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Europe and Its Muslim Minorities

Aspects of Conflict, Attempts at Accord

Amikam Nachmani completed his doctoral studies at Oxford. He teaches at the Department for Political Studies, Bar-Ilan University, Israel, and specializes in East Mediterranean studies, notably Greece, Turkey and Cyprus. His interests extend from civil war, gender and nationalism, to ethnicity, and natural resources. 

The presence of Muslim communities in Europe is a politically charged issue. Sporadic attacks by radical Muslims have further highlighted the problem of a deep cultural divide between the Muslims and their host countries. There is, however, no one “Islamic Nation”, and a distinction must be made between the radical Muslim minority and secular or practicing Muslims who subscribe neither to the theology nor politics of the radicals. The influx of Muslim immigrants into Europe is rooted in the common human aspiration for a better life. But to date there is no European consensus about how to deal with the political, social, religious, and economic problems associated with their absorption.

This book presents a comprehensive picture of the causes and effects of Muslim immigration to the West. It discusses the population explosion in the sending countries, with their declining availability of jobs and increasing desperation. The author highlights the situation of Western countries with their shrinking families and growing workforce shortages, and considers the readiness of the Continent in general and specific countries in particular to allow its Muslim communities access to its culture and wealth or, conversely, to keep them apart. At the heart of the problem lie issues such as the readiness of the immigrants to adapt to European standards and Western culture, Europe’s and Christianity’s traditional intolerance of “the other”, and Islam’s fear of loss of its identity. In such a fluid and complex situation, there are few immediate solutions or overriding certainties, but one thing stands out: attitudes of Islamophobia and Europhobia do not adequately explain the situation.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-292-1
Hardback Price: £49.50 / $74.50
Release Date: March 2009
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-400-0
Paperback Price: £22.95 / $34.95
Release Date: February 2010
Page Extent / Format: 272 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No



1 The Dilemma: Europe and its Muslims Today
2 Migration and Population: Numbers, Trends and Concerns
3 The Migrants: Why They Leave, How They Get There
4 Identities: European, Christian and Muslim
5 The “Other”: Images and Perceptions
6 Muslim Alienation and Discrimination: Causes and Effects
7 Muslim Women: Challenging the Codes
8 Immigration and Migration: Stemming the Tide
9 Muslim Militancy and Radicalism: Focus on Britain
10 The Future: Europe and its Muslims in the Balance


Appendix A: Bhikhu Parekh’s “British Commitments”
Appendix B: “What Sort of Frenchmen Are They?” Interview with Alain Finkielkraut by Dror Mishani and Aurelia Smotriez
Appendix C: Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, Lecture on Civil and Religious Law in England


These are difficult times for all migrants and minorities of migrant descent living in Europe, but especially for those who adhere to non-Western faiths such as Islam. It is therefore vital to have detailed research of the kind represented by Amikam Nachmani’s study, which seeks to explore the ‘dilemma’ of the relationship between Europe and its Muslim population from a scholarly perspective while at the same time addressing the fundamental normative and political questions that the relationship poses. This wide-ranging overview is to be welcomed, not least for its optimism that the dilemma will ultimately be resolved.
Ralph Grillo, Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Sussex

Complaining revealingly that Europe ‘assassinated 6 million Jews in order to end up bringing in 20 million Muslims’ and thereby ‘exchanged the transcendental instinct of the Jews … for the suicide bomber’ and ‘the pride of life for the fanatic obsession of death’, Nachmani explores the relationship between Europe and its Muslim immigrants. He presents demographic data; describes the routes of Muslim migrants to Europe; addresses question of religious and ethnic identity; discusses European immigration policies; and offers his thoughts on Muslim ‘self-separation and ghettoization’, the status of Muslim women, and Islamic militancy.
Reference & Research Book News

