THE ISLAMING OF EUROPE
By Alan Caruba
May 25, 2002
The recent assassination of Pim Fortuyn, a Dutch politician, an outspoken opponent of immigration in general and Muslims in particular, plus the uproar over the initial success of the French politician, Le Pen, who shared similar views, points out the growing concerns many Europeans have regarding its Muslim population, in particular, and immigrants in general.
It may surprise you to learn that Muslims are the second largest religious group in England after the Anglican and Catholic majorities. There are some two million Muslims in Great Britain. They are not indigenous to England, being largely newcomers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India. Others come from Africa, Asia, and even Europe. The Muslims of England are very diverse in many ways, except for their faith in Islam. Increasingly, though, demands have grown for education of Muslim children to reflect their religion, for official recognition of the Islamic faith. Native-born Brits are less than thrilled with their growing numbers and demands.
The vote in France for Le Pen, a candidate with extreme right-wing political views, was generated by a growing concern of ordinary, native-born French men and women regarding their Muslim population and other immigrants. Here again, the fact that some five million Muslims are the second largest religious group in France may come as a surprise; more than half of whom are French citizens. They are largely the result of France's colonial past, especially in the North African region.
Most of the Muslim community in France are from nations called the "Maghreb", Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. Others come from Turkey, Senegal, and Mali. Some are converts. Islam has a long history in France. Ironically, the spread of Islam into Europe was ended with their defeat at Poitiers, France, in 732. It would not be until 1683 when Muslims were defeated near Vienna, that further expansion efforts ended in Europe. Now Muslims merely immigrate to European nations.
France's situation is particularly instructive. Immigration began in earnest in the 1950s, primarily from Maghreb nations. For decades, the religion was largely invisible and Muslims represented the lowest rungs of the economic and social ladder, but, in the 1990s second and third generation French Muslims underwent a re-conversion of sorts, joining the ranks of radical Islam to seek an identity in a society from which they felt excluded.
This is interesting, too, because, twenty years ago, the demand for official recognition of Islam led to the Charter of Muslim Faith that defined how a French Muslim could remain faithful to both Islam and France. Today, native French citizens tend to regard Muslims as a danger to their society. The French government, however, has seen integration of Muslims into French society as a wiser path than some form of de facto isolation.
Reportedly, the overwhelming majority of Europe's Muslims see their religion as a moderate one. There are 32.5 million Muslims throughout England, Europe, the Balkans, and the Caucasus. Some are in the process of redefining Islam as people born and bred in Europe. This could be the beginning of a much-needed Reformation within Islam that occurred and redefined Christianity.
Having noted the Muslim defeat outside of Vienna, Austria in 1683, it would not be until 1878 before Muslims appeared in greater numbers as the result of the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and other territories by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Currently, Muslims are the third largest religion in Austria and growing. Their numbers doubled between 1981 and 1991. These Muslims are largely immigrants and are often political refugees. The bulk are formerly Turkish and citizens of the former Yugoslavia. The recent Balkan wars drove a lot of Muslims to choose Austria as a homeland.
The relationship between Muslim minorities and the State of Austria has been formalized and regulated since 1912 by the Islam Act that officially recognized the religion. It led to the establishment of the Muslim Faith Union in 1979 and Austrians Muslims are taught their faith in public schools with teachers paid by the State. The rise of nationalistic political parties in Austria reflects a concern seen in France. Increasingly, a growing portion of native Austrians are suspicious and fearful of Muslims.
In Poland, chiefly Polish-Lithuanian Tartars, a group estimated between two and three thousand, have lived in that nation for some 600 years. Their small numbers versus the overwhelmingly Catholic Poles has left them largely ignored. Muslims, however, in the post-Soviet Caucasus are a different situation entirely. Islamic fundamentalism has, for example, led Muslim Chechens to use terrorism and war on the Russians to seek a separate and Islamic nation. The Russians have responded to the Chechens in the same fashion as the US has to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Several former Russian provinces, now independent, but allied republics, have large, if not dominant Muslim populations. These include Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kryghyezstan, and Kazakhstan. Add to this, Albania. The recent Balkan wars were largely religious movements by militant Muslims and, ironically, the US sided with them and against the Serbs. So did the rest of Europe.
So, now, when you say Europe, keep in mind that the nations that compose it are increasingly home to a growing population of Muslims. Wherever a population of Muslims gains in numbers, they begin to demand autonomy or a change in the governmental structure to reflect Islamic law.
Other than Turkey, you cannot name a single Islamic nation that is a democracy. An elite military in Turkey have maintained its secular government since the days of Ataturk, the man who turned Turkey into a modern nation. The Islamic demand for something less than democracy is likely to lead to religious conflict in Europe. This is the danger it poses to the entire world.
© Alan Caruba All Rights Reserved
Alan Caruba is the author of "A Pocket Guide to Militant Islam", availableexclusively from www.anxietycenter.com, the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center.