Advances in Applied Sociology
2013. Vol.3, No.7, 307-313
Published Online November 2013 in SciRes (
Open Access 307
Beyond “Methodological Islamism”? A Thematic Discussion
of Muslim Minorities in Europe
Nasar Meer1, Tariq Modoo d2
1Centre for Civil Society and Citizenship, Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK
2Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship, Bristol University, Bristol, UK
Received June 24th, 2013; revised July 24th, 2013; accepted July 31st, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Nasar Meer, Tariq Modood. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative
Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided the original work is properly cited.
In this discussion we offer an overview of the place of Muslim actors in European scholarship. We espe-
cially focus on the second and subsequent generations of European Muslims, and how future research
agendas could conceptualise the relationship between contemporary Muslim identity and citizenship re-
gimes in Europe. We explore the way in which our understanding is formed by a concern with socio-
economic processes, cultural adaptations and civic status. We include questions of citizenship and “dif-
ference”, and the extent to which there has been a re-imagining and re-forming of national collectivities in
the face of Muslim claims-making. By claims-making we invoke a further register which centres on the
creation of a Muslim infrastructure, perhaps through modes of religious pluralism (or opposition to it),
and how this interacts with prevailing ideas that to greater and lesser extents inform public policies e.g.,
multiculturalism, interculturalism, cohesion, secularism, or Leitkulture, amongst others. While the latter
register focuses more on nation-state politics, there is a further transnational dimension in the Muslim ex-
perience in Europe, and this assumes an important trajectory in the ways discussed. It is argued that Mus-
lim identities in Europe contain many social layers that are often independent of scriptural texts; such that
the appellation of “Muslim” can be appropriated without any unanimity on Islamic matters. We conclude
by observing how this point is understudied, and as a consequence the dynamic features of Muslims’
leadership in Europe remain unexplored.
Keywords: Islam; Europe; Citizenship; Muslim Identity; Integration; Claims-Making
Estimations on the number of Muslims in Europe range be-
tween fifteen and twenty millions (cf; Maussen, 2007: 4; Pew,
2010: 5; Hunter, 2010: 16). When we include historically estab-
lished Muslims, of the Balkans, Mediterranean and indeed of
the former Eastern bloc (e.g., Tartars in Poland), it has been
said that Muslims are more numerous than Catholics in the tra-
ditionally Protestant north of Europe, and more numerous than
Protestants in the traditionally Catholic south (Klausen, 2005).
Over the last three decades social scientists have increasingly
sought to establish an evidence base from which to conceptual-
ise and chart the sociological and political features of this large
scale post-war presence in European societies (Etienne, 1989;
Neilsen, 1992, 1999; Lewis & Schnapper, 1994; AlSayyad &
Castells, 1997; Chapman, 1998; Zolberg & Loon, 1999; Koop-
mans & Statham, 1999; Bo dy -Gendrot & Marti nell o, 2000; Man-
daville, 2001; Cesari, 2004; Koopmans et al., 2005; Klausen,
2005; Bowen, 2006; Lawrence & Vaisse, 2006; Modood, Try-
andifillidou, & Zapata-Barrero, 2006; Bader, 2007; Modood,
2007; Jacobs & Rea, 2007; Simon & Piché, 2012; Bleich, 2009;
Levey & Modood, 2009; Triandafyllidou, 2010; Gest, 2010;
Meer, 2010, 2012, 2013; Faas, 2010; Mouritsen, 2013). This body
of research has traversed both cultural and structural features
e.g., the dynamics of Muslim ethno-religious values and cultural
adaptations (see below), as well as Muslim participation in la-
bour markets and educational outcomes. For example, with re-
gard to the latter issue, cross-national research is beginning to
support more local (national) studies in findings that across Eu-
rope Muslims are more likely to be consistently socio-econo-
mically disadvantaged than other groups (with the exception of
Roma and traveller communities), evidenced in higher levels of
unemployment and lower levels of income (and more likely to
be employed in unskilled work) (Open Society Institute (OSI),
2010: 96).
