Term Paper: Regional Studies Islam in Europe

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¶ … European Muslims in the Aftermath of 911

The impact of the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 and subsequent terrorist related events have had a profound and far - reaching impact on the situation of Muslims in Europe. The very structure of Muslim life as well as the way that they are perceived in Europe has undergone a significant change. While the integration of the Islamic religion and culture in Europe was problematic before the events of 9/11, the situation has been exacerbated by the events of 9/11 and has impacted on a variety of aspects of Muslim life.

These various aspects will be explored in this paper, as well as the changing perceptions of Muslim in Europe. An important issue is how the Muslims see themselves and their sense of identity in the aftermath of 9/11; as well as the effects that these changed perceptions have had on policy decisions and social and cultural aspects.

The central purpose in writing this paper is that the situation of Muslims in Europe, with its large Muslim population, is an indication not only of the future of Europe, but of the entire world. In other words, what happens in Europe in terms of the interaction between cultures is important for the future on an international level. The events in the Middle East that have take place after September 11, 2001 will, I believe, have profound repercussions for the future of the world and therefore, within this framework, the situation of Muslims in Europe is a critical barometer of the future.

Research methodology

The changing and contemporary nature of this topic necessitated that the most recent view and studies needed to be consulted. To this end the resources that were selected were largely from reputable Internet sites, databases and from the latest Journals and magazines. Newspapers were also a source of the latest data on the subject. However, the research methodology was aimed at collating and assessing various critical views of the situation of Muslims in Europe and was therefore focused more on assessment and debates rather than merely a collection of data. The overall research methodology was essentially to accumulate sufficient resource material that covered the topic comprehensively and then to sift through this to ascertain the predominant views and critical debates on the subject.

After this process, the most important aspects were collated and summarized as a preparation for the first draft of this paper. Only the most cogent and essential sources were cited in the body of the text to support opinions and views; while the other readings provided the foundation of this discussion.

The situation of Muslims in Europe: before and after 9/11.

One aspect that many books and studies on Islam and Europe reiterate is that "... Islam is an integral part of Europe's past and present," and that there is a long and complex interaction between the two.

The problematics of Muslims in Europe and the various areas of dissention in this regard, predate the event of 9/11. The concern among leaders and politicians in Western Europe with regard the rise of Islam, dates back to 1978 and the Iranian revolution. Since that time "...the issue of Islam and its supposed challenge to the West has become a matter of enduring international preoccupation.... "

Europe in particular has had to deal with an increasing Muslim presence. While estimates vary and there is consensus that there are no definitive numbers, there are estimated to be approximately 12.5 million Muslims live in Europe, compared with only 800-000 Muslims in 1950, and around 10 million in the U.S.

Furthermore the issue of Islam in Europe affects not only foreign policy but has become a serious domestic issue which requires solutions at both local and national levels. There is also little doubt, as the statistics point out, that there has been a rapid increase in the Muslim population in Europe. This is supported by the fact that Islam has emerged as the second religion in many European countries.

Historical antecedents

The relationship between Islam and the West can be dated to the Sixteenth Century with the start of European expansionism and the growth of European influence throughout the world. There are various historical events that can be singled out as important occurrences of Islamic and European contact and interaction: for example, the occupation of Egypt in 1798 by Napoleon Bonaparte.

This interaction was further increased by the end of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War. This was to lead after the Second World War to the very important and contentious issue of the establishment of the Jewish home land in Palestine; an event that has resulted in conflict which still has an impact on the relationship between Muslims and Europeans today.

Large scale immigration of Muslims to Europe was to follow after the Second World War, with many Muslins coming from North Africa, Turkey and Indo-Pakistan.

Countries like Britain and France were in need of cheap industrial labor and "...turned towards their former colonies in South Asia and North Africa to fill labour shortages, while Germany invited Turkish 'Gastarbeiter' to help sustain the "Wirtschaftswunder."

There are of course many other historical events that cannot be entered into here, but the point being made is that it relatively easy to see why the Muslim population increased so rapidly in Europe. At the same time it is also easy to understand that the cultural differences between the Islamic people and European culture were to lead to a culture clash.

However what is more important is that in the decades that followed, the Muslin communities in Europe started to assume an identity which was associated with European culture. One of the central aspects that will be discussed is the effect on Muslim culture before and after September 11.

As many studies have pointed out, the extent on Muslim integration within European societies and the relationship between Muslim immigrants and these communities has not been one that could be described as positive. "Europe's track record of engagement with Islam over the last 1,350 years is not encouraging. "

Prior to September 11th there was a very cautious approach to Muslin communities and "... Europeans today seem inclined to pursue a status quo approach at home and abroad... "

This approach has not augured well in terms of the additional prejudice and discriminations that have resulted from the aftermath of recent terrorist attacks.

Furthermore, a brief consideration of the statistics and demographics relating to Muslims in Europe will also help to focus on the problematics and complexity of the present situation.

Among these are the fact that while labor immigration ended in most European countries in the 1970's, yet "...some 500,000 immigrants -- primarily family reunification cases -- and 400,000 asylum seekers arrive in western Europe each year. "

Another important fact that impacts on the situation at present, is that of the total number of Muslin who live in Europe, about fifty percent were born in European countries.

Another significant factor is that the birth rate among Muslims is at present "...more than three times that of non-Muslims, contributing to the burgeoning numbers of Muslims in Europe."

Muslims are also significantly younger in general than the non-Muslim population. This last aspect is important in the light of the pressure and prejudice brought to bear on the Muslim community in the aftermath of 9/11. As will be discussed, the tendency in Europe towards cultural prejudice and discrimination is having a decided effect on the younger population in terms of political and economic factors.

A further statistic that relates to the present precariousness of social dissent in Europe is that, "By 2015, Europe's Muslim population is expected to double; whereas Europe's non-Muslim population is projected to fall by at least 3.5%."

This in effect means that Muslims will comprise approximately twenty percent of the total European population by 2050.

2.2. The impact of 9/11

The events of September 11, 2001, have had a profound and reverberating effect on the world and far-reaching consequences for the Muslims of Europe.

As has been already mentioned above, the situation with regard to European Muslims was, in itself, problematic and complex before the events of 9/11. There were for example no coordinated and clear policy guidelines on how to deal with Muslims in Europe. There is evidence of suspicion and prejudice even before 9/11 in that the "Islamic Challenge" involved the integration of a "ghettoized but rapidly growing Muslim minority," who were seen to be encroaching upon the collective identity and public values of European society. "

This already implies that there was a sense of" the enemy in out midst" in terms of the Islamic presence in Europe. This aspect has been profoundly exacerbated by the media and public perception in the aftermath of 9/11 and other events such as the Madrid bombings.

After the events of September 11, the perceptions and prejudices about Muslims that had in many areas been nascent began to be more… [END OF PREVIEW]

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