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 (61 Responses)
  1. Shyanne

    While commenting on the Islamic practice of taqiyyah, the noted scholar Babu Suselan writes, “Under the Islamic concept of Al-Takkeya, it is legitimate for Muslims to lie, cheat, murder, deceive and violate non-Muslims. According to Takkeya, Muslims are sanctioned to communicate with fake sincerity. In reality, they may have just the opposite agenda in their hearts. It is clear that Islam permits the Muslims to lie anytime, anywhere to promote the cause of Islam.”

    June 10, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
  2. Shyanne

    A Muslim woman accused a Sydney Police Officer of "racism" and claimed he physically attempted to remove her veil during a routine traffic stop. In an emotional Channel 7 interview, she tearfully described the "fear" she felt when faced with this "angry" and "aggressive" officer who shouted at her. The police officer in question was later cleared of the charge when patrol car video footage proved he never once touched her and was polite throughout the exchange. When asked by Channel 7 to return and explain what the footage showed, she declined the offer. Even after these accusations have been proven false, it is stirring up anger within the Islamic community with text messages describing the police officer as “an enemy of allah” being sent in mass.Amazingly she escaped jail-time for her false accusations by again lying and claiming it was not her in the veil[

    June 10, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  3. Walter

    Following Jyllands-Posten's publication of the infamous Muhammad Cartoons, the Danish Muslim leader Ahmad Abu Laban took it upon himself to spearhead a campaign demanding an apology from Jyllands-Posten. In December 2006, a delegation of Danish Muslim leaders, headed by Laban and Lebanese-born theological student Ahmed Akkari, traveled to the Middle East to publicize and garner opposition to the offending cartoons. However, the number of images taken to the Middle East had risen from twelve to fifteen. These additional images were a lot more offensive than any of the original twelve. According to the BBC, the source of these images (through their own admission) had been traced back to the delegation of Danish Muslim leaders themselves

    June 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
  4. Jennifer

    The photographer at the center of the 2006 Lebanon War photographs controversies, where several media outlets used doctored or misleading photographs and captions which reflected negatively on Israel. Due to the diligence of bloggers who would most likely be labeled as "Islamopobes" by many, Adnan Hajj's photoshopped images were exposed, leading to his and another photo editors dismissal

    June 10, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  5. Terry

    "AFP photo service carried an image by photographer Hazem Bader in which a Palestinian construction worker is said to be screaming in pain after he was run over by a trailer driven by an Israeli soldier... Yet, after checking with both Palestinian and Israeli sources, it seems that the man was not at all injured, and there is no evidence that he was run over."

    June 10, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
  6. Jo

    A representative of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Badawi caused a controversy when she posted a picture via Twitter of a bloodied Palestinian girl held in her’s father arms. The caption attached to the image read: “Palestine is bleeding. Another child killed by Israel. Another father carrying a child into a grave in Gaza.” In addition to violating the rule of impartiality, the Twitter message, which was a huge hit, was proven to be a lie. The girl in the picture was actually injured by falling off a swing in 2006. Tragically, this lie may have also been the motivation behind the March 2012 Toulouse massacre of Jews in France. The media reported that Mohammed Merah was motivated by Israel's killing of children in Gaza earlier in the month. However, Israel did not kill any children in Gaza that month, but with lies like Badawi's being widely spread between Muslims, he would have thought otherwise

    June 10, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
  7. Mimi

    Posted a photograph that went viral on Facebook, "showing what was claimed to be an Israel Defense Forces soldier pointing a weapon at a young Palestinian girl, prompted anger and cries for clarification across the social network... Soon after the picture began circling the social network, Facebook users began refuting its authenticity. Many posted the photograph again, explaining that the caption claiming the soldier was Israeli had to be false because his uniform was not that of the IDF's, nor does the Israeli army regularly use AK-47s. "Don't believe everything you see on the Internet," wrote blogger Omar Dakhane, who uploaded a wider framed version of the image, showing a crowd surrounding the soldier and the girl. "This picture was taken in Bahrain 2009 during a street theater."... The wider framed shot also shows that the soldier has a home-made Israeli flag patch pinned to his jacket, and the crowd of bystanders watching the scene without any moving toward the soldier or the girl"

    June 10, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  8. Esmail

    He claimed that four police officers assaulted him and mocked his Islamic faith during his arrest in 2003. London’s Metropolitan Police has already paid out 60,000 pounds ($93,000 dollars) in compensation to Ahmad following civil court action in 2009. However, all four officers were cleared by a jury in 2011 after a listening device which was placed inside Ahmad’s house by British intelligence services ahead of his arrest showed up flaws in his account.

    June 10, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
  9. 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 |
  10. 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 |
  11. Junji

    I'm speechless. This can be a spreub blog and very attractive too. Nice work! That's now not actually a lot coming from an newbie publisher like me, however it's all I may just say after diving into your posts. Nice grammar and vocabulary. Not like other blogs. You actually recognise what you?re talking about too. Such a lot that you made me want to discover more. Your blog has develop into a stepping stone for me, my friend.

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

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

    September 26, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  13. 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 |
  14. nodoubt

    it has no place in europe

    October 31, 2012 at 7:07 am |
  15. kustbygg

    rdyzhg, ipekbold,

    May 18, 2018 at 1:52 pm |
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