Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Engineering a European Islam: An Analysis of Attempts to Domesticate European Muslims in Austria, France, and Germany

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Engineering a European Islam: An Analysis of Attempts to Domesticate European Muslims in Austria, France, and Germany

Article excerpt

Introduction

Richard Traunmuller shows in his quantitative empirical study that there was an increasing tendency in the EU 27-member states (3) from 1990 to 2011 to regulate religions. (4) Although Traunmuller's study speaks of a general trend and does not deal with differences in the states' policies in regard to different religious communities, this trend is especially true for Islam. As Jonathan Laurence shows in his study from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, "gone were the ad hoc responses [...] and in came corporatist-style institution building and the establishment of 'state-mosque' relations." (5) Especially in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, European countries became more and more interested in gradually taking "'ownership' of their Muslim populations because it grants them unique influence over organizations and leadership." (6)

By influencing how Islam should look, national governments aim at creating "the institutional conditions for the emergence of a French or German Islam, e.g., rather than just tolerating Islam 'in France or Germany" (7) This reflects two aims of these states: i) to free Muslims and disconnect them from an allegedly foreign policy agenda, especially from the influence of the embassies of their origin countries, and ii) to 'moderate' those Muslim organizations that have a transnational link to Islamist movements. (8) Many authors share the observation that states want a domesticized, "democratic European Islam" in the context of debates about Islam as constituting a threat to "security," (9) "integration," and "European values," (10) while others also problematize the racial dimension that structures these attempts. (11)

In most European countries, the initiative to create 'state-mosque' relations comes from Ministries of the Interior, which have institutionalized 'dialogue platforms' to discuss issues of Islam, society, inclusion and extremism with Muslim actors. For Muslim civil society actors, the main purpose of participating in these state initiatives is to negotiate the institutional incorporation of Muslim institutions into the political system, and the accommodation of Muslim religion, as Luis Manuel Hernandez Aguilar shows for the case of Germany. (12) While a number of analyses discuss these Islam policies on a European level, (13) in a comparative perspective in different European countries (14) or single cases such as Austria, (15) Germany, (16) France, (17) or Great Britain, there is little critical research comparing Islam Politics on a cross-national European level.

One of the most quoted works by political scientists is Fetzer and Soper's comparative study on the accommodation of Islam in Germany, France and Britain. (18) Drawing on social movement theory, their main insight is that historically built church-state relations pre-structure the accommodation of Islam. This basically affirms the approach of path dependency as taught in theories of institutionalism, which is also shared by other authors. (19) Tatari has added to the four theories of social movement theory (SMT) discussed by Fetzer and Soper (resource mobilization theory, political opportunity structure theory, ideological theories, and approaches highlighting the influence of church-state relations) a fifth explanatory factor, which is "to account for the religious traditions characteristic of a particular group." (20) Others rather questioned the SMT approach. For instance, Loobuyck et al. have demonstrated that church-state regimes did not have an impact on the institutionalization of representative Muslim organizations, which is an important critique of Fetzer and Soper's work, who take the different treatments of Muslims -compared to the dominant churches- by the state as given. In their analysis of cases in Belgium, France, Germany and the UK, they argue that "several states have abandoned their traditional methods when dealing with the institutionalization of Islam. …

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