European Muslims Struggle to Define Identity

April 28, 2004

Source: BBC News

On April 28, 2004 the BBC News reported, "As the European Union gets bigger and more diverse with the entry of 10 new members in less than a week, the question of European identity and minorities will once again spring to the fore - including that of Europe's largest religious minority, the Muslims. Two contrasting images of Muslims living in Europe caught my attention over the past few months. One is of Muslim girls in France demonstrating against the ban on ostentatious religious symbols in public schools. They wore Muslim headscarves and at the same time had their bodies wrapped in the French flag, a clear expression of a desire to be integrated into French society, but without losing their distinct identity. The second picture is of angry young British Muslims burning the Union Flag and shouting slogans in support of Osama Bin Laden outside a London mosque, a dramatic articulation of their radical rejection of Western values. Between these two positions lies a vast majority of silent Muslims who have over the years gone about their lives without attracting much media attention for most of the time...The rise of militant Islam and attacks related to it on European soil has presented the Muslim communities with a very serious problem. Muslim leaders feel the need to distance themselves from violence committed in the name of Islam, without laying themselves open to charges of abandoning the faith. This has led to calls to develop what has been described as EuroIslam: an Islam in tune with democratic values and less dependent on doctrines imported from the Middle East."