Muslims in Europe


In the Headlines: Swiss Voters Veto New Minarets

If you're like me, you want to know more about the issues facing Muslims in Europe, and the other Europeans who have welcomed them--or failed to welcome them--to their countries.

Photo of the Mahmood Mosque in Zurich by Adrian Michael

From the recent vote to forbid construction of new minarets in Switzerland to the killings of Pym Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands, from the ban on headscarves in French schools to the bombing of the trains in Madrid, Muslims in Europe are in the news.

What's Behind the Headlines?

The questions are complex.

How do ordinary Europeans, Muslims, Christians, Jews, and nonbelievers feel? How does the assimilation or integration of immigrants in Europe differ from that in the US? How does, say, British Islam compare with Pakistani Islam? Is the encounter between Islam and the West a clash of civilizations or a fertile meeting of minds and souls?

My Recommendations

I recommend the following San Mateo County Library books on the subject:

A Heart Turned East: Among the Muslims of Europe and America 
by Adam Lebor
A British journalist travels through Bosnia, Western Europe and America before 9/11; he reveals both Europe’s forgotten Islamic past and its prejudice towards Muslims in the present.

The Islamic World and the West : An Introduction to Political Cultures and International Relations
edited by Kai Hafez; with a foreword by Mohammed Arkoun and Udo Steinbach; translated from the German
by Mary Ann Kenny
Sixteen essays, most by German academics, on the political/international relationships between Islamic cultures on the one hand and Europe and America on the other.

Islam: Opposing Viewpoints by William Dudley, book editor
This most recent of the titles on Islam in the Opposing Viewpoints series presents pro & con articles questioning whether Islamic values clash with or are consistent with Western values; topics include democracy, the status of women, terrorism, and jihad.

The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror by Bernard Lewis
In this concise work, Lewis expands on an article he wrote for the New Yorker and explains the historical roots of Muslim unease with and in some cases radical hostility towards the West.

Western Muslims and the Future of Islam by Tariq Ramadan
An innovative Swiss Muslim reformer, Ramadan believes that Islam is not in conflict with Western ideals but can harmonize with them and fruitfully engage with them; he proposes a new, Western Islam.

The Great Confrontation: Europe and Islam Through the Centuries by Ilya V. Gaiduk
This work by a Russian writer surveys the encounter between Islam and Europe throughout history, and sees economic cooperation and peaceful coexistence more than a “clash of civilizations".

The War for Muslim Minds: Islam and the West by Gilles Kepel; translated by Pascale Ghazaleh
French intellectual Kepel focuses mostly on relations between the Middle East and the U.S., but in one chapter covers the conditions of Muslims in Europe.

Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance by Ian Buruma
A very readable, balanced account (also an expanded New Yorker article), described by the publisher as a “true crime page turner”, of the murder of Theo Van Gogh, gadfly fimmaker and great-grandnephew of the painter, by a Muslim extremist; Buruma is a Dutch-American writer who returned to his native country to examine the roots of Muslim discontent in Holland. If you only read one book on European Muslims, read this one.

While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West From Within by Bruce Bawer
What Buruma describes as “the limits of tolerance,” Bawer characterizes as “Europe in denial;” he warns of Muslim immigration as a ticking time bomb that may be too late to dismantle.

Infidel [sound recording]  by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Hirsi Ali, a native of Somalia who found refuge in Holland, collaborated with Theo Van Gogh on a provocative film about Muslim women, and after his murder continued to live in the Netherlands under armed police protection. In this memoir she describes her path from a childhood of abuse to an adulthood of activism, and criticises Islam’s attitudes toward and treatment of women.

Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West by Christopher Caldwell
This is a very thought-provoking, up-to-date book which challenges liberal assumptions about the encouragement of Muslim immigration to Europe; whether you agree with its author’s opinions or not, it’s worth reading because it will make you think.

Don't want to read a whole book? Try the Library's newspaper and magazine databases to search for articles on the topic.

Photo Credit: The photographer is Adrian Michael.


Author Bio:

Vaughn Harrison works at the Half Moon Bay Library and on the Bookmobile. She has a B.A. in Religion from Swarthmore College. Her reading interests include anthropology, archaeology, mysteries, religion, and travel writing.

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