To focus on socio-economic issues alone would offer a lim-
ited account, for we may more broadly disaggregate at least
four frames through which to conceptualise the status of Mus-
lims in Europe. Each is concerned with socio-economic proc-
esses, cultural adaptations and civic status but the first explores
the process of near recent immigration itself. The obvious
shortcoming with this focus is that the majority of Muslims in
Europe are not migrants but Europeans with migrant parentage
(whether or not they would be recognised as such by their fel-
low European citizens). This observation points to a second
frame concerning questions of citizenship and “difference”, and
the extent to which there has been a re-imagining and re-form-
ing of national collectivities in the face of Muslim claims-ma-
king. By claims-making we invoke a third register which cen-
tres on the creation of a Muslim infrastructure, perhaps through
modes of religious pluralism (or opposition to it), and how this
interacts with prevailing ideas that to greater and lesser extents
inform public policies e.g., multiculturalism, interculturalism,
cohesion, secularism, or Leitkulture, amongst others. While the
latter register focuses more on nation-state politics, there is a
fourth transnational dimension in the Muslim experience in Eu-
rope, and this assumes an important trajectory in the ways dis-
cussed below. In forging a comprehendible path through a field
as vast as this, it is inevitable therefore that we offer a partial
account that does not seek to reprise all debates. That would be
impossible in the permitted space. There are collections that are
able to present a more comprehensive view that we would en-
courage readers to consult (e.g., Triandyfillidou, Modood, &
Meer, 2011; Modood, Triandifilidou, & Zapata-Barrero, 2006).
In this discussion, we are specifically interested in the second
and subsequent generations of European Muslims, and how fu-
ture research agendas should be conceptualising the relation-
ship between contemporary Muslim identity and citizenship re-
gimes in Europe. Nonetheless, before we turn to this we would
like to discuss some of the dynamics of migration which conti-
nue to have a bearing in current debates about citizenship. After
this we move on to discuss some of the pressing questions in
conceptualising Muslim identities, before ending with an ac-
count of the possibilities of citizenship for Muslims in the 21st
century Europe.
From Migrants to Citizens
The focus of this article are the Muslim communities forged
through post war migrations from Turkey, north and sub-Sa-
haran Africa, and South Asia, who mainly settled in the urban
centres of formerly colonial and/or labour recruiting countries
in northern, western and, latterly, southern Europe. In the three
largest European states, there are approximately three million
Muslims in the Britain, three and a half million in France and
over four million in Germany (see Table 1). The motivations
for these migrations are mixed, as are their reception in differ-
ent states. This can be illustrated by contrasting post-war
movement to Germany from Turkey, and movement to Britain
from Pakistan (and later Bangladesh). Both were an outcome of
pull factors in so far as demand for unskilled labour in each
economy drew in migrants (as opposed to France where there
were additional “push” factors of civil war in their former col-
ony of Algeria). Family re-unification and community forma-
tion came later. But in each case the status they encountered as
migrants differed. Some studies frame this is terms of diverging
modes of integration (or indeed non-integration) that function
as path dependencies. For example, Soysal’s (1994) account of
“regimes of incorporation” sub-divides into those that she con-
ceives as corporatist (e.g., Sweden and Netherlands), individu-
alist (e.g., Switzerland and UK), state-centralized (France), and
statist-corporatist (Germany), respectively. Koopmans et al.,
(2005) come to the same task through an “institutional oppor-
tunity structures” approach, and produce four conceptions of ci-
tizenship as: 1) ethnic assimilationism (e.g., Germany, Switzer-
land), 2) ethnic segrationalism, 3) Civic republicanism (France;
and the UK), and 4) civic pluralism (Netherlands). In Koop-
mans et al. (2005: 73), this model is applied to the position of
five countries (as shown above) at three moments in time (1980,
1990 and 2002), and finds that two important movements oc-
curred between 1980 and 2002. The first was a movement to
Table 1.
The number of Muslims in Europe. (Taken from the Pew Research
Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life • Forthcoming Pew Forum
Report, 2010).