Terrorist attacks in London and Madrid, riots in the French suburbs, the van Gogh murder in Amsterdam, and the so-called Cartoon Affair have all created an atmosphere of increased hostility in Europe between its Christian majorities and Muslim minorities.
... What are the reasons for this strife? Did theconcept of multiculturalism fail? Or is the problem linked to poverty, discrimination and feelings of rejection by a host society?
These are only a few of the questions raised in the latest publication of Amikam Nachmani, professor of political science at Bar-Illan University (Israel). Divided into ten chapters, Europe and its Muslim minorities provides both basic information and empirical data about the historical, political and theoretical dimensions of the relationship between the European Christian majority and Muslim minority. His interview partners have been ‘officials’ and ‘ordinary persons’ as represented by politicians, journalists and scholars from various disciplines, including social anthropologists. Although most of them speak for the European Christian majority, Nachmani also includes comments from Muslim migrants, intellectuals and religious spokespersons. The case studies mainly focus on Germany, Britain, France and the Netherlands.
... After a general outline, Nachmani examines population trends. It is predicted that the number of legal and illegal migrants to Europe, especially from countries with fast-growing Muslim populations, will steadily increase during the next 10–15 years, and it is estimated that 40 million Muslims will then live in Europe. But instead of stoking fears, politicians should address the fact that ‘it is precisely the young foreigners in growing numbers who are filling the gap and replacing the aging Europeans in the workforce’ (p. 21).
The long and hazardous journey many of these migrants must undertake in hope of escaping poverty, war and unemployment is another aspect addressed by Nachmani in his book. Only a small percentage of these migrants actually reach the European Union; the great majority fail or even die trying to enter ‘Fortress
Europe’. At the same time, the EU still has no clear concept about how to deal with the continual influx of migrants and asylum seekers.
... Beyond this, Nachmani focuses on the significance of Islam being the fastest growing religious community in Europe and asks whether the declining influence of European Christianity will finally be ‘Islam’s gain’. As the statement of a young Dutch woman shows, religion has for some become an all-embracing factor in everyday life: ‘Before September 11, I was just Nora. Then all of a sudden, I was a Muslim’ (p. 38). In addition to
(self-)ghettoisation, alienation and discrimination, aspects that affect the lives of many migrants, Muslim women are especially exposed to antagonism because of ‘the two Vs’ – the veil and virginity.
... Another consideration Nachmani takes into account when analysing images and perceptions of the ‘Other’ is the distrust caused both by the ‘Western view’ of Muslims, perceived primarily as intolerant, radical and violent, and that caused by Westerners being called superficial, immoral and violent. Nevertheless, the author assumes that ‘a rather small percentage of the 20 to 40 million Muslims in Europe – estimated around 10–15 percent, most probably less’ (p. 94) can be classified as radical. The main reason for their fanaticism, following Nachmani’s arguments, is not poverty, discrimination or rejection, but is rooted in the ‘philosophy of jihad’ and Islam’s pursuit of world domination.
... The final part of the book provides a tentative attempt to predict the future relationship between Europe and its Muslim minorities based on the theoretical concepts of assimilation, integration and multiculturalism. Drawing a strong historical parallel, Nachmani even poses the question whether Muslims are the Jews of today’s Europe. Despite this precarious comparison, the author concludes with the optimistic view that in the end the ‘dilemma’ of Europe and its Muslims can be solved.
... Three articles that have been published elsewhere are provided as appendices at the end of the book. Their inclusion intends to give some additional views about the present-day encounter between Europe and its Muslim minorities. The essay by the political theorist Bhikhu Parekh focuses on the dilemma of policy-making in multi-ethnic Britain. The second appendix is an interview with the French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut about the riots in the French banlieues in 2005. The last contribution is a lecture held in 2008 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, reflecting on the relation between Sharia and British law.
... Due to Nachmani’s awareness of the difficulty in making generalisations and premature conclusions, Europe and its Muslim minorities has turned out to be a balanced, thought-provoking overview covering many important questions. Although the author does not really succeed in overcoming the dichotomy of ‘Muslim migrants’ on one hand and ‘the Christian European majority’ on the other hand, both novice and more advanced readers on the subject will find his book as comprehensive as it is inspiring.
Marion Gollner, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna (Austria), European Association of Social Anthropologists

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