“European Islam”: Empty rhetoric is not a solution

Architektur-1.jpgThe European Muslim Union (EMU) warns that a supposedly “European Islam” is a mere political idea

For centuries Athens was a European Muslim town.

STRASBOURG (EMU) – In the midst of the debate around the identity and the future role of Muslims in Europe, there is a renewed increase in the demand for a suposedly “European Islam.”
Claimed by so called “reformers” as an antidote against extremism and self-ghettoisation of Muslim communities – especially in Western Europe –, this problematic term and indeed political slogan is in the eyes of EMU in need of a critical evaluation and comment.
EMU reminds the European Muslims as well as the public that a so called “European Islam” is currently mainly a vehicle for building up political and ideological pressure on the Muslim communities of our continent.
EMU contest that “European Islam” is not a helpful term. Rather, we should speak about a historical, cultural and – most of all – spiritual reality that lasted in many parts of our continent for long centuries.
From Al-Andalus to Southern Italy, from Southern France to the shores of the Crimea and from Greece to huge tracts of European Russia – Islam and the Muslims were for large periods core elements of the European ethos and its reality.
Furthermore, asks the EMU, if one speaks about a supposed “European Islam“: does this idea include the century-long tradition of the legal tradition of the Hanafi school (in Eastern Europe) and the Maliki school (Iberian Peninsula and Italy)? Are the proponents of this concept willing to accept the historical fact that the reality of an existing Islam in Europe included a social program and the establishment of economic justice?
This would create an intellectual dilemma since those voices in the debate propose the idea of a leveling of an Islamic substance, the historical reality in Europe stood for.
The European Muslim Union supports rather the understanding of European Muslims who were shaped by the European experience. Thusly, they are able to offer their specific experiences and horizons to the worldwide Muslim ummah. This is, in EMU’s opinion, also due to their historical records which are varying from those in other parts of the world. By this, we do not mean a negation of the “five pillars” and the essence of our Deen in this place and time, but rather an acceptance of the always local orientation of any Muslims identity.
Historical figures and scholars like the two Ibn Rushds, Qadi Iyad, Qadi Abu Bakr Ibn Al-Arabi, Imam Al-Qurtubi, the Caucasian Muslims, the ottoman viziers of Bosnian or Albanian descent or the Tatar scholars in present-day Russia made “European Islam” a vivid reality. One, which is still to be found under the dust of history and the attempts to silence the Muslim voice in the European memory.
And last but not least, EMU and her program are standing for an acceptance of our local and regional challenges. If we want to meet them successfully and actively, we need to embrace the specific demands and aspects of this continent. Also, so the EMU, Muslims are in urgent need of understanding and studying the intellectual and spiritual heritage of Europe – from Heraklit to Rilke – in order to be able to build bridges between them and the Non-Muslim societies around them.