As Chairman of the Wilson Center Southeast Europe Project, and on behalf of my colleagues at the West Europe Studies, the East Europe Studies, and the Middle East programs, it is a pleasure to welcome you to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars this morning for what we believe to be a seminal conference on the topic of European Islam: The Dynamics of Effective Integration.
Proper appreciation is in order here. I would very much like to thank my colleagues Stephen Schwartz, Executive Director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, and Julienne Nelson, President of the European Institute, for their collaborative skills and partnership in structuring this conference.
I thank Scott Carpenter, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, who will deliver the keynote address today, and Ambassador Samuel Zbogar of Slovenia, which will launch an ambitious program centered on the question of European Islam when it presides over the European Union in 2008.
I thank the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars for making available the federal grant that helped to finance this conference, and I thank Andri Peros, Program Specialist at the Southeast Europe Project, who transformed that grant into this conference.
And I thank, in advance, all of our distinguished panelists, especially those who have traveled from Europe to share their insights and perspectives with us today as we assemble to explore what I believe to be one of the pivotal strategic issues in the trans-Atlantic relationship today – and increasingly, I am personally concerned – as we look beyond the horizon.
Today's conference on European Islam was structured to examine and, hopefully, to provide policy insights into the current and future state of Islam in Europe and its impact on U.S. relations, both with Europe and with the worldwide Muslim community, through three central questions:
• Can European society absorb and fully assimilate those Muslim immigrants who seek liberty, opportunity and full citizenship for themselves and their future generations?
• Can Muslims in Europe tolerate and accept Western values and lifestyles, to more deeply integrate their communities into mainstream European societies?
• Lastly, can European Muslims and non-Muslims collaborate to marginalize and eventually root out fanatical or militant Islamism and to build an effectively integrated, thriving, and enduring Islamic model?
Ladies and gentlemen, to formally open the conference and to begin to explore these issues, it is my pleasure to introduce my partner in this enterprise, the president of the European Institute, Julienne Nelson.
Thank you, John. It is a very great pleasure for me to be here with you this morning and I would also like to thank John Sitilides, his colleges at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and Stephen Schwartz, Executive Director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, for organizing what promises to be an exceptional day of thought provoking conversation and exchange of views on a very important subject.
Indeed, the issues raised by the topic of Euro-Islam impact so many areas: justice, homeland security, labor policy, governance of modern democracy, to name just a few. It is absolutely essential that we come to better understand and address these issues together. That is why I am pleased to have the European Institute co-sponsor this conference. Ambassador Zbogar told me some time ago the importance of, what the United Nations refers to as the "dialogue of civilizations," to Slovenia, a government that has formed an international task force on this subject in order to help prepare Slovenia their turn at the E.U. presidency in the first half of 2008. In the E.U. governance system of course the frame work for what will be accomplished during the six months of the presidency is laid out well in advance in order to make a substantive contribution during the short amount of time that the country actually holds the presidency of the European Union. Slovenia is the first country to have the "dialogue of civilizations" as one of the priorities of the E.U. presidency, so it is a perfect fit that they are with us here today and excellent timing in so far that they are able to share their views and ideas on this very subject.
I would now like to introduce a good friend, His Excellency Samuel Zbogar, who became Ambassador of Slovenia to the United States on September 15th, 2004. He previously served as State Secretary, also as Head of the task force for Slovenia OSCE presidency in 2005, as well as Deputy to the U.N. Security Council, Minister Plenipotentiary, and Deputy Permanent Representative of the Slovenia Mission to the United Nations and various positions within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His diplomatic career is long and impressive. Afterwards, if there is time you can ask him a couple of questions in English, Italian, Croatian, Serbian, or French, but John says do so quickly. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome His Excellency Samuel Zbogar.
Ambassador Samuel Zbogar:
Thank you very much. Thank you. Good morning, everybody. First, thank you Julienne for your very nice and kind remarks. It is always a pleasure to work with the European Institute, the only think tank that we are actually a member of here in Washington. We participate and work together with many, many think-tanks, but the European Institute because it is European is the only one that we are somehow a member of.
First, I want to commend also the organizers of today's conference: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, European Institute, and the Center for Islamic Pluralism. It is an honor for me to be here today and to open and address the conference.
