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

By Matthes, Frauke | International Journal of Turkish Studies, January 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

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


Matthes, Frauke, International Journal of Turkish Studies


Europe/European Union AHMET YÜKLEYEN, Localizing Islam in Europe: Turkish Islamic Communities in Germany and the Netherlands (New York: Syracuse University Press, 2012), Pp. 280, $ 39.95 cloth

With the noticeably growing presence of Islam in Europe, books such as Ahmet Yükleyen's Localizing Islam in Europe: Turkish Islamic Communities in Germany and the Netherlands offer a valuable and much-needed insight into the lives of Muslims as a minority. In a post-9/11 world in which Muslims have continually experienced a backlash against their religion, Yükleyen's accessible study contests the popular media image of Islam as an uncompromising religion. The author describes Islam as a flexible and diverse religion instead (2), suggesting that its communities in Europe do not view adaptation to local conditions as undermining their religion's universality (3). Yükleyen points out the significance of migration in Islamic history: migration started with hijrah, the emigration of the Prophet Muhammed from Mecca to Medina in AD 622 (146-50), and it continues to influence the faith of Islam and the lives of Muslims to the present day (3-4).

As the subtitle indicates, Localizing Islam in Europe is a comparative analysis of Turkish Muslim life in Germany and the Netherlands. The book's main focus is the exploration of organized religious life within what Yükleyen calls the "Turkish Islamic field" (outlined in chapter 1). Yükleyen is interested in how the Islamic communities within which he undertook his fieldwork-primarily the Milli Görüs, Süleimanli, and Gülen communities-produce Islamic knowledge and practice, and how they construct religious authority (chapter 2 on "Islamic Authority and Knowledge"). According to Yükleyen, without ignoring tradition, the Islamic authorities he encountered actively interpret Islam to fulfil both religious doctrines and their followers' needs in a non-Muslim environment (28). Yükleyen continues to explore the communities' different emphases on aspects of religious life that explain the diversity in Islamic activism (chapter 3 on "Islamic Activism"). Another factor responsible for adapted forms of Islam in Europe is the communities' relationship to Turkey as well as to the specific European state. As the ties with their country of origin have weakened (4), Europe has increasingly been accepted as home (126), especially among the younger generations (127-28). The fact that Europe, not Turkey, has become the main reference point (ibid.) highlights the changes of Islam's meaning for Muslims from the 1960s until today (16-17). Yükleyen also engages with the significance of the state policies in the two countries and their impact on the lives of Muslims ("State Policies and Islam in Germany and the Netherlands" outlined in chapter 4). The analysis of these internal and external factors helps Yükleyen identify convincingly "different, but recognizably European forms of Islam" (125). As a researcher, he treads a fine line between pointing out the inner diversity of Islam and avoiding to essentialize Islam or to propose endless forms of Islam (as he explains in his analytical model on page 29). Yet by focusing on the significance of Islamic authority in his analysis, Yükleyen substantiates his view of Islam as a diverse religion.

The final two chapters concentrate on individual country case studies: chapter 5, "Islamic Organizations and Muslim Integration," points out the discrepancies between Islamic organizations in their promotion of integration in the Netherlands with its multicultural state policies (183); Chapter 6 takes a closer look at the controversial Kaplan community in a German context. …

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