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Thu 24 April 2014
24 Jumaada al-Thaanee 1435 AH  

Immigration to the West
Contribution to the West
Muslim Personalities
Muslim responsibilities
Muslim Identity in the West
Islam and its future

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1. The Muslim presence in Europe

The first wave of Muslim immigrants to Europe was as early as 710 when the first Arabs and North African Berbers landed on the Iberian peninsula, where they founded a series of dynasties before the Catholic reconquista at the end of the 15th century. Muslim cultures that arose under these conditions were of immeasurable importance in the development of Christian Europe.

  • Migration to Europe

In the 19th century, social and political reform movements in Muslim countries encouraged their rulers to send students to European countries for further studies. Since then, Muslims have had a constant presence in the large metropolis of Europe.

The first waves of Muslim migrants were workers from North Africa, Turkey, India and Pakistan, and they were generally poor, driven to migration by economic necessity. Their level of education and the precariousness of their status made it unlikely that they would think in terms of a European Islam. It took the arrival of the second and third generations to modify the ways in which these migrants saw their presence in their host countries. This has been clear in France, although, in Britain, migrants have tended to stay within their own communities, reproducing some of the social structures of their countries and regions of origin.
(Source: Tariq Ramadan, Europe's Muslims find a place for themselves)

Currently there are in total about 23 million Muslims in Europe as a whole -just over 3.5 per cent of its total population. Among these are over 7 million Muslims who live in western Europe - some 2 per cent of the latter region's total population. The size, settlement histories, cultural backgrounds and ethnic identities of the main Muslim groups in each country differ considerably. The Muslims in Western Europe have come as immigrant labour from the 1950s to the 1970s. Since 1945, Western Europe has experienced successive waves of immigration. One involved the post-war phase of returning nationals displaced by new frontiers or by processes of decolonisation. Another phase surrounded the massive flow of workers and later their dependants, who now account for about 15 million persons in the European community. Finally there has been a flow of refugees, in some cases liberated to travel by the political upheavals of eastern Europe, in some cases claiming political status now that the economic doors have closed, but increasingly cases displaced by the civil wars in the former Yugoslavia. The different flows of migration have overlapped and have interacted with each other.

After World War II, the situation took on a new dimension by the arrival of the so-called "guest workers". Today, Muslims are an integral part of European societies, making an invaluable contribution to the economic and social welfare of all. Most immigrant Muslims came in search of economic prosperity. They are professionals with a good educational background and skills. A large number of students have also come over the years and many settled here once they completed their studies. The overwhelming concern with economic prosperity has meant that Muslim parents have not been able to pay as much attention to the upbringing of their families, especially children, as the situation warrants. The negative influences of the host society are all too obvious in Muslim communities across Europe.

  • France
France has received, since the late nineteenth century, large numbers of immigrants. French Muslims are overwhelmingly from North Africa, particularly Algeria, though with an increasing sub-Saharan West African element from Senegal and Mali. There is also a significant Turkish population about 200 000 in 1990 (according to SOPEMI, 1992) about half being Kurds. The French Muslim population is much larger and arrived earlier, than Britain's, for instance, due to the tighter constitutional attachment of Algeria to France than the British colonial territories to Britain.
By 1851, the first year official records of this nature were kept, there were 380, 000 foreigners in France or 1% of its total population. By 1881, just thirty years later, that number had nearly tripled to 1 million i.e. 3% of France's total population. And by 1931 it had increased to 2.7 million or 6.4% of France's total population of 42 million. This was a higher proportion of the population in terms of percentage than the United States, which was the main destination for European immigrants since the middle of the nineteenth century.

Muslims praying in Nice, France defending the building of a mosqueSo France then, has seen large numbers of immigrants entering the country at earlier points in its history. The attempts of these immigrants to settle in France shows up the persistence of hostility and resistance by the French to them. Contrary to the myth of earlier culturally similar immigrants settling in easily, many European immigrants in France faced fear, hostility and racism and found their integration into French life to be a difficult process.
With a population of over five million Muslims, about half of them citizens, France has the largest Islamic presence of any country in Western Europe, both absolute and relative. Of this number, some 90 percent have North African origins (Algeria especially, followed by Morocco and Tunisia).

Mosques in France
While mosques have mushroomed in France, so that they number approximately 1.200, proper mosques with minarets number only six in France. This despite the Muslim community's numbering over 4 million, out of a total population of 56 million, making it the second largest religious community in France. Most mosques are no more than prayer rooms, many of them located in basements. Mosques provoke undue anxiety on the part of the Christian French.