The theme of Islam and Europe, the issues of integration and dialogues of civilization is a challenging one. The organizers succeeded in assembling a very respected list of panelists, which itself proves of the need for such discussions and which is a guarantee for interesting and thought provoking debates. We are looking forward to today's exchange of ideas, lessons learned, recommendations, how to develop further Euro-Islam relations within Europe as well as outside its borders. The conference also follows and probably in some parts builds on the event organized recently by the Austrian presidency of the European Union here in Washington on the theme of immigration, integration and identity.
You might be wondering for the reasons that I am standing here this morning as the Ambassador of Slovenia, which does not have a significant group of Muslim population nor a problem of their integration into society. However, the interest for Islam-West relations dates, for Slovenians, back to the time of the Ottoman Empire when the Empire was occupying the Balkans and trying to invade Vienna. There is a famous story or legend told at home of a Slovenian peasant named Tinker Pan who supposedly defeated the Turks and thus rescued Vienna, or so we are to believe. Slovene literature, in general, has many references to Islam and the most famous one outside of Slovenian borders is in Vladimir Bartol's Alamut, from the thirties, which was the time of fascism in Europe. This work was translated into nineteen [languages] and tells the story of blind faith and indoctrination. Through [the history in] Islam [of the sect known as] Assassins, it speaks about the rising dangers of authoritarianism and totalitarianism in Europe.
But to come to more serious reasons for my presence here today, I think there are three. First, Slovenia is a country whose one-third of the constitution speaks about human rights, the protection of human rights, and the rights of minorities. As such, the country's foreign policy attaches great importance to human rights and fundamental freedoms including, freedoms of thought, conscious, religion, belief, and freedom of expression. Second, Slovenia is in close proximity to the region of the Western Balkans where Muslim groups are predominant in minority populations in several of the states there. Slovenia established special relationships with those groups already during the time of Yugoslavia and later during the wars in the region. Many found shelter in Slovenia and Slovenia supported their cause in its foreign policy. Thirdly, mentioned by Ms. Nelson, Slovenia is a member of the European Union. The European Constitution, even though it has not entered into force yet, speaks in its preamble of culture and diversity as the basis of the European Union identity. The quote reads, "BELIEVING that Europe …wishes to remain a continent open to culture, learning and social progress; and… CONVINCED that, while remaining proud of their own national identities and history, the peoples of Europe are determined to transcend their former divisions and, united ever more closely, to forge a common destiny."
"United in diversity", these words are used very often and should apply as much for the European Union as for the relations among different cultures and civilizations across the border. Better understanding of the diversity of cultures is needed in Europe in order to assure friendly relations among citizens and other people living in the European Union, as well as outside of its borders.
The issue of Islam-West relations and integration of minorities are issues that cannot be addressed separately. After recent developments with the cartoons and riots in several European cities and growing discontent between religions and cultures, there is concern among European Union policy makers for European Union political harmony, social prosperity, as well as cultural and religious tolerance, and recognized norms of acceptance of social diversity. The same concerns are also coming to the forefront of pubic discourse. There is growing consensus, however, that in order to effectively address real causes of the problems more attention should be given to the strengthening of inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue, as well as enhancing tolerance, mutual respect, and understanding between cultures and religions, and integration of minorities.
The European Commission put out a proposal declaring 2008 as the European year of international cultural dialogue. This is also the year when Slovenia will preside over the European Union. For all the reasons mentioned above, we declared the dialogue of civilization as one of the top four priorities of our presidency, the others being the constitution, enlargement and energy. We are determined to make a proactive contribution by addressing tensions between the western and Islamic civilizations through initiating projects that will help improve the dialogue of cultures. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Dimitry Rupel, has established a high level task force of international experts that could and would help generate new policy recommendations at the EU level related to the issue of the dialogue of cultures. The task force will be supported by the Center for the European Perspective, an independent and non-profit organization that was officially inaugurated on the 23rd of May this year. The mission of the center's task force is to promote and build mutual understanding between western civilization and Islam. Moreover, the aim is to try and minimize the tensions that exist in political, social, cultural, and religious spheres in the EU, Muslim communities in the EU, and between the EU and Islamic states.
