Muslim Political Participation in Europe

Muslim Political Participation in Europe

Muslim Political Participation in Europe

Muslim Political Participation in Europe

Synopsis

Analyses European Muslim communities' developing involvement in their political environment and related Muslim and public debates. Muslims are making themselves noticed in the political process of Europe. But what is happening behind the sensational headlines? Jorgen Nielsen looks at the processes and realities, from voting patterns in local and national assemblies to the tensions between ethnic, political and religious identities. These developments drive internal Muslim debates including whether Muslims should take part in the democratic process at all, and rivalries over who should represent Muslims. They also inspire sharp discussion in Europe: how should European states view the increasingly active role of Muslims in the public space? Does it signal integration or separation?

Excerpt

Jørgen S. Nielsen

In the media and among politicians in recent years it has been common to point to tendencies among Muslim communities which seek to either isolate themselves from the surrounding society or seek actively to position themselves in public opposition to it. This especially happens around national elections when isolationist tendencies are interpreted as a sign of a deep incompatibility between Islam and democracy while oppositional voices are interpreted as proof of such incompatibility. At several recent general elections in the United Kingdom, party election posters in some districts of Muslim residential concentration, certain districts of, for example, Birmingham and Bradford, have been defaced with slogans calling on Muslims not to vote in a kafir system. While John Bowen’s study on Islam in France (Bowen 2010) does not directly investigate Muslim activity during elections his account identifies a sector, especially among young Muslims, that withdraws from society into their own religio-cultural enclaves. At the other end of the spectrum have been the instances of political parties seeking to attract a Muslim vote (see Didero and Peace in this volume)

In fact the participation of Muslims in European political processes is not a straightforward issue. Firstly, at least in the case of Muslims of immigrant origin (mostly in the west), there is the matter of getting access to voting and to standing for election, usually associated with the acquisition of citizenship. Traditionally, this has been linked to a certain number of years of residence, sometimes linked to fulfilling other conditions. Britain and France used to have quite open regimes based on birth in the country, in Britain’s case twinned with a system whereby citizens of the Commonwealth and the Republic of Ireland had political rights without having to acquire uk nationality. At the other end of the spectrum, Germany’s concept of citizenship meant that until the late 1990s, it was very difficult for anyone not of German descent to acquire . . .

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