Islamic Studies Islam in Europe
Ahmet Yukleyen
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 June 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0022


Since the 1950s, Muslim minorities have emerged in Europe as a result of decolonization, labor migration, and conflict and civil strife in their home countries. Many came seeking asylum from conflict, while others were simply pursuing a higher standard of living. In the 1970s, the establishment of communal life through family unification brought the institutionalization of cultural and religious practices, such as the establishment of mosques. Islam has become public in Europe, as an estimated 15 million immigrants originating from Muslim-majority countries have settled in European nations over this time period. There has been a shifting discourse in identifying these groups, first as migrant laborers, then ethnic minorities and finally as a religious community. Thus, the welcoming of migrant laborers in postwar Europe shifted to identifying separate Turkish, Moroccan, Algerian, or Pakistani ethno-national groups. Researchers, in turn, have shifted their focus from socioeconomic conditions and ethno-national culture to religion. Currently, groups and individuals with backgrounds in Muslim-majority countries are identified as Muslims, as if they were part of a unified religious community.

General Overviews

Islam has adapted to different times and places, which has resulted in diverse forms of religiosity. The adaptation of Muslim religiosity in Europe has been addressed by various scholars as a shift from “Islam in Europe” to “European Islam.” Many have addressed the reinterpretation of Islam in accordance with the changing concerns and needs of young Muslims; the transformation of religious authority; and the secular, liberal democracy of European states. There is a general agreement that Islam is becoming “European,” but the content and process of this Europeanization are highly contested. On the one hand, Tibi 2002 proposes the emergence of a monolithic and privatized “Euro-Islam.” On the other hand, some scholars have developed a theoretical approach to explain the development of Islam in Europe as a continuation of an internally reformist trend within Islam developed in the late 19th century (e.g., Amir-Moazami and Salvatore 2003). The majority of studies fall between the normative and postmodern approaches. Tezcan 2003, like many others, argues for a Europeanization of Islam through the individualization of religious authority among Muslims. Cesari 2004 underlines the declining role of traditional sources of authority such as mosques and imams, and the rise of “new Islamic leaders” such as Tariq Ramadan (Ramadan 1999) and the Internet, which allows for the individualization of religious authority. Some believe that this process of individualization could eventually lead to a liberalization of Islam (see Mandaville 2001). Based on a survey of emerging Muslim political leaders in six European countries, Klausen 2005 suggests an internalization of liberal democracy. Roy 2004, meanwhile, emphasizes the fragmentation and democratization of religious authority, but without a significant change in doctrine. Despite their differences, scholars agree that “European Islam” is not monolithic but refers to the diverse religious experiences of Muslims who are no longer only in Europe but also of Europe.

  • Amir-Moazami, Shirin, and Armando Salvatore. “Gender, Generation, and the Reform of Tradition: From Muslim Majority Societies to Western Europe.” In Muslim Networks and Transnational Communities in and across Europe. Edited by Stefano Allievi and Jorgen Nielsen, 52–77. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2003.

    These authors use Talal Asad’s suggestion to approach Islam as a “discursive tradition.” This allows them to focus on the internal dynamics of Islam that allow it to be adaptive.

  • Cesari, Jocelyne. When Islam and Democracy Meet: Muslims in Europe and the United States. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

    Focuses on how Muslims in Europe and the United States secularize through the emergence of new religious authorities and individualization. Includes a useful appendix containing a list of Islamic organizations and demographic information on Muslims in Europe and the United States.

  • Klausen, Jytte. The Islamic Challenge: Politics and Religion in Western Europe. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

    This book is based on empirical data of surveys and interviews with young Muslim leaders in six Western European countries.

  • Mandaville, Peter G. Transnational Muslim Politics: Reimagining the Umma. London: Routledge, 2001.

    Combines international relations theory with anthropological insights in an effort to understand how Muslim networks have become global.

  • Nielsen, Jorgen. Muslims in Western Europe. 3d ed. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004.

    A good introduction to European Islam by a leading scholar. First published in 1992.

  • Ramadan, Tariq. To Be a European Muslim. Leicester, UK: Islamic Foundation, 1999.

    Ramadan reinterprets textual sources to justify active citizenship for Muslims to become European in the name of Islam. He provides an answer for young Muslims who are committed to their religion and loyal to their countries of residence.

  • Roy, Olivier. Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.

    Roy focuses on how the experience of Muslims outside Muslim-majority countries is shaping their religiosity and the trend toward a puritanical global Islam. He also addresses the European context in which Jihadists recruit followers.

  • Tezcan, Levent. “Das Islamische in den Studien zu Muslimen in Deutschland.” Berliner Journal fur Soziologie 32, no. 3 (2003): 237–261.

    Provides a critical overview of the studies on Muslims and Islam in Germany.

  • Tibi, Bassam. “Muslim Migrants in Europe: Between Euro-Islam and Ghettoization.” In Muslim Europe or Euro-Islam? Politics, Culture, and Citizenship in the Age of Globalization. Edited by Nezar AlSayyad and Manuel Castells, 31–52. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2002.

    Argues that, for Muslim integration in Europe, Islam should be limited to the private sphere.

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