Islam in Europe

By Nielsen, Jørgen S. | The Middle East Journal, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

Islam in Europe


Nielsen, Jørgen S., The Middle East Journal


Islamic Political Radicalism: A European Perspective, ed. by Tahir Abbas. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007. xiv + 302 pages. Index to p. 306. $100 cloth; $32 paper.

While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within, by Bruce Bawer. New York: Doubleday, 2006. 237 pages. Index to p. 247. $23.95.

The Islamist: Why I Joined Radical Islam in Britain, What I Saw Inside and Why I Left, by Ed Husain. London: Penguin, 2007. 288 pages. £8.99.

The Islamic Challenge: Politics and Religion in Western Europe, by Jytte Klausen. Oxford, UK and New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. vii + 221 pages. Bibl. to p. 229. Notes to p. 253. $34.95.

Islam and the New Europe: Continuities, Changes, Confrontations, ed. by Sigrid Nökel and Levent Tezcan (Yearbook of the Sociology of Islam, No. 6). Bielefeld: Verlag, 2005. 312 pages. Abstracts to p. 324. $39.95 paper.

Unholy Terror: Bosnia, al-Qa'ida, and the Rise of Global Jihad, by John R. Schindler. St. Paul, MN: Zenith Press, 2007. 324 pages. Notes to p. 362. Index. $27.95.

Al Qaeda in Europe: The New Battleground of International Jihad, by Lorenzo Vidino. Amherst NY: Prometheus Books, 2006. 380 pages. Index to p. 403. $27.

Islam in Europe has become one of the most contested themes in current European politics, which is reflected also in the fast-growing bibliography on the subject. Given the politicization of the subject, it is not surprising that this bibliography has in recent years included not only academic research but also journalistic and campaigning materials. The batch under review is a representative cross-section.

A few years ago, Newsweek magazine, at least in its international edition, had a front page feature warning of the "new European anti-semitism," whose origins it traced especially to the increasing impact of Muslim communities (particularly in France) on European attitudes, specifically to widespread European questioning of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians. Individuals or institutions that put forward different views were accused of being "soft" on immigrants and ethnic minorities, especially Muslims. The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), which had been concerned with manifestations of discrimination and physical attacks against both Muslims and Jews after the events of September 11, 2001, was a particular target. The derogatory "Eurabia" was used not infrequently in such accusations: Europe was in danger of sleepwalking into a Muslim takeover. This is at least debatable. Indeed, many Europeans raised questions about the source, timing, and motivations of these accusations, mostly of US origin.

Two of the books under review, namely those by Bruce Bawer and Lorenzo Vidino, are examples of this kind of literature. The former comes across as a personal account of someone who had an attachment to Europe - he has lived in the Netherlands and Norway - and who has been disillusioned. The latter appears to be, according to the dust cover, an active campaigner and lobbyist "specializing on Islamic terrorism in Europe." Among the writers of supportive statements, both books include Steven Emerson and Daniel Pipes. So having thus categorized them, the academic can ignore them. Of course, it is not as simple as that. No European can pretend that there is nothing to worry about - given the bombings in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005 as well as a number of current terrorism trials going through the courts of several different countries. In fact, for at least a decade before then, a number of young men had been attracted to radical forms of Islam. British anti-terrorist legislation started taking this into account in the late 1990s. French internal security forces had been actively involved in pursuing it for at least a decade before that. In the early 1990s, the Dutch security services had reported that Islamic radicalism was a growing concern. So the dangers that authors like Bawer and Vidino discuss are real; moreover, European authorities clearly regarded them as such. …

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