Contribution to "Why Turkey" - A special report published by the newspaper Zaman on December 17 2004


Europe is not a Christian Union

Av Ingmar Karlsson

One of the most widespread European myths is that Charles Martel, the ruler of the Franks, saved the West from destruction by his victory over the "Saracens" at Poitiers in 732. The Saracens were driven back over the Pyrenées and returned to southern Spain where a Muslim state then continued to flourish for almost 800 years. This Islamic presence on the European continent did not lead to a collapse of the Western civilization but to a unique and fruitful symbiosis between Islam, Christianity and Judaism which resulted in an unparalleled boom in science, philosophy, culture and art.

At the close of the Middle Ages, both Islam and Judaism were constitutive elements in the formation of Europe. As a result, Islam is at the same time an alien, an original and - due to growing migration - a new element in the Europe of today. There are today at least 15 million Muslims in the EU, which is more than the number of Scandinavian Protestants, and the number will increase as immigration continues. Today, the birthrate among Muslim immigrants in Europe is three times higher than in the non-Muslim population. If this trend continues the Muslim population will, given current immigration patterns, have doubled by 2015, while Europe's non-Muslim population will decrease by 3.5%. Islam is thus already today an integral part of Europe and a European religion and as we have been talking about Eastern Christianity we will soon be talking about Western Islam. Islam must therefore be recognized and regarded as a European religion. Young Muslims in Europe now mobilize for recognition, identity and survival. They often look upon themselves as a new force distancing themselves from traditional and international bonds, wanting to be a European face of Islam. They speak the languages and are born citizens of European states and their common language is English, German, Dutch, French or Swedish. They are using Islam as a way of establishing the universal values they have in common with those around them. Defining their own identity as Muslim thus is a way of interacting with the rest of society. We are already today witnessing the emergence and creation of a several European Muslim identities, German, French, British, Swedish, Dutch etc. Interviews with Swedish Muslims show that they are more and more focusing on their presence, role and future in Sweden: What kind of multicultural Sweden do we as Muslims want to have in the future? What kind of multicultural state do we think is necessary to safeguard the long-term survival of the Muslims as a cultural, ethnic and religious minority group in Sweden and what can we as Muslims do to bring this about? They thus want to draft a new brand of Islam, one that aims to reconcile the basic tenets of the faith - such as the five pillars, social justice and submission to the will of God - with the realities of contemporary European life. For this new generation "Euroislam" is not a zero sum game. They see no contradiction in being Muslim and European at the same time. In a report from the Swedish Muslim Youth Association you can read: "The goal for young Muslims should be to accept, understand and respect differences but also to understand common values and goals and try to implement them. Young Muslims should form a bridge between the European and the Muslim countries". There have never been any religious criteria for membership of the EU. A no to Turkey on religious and cultural grounds would be disastrous for Europe since it would send an immediate and strong message to the fastest growing segments of the European population that they will always be considered unwelcome and second-class citizens also if they chose a secular way of life. Sending such a message could, before we know it, lead to the emergence of a ghetto Islam in Europe instead of a modern tolerant European Islam.

If this happens, we might soon witness a 'clash of civilizations' in Western Europe, not in the form of a military showdown between the West and the Islamic world, or as envisaged by Samuel Huntington, the proponent of the clash of civilizations theory, but in the form of a continuous guerrilla warfare in ghettoized suburbs of our cities.

Against this background the decision taken in December this year by the EU heads of states and governments will be fraught with consequences for the destiny of Europe.

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