The Emancipation of Europe's Muslims: The State's Role in Minority Integration

The Emancipation of Europe's Muslims: The State's Role in Minority Integration

The Emancipation of Europe's Muslims: The State's Role in Minority Integration

The Emancipation of Europe's Muslims: The State's Role in Minority Integration


The Emancipation of Europe's Muslims traces how governments across Western Europe have responded to the growing presence of Muslim immigrants in their countries over the past fifty years. Drawing on hundreds of in-depth interviews with government officials and religious leaders in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Morocco, and Turkey, Jonathan Laurence challenges the widespread notion that Europe's Muslim minorities represent a threat to liberal democracy. He documents how European governments in the 1970s and 1980s excluded Islam from domestic institutions, instead inviting foreign powers like Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Turkey to oversee the practice of Islam among immigrants in European host societies. But since the 1990s, amid rising integration problems and fears about terrorism, governments have aggressively stepped up efforts to reach out to their Muslim communities and incorporate them into the institutional, political, and cultural fabrics of European democracy.

The Emancipation of Europe's Muslims places these efforts--particularly the government-led creation of Islamic councils--within a broader theoretical context and gleans insights from government interactions with groups such as trade unions and Jewish communities at previous critical junctures in European state-building. By examining how state-mosque relations in Europe are linked to the ongoing struggle for religious and political authority in the Muslim-majority world, Laurence sheds light on the geopolitical implications of a religious minority's transition from outsiders to citizens. This book offers a much-needed reassessment that foresees the continuing integration of Muslims into European civil society and politics in the coming decades..


The title of this book might seem to reflect wishful thinking by the author: it appears at a moment of rising criticism of Islamic religious practices, as European governments of left and right renounce past “excesses” of religious toleration toward Islam. As the type is being set, the French government was following up a “grand debate on national identity” with a ban on burkas and a supplementary debate on secularism and Islam. German discussions of a federal banker’s book on how Muslims are “dumbing down” the country threatened to re-open the German question. the Dutch Kingdom was busy reevaluating its centurieslong tradition of religious toleration. Italian officials debated whether or not to place a moratorium on mosque construction following Switzerland’s minaret ban. Given the succession of official restrictions on the outward expression of Muslim piety, and the fact that public opinion has grown increasingly skeptical of Muslims’ integration, perhaps the ambiance is not best described as “emancipatory.” in early 2011, a former presidential advisor in France even called on fellow Muslims to start wearing a “green star.”

An American correspondent writing seventy years ago observed that in early-twentieth-century Europe, “emancipation and democratic ideals are so closely related, they are bound to share the same fate.” the decline of emancipation, he wrote, “preceded or was followed closely by the decline of democracy and liberalism.” However, it would be inappropriate to interpret contemporary restrictions on Islamic religious practices as a préfiguration of mass denaturalization or deportation. Today’s nativist voices ask for cultural sacrifices and adaptation as a condition of national membership and as such are actually echoing the policy agenda of European governments toward Muslim communities in the past twenty years. No retrogression of emancipation is conceivable, however, without the coming to term of emancipation in the first place—and this is still under way.

The fitting analogy for the uneven entry of Muslims into contemporary European politics is therefore neither 1791 nor 1938, but rather a handful of nation-building moments in between. This book’s use of the term “emancipation” reflects neither activism nor optimism, but instead the cold-eyed pragmatism of governing techniques born of the nineteenth century and periodically revived to integrate groups into the social, economic, and political life of the nation. Emancipation should be understood here as the initiation—not the end state—of a formal process . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.