The target populations of the task force are Muslim communities living within and outside the European Union. They need to be engaged actively through grassroots projects. One of the Center for European Perspective's areas of engagement is in education. Project activities in this area are intended to be two way. Another area of work will focus on research of the Islamic tradition and culture. This includes the history of intercultural relations between Islam and Europe. The third area of engagement is in the field of mass media. With the frequent presence of misinterpretation, stereotyping, prejudice, negative attitudes, and malicious representation of Islam and Muslims, project activities are aimed at education of journalists and editors in the realm of objective reporting and Islamic history. At the same time, improving the image of Islam through countering negative writing is one of the main tasks of Muslim communities living in the EU. This will be one of the main ideas that we have at this point of how the center and the task force will work. Ladies and gentlemen, the director of the Center for European Perspective, Mr. Denis Risman, is here today as well as his collaborator researcher Mr. Primoz Sterbenc. They are both present today to participate in the conference and to listen and to hear from the panelists. I also believe that they will participate later on with their intervention in the discussions.
Most of all, I am sure that today's discussions will trigger many ideas and bring forward many recommendations on how to steer the preparations for our presidency in 2008. Thank you very much.
Panel A: Culture, Religion, and Public Policy: Defining the Stakes
• Moderator: John Sitilides, Chairman, Wilson Center Southeast Europe Project
• Dr. Irfan Ahmed Al-Alawi, Barrister at Law and Lecturer in Islamic Theology and Islamic Spirituality (London, England)
• Dr. Jocelyne Cesari, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, Harvard Divinity School
• Dr. James Lyon, Special Balkans Advisor, International Crisis Group
Ladies and Gentlemen, for centuries, Muslims have been an integral part of Europe and European history. In recent decades, they have emigrated in force throughout Europe, from the shores of the Norwegian Sea to those of the Mediterranean, from the Iberian coast to the Ural Mountains, and to just about everywhere in between.
European Muslims today number about fifteen million residents – and I stress residents, not necessarily citizens in Europe – in both current and future EU member states. The upward demographic trajectory points to a continued proportional population increase of Muslim Europeans far greater than non-Muslim Europeans, who face overall population decline for the foreseeable future.
Furthermore, the political, economic, social, and legal marginalization of many of Europe's Muslims have led to a series of significant problems within European societies, highlighted by the realization that fanaticism and militancy have taken root in communities that increasingly and brazenly reject the societies in which they exist.
This realization was amplified by the reaction to the September 11th terror attacks against the United States, the series of murderous terror bombings in Istanbul, in Madrid and in London, the assassinations of – and physical threats against – prominent European critics of Islam, the riots unleashed throughout France last year, and – as Ambassador Zbogar noted – the reaction to the Danish cartoons that mocked the Prophet Muhammad earlier this year.
In the past, European multiculturalism enforced a climate of tolerance, of intolerant Muslim views and beliefs, within liberal European societies. Now, many Muslims are viewed in Europe with suspicion and alarm. Extremist elements preaching violent jihad have come under increased surveillance and scrutiny. In response, Muslims often accuse European governments of anti-Muslim racism.
Here in the United States, the historical record is not unblemished. Christian fanaticism served as a foundation for institutional slavery in this country, for the formation of the Christian Knights of the Klu Klux Klan, and the lynching of black citizens. More recently, religious and cultural rejection of American constitutional values and ideals have inspired abortion clinic bombings and murders. Importantly, though, neither of these are part of the modern American environment. They are either part of the historical past or occur in such rare instances that they pose no serious threat to the national well-being.
In modern Europe, however, government, civic, and religious leaders now grapple with proposals to identify radicalism, reform educational systems, and even to regulate imams and mosques with an eye towards marginalizing extremism and fostering more effective integration of Muslims into secular liberal European societies.
This first panel will look at the issues of culture, religion, and public policy as they pertain to European Islam, both in terms of convergence and divergence. Therefore, I posit several broader questions before my colleagues on this distinguished panel, with the expectation and anticipation that their presentations, and the dialogue to follow, will help to better assess the current landscape and build a platform for resolving some of these problems.
• Can Europeans possessed of political correctness and multicultural tolerance withstand Muslim rejection of decedent western lifestyles, especially on such volatile issues as women's empowerment, open sexuality and drug abuse?
• Can Islamist fundamentalism and religious totalitarianism co-exist alongside and within secular and often atheistic Western European societies?
• Can and should extremist religious beliefs even be tolerated within a European identity founded upon the Enlightenment?