Country Estimated 2010
Muslim Population Percentag e of Popula ti on
That Is Muslim
Austria 475,000 5.7
Belgium 638,000 6.0
Denmark 226,000 4.1
Finland 42,000 0.8
France 3,574,000 5.7
Germany 4,119,000 5.0
Greece 527,000 4.7
Ireland 43,000 0.9
Italy 1,583,000 2.6
Luxembourg 13,000 2.7
Netherlands 914,000 5.5
Norway 144,000 3.0
Portugal 22,000 0.2
Spain 1,021,000 2.3
Sweden 451,000 4.9
Switzerland 433,000 5.7
United Kingdom2,869,000 4.6
Total 17,094,000
wards cultural pluralism in all five countries, though to differ-
ing degrees and from quite different starti ng points, an d the se-
cond was a movement towards civic conceptions of citizenship.
Other social scientists have illuminated the contingent ways in
which European states have developed specific modes of deal-
ing with religious difference. Brubaker (1992) takes in fewer
countries to offer a historical sociology of the transformations
within France and Germany of ideas (propagated amongst na-
tion-builders) that their nation conferred a citizenship that re-
sembled ius soli or ius sanguinis respectively. Favell’s (1998)
discussion of “philosophies of integration” developed a context
sensitive comparative politics, emphasising the role of “public
philosophies” in facilitating the kinds of citizenship that will
prevail in different national contexts.
For example, in Germany, migrant workers were recruited as
“guest workers” (Gastarbeiter) on the assumption that they
would not remain after the tenure of their employment. Mus-
lims thus encountered a polity where citizenship and nation-
hood were heavily anchored in the idea of an ethnically homo-
genous majority. In this context, the naturalisation of Turkish
Muslim “foreigners” (Ausländer) was discouraged and limited,
and only migrants with German ethnicity (Aussiedler) were ful-
ly admitted. Following decades of pursuing an ethnonational ci-
tizenship Germany has since the late 1990s undergone signifi-
cant changes in the management of immigration, integration
and its concept of citizenship. Where federal policies had pre-
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viously focused almost entirely on the control and return of mi-
grants (Schönwälder 2001), the Citizenship Law (2000) intro-
duced the principle of ius soli. This led to a slew of new legis-
lation such as the Immigration Law (2005), which is geared
toward integration strategies, and the invitation to migrants and
civil society actors to take part in a National Integration Sum-
mit (2006). Each of these is said to comprise “milestones” in
that they speak with Muslim migrant minorities and not solely
about them. The amendment to the Citizenship Law (2000)
means that the children of “foreigners” now automatically ac-
quire German citizenship if one parent has been legally residing
in Germany for at least eight years with a “right to abode” per-
mit. These children can retain dual nationality until the age of
twenty-three, after which they have to choose between German
citizenship and the citizenship of their parents. One outcome of
this policy is that when thousands of Turkish migrants applied
for the reissuing of their Turkish passports in 2001 after having
been naturalised, German authorities responded by withdrawing
their German nationality and residence permits. The fact that
the right to vote on the municipal level is only valid for EU na-
tionals and that there is no parliamentary will to afford the
franchise to Third Country Nationals (TCNs) disproportionate
ly affects German Turkish nationals. So while the German de-
velopments have marked important shifts, they have not over-
come the issue of dual nationality nor entirely decoupled citi-
zenship from an ethnic project, legally, let alone in terms of so-
cial attitudes.
Germany’s staggered approach is to be contrasted with the
different set of issues raised in Britain. There, post-war Muslim
migrants from the Indian subcontinent arrived as Citizens of the
United Kingdom and Commonwealth (CUKC), and their sub-
sequent British-born generations were recognised as ethnic mi-
norities requiring state support and differential treatment to
overcome distinctive barriers in their exercise of citizenship.
