Islam’s place in Europe
In May, counter-demonstrators, above, stand near police barricades as a far-right, anti-Islam political party protests outside a mosque in Germany.
June 7th, 2012
01:36 PM ET

Islam’s place in Europe

Fareed Zakaria looks at how the immigration systems work – and don't work – in Japan, Europe, Canada and the U.S. in the TV special: "Global Lessons: The GPS Roadmap for Making Immigration Work" on CNN at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 10. Watch on CNN International on Saturday, June 16, at 4 a.m. and 9 p.m. ET

Editor's note: Jonathan Laurence is associate professor of political science at Boston College and a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of "The Emancipation of Europe’s Muslims." The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jonathan Laurence.

By Jonathan Laurence, Special to CNN

Last month saw a series of riots in Europe, not over the wobbly Euro, but instead over the integration of Muslim Europeans and immigrants. In Bonn, hundreds of German Muslims clashed with police in a violent reaction to a far-right political party’s anti-Muslim gathering. The angry young men who chanted “God is Great” while battling police in the streets have reignited the ongoing debate over Islam’s place in Europe, a debate which has risen to the top of many politicians’ concerns. The German president said in a newspaper interview that while German Muslims clearly “belong” to the country, it is less clear whether or not Islam does.

But something arguably much more meaningful, if less newsworthy, took place days later. Groups representing hundreds of thousands of German Muslims condemned the violence and called on constituents to fulfill the civic duty of voting in regional elections that month.

Extremists such as the Salafist sympathizers who rioted are a miniscule fraction of this minority population: security services estimate their number in the low thousands, out of around 4.3 million Muslims in Germany. But as the French Salafist murderer of Toulouse proved in March, even very few of them can have a ruinous effect. Above all, they are a painful reminder of an era when European governments – in denial that Muslims would settle permanently – ignored who was doing the teaching and preaching of Islam on their territories.

A number of the social, cultural and political adjustments that will characterize Europe in coming generations are now under way, although often the results are not visible to the naked eye. Yet the most serious threats to integration — violent extremism among Muslims and right-wing nativism within “host societies” — are slowly being weakened by a confluence of old-fashioned integration processes in society and demographic trends.

The population of Muslim background in Europe will go from 16 million to around 27 million in the next 20 years, increasing the number of Muslims in European countries to more 7–8 percent (from 3.7 percent in 2008) — and to as high as 15–16 percent in France and Germany.

But the key development is that as the proportion of Muslims of foreign nationality residing in Europe decreases - because the number of native-born Muslims is growing - Europe’s democratic political institutions are increasingly kicking in. For decades, the absence of integration policy allowed foreign governments and transnational movements to capture the religious and political interests of this new minority. This wasn’t multiculturalism so much as indifference.

The series of terrorist attacks against Western capitals from 2001-2005, however, in combination with high unemployment and educational under-performance, ended Europeans’ hands-off approach. After leaving them outside domestic institutions for decades, governments gradually took ownership of their Muslim populations. Authorities began to treat Islam as a domestic religion and encouraged Muslims to embrace national citizenship.

This brought the religion out of the embassies and basements and into national institutions and proper mosques. Many of the rights and state oversight that other religious communities receive are slowly being extended to Islam councils, such as the German Islam Conference, which just held its seventh annual convention. Everything from imam training to animal slaughter to religious school curriculum has come under greater scrutiny and is being adapted – sometimes painfully — to fit where Muslims now live and work.

The resolution of practical problems related to Islamic observance helps reduce the tensions stemming from the religion’s relative new-ness, such as prayer-goers lying prone on sidewalks or blocking traffic, or anti-Semitic or other radical proselytizing in prisons because of an insufficient number of trained chaplains – which at least partly accounts for the radicalization of the Toulouse killer. The continued routinization of religious freedoms will also diminish the significance of religious inequality as a mobilizing issue in Muslim identity politics.

