Localizing Islam in Europe: Turkish Islamic Communities in Germany and the Netherlands

By Engelmann, Irina | Insight Turkey, Summer 2016 | Go to article overview

Localizing Islam in Europe: Turkish Islamic Communities in Germany and the Netherlands


Engelmann, Irina, Insight Turkey


Localizing Islam in Europe: Turkish Islamic Communities in Germany and the Netherlands

By Ahmet Yukleyen

Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2012, 280 pages, $39.95 ISBN: 9780815632627.

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Does the presence of Muslim immigrants in Europe change Islam? How is their identity shaped by the European context and do the social, political and economic conditions influence their understanding of Islam? Political and academic debates about the need for a so called "EuroIslam" often center around the compatibility of Islam and European liberal democratic institutions and view it as a precondition of the successful integration of Muslim immigrants. Indeed, Turkish Muslim communities in Europe and their interpretations of Islam have changed as much as Europe has transformed through the interaction with immigrant groups. Deepening an understanding of this mutually constitutive process can help to acknowledge the successes and identify the future challenges of a pluralistic society.

In Localizing Islam in Europe: Turkish Islamic Communities in Germany and the Netherlands, anthropologist Ahmet Yukleyen attempts to shed light on these identity construction processes by explaining the diversification of Islamic interpretation in Europe. Published in 2012, it takes an institutional approach to analyzing the production of local Islamic knowledge by Islamic communities in Europe, and the effects of this knowledge on the integration of Turkish Muslim immigrants. In his ethnographic comparative study, Yukleyen focuses on how Islamic communities in Germany and the Netherlands authorize moderate to proviolent interpretations of Islam.

In the introduction, Yukleyen offers a general outline and conceptualization of Islam, Islamic identity, and Muslim public life in Europe. The first chapter explains the theoretical background of the Turkish Islamic field to be analyzed; the second chapter introduces the reader to the concepts of Islamic authority and knowledge, which are used to examine the relationship between Muslims and Islamic communities. Chapter three deals with the different modes of Islamic activism within competing Islamic communities. In the following chapter, Yukleyen explains the connection between state policies and local interpretations of Islam. One of the most interesting chapters regarding current political debates is chapter five, which assesses the various impacts of Islamic organizations on Muslim integration. The last chapter's topic, before a final conclusion, is an evaluation of the Kaplan community.

In Yukleyens understanding, Muslims rationally choose between competing Islamic communities and decide which one suits their needs best in a homo economicus manner. Although he gives some evidence of people profiting from the services of more than one association, which supports his thesis, he generally overemphasizes the cost-benefit considerations of individuals when electing a religious community. Other emotional aspects, such as a feeling of belonging and tradition, the limits of community choices available within a given social environment, and external factors, such as the geographical distance from home, and knowledge of alternatives should be taken into account as well.

While comparing the Dutch and German cases throughout most of the book, Yukleyen only considers the situation in the Netherlands when discussing the integration of Muslim immigrants. Justifying this decision with the precondition of Dutch multiculturalist policies, Yukleyens singular point of focus in this important matter can be disappointing to readers looking for further deductions concerning the impacts of his analysis of the Islamic field in Germany on the integration of immigrants.

Another point of critique may be the inclusion of a chapter about the Kaplan community, which doesn't seem to fit into the general composition and research interests of the book. …

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