. Security used to be defined in political/ military terms as the protection of a state's boundaries, its integrity and its values against the dangers of a hostile international arena. (3) Nowadays, however, security concerns are not only about protecting states against ideological and military threats; they are also related to issues such as migration, ethnic revival, religious revival (Islam), identity claims and sometimes supranational entities such as the EU. …

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Individualization and Institutionalization of Islam in Europe in the Age of Securitization
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