Although lacking an official “Multicultural Act” or “Charter” in
the way of Australia or Canada (CMEB, 2000), Britain rejected
the idea of “returnism” or of integration being based upon a
drive for unity through an uncompromising cultural “assimila-
tion”. It did so when the Labour home secretary Roy Jenkins
(1966) defined integration as “not a flattening process of as-
similation but equal opportunity accompanied by cultural di-
versity in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance”. The debates that
have occurred in Britain therefore have had much less to do
with residence rights and a great deal more to do with cultural
recognition (though family reunification has been an important
issue). For example, Muslim concerns over the limitations of a
colour based race equality were brought to the fore during the
experiences of the Rushdie Affair (Modood, 1994). Here a
publication of a novel that disparaged both the genesis of Islam
and the biography of the Prophet Mohammed gave rise to a
great deal of hurt and anger amongst Muslims who felt that “as
citizens they [were no less] entitled to equality of treatment and
respect for their customs and religion” (Anwar, 1992: 9) than
either the Christian majority denominations and other religious
minorities. In this context, the issues raised were much wider
than the complaint of blasphemy (an offense that was recently
eliminated without opposition from Muslims), for the Muslim
protest was expressed as a new ethno-religious challenge to
exclusion from the existing equality framework” (Modood,
2009: 485).
The important point to take from this brief contrast is that na-
tional models are not helpful when seen as fixed. Instead the
context of Muslim-state engagement should be viewed as dy-
namic. Indeed, as Bowen (2007) argues “national models them-
selves are historical products, and as such inevitably contain
within them multiple lines of reasoning and emotion, developed
in counterpoint to each other” (ibid.), something that can lead
to “paradoxes and unintended consequences even when they
succeed in remain logically consistent” (ibid. 1006).
Muslim Transnationalism(s)
One issue that further complicates where Muslims fit into na-
tional models concerns the status of Muslim identity as a trans-
national force. Here it is common that discussion of Islam and
transnationalism in Europe centres on the concept of the umma
(the global imagined community of Muslims). This is certainly
one expression of Muslim transnationalism, and Mandaville
(2009) sets it in the context of four prevailing—and often over-
lapping—forms that take us beyond a literal reading of what
this is alleged to entail. Indeed, and instead of focusing on the
religious framings, Mandaville provides a useful discussion of
some core social and political expressions of Muslim transna-
tionalisms. The first concerns Muslim “people flows” in so far
as the physical movement of Muslims to Europe has created
an infrastructure of conduits and networks through which
other forms of Muslim transnationalism can flow” (ibid. 494).
This is a direct outcome of significant Muslim settlement and
community formation. The second is expressed in organised so-
cial and political movements “whose agendas and organisatio-
nal structures transcend nation-state boundaries (although some
of them, importantly, operate at the behest, or with the financial
support, of state authorities)” (ibid. 494-5). While this may be
organised in some sense, it is highly dispersed across social
fields and political landscapes. The third prevailing form relates
to the creation of transnational public spheres, “enabled by the
proliferation of new media and information and communication
technologies” (ibid. 495). This is a highly dynamic develop-
ment and might be one illustration of Fraser’s (1992) “subal-
tern-counterpublics” in which Muslim media sources “repre-
sent an expanding social field characterized by more than con-
tested authority and by more than proliferating voices or
blurred boundaries; central to this expanding public sphere of
Islam are new media and interest profiles they advance” (An-
derson, 2003: 888). Each of these three prevailing forms of
Muslim transationalism might, moreover, be connected to
Beck’s (1998: 29) reading of “a new dialectic of global and
local questions”. Perhaps not immediately apparent to Beck, we
might here also include transnational Islamist politics. One
thinks here of Islamist movements that have traveled outwards,
and been relocated, from their provenance in the Muslim Bro-
therhood (MB) from Egypt in 1928, or Jamat-e-Islami from
northern India of the 1930s. The point with either example is
that there is some semblance of a framework in which the pub-
lic sphere is globalised and participatory. The implications of
this are brought out in Mandaville’s (2001: 46) assessment that
we can “think of transnationalism as possessing certain eman-
cipatory qualities which allow us to move towards a political
imagination beyond the categories of the territorial state”. This
would appear to be at least a cornerstone of political Islam, and
the discussion more broadly is valuable in pointing to the fac-
tors we should take into consideration in conceptualizing the
contemporary Muslim presence in Europe.