The normalization of Muslims’ participation in political life will also give a small voice in government to advocates of all partisan stripes. In just the past two weeks a French woman of Moroccan origin was named press secretary and a British politician became the first Muslim woman to join the national cabinet. Last year, three German women with a Turkish background became state-level ministers. These success stories join dozens of parliamentarians and hundreds of city councilors of Muslim background – and even a major party leader in Germany – of every political persuasion, across the continent.

Backlash against Muslim integration will continue to come from opposite corners. From the populist movements that are in a stronger position because of the recession and the currency crisis, and from foreign governments and international movements that don’t intend to let go without a fight.

But for every instance of Salafist “outrage” there are many more signs of Muslims’ social and political normalization. After the extremist group began to distribute millions of free Qur’ans, the Bundestag member Mehmet Kilic, a Green party politician with Turkish roots, distributed hundreds of copies of the German constitution in response.

When the Franco-Algerian soccer star Samir Nasri called out “Allahu Akbar” in a post-match interview celebrating his team’s championship this spring, he sounded more like a local Tim Tebow than an existential threat to Europeans’ way of life.

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Topics: Europe • Global Lessons • Immigration • Islam

soundoff (60 Responses)
  1. Anne

    1 John 5: 10-12
    10 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.

    11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

    12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

    13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

    June 29, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Reply
  2. Anne

    1 John 5: 17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.

    18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

    19 And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.

    20 And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.

    21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen

    June 29, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Reply
  3. Junji

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    July 10, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Reply
  4. Pnm9pnm

    There true wife's say thowe Islamys to bin laden.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,///////////))))))))()))pnm.

    September 26, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Reply
  5. terrosist killers now in jordan from iraq he has uk passport

    بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم والصلاة والسلام على نبينا الكريم محمد صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم

    امانة في اعناقكم ان تنشروا هذه الرسالة كي تفضح كل من تتلطخ يديه بدماء العراقيين الابرياء من حملة الجنسيات المزدوجة الذين ياتون الى العراق بمهمات من اسيادهم بالخارج لقتل العالم والضابط والدكتور والمهندس بابشع الطرق من الكاتم الى الدريل ( ثاقب الحديد ) الى الكي بالتيزاب ومن داخل السجون وخارجها ورميهم بمكب النفايات وكانهم ليسوا بشرا اكرمهم الله . نرجو ان تكشفوا هؤلاء لانهم يشغلون وظائف داخل المجتمع ويتخفون تحتها وهم العن من ابليس وقتلة الابرياء وسنرد اسماءهم الواحد تلو الاخر ومن هؤلاء الخونة والقتلة :

    المدعو بشار مكتوف راضي من الجنسية العراقية للاسف ويحمل جواز سفر بريطاني ويدعي بانه يحمل رتبة عميد في جهاز المخابرات العراقية وهو يدعي الان يعمل متخفيا بوظيفة نائب مدير شركة زين العراق للاتصالات ليتسنى له التنصت على المكالمات للذين ينوي اغتيالهم هو وشبكته بكل سهولة فمن خلال التنصت يعرف تفاصيل المواعيد والاماكن التي يتواجدون فيها ليسهل اعتقالهم واغتيالهم .

    وهو بعلاقاته مع ضعفاء النفوس في المملكة الاردنية الهاشمية استخرج اقامة نظامية باسم شركات وهمية وقد دخل شريك في مطعم له سمعته كي يطور علاقاته مع جميع الشرائح بالاردن واسم المطعم هو الملح والزاد مقابل فندق الهولدي ان تقريبا .

    هذه المعلومات مؤكدة من شخص من ذات الشبكة ادلى بها لي وهو هارب منهم خوفا من تصفيته من قبل قائده المدعو بشار مكتوف راضي

    امانة باعناقكم الى يوم الدين ان تعمموا هذا الايميل انقاذا لارواح الابرياء

    September 30, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Reply
  6. nodoubt

    it has no place in europe

    October 31, 2012 at 7:07 am | Reply
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