• How do European governments and open societies embrace Muslim immigrants, desperately needed to prevent labor shortages and to fund future pension payments for an aging European population, while they are effectively segregated in many "separate but equal" environments that perpetuate their marginalization and isolation, further fueling Islamist extremism and intolerance?
In laying out the background for the panel, I welcome our first presenter, Dr. Jocelyne Cesari of the Harvard Divinity School. I understand that the biographies of all of our panelists are available, so there is no need to go into professional backgrounds here. I thank Dr. Cesari for joining us – and the microphone is yours.
Dr. Jocelyne Cesari:
Good morning everybody. First, I would like to thank the organizers of this event: Mr. Sitilides, Ms. Julienne Nelson, and Mr. Stephen Schwartz and of course Andri Peros, who has been more than helpful in bringing us here.
I would like to setup a picture of a Muslim in Western Europe. My own research concerns more north Europe than south Europe, but we will see if there is some kind of convergence between north and south. First, I would like to give you some data information on the Muslim presence in Europe. I am a little sorry about the appearance of this slide. As you know, most of the western European countries do not count people by religion. We have estimates, except for the United Kingdom that introduced two years ago a question on religious membership on the census data, all over Western Europe we have only estimates on the number of Muslims and for that we use and combine different kinds of statistics, especially statistics from immigration because one of the specificity of the Muslim presence in Western Europe is to be the consequence of post-World War II immigration in a way that is unknown in America, for example. In Europe, most Muslims have an immigrant background. There is a sort of automatic correlation in the mind of policy maker, in the mind of journalist, in the mind of the lay citizen of Europe that Islam and immigration are synonymous in the recent history of Western society. This is already a particular point that has to be taken into account, because unfortunately this is not even deconstructed in the discourse we have on immigration, on Islam, and on religion.
The second point that I would like to insist upon right now is what I call the "post-colonial status" of these immigrants. We are not talking about any kind of immigrant coming to Europe. Most of them already had a relationship with the Western country in which they settled down. There is a memory here and this memory and history is not a peaceful one. It is based on the war of independence against the colonial power. Of course, there is an exception that could be Germany. Germany has never been a colonial power, but the relationship between Germany and Turkey and the Ottoman Empire has been based on this relationship of power or domination. It also explains why we have a privileged route of the Turkish migration to modern Germany. It means that people are not coming in an empty blank space. It is not the classical pattern of immigration like we know here in the US. People have a history and once again it is a history based on an unequal relationship of power between the two sides. It means that lots of perceptions, images, and visions of what Islam is have been shaped not by this recent post-World War II immigration but by the previous history. It is very typical in France, for example, in the way that the French government, politicians, or even intellectuals look at Muslims and the Islamic presence in France today with patterns and schemes of interpretation that go back to the colonial times.
Another particularity of the Muslim presence in Europe, which makes them also very different from the Muslim presence in Europe if we look only at the immigrant part of it, is the socio-economic conditions. These are features that cut across all of Western Europe. We are not talking here about one particular country, but most of the Western countries. The level of unemployment is quite high. Once again, how do we measure the level of employment of Muslims when some of them are citizens and they disappear from official statistics as Muslims? It's a long story and I don't have time to get too technical here, but we have some data. All the statistics we have each show that everywhere in France, in Germany, an in the UK the average of unemployment is most of the time double the national average and sometimes triple. It goes from 20% in the UK, to 22% in France, to 21% in Germany, while the national average of unemployment is between 6% in the UK, 13% in France, and 8% in Germany. I can add more statistics that show the socio-economic vulnerability on education, so Muslims tend to be less educated and have fewer degrees than the national average. Their housing is also less commodity and more segregated than the national average of housing. Once again, in the big cities we are talking also of a Muslim presence that concerns the most important cities all over Europe: Paris, Berlin, London, Madrid, Amsterdam, and so on.
With regard to, the demographic question, which has recently become a huge concern in Europe and the US, I have read a lot of positions and declarations on the rise of the number of Muslims. It is true that the first generations that came to Europe, in the 60s and 80s and still come, tend to have a higher rate of fertility than the national average all over Europe, but what serious demographers show is that when they tend to settle down, the second generation that gets socialized in the countries, their levels of fertility tend to match the national averages. Having said that, it is not possible to say that we are going to see the number of Muslims outnumbering, so to speak, or overtaking the national non-Muslim populations. But what we can see is that in some cities, areas, and some neighborhoods is that there is already a majority of Muslims. You can see that in some schools. You can see that in some particular areas in the outskirts of Paris, in some parts of Northern England, or in some parts of Berlin as well.