Yet it is one part of a story that and so is by no means the
best way of considering how the identity category of “Muslim”
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has become a vehicle for political participation and citizenship
that is very much centered on the nation-state (as discussed
below). If it has become a vehicle for participation within na-
tion states, it is also related to understanding how discrimina-
tion against Muslims has proliferated. Indeed, Islamophobia
and anti-Muslim sentiment are profound and deeply ingrained
problems that Muslims in Europe constantly negotiate (Meer,
2013). European-wide Pew (PGAP, 2008) data, for example,
reports that opinions of Muslims in almost all of the twenty-
four countries surveyed were more negative, with more than
half of Spaniards and half of Germans stating that they did not
like Muslims, while the figures for Poland and France were 46
per cent and 38 per cent for those holding unfavourable opin-
ions of Muslims. Interestingly, while Americans and Britons
displayed the lowest levels of Antisemitism, one in four in both
countries was hostile to Muslims. This means that in the USA,
France and Germany unfavourable views of Muslims are
roughly at twice the rate of unfavourable views of Jews, while
in Poland and Spain the former are only a few percentage
points more. While quantitative surveys do not always provide
the best accounts of prejudice and discrimination, they can be
useful in discerning trends alerting us in this case to the wide-
spread prevalence of an anti-Muslim feeling. In the last British
Attitudes Survey, for example, Voas and Ling (2010, pp. 80-81)
report that one fifth of the total population responds negatively
only to Muslims, and that relatively few people feel unfavour-
able towards any other religious or ethnic group on its own.
Across Europe meanwhile, Zick, Kupper and Hovermann (2011,
pp. 62 3) too conclude:
“[I]t is conspicuous that Europeans are largely united in
their rejection of Muslims and Islam. The significantly most
widespread anti-Muslim attitudes are found in Germany, Hun-
gary, Italy and Poland, closely followed by France, Great Brit-
ain and the Netherlands. The extent of anti-Muslim attitudes is
least in Portugal. In absolute terms, however, the eight coun-
tries [Britain, France, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Poland,
Portugal and Hungary] differ little in their levels of prejudice
towards Muslims”.
The visibility of Muslims, especially of the display of what
are sometimes termed contested signifier in terms of dress and
appearance, is frequently the means through which this
Islamophobic feeling is turned into Islamophobic behaviour
(Meer, Dwyer and Modood 2010). A good European-wide il-
lustration may be found in the summary report on Islamophobia
published by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and
Xenophobia shortly after 9/11. This identified a rise in the
number of “physical and verbal threats being made, particu-
larly to those visually identifiable as Muslims, in particular
women wearing the hijab” (Allen and Nielsen 2002, p. 16).
What is of particular note is that despite variations in the num-
ber and correlation of physical and verbal threats directed at
Muslim populations among the individual nation states, one
overarching feature that emerged among the fifteen EU coun-
tries was the tendency for Muslim women to be attacked be-
cause of how the hijab signifies an Islamic identity (Allen &
Nielsen, 2002: p. 35). Yet if Islamophobia is a prevailing cur-
rent, this has not prevented Muslims from innovating with Is-
lam in European contexts, not least through debates about Euro-
Euro-Islam as a Multidirectional Process
Euro-Islam is a relatively recent addition to the repertoire of
concepts describing the possibilities for Islam in Europe that
Muslim migrants and subsequent generation’s herald (see Meer,
2012; Yildiz & Verkuyten, 2012). Beyond this there is little
consensus amongst its main theoreticians. For the Swiss born
philosopher Tariq Ramadan (2004: 4), Euro-Islam describes a
process that is already underway, in which “more and more
young people and intellectuals are actively looking for a way to
live in harmony with their faith, participating in the societies
that are their societies, whether they like it or not”. Ramadan
describes this as the cultivation of a “Muslim personality”, one
that is “faithful to the principles of Islam, dressed in European
and American cultures, and definitively rooted in Western so-
cieties.” (2004: 4). He continues:
While our fellow-citizens speak of thisintegrationof Mus-
limsamong us’, the question for the Muslims presents itself
differently: their universal principles teach them that wherever
the law respects their integrity and their freedom of worship,
they are at home and must consider the attainments of these
societies as their own and must involve themselves, with their
fellow-citizens, in making it good and better” (ibid: 5).
