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Mustafa Ceric, Islam in Europe or european islam

18 września 2005 | 12:07 | Ⓒ Ⓟ

1. In its self-understanding, Europe has been perceived as a Christian Continent. It is not only historically, but also factually, that this perception is incorrect. It is the fact of European history that throughout the centuries large communities of Jewish and Muslim people lived in Europe. From the Iberian to the Balkan peninsula these two communities have made important contributions to European life and culture. Furthermore, all monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – have arrived in Europe from the East and found welcome by European people at certain times and for different reasons.
2. The arrival of Islam at European Continent was not appreciated by all, but the same can be applied to the case of Christianity as it had to make its way through heavy storms of disapproval, until it finally found its place in the European mind. Therefore, the drama of European life and culture has been a series of events involving interesting and intense conflict of different forces even before the coming of the idea of Islam as a way of life and as a specific driving force of history.
3. The Christian meeting with Islam in Europe was one of the most interesting and most intense competitive actions in the history of the Continent. It does not matter whether this competition was an affirmative action or an action of opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands. What matters here is the fact that Christianity and Islam could not ignore each other, but had to count on each other in the sense of self-examination and self-actualization. It was not the sword of Ibni Sina, Avicenna (980-1037), that made Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) take him as his master in theology and philosophy, but it was the force of Ibni Sina’s Islamic spirit that challenged Thomas Aquinas to examine and actualize the spirit of Christianity. On the other hand, it was the opposing drives, external and internal demands that let Dante Alighieri (1265/1321) wish for Ibn Rushd, Averroës (1126-1198), to go to hell because of his promotion of Aristotelian philosophy.
4. The most important issue of Islam in Europe today is the issue of representation and institution. We have to know that by an approximate estimation thirty million Muslims live in Europe today. They represent three different groups: 1) indigenous; 2) emigrant; and 3) born. By the indigenous group we mean those Muslims who have a long historical background in Europe such as the Muslims of Bosnia, Albania, Kosova, Macedonia, Bulgaria etc; by the emigrant group we mean those Muslims who have migrated to Europe either as students or workers and have permanently settled mainly in England, Germany and France; and by the born group we mean the yang generation that is born in Europe from the Muslim emigrant parents. All these groups have one thing in common, i.e., Islam. They differ, however, in their human experience and their life expectation. The indigenous Muslims have on their back a big burden of history and expect to be supported in their straggle for their religious and cultural continuity in Europe; the emigrant Muslims are making an effort to establish themselves in Europe and expect to overcome the status of an European stranger; and the European born Muslims are in the state of straggle to preserve their Islamic identity in a challenging European political, economic and cultural environment and expect that somebody tells them how to be proud of their faith and their European birth.
5. What is to be done so that the common value of Islam can become a common ground of all Muslims in Europe? It should be clear to everyone that a voluntary representation of Islam and Muslims in Europe is as misleading as anything that is against Muslim dignity and European peace. It is not enough that Europe recognize the presence of Islam in its land. Muslims deserve more than that. They deserve that their presence be legalized in the sense of creating a political and economic climate in which European Muslims can represent themselves through institutions that should have both governmental support and public acceptance. Muslims are very much offended by the insistence of some European Media on the presentation of Islam in Europe by the image of Muslim terrorists.
6. In order that the Muslims of Europe can enjoy their Islamic identity and that Europe can be sure that they are good citizens, there must be a comprehensive joint Muslim-Christian program that will:
a) build awareness of the complexities of the secular context in which religions exist today.
b) promote understanding, respect differences and explore common ground.
c) affirm religious identities as important instruments to deal with insecurity and conflict, and to learn to respect and live with diversity in situations of conflict.
d) contribute to ongoing discourse on human rights.
e) create an understanding of the 'otherness' of the 'other' person.
f) show the complex relationship between religion, culture, politics and economics, and to highlight the factors which lead towards positive contributions by religions to common efforts for truth, justice and peace.
g) identify religious principles, moral and ethical values, and norms that are comparable and that can be negotiated for a life together; and those that are distinct to each faith; and to recognize possible differences, tensions and misunderstandings between particular moral and ethical values in different religions.
h) highlight the positive historical experiences and to recall memories of good neighborhood and living together that are also part of Europe’s history.
i) establish a common platform for religious coexistence in the spirit of a good will that can be found in both the Books of God and the hope for our common future.

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