Academic journal article International Journal of Turkish Studies

Researching Islam in Europe: The Missing Contexts

Academic journal article International Journal of Turkish Studies

Researching Islam in Europe: The Missing Contexts

Article excerpt


JONATHAN LAURENCE, The Emancipation of Europe 's Muslims: The State's 's Role in Minority Integration (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012)

SILVIO FERRARI and SABRINA PASTORELLI (eds.), Religion in Public Spaces: A European Perspective (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012)

HAKAN YILMAZ and ÇAGA E. AYKAÇ, eds.. Perceptions of Islam In Europe: Culture, Identity And The Muslim 'Other ' (London: I.B.Tauris, 2012)

JOHN TOLAN, GILLES VEINSTEIN and HENRY LAURENS, Europe and the Islamic World: A History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013)

HALDUN GÜLALP and GÜNTER SEUFERT, eds., Religion, Identity and Politics: Germany and Turkey in Interaction (London: Routledge, 2013)

It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with publications-articles and monographs-in the broad field of Islam in contemporary Europe. In part this reflects an exponential growth in a field of study which three decades ago hardly existed. It is noteworthy that a bibliography of research theses and dissertations on minorities and migration submitted at British and Irish universities between 1900 and 1981 included only 23 such works out of a total of over 1700.1 In the mid-1990s Felice Dassetto at the Catholic University of Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium, together with a colleague Yves Conrad, published an annotated bibliography of Muslims in western Europe.2 Several of the compilers of the country reports in the bibliography make the point that during the late 1970s and much of the 1980s much of the little production that we did see came out of church-related settings. To my knowledge, the first significant consideration of the subject by university researchers took place in Paris, at the College de France, in a colloquium organized by the Association pour l'Avancement des Sciences Islamiques in the autumn of 1983.3 The participants were primarily French researchers, most with a background in dimensions of Islam in the Muslim world. In June 1986 a conference with broader geographical coverage at Stockholm University included participants from ten countries around western Europe with a marked proportion out of the social sciences.4 A quick survey of the topics of the papers discussed at both conferences, as well as of the participating researchers, indicates a continuous reference to the larger Muslim world and political and religious developments there.

The subsequent explosion of production in this field has also clearly been driven by the constantly rising profile of the subject in the public consciousness and thence on the political agendas. As early as the 1980s, research was being impacted by events and developments locally, nationally and internationally. Although concerns over the integration of Muslim children into the schools and the place of Islam in religious education were especially important in Britain, West Germany and the Netherlands, it was already possible to identify some drivers of change on the international scene. In my early experiences of taking adult groups to meet Muslim leaders in Birmingham, it was coimnon that someone would ask for an explanation of the differences between Sunni and Slii'i-one of the few tilings about Islam that they were likely to have heard about. The answer was invariably that there was no difference that mattered: "All Muslims are the same!" But a few years into the 1980s this changed. The Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, after engendering a short period of euphoria (a Muslim country had shown that the "imperialist yoke" could be thrown off), became a source of some embarrassment given the developments in Iran reported by the media and the war with Iraq. In general the revolution's strong Islamic profile and the media images of Shi'ite clergy in characteristic dress acting as radical political leaders raised the public profile of Islam and Muslims in western Europe. This left the public, the media and politicians, as well as Muslims themselves, to work out how Iranian Islamic events and the communities of Muslim background related to each other. …

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