Ramadan is thus prioritizing a scriptural inheritance that
needs to be reconciled with current and future lived practice, in
a manner that reflects “a testimony based on faith, spirituality,
values, a sense of where boundaries lie”, something that “re-
verses the perception based on the old concepts” (2004: 73).
This reasoning leads to an interesting juxtaposition in that “Mu-
slims may feel safer in the West, as far as the free exercise of
their religion is concerned, than in so called Muslim countries
(2004: 65). The implication of this position is that the dichot-
omy between the two “abodes” can no longer be sustained. The
resolution to this, Ramadan suggests, rests in an exercise of cri-
tical interrogation in which European Muslims: have no choice
but to go back to the beginning and study their points of refer-
ence in order to delineate and distinguish what, in their religion,
is unchangeable (thabit) from what is subject to change (muta-
ghayyir), and to measure, from the inside, what they have
achieved and what they have lost by being in the West (2004:
Ramadan’s project might then be characterized as both clas-
sicist and revisionist in that he stakes out an ethical resource in
Islamic scriptures to propose a qualitatively novel solution that
is calibrated to contemporary—traditionally non-Muslim majo-
rity—societies. Yet it is precisely this project of reconciliation
between Islamic doctrines and European conventions that is
challenged by Bassam Tibi (2008: 177), the other key exponent
of “Euro-Islam”. For if Europe is no longer perceived as dar
al-harb, and instead considered to be part of the peaceful house
of Islam, he maint a i n s, “then this is not a sign of moderation, as
some wrongly assume: it is the mindset of an Islamization of
Europe”. He continues:
In defense of the open society and of its principles, it needs
to be spoken out candidly: Europe is not dar al-Islam (or, in the
cover language of some, dar al-shahada), i.e. it is not an Is-
lamic space but a civilisation of its own, albeit an exclusive one
that is open to others, including Muslims. These are, however,
expected to become Europeans if they want to be part of
Europe as their new home.” (2004: 159)
In Tibi’s view, the burden of adaptation required to cultivate
a Euro-Islam must rest heavier with Muslims than amongst the
institutions and conventions that constitute European societies.
That is to say that a civilizational notion of Europe, one that he
traces back to the age of Carolingians, must be the vessel in
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which Islam in Europe comes to rest. Tibi’s formulation is
principally driven by an anxiety over the disproportionate de-
velopment of sizable Muslim communities in Europe, and the
concomitant emergence of a Muslim consciousness (or in
Ramadan’s terms “Muslim personality”). This leads Tibi (2008:
180) to insist that without doctrinal reforms in Islam, that is:
without a clear abandoning of concepts such as dawa, hijra
and sharia, as well as jihad”, there can be no Europeanization
of Islam. One source of Tibi’s dualism centres on the re- la-
tionship between religious doctrine and migration, especially
with regards to the status on proselytization, meaning that “if
dawa [prayer] and hijra [migration] combined continue to be
at work; the envisione d Islamization of Europewill be the re -
sult in the long run” (2008: 177). This can only be averted in
Tibi’s view if Muslims acknowledge that the identity of Europe
is not Islamic. The direction of travel here, that is to say that the
focus on what needs to be revised, marks the key distinction
here between Ramadan and Tibi. Hence the latter has elsewhere
promoted the need for a European Leitkultur—a guiding culture
or leading culture—characterized by values of “modernity: de-
mocracy, secularism, the Enlightenment, human rights and civil
society” (Tibi, 1998: 154). Of course how the concept of Leit-
kultur has been adopted varies profoundly and may in many
instances not be endorsed by TIbi himself, but in both origin
and adoption Tibi makes a regressive argument that assumes
that the insistence on assimilation is both Just and a plausible
policy option, neither of which we consider to be the case
(Meer, 2012).
