Is There an Identity of European Muslims?*


Junior Member
There is a miracle and a puzzle in Muslim history that cannot be rationally explained. The miracle is the speed and scope of the early seventh-century spread of Islam, from a poor Arab-Bedouin perspective, into the two great civilizations of the time — the Persian and the Byzantine. The puzzle is the rapid decline of Islamic civilization by the 18th century, after it had proved its unprecedented vitality and capability. By that time, Muslims had lost the geographical, cultural, economic, and political impact on world affairs to the point of their being put to the margin of so-called modern history. This state of affairs made Muslims for the last two centuries struggle for their comeback to the mainstream of modern or global history. Consequently, Muslims have been busy with two main movements aimed at regaining their place in history: secularization and re-Islamization.

We may recognize the problem of the modern Muslim identity in the debate about the kind of secularization of Muslim history and the method of (re-)Islamization of the Muslim mind. The idea of secularization did not come to Muslims as a result of their own experience. The majority of Muslim ulama (scholars), and some Muslim intellectuals as well, have always felt that the idea of secularization of Muslim societies has come from the West by political and sometimes even military pressure.

This is one of the reasons why the secularization of Muslim history, except perhaps in Turkey and Tunisia, has failed, and this is why the drive for a kind of re-Islamization of the Muslim mind is taking place. Muslims have refused to give up the idea of a universal community of Islam (the Ummah) even if it means, at least for the time being, a utopia. To Muslims who believe in the concept of Islamization, secularism is nothing more than an ethnic, racial, and national conception of cultural identity.

Nevertheless, Muslims did accept the concept of the nation state identity for whatever reasons. Thus they are aware of the idea of multiple identities, meaning that one can find a satisfaction for a universal identity such as an Islamic identity in a presumably non-Islamic state. And this is why I asked, is there an identity of European Muslims?

Who Needs European Muslim Identity?

But, first, we should ask, who needs European Muslim identity? It seems that Muslims do not need it because their Islamic identity is so universal and so inclusive that they do not need any additional identity. Europe is not dar al-Islam (the abode of Islam) and so they cannot identify themselves with it. Europeans do not need the European Muslim identity either because it seems that they care less for anybody's religious identity.

However, I believe that both the Muslims who live in Europe and the Europeans who can now see a Muslim in their neighborhood and so need not go to Afghanistan to find one, need to recognize that there is such a thing as the European Muslims or the Muslim Europeans. It is exactly because Islam is a universal and inclusive faith and religion that Muslims should be open for new cultural and national identities. Unlike Judaism, which is more concerned about its missionary work in the sense of political support for Israel, both Islam and Christianity are missionary faiths in the sense of cross-cultural and cross-national religious activities. And Europeans should care for an identity of the European Muslims because it is not correct to say that Europe is exclusively a Christian continent. It is a historical fact that many centuries have witnessed not only Muslims but also Jewish people living in Europe. Both of them made significant contributions to European life and culture.

Europeans should not only become aware of the fact of the presence of Muslims in their neighborhood; they should also know that because of that presence, their own identity is strengthened and is becoming more meaningful. Let me remind you of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. The German physicist Heisenberg discovered that it is difficult to truly know and measure everything about an object, whether it is an electron or a rabbit, because the very act of observing it changes its behavior. Therefore, everything else other than humans can only be known through isolation.

We humans are completely different. We can only be known, and we can only know ourselves, through interaction with the world around us. In contrast to electrons and rabbits, we come to know ourselves through the research, experimentation, and modification of our relationship toward the world we live in.

Isolation is torture and destroys all self-awareness. Only relationships provide the identity that derives as a consequence of meeting people. In addition, loyalty to the society in which we live determines our individual and collective identity. A community or society is not only a necessary choice; relationships are that which define us, through which we come to know ourselves, and through which the world comes to know us. People live their identity through relations with the world around them. Those who spend their time in isolation or segregation thinking they will come to know themselves in that way are mistaken. Quite the opposite: Man comes to know himself through contact and interaction with that which surrounds him, alive or dead.

Common Values


In order to understand the meaning of the identity of the European Muslims, we need to know basic common values with which we may identify ourselves.

As much as they are universal, the values are common. The most important of all values that are universal and thus common to all of us are the value of life, the value of freedom, the value of religion, the value of property, and the value of human dignity. Therefore, the European values are common as much as they are universal, and they are universal as much as they are common to all of us.

Let us begin with the value of life and the idea of the Ten Commandments: You shall not kill, which means you shall not commit the holocaust, you shall not commit genocide, and you shall not commit ethnic cleansing. What is more common to all of us than the value of life?

Freedom is an important value; without freedom life has no real meaning. The road from slavery to freedom has been one of the most important journeys in human history. In addition, the value of freedom is a European value that is so precious, it was earned by the priceless human blood through many generations.

Respecting religion is another common European value in the sense that the Europeans have had the freedom to choose one of many religions that have been arriving at the European continent throughout history: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, as well as many other Eastern religions. None of the main European religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — has originated in Europe. All of them have come from the East.

The right to have property as a means of decent human life is a value of Europe that should be asserted as a common human value. Europe is now a haven for many people who are becoming independent through the European economic prosperity.

Finally, the value of human dignity is a common value that must be developed further in Europe, especially in terms of fighting against xenophobia, racism, fascism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, etc.

:salam2: The whole of europe would have been muslim if chingez khan would have not attacked at that time. Vienna was going to fall and this attack came from behind. So at that time the muslim army thought they will come back to get vienna but that never happened. The reason behind the decline of Islamic Civilization is cause i feel that muslims even though at one time produced great scientist etc by the 18 th century there was a decline in education in the Islamic world. While at that time the western world was producing great scientists. Europe learned from the books written by muslim scholors and started inventing new things.
I dont agree that freedom is a european value. Infact while the muslims ruled spain the christians and the jews had complete freedom. Infact when the muslims were defeated the were either killed or had to convert to christianity.