Islam in Europe: Cultural and political orientations

11.06.2003 - (idw) Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut

Ein Vortrag von Prof. Dr. Sami Zubaida (University of London)
am Dienstag, 17. Juni 2003, um 18:15 Uhr
im Kulturwissenschaftliche Institut, Goethestraße 31, 45128 Essen

'Islam' as an identity has come, since the 1980s, to dominate the hitherto ethnic identifications of the Muslim groups in Europe. This was partly the result of developments on the international stage, notably the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the subsequent prominence of Islamic ideologies of contention. Ethnic identities and communal organizations, however, have remained dominant in most instances, and it is well known that it is difficult to identify any unitary Islamic community or organization. Second and third generations, however, have mostly departed from the ethnic cultures of their parents, most in the direction of assimilation into the host culture, but some in new religious and cultural forms. Religious orientations of these kinds, which have included women in some forms of 'Islamic feminism' have rejected the Islam of their parents, judged to be imbued with ethnic culture, in favour of a universalist Islam, judged to be the correct and original form. These orientations, in turn, can be divided into the modernist, in tune with European identifications and outlooks, and the 'fundamentalist', identified with the Salafi trends of rigourous observance and social insulation from non-believers. These orientations depend on class, ethnicity and educational levels, as well as generational differences. The fact remains that, according to most studies of Muslims in Europe, a majority, between 60 and 70 %, are nominal Muslims, much like their Christian neighbours are nominal Christians. Many of the remaining Muslims are private worshippers with little public or political involvement. The active public and political Muslims are a minority, but a prominent one which attracts media attention. This picture, however, may be altered by the train of events since 9/11, which have had notable effects on the position and perception of and by Muslims in the West. A kind of Islamic 'nationalism' can be discerned in many quarters, even among secular Muslims who do not practice their religion. This is related to the intensification of negative sentiments and suspicions regarding Islam and Muslims.

Sami Zubaida teaches Politics and Sociology at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is Research Associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, and has held honorary and visiting posts in Cairo, Istanbul, Berkeley, California, Aix-en-Provence and Paris. His research and writing are on religion, ethnicity and nationalism in Middle East politics and society. He also writes on Food and Culture.
His main publications include, Islam, the People and the State: political ideas and movements in the Middle East, London 1993; Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cultures of the Middle East (Co-edited with Richard Tapper), London 2001; Law and Power in the Islamic World, London 2003.

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