Despite their differences, both accounts offer an interpreta-
tion of the Muslim subject that is theologically grounded but
socially iterative. That is to say that while differing profoundly
in important respects, both Ramadan and Tibi anchor the de-
velopment of a Muslim consciousness in Europe to a doctrinal
innovation in Islam. Perhaps both authors therefore offer too
linear a relationship between Islamic doctrine and Muslim iden-
tity in a way that minimizes the role of the social. The implica-
tion being that—no less than with any text—Islamic scriptures
offer guidance that are interpreted and applied by human agents
in particular social contexts. As Omid Safi (2004: 22) reminds
us: “in all cases, the dissemination of the Divine teachings is
achieved through human agency. Religion is always mediated.”
The point is that the meaning of a text has to be understood in
terms of not just interpretations but social context. Through
such an approach we would be relocating the “Muslim subject”
in society and amongst Muslim populations.
Beyond “Methodological Islamism”?
Despite the routine discussion of Muslims in Europe as Mus-
lims, however, the appellation remains the focus of much de-
bate. While Bleich (2009: 364) is surely correct in observing
that the salience of “Muslim” certainly reflects how “Islam has
become an identity consciously deployed by a significant per-
centage of Muslims”, this reading is problematised by others.
Brubaker (2012: 5), for example, argues that scholars have been
guilty of a conflation between categories of analysis and cate-
gories of practice. By this he means researchers have not stood
outside the process through which postulations of immigrant
origin have been transformed into Muslims. They have not sim-
ply registered this shift; they have contributed to producing it,
as scholarly literature on Muslims has proliferated” (ibid). He
Identifying ones object of analysis as Muslims’, for exam-
ple, highlights religious affiliation and, at least implicitly, re-
ligiosity; it also marks the population of interest as different
from the surrounding both religion and religiosityMuslims
in Europe are indeed deeply and multiply disadvantaged; but
they are not disadvantaged, in the first instance as Muslims
Brubaker makes a cautionary intervention, but it is one that
needs to be set against more complicated research narrative.
This begins by registering an initial sociological question which
asked why, for example, an attachment to Islam was not relin-
quished, as secularization theories predicted, during the process
of migration, post-migration settlement, or indeed with subse-
quent socialisation in relatively secular societies ( Neilson, 1984).
One explanation was that an attachment to Islam provides re-
sources, refuge and respect during migration and resettlement
(Modood, 1988; Werbner, 1994; Meer, 2010, cf Hirschman,
2004). Hence the Fourth National Survey of Ethnic Minorities
(Modood et al., 1997) identified the tendency for an overarch-
ing “associational identification” with Islam which reoccurs
across first and second generation Muslims. This does not mean
that self-identification as “Muslim” in Europe has not permitted
different kinds of hybridity (e.g., as “British-Muslim”), or un-
changing (e.g., reflecting a different meaning to young Muslims
born and brought up in Marseille to that of their parents who
migrated from Morocco); nor does it mean that self-identifica-
tion as Muslim in Europe has been anchored in a subscription
to a single Islamic doctrine (Roy, 2004). Indeed, the precise
meaning of “Muslim” has instead taken on a number of com-
peting public forms, some of which have most recently been ac-
centuated in concerns about violent extremism (O’Toole et al.,
2013). This illustrates that researchers have not been as guilty
of a mono-causal reductionism as Brubaker holds. For the term
“Muslim” has not appeared through a Gestalt like switch, and
those who use it do not limit it to one or other narrow meaning
(nor new possibilities for its meaning). This is summarised by
Modood (2007: 134) “For some Muslimsbeing Muslim is a
matter of community membership and heritage; for others it is
a few simple precepts about self, compassion, justice and the
afterlife; for some others it is a worldwide movement armed
with a counter-ideology of modernity; and so on. Some Muslims
are devout but apolitical; some are political but do not see their
politics as beingIslamic” (indeed, may even be anti-“Islamic”).
Some identify more with a nationality of origin, such as Turkish;
others with the nationality of settlement and perhaps citizenship,
such as French.” Rather than foreclose them, this reading opens
up further lines of research in seeking to ascertain a valid ac-
count of the contemporary Muslim experience in Europe. As
Meer (2012: 189) describes:
“[T]he relationship between Islam and a Muslim identity
might be better conceived as instructive but not determining,
something analogous to the relationship between the categori-
zation of ones sex and ones gendered identity. That is to say,
one may be biologically female or male in a narrow sense of
the definition, but one may be a woman or man in multiple,
overlapping and discontinuous waysones gender reflects
something that emerges on a continuum that can be either (or
both) internally defined or e xternally ascr ibe d.”
Compared to the purely theological variety, this sociological
category might be preferred as a less exclusive way of opera-
tionalizing Muslim identity because it includes opportunities
for self-definition (such as formally on the census or on “eth-
nic” monitoring forms or informally in public and media dis-
Open Access 311
course). Equally, it can facilitate the description of oneself as
“Muslim” and take the multiple (overlapping or synthesized)
and subjective elements into account independently of or intert-
wined with objective behavioural congruence with the religious
practices. It is maintained that this space for self-definition is a
helpful means of conceptualizing the difference with externally
imposed Muslim and Islamic identities, with both (internal and
external) potentially becoming more prominent at some times
and less at others.
Engaged Muslim Citizenship: An Agenda
for Inquiry
One area where this may be observed is in Muslims-state
participation, sometimes described as governance, in forging
types of participatory citizenship. As Meer (2010; 2012) hypo-
thesises, Muslim identities in Europe can contain many social
layers that are often independent of scriptural texts; such that
the appellation of “Muslim” can be appropriated without any
unanimity on Islamic matters. This point is understudied, and as
a consequence the dynamic features of Muslims’ leadership in
Europe remain unexplored. Yet it cannot be pursued by taking
the route identified by Amartra Sen (2006: 75), who thinks it a
mere “confusion between the plural identities of Muslims and
their Islamic identity” which has bolstered “the voice of reli-
gious authorities while downgrading the importance of non-re-
ligious institutions and movements” (ibid. 77). The research
question is in fact much more complicated because it requires
us to examine the relationship between 1) how Muslims organ-
ise themselves or do not organise themselves, 2) what this tells
us about self-definitions of “Muslim” in Europe, and 3) whether
there is a European mould for the incorporation of Muslim
organisations? Beginning with the first and second questions,
there are, according to Neilsen (2004: 121), three main forms of
Muslim organisation which have developed among Muslim mi-
norities in Western Europe: (A) groups which arose from local
communities in terms of service provision and anti-discrimina-
tion; (B) groups set up as extensions of organisations or move-
ments from their country of origin; (C) groups set up by gov-
ernments or government related agencies or to engage with
them and national civil society. During the 1990s the second (B)
of Neilsen’s forms began to merge with the first (A), before
giving way to the third (C). These were often modelled on cor-
poratist organisations created by other, especially Jewish, faith
groups e.g., the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and the Zen-
tralrat de Muslime in Deauchsland (ZMD) which both draw
upon the precedents of Jewish bodies and organisations. Mean-
while the Conseil Francais du Culte Musulman draws upon the
Consitoire for Jews. Each Muslim organisation has thus been
framed within European agendas of democratic participation,
and stakeholder representation and consultation, rather than as
clerical or religious bodies per se. Of course, as already dis-
cussed, Muslim minorities arrived within social contexts of re-
ception configured by established traditions, and social scien-
tists have illuminated the contingent ways in which European
states have developed specific modes of dealing with religious
difference. This leads us to the third question: exploring whe-
ther there is a European mould for the institutionalisation of
Islam (cf Bader, 2007; Fetzer & Soper, 2005; Googy, 2004;
Benthall, 2003). While embryonic, Muslims-state engagement
points to a re-formulation of church-state relations, indeed in
2003 the European Union discussed how to build bridges be-
tween faith communities, and especially how to integrate faith-
based representative bodies in wider frameworks of governance.
Developments in Muslims-state engagement are therefore qua-
litatively novel and potentially profound, for they engage with
all the questions of legitimacy—who speaks for Muslims: do
they need to be “Islamic” to be “Muslim” leaders? How are
they shaped by as well as shaping citizenship relations in the
public domain? What are the similarities and differences both
within and between different national approaches? These are
just some of the pressing questions in need of investigation if
we are to advance our understanding on this topic.
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