The second generation of North African origin, nicknamed the beurs, express frustration and despair at being second-class citizens. In a society that has more than 13 percent unemployment and that has become increasingly hostile toward immigrants, especially North Africans, they have little hope of upward mobility. According to many, France has never fully accepted North African immigrants, and the second generation perhaps even less than the first. That they speak French fluently and readily absorb French culture does not make them welcome in France as earlier waves of immigrants had been, including the Jews and Protestants, Italians and Russians. Even those Algerians who are relatively well integrated into French society, and who think of themselves as French or Westernised, find themselves sometimes treated differently than the indigenous French people. Most North Africans feel they are trapped in a hopeless downward spiral of joblessness, racial discrimination, and clashes with police. What the inner cities are to the United States, the banlieus (suburbs) are to France.

For example, on September 29, 1995, at the end of a long manhunt, French television viewers watched as the police cornered Khaled Kelkal, a 24-year-old beur accused of involvement in terrorists acts, into a dark street in Lyons. In the course of a shootout, the police killed him. Afterwards, one police officer kicked his body; to make matters worse, another screamed "Finish him off! Finish him off!" Many Algerians, while accepting the need to go after Kelkal, found the police actions excessive; "They shot him to death like a dog to teach all of us a lesson," was a widely heard comment.
(Source: The Middle East Quarterly March 1997 Islam in France: Myth and Reality By Rachid Tlemšani)

  • Britain

Muslims in BritainThe probable Muslim population in Britain in 1951 was about 23 000. By 1961, there were about 82 000 Muslims in Britain, by 1971 about 369 000, by 1981 about 553 000 , by 1991 about 1 million, and by 2000 about 2 million. These numbers are based on the ethnic origin of the minority population of Britain and about 75 per cent is made up of groups originating in the South Asian sub-continent.
There were small communities in Britain, largely in port areas such as Cardiff, Tyneside, Liverpool and London that dated back to the beginning of the century (Source: Little, 1947; Collins, 1957; Halliday, 1992). Many Somali, Yemeni and Bengali seamen had been stranded by their ships in the depression of the inter-war years. The main migrant stream to Britain from Pakistan and India got under way in the late 1950s. The late 1960s and early 1970s saw the expulsion of Asians from East Africa, some 200 000 of whom fled to Britain: about a quarter of their number was Muslim, among whom was a significant proportion of Ismailis. The most recent and rapidly growing group arriving in the 1970s and 1980s has been the Bangladeshis, whose migration to Britain differs from that of many other Muslim groups in that it seems unrelated to economic demand for labour. The three main South Asian groups are Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. Indians make up 26% of the total ethnic minority population, whilst Pakistanis account for 16% and Bangladeshis 6%. About half of all South Asians living in Britain ­ Pakistanis (54%), Bangladeshis (47%) and Indians (47%) ­ were born there.
In addition to the Muslims of South Asian origin in Britain, there are Arabs and Somalis whose numbers are disputed. Estimating numbers from the Middle East in Britain is complicated by the fact that place of birth includes children who were born to members of the British forces serving in Egypt and Libya before British withdrawal from those countries, so that there is no direct relationship between numbers born in Egypt and Libya and those of Muslim identity.

  • Germany

Berlin MosqueGermany has the most recent record of Muslim movement. The numbers are dominated by the Turks whose arrival in substantial numbers began in 1961, regulated by bilateral agreements between the German and Turkish governments. In 1961 there were 6700 Turks in Germany. By 1970 there were 429 000; by 1976 there were over 1 million; by 1981, 1.5 million and the number has fluctuated about that total since then. There were in 1990 1.67 million Turks in Germany; a more recent estimate is just over 2 million (Source: Peach and Glebe, 1995). Not all Turkish nationals are Muslim, of course. Apart from staunch secularists - of whom there are many - there are significant groups of Armenian and Syrian Orthodox Christians. Moreover, the Muslim Turks are ethnically, culturally and linguistically quite heterogeneous (Source: Schmuck, 1982). Among Turkish nationals living in Germany, Kurds, the largest minority living in Turkey, are estimated to be as much as 25 per cent of the population.
Due to a continuous flow of family members of Turks and other long-standing minorities, to more recent migrations of persons whose origins lay in the Maghreb (often by way of another European country), and particularly to growth in the number of asylum seekers from Muslim states such as Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan and from states with a large Muslim minority like India and especially Yugoslavia, numbers have continued to grow. In 2000, the Muslim population was estimated at about 2,5 million, of whom over 80 per cent had origins in Turkey.
(Source: Islam in Europe, The politics of religion and community, edited by Steven Vertoved and Ceri Peach)




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