Conflicts over Mosques in Europe

Stefano Allievi

As the reader will immediately see, the present study is the only one in the series not to have a general point of reference. Instead of addressing a broad issue such as places of worship, it focuses right from the outset on a single issue: the question of mosques, which is identified as a separate issue with its own specific characteristics.
This approach faithfully reflects the current state of affairs, as we will demonstrate in the pages below. Although forms of discrimination on the basis of religion are not completely absent – in particular, cases of discrimination towards certain minority religions or religious beliefs, some of which have even come before the European courts – in no country and in no other case has the opening of places of worship taken on such a high profile in the public imagination as the question of mosques and Islamic places of worship. With the passage of time, the question of mosques has led to more and more frequent disputes, debates, conflicts and posturing, even in countries where such conflicts were previously unknown and mosques were already present. This simple fact already puts us on a road that we might define as ‘exceptionalism’ with reference to Islam: a tendency to see Islam and Muslims as an exceptional case rather than a standard one; a case that does not sit comfortably with others relating to religious pluralism, i
which therefore requires special bodies, actions and specifically targeted reactions, unlike those used for other groups and religious minorities, i (as in the present study) specific research. 8 Conflicts over mosques in Europe An example of this exceptionalism is seen in the forms of representation of Islam in various European countries, which vary from case to case but differ, posebno, with respect to the recognized practices of relations between states and religious denominations in general. The most symbolic case is the creation in various countries, such as France, Španjolska, Belgium and Italy, of collective bodies of Islamic representation, with forms that often contradict the principles of non‑interference in the internal affairs of religious communities proclaimed and enshrined for other denominations and religious minorities. Forms of exceptionalism from a legal, political and social perspective are, međutim, present in many other fields, following a pervasive trend which affects countries with the widest range of state structures and which appears to be in a phase of further growth.
This situation, together with the increasingly evident emergence into the public arena of the dynamics of a conflict involving Islam (a kind of conflict in which the construction of mosques is the most frequent and widespread cause of disagreement), led to a desire to analyse recent cases of conflict, including clashes in countries that are regarded as peripheral within the European Union (MI) ili
that lie beyond its borders. Zbog ovog razloga, we have chosen, contrary to the usual practice, to pay closest attention to the least studied and analysed countries, for which scientific literature is least abundant. Setting off on this supposition, we believe that meaningful data for the interpretation of broader dynamics may emerge from an extensive analysis of the frequency and pervasiveness of these conflicts, which are also affecting countries with a long history of immigration and are more generally affecting the relationship between Islam and Europe.For this reason we conducted a set of empirical investigations across seven European countries that are among the least studied and least known in this respect. We selected three Mediterranean countries which in certain respects vary greatly from one another: two countries in similar situations, where there is new immigration from Muslim countries and the memory of ancient historical domination (Spain and Italy); and one in which there is new immigration
from Muslim countries along with a significant historical Islamic presence (the memory of Turkish Ottoman domination) that poses a number of problems (Greece). Also chosen were two countries which have a very significant historical Islamic presence but which also face a number of new problems (Austria and Bosnia‑Herzegovina); the Nordic country with the largest Islamic presence (Sweden); and a central European country which has a long history of immigration and a particular institutional nature (Belgija). The last of these is also notable for its markedly local management of conflicts, which from a methodological perspective makes it an interesting control group.

Filed Under: IstaknutoStudije & IstraživanjaUjedinjene države & Europa

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