The socio-economic marginalization is often combined with residential segregation. We are getting here to the definition of the ghetto. When you have a concentration of socio-economic, ethic and religious features together in an urban area we are hearing the definition of the ghetto and this kind of situation exists all over Western Europe. This brings to a specificity what emerges in the political discourse, in academic discourse, and in the discourse of Muslims themselves, as well actually, that brings collusion between ethnicity, religion and poverty. I think this is a very dangerous connection, really dangerous. This is because Muslims, when they live in these ghettos, tend to attribute their socio-economic marginalization to Islam and to say to the non-Muslims that we are in this situation because of Islam and because we are Muslims. People do not accept this as such. They do not criticize or question their conditions on other criteria, which is very dangerous politically and civilly speaking.
On the other side, non-Muslims tend to consider failure in school, failure in the job-market, failure in the housing-market, and in integration into mainstream society as conditions that tend to be attributed to Islamic origin, which is also a political danger because it tends to essentialize the perception of this population on one attribute and tending to downplay the ethnic and cultural diversity of these Muslims. What we can see is a huge diversity in terms of linguistic skills, customs, relationships between men and women that are not automatically defined by Islam but by culture, ethnicity and patriarchy. This is a very rough picture of the Muslim presence in Western Europe. I want to just give you that, but I will not be very long on that because it goes back to the more theoretical and methodological approach that we have had in the research we have done so far.
Usually, when European scholars look at Islam they tend to look at the Muslim presence and try to find out in the group the indicating factors that will explain the integration into mainstream society. They look at Muslims and what is changing or not changing in the way that they are living in lets say France, the UK, or wherever. In doing that they tend to ignore that their presence has changed and is changing the institutions of the mainstream or dominant society. If we do not take into account these two poles we are missing a big piece of the process of integration. It is not enough to look only at Muslims and Islam. We have also to look at the dominant norms, values, and institutions that have been at the forefront in the interaction and communication with the Muslim presence all over Europe. If I can coin that in a very caricature way, I would say that Europe is changing Islam but Islam is also changing Europe.
Islam is changing Europe, meaning that since Muslims have been integrating into mainstream societies we have seen new ways of looking at secularism, multiculturalism, and security issues. I think that it is quite interesting to see that it is not possible to look today at the secular values as it was before Islam. Everywhere the debate is open on the status of religion in public spaces, on the interaction between public and private spaces, and the same is true of multiculturalism. Do not think that Western European societies have been multicultural in a sort of enthusiastic way or consensual way as in Canada, for example. Multicultural policies have happened with the question of integrating these Muslim presences. There was some way of managing diversity within a society from before, think of the "pillar model" from the Dutch and the religious and linguistic diversity in the UK as examples. It is very interesting to observe that when Muslims came as immigrants all these procedures that were already in place were not applied to them. There has been an interesting debate in the Netherlands of creating a new pillar for Islam and Muslims with a big controversy on that and it did not happen. New procedures and new measures have been created to include these Muslim immigrants and all these measures have failed. What we have witnessed in the last five years is a high critique of the multicultural policies.
Europe is changing Islam, but I think I can keep that for the debate. There is obviously a secularization of Islamic practices in the different European societies. At the same time, there is a tendency to be more conservative and more fundamentalist. You cannot avoid both, because, within Muslim communities, the debate is going on and it is not an easy debate. It is not going smoothly. I put these two pictures of a young Muslim woman competing in a beauty contest. This is exactly what secularization is. This young woman is becoming an individual and it does not mean that she is not an observant Muslim. She is probably observing most of the rules and prescriptions of Islam with a question of modesty and so on. So you have this going on.
I am sorry to be going so long, but it is important. On the shari'a debate there is a misperception. Muslims in Europe do not want to change the nature of European states. The challenge is not, and I have data on this, in creating Islamic governments. The debate is on the tension between Islamic prescriptions when it comes to family, gender relations, and children with the dominate civil laws. There is indeed a shari'a debate, but it is not where people tend to look at it. It is very interesting, because data from the World Values Survey shows that, which is that the question on the recognition of sexual minority, on homosexuality, on relationships between genders that tend to be in the dominant society more liberal than within the Muslim community.
Having said that, much of the naivety in Europe is based in the thinking that when Muslims become citizens and become socialized in different schools, systems, political parties and so on they tend to cut off relations with the Muslim world. What we see in our surveys is actually that this integration of Islam and Muslims within Western Europe is happening within an international environment. That is what I call the influence of globalization. This can take several forms. We tend to look at the jihadi influence. It is not the most important one. The most important one is probably the Salafi influence, but there are also other kinds of interpretations of Islam that are coming from outside and clashing within different contexts when it comes to citizenship, integration, and culture, especially culture. The resistance is in terms of culture. Just as the West tends to essentialize Islam and Muslims, the West tends to be essentialized and assigned negative attributes by some Muslim leaders and clerics. We are also witnessing this kind of confrontation in terms of opposite values and it is most of the time connected to international or transnational trends.
Thank you very much. I want to assure Dr. Cesari that we will have an opportunity to further explore some of these issues that you raised here during the question and answer period. Our second speaker is here as the Special Balkans Advisor of the International Crisis Group, Dr. James Lyon.
Dr. James Lyon:
Thank you for the invitation. I am very pleased to be here. I don't get to the US as often as I should.
I am going to be addressing, to a certain extent, the issue of Islam in the Balkans. In particular, I would like to use the Sandzak area, the mysterious Sandzak that everyone hears about but no one knows anything about, as a bit of a case study for what Islam is like in the Balkans.
For those of you who are familiar with Balkan Islam it is usually quite more open and tolerant than the variants that are typically experienced in the Middle East or that we see popping up in the Western European countries. Muslims and Christians often worship in the same sights. Many of them have holy sites that are common to both faiths.
You have the Bektashi that provide a very interesting and I think stabilizing influence. Unfortunately, they are disappearing all too rapidly. Then you have interesting examples of secularism where you find Muslims all too willingly smoking, drinking alcohol, eating pork, as well as the occasional case of Muslim women participating in beauty pageants. I recall several years ago when the Miss Croatia competition was won by a Bosniak girl, which caused an enormous scandal in Croatia which is a Catholic country. How a Bosniak woman could become Miss Croatia caused a lot of people to wonder what was going on.
Balkan Islam is also, however, plagued with a number of problems. The Bektashi are disappearing far too rapidly as is what I consider to have been their very positive influence. There are many questions of corruption in business activities that are plaguing the mosque. In the Balkans religious identity and ethnic identity are one and the same. There is the increasing question of extremism in the presence of the Wahhabi movement, as well as, the legacy caused by the wars in the Balkans, the presence of foreign fighters, and of course the ever present question of ties to… what is that guys name… al-Qaeda. That's it. Isn't it?
Islam in Sandzak is traditional, conservative and patriarchal but also relatively secular. Traditionally, it is tended towards Sufi mysticism similar to else where in the Balkans, notably Bosnia. Many Muslims in Sandzak drink alcohol. Some will occasionally eat pork. The majority of urban women tend not to wear a head covering and most dress in modern fashions, while in the villages head coverings and traditional clothing are worn by Serb and Muslim women alike. Generally, Islam in Sandzak has been politically quiet, but Muslims were traumatized in the 1990s by the excesses of the Milosevic regime and the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, and the torture and arrest that were suffered by Muslims inside the Sandžak itself. As a result, many of them gravitated towards the one institution that they felt offered them a home and operated effectively which was the mosque.
The Meshihat or Islamic Community of Sandzak, was founded in 1992 and is led by an ambitious, energetic, and opportunistic mufti of Sandzak, Muamer Zukorlic. In his late thirties, he has a rural background but was educated in Sarajevo and Algeria. Upon returning to Sandzak in 1993, he was appointed mufti with the active support of Sulejman Ugljanin, head of the then ruling Bosniak political party the SDA, and he became one of the youngest muftis in the world at the time. During the 1990s, mosque attendance rose which gave Zukorlic greater influence. The mosque was typically far more prominent in the villages than in the cities, which means that Zukorlic often came into direct contact with the poor followers of his political patron, Sulejman Ugljanin. Typically this would happen through ders, the lecture that follows the evening prayers which is often held in private homes.
The Islamic community is not monolithic and in spite of his position Zukorlic does not control all of the mosques in the Sandzak. There are at least two other significant Islamic factions one with loyalties towards Sulejman Ugljanin and another that leans towards Wahhabism. Because each local imam essentially controls his own mosque they are often able to play the politicians and the mufti off each other in order to gain political favors. This is seen clearly in the 16th century mosque in the downtown Altun-Alem mosque in downtown Novi Pazar, which has often been able to play the politicians off each other in return for financing.
Zukorlic has also demonstrated that he was interested in politics and business. This, I should add, is something that we find quite frequently in Bosnia, Kosovo, South Serbia, the Presheva Valley area, Albania, and in the Albanian areas of Macedonia. Where we see this strong Islamic presence, often the mosque and business activities are closely tied together. Well educated and young Zukorlic is, in many ways, more progressive on social and political issues than the Muslim politicians in the region and he lacks much of their ideological baggage.
During the 1990s, it appears that that the Islamic community and the leading political party, the SDA, parted ways even though they were both receiving financial aid from the Refah Party in Turkey. Both controlled different newspapers. Both the political party and the Islamic community tended to have very high profile political battles through their various newspapers. At one point, they eventually made a public break and this became a signal for other Bosniak national parties that they too could now break with the SDA political party. This caused a split within the Islamic community with some mosques choosing one political faction over another.
Now, as I said, Sandzak is a microcosm and I think also very representative of how Islam is functioning inside the Balkans. However, in contrast to the strong social conservatism of some of his followers, the Mufti Zukorlic appears to be quite more pragmatic and much of a modernizer. He has said he wants to use the mosque to move Sandzak and the Muslim population there into the 21st century. This means that he has invested tremendous amounts of money into madrasas, which are now far better financed, far better equipped, and have far better information technology equipment than the public schools. This has also caused him to break with the Reis-ul-Ulema Mustafa Ceric in Sarajevo, who is allegedly the titular head of the Sandzak Muslims. Once again, we see that the schism among Balkan Muslims is very common.
Zukorlic has worked very hard to enhance culture in education. As I mentioned, he has pumped a lot of money into education. He founded the first university in Sandzak with the permission of the Serbian government, which was quite a coup. He now oversees a network of Islamic secondary schools, an Islamic publishing house, and two madrasas in Novi Pazar, including a boarding school. The only thing that seems problematic about this is the source of financing. We often know that the person who pays the piper gets to call the tune. The inflow of foreign capital seems to have had some strings attached because part of it has come from Saudi Arabia, in particular from the Wahhabi Movement. Although many Bosniaks claim that Zukorlic has backed the Wahhabis, he denies this.
The Wahhabis first began appearing in 1997, when a new imam at a local mosque began requiring his congregation to pray in the Wahhabi manner. This became more evident during 2000 when the Wahhabis began distributing radical pamphlets which they attributed to the Islamic Active Youth Organization of Bosnia. In addition to this, they have also engaged in high profile civic activities such as cleaning up public spaces. The Wahhabis appear to control several mosques in Sandzak over which the Mufti has little influence. Many of my interlockers claim that there are approximately 300 Wahhabis in the Sandzak region, that they are very loosely organized, and that only fifty are active. Yet, only fifty can be quite a bit if they are active.
Just last week, we had a high profile incident in Novi Pazar where the Wahhabis created a major public incident by destroying the stage of a band that had come to play that was very popular among the Muslims. They grabbed the open microphone and yelled that they were going to cut off the hands of anyone who listened to the band because the band was anti-Islamic. They have subsequently been arrested, but nevertheless this causes discomfort among the local Muslims who do not have any sympathy for these Wahhabi influences.
We are also seeing that this financing is coming from the Bosniak Diaspora. There are some questions as to the ties to the more extreme radical elements among the Bosniaks in the Sandzak. There were two radical Islamic clerics from Sarajevo who have frequently visited Sandzak and who have been tied to the Wahhabi movement. One of them is Hafiz Sulejman Bugari, the imam of the Vratnik White Mosque, and the other is Nezim Halilovic Muderis, the imam of the King Fahd mosque. Both use their lectures to preach hatred against Serbs and Jews and to advocate separation from the Serbs. Interestingly enough, Bugari himself is a Sufi Dervish, but he has a homegrown brand of Islam that was radicalized during the wars with the Serbs in the 1990s. He seems rather accommodating to Wahhabi doctrines. In Bosnia, he has gone on record calling for violent jihad, which prompted some fines when his teachings were carried on a television station. I believe the amount was 25,000 Euros for hate speech.
While Ugljanin's political party, the SDA, had absolute power in Sandzak they would, every Thursday, broadcast Bugari's sermons on the regional television station, until it was cutoff recently. The Wahhabis in Sandzak appear to be very small; however they appear to also be very trouble making in terms of getting into fights, throwing stones, disrupting prayers at mosques, and antagonizing the majority Bosniak population. They seem to continue to find sources of financing. I would have to say that what I have described here is just a brief overview of the Islamic community in the Sandzak area, but these problems, such as the interaction between church and state, the question of the Islamic clerics in business activities, the question of corruption, and the question of Wahhabi financing, are present throughout all of the Islamic areas of the Balkans.
As you can see these are on going and long running questions. Now, we have increasingly begun to see the entry of the mosque into politics. The most recent example of this is in south Serbia, in Bujanovac where in the local municipal election the local mufti founded his own political party. He ran and fielded candidates for the municipal assembly. Despite the fact that the majority Albanian population there is Islamic, he was unable to receive sufficient votes to pass the 5% threshold to get a single city council member.
I will close by saying that Islam in the Balkans, as we see it, continues on in its forms of tolerance that have been traditionally exhibited, but at the same time it is being hard pressed by various forces many of which are coming from outside. Some of these forces are coming from the Wahhabi movement and the others coming from, in particular, the left over nationalist legacies from the wars of the 1990s and other ethnic groups. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Dr. Lyon. Our third presenter, who we are pleased to have here with us, also flew in from abroad yesterday. Dr. Irfan Ahmed Al-Alawi is a Barrister at Law and Lecturer in Islamic Theology and Islamic Spirituality.
Dr. Irfan Al-Alawi:
First of all, I am honored to be here at the Wilson Center and to be here on Stephen Schwartz's invitation on behalf of the CIP.
I flew out to Atlanta some fortnight ago and the first question the immigration officer asked me was, "What are you here for?" I said, "For a conference commemorating the birth of the Prophet Muhammad." Then he asked me if I had been in the states before. I replied yes, and that I had lived in California about eighteen years ago. He did some checks on me and took my fingerprints before taking me to another immigration officer for further questioning. I was then asked if I was a British citizen, to which I replied "Yes, I am." Then he said, "Where were you born?" I said "Kenya." I was further asked if I was an asylum seeker. I said, "No, I'm not." However, he took me to a third immigration officer. I again had my fingerprints and photographs taken. He asked me, "Why have you been brought here to me?," also stating, "I want to go home as I am very tired. What are you here for?" I said, "I am attending a conference commemorating the birth of the Prophet Muhammad." He said, "Ah, let me just check your passport and the system." He went on and said "Ah, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and your age. The computer has randomly selected you because of your age and the countries you have visited." [Laughter] I said "No. The case is that my middle name is Ahmed, which means I am a Muslim."
During this period, a Shi'a lady with a little baby walked in and she had the same harassment. She questioned why she was getting harassed after both she and her husband have lived in the United States. She pointed out that they had never stopped a Lebanese on the same airline that she travels on. I said to her, "It wasn't a matter of being Lebanese, but because they don't like Iran. The U.S. needs its president changed and we need our prime minister changed."
The development of Islam in England is such that two arrests were made last week, and [the arrested were] Muslims. They were arrested and charged with acts of terrorism. Why is it that we are facing this after 9/11 or 7/7? The issue that we in the West, in America, have to understand is that the Wahhabis are an open enemy, not only to the Muslims but to the West. The thing that you have to understand is that there is another sect called Deobandis. Deobandis are a sect about 200 years old that originated in India. They are a branch of Sunni Islam. However, when people ask me what the difference is between Deobandis and Wahhabis I answer that they are like brother and sister, because they have the same fanatical views and extremism.
Lord Nazir Ahmed, a very prominent speaker in the [British] House of Lords, has somehow currently convinced the British government that the majority of the Muslims in the United Kingdom are Deobandis, which is a lot of rubbish. The majority of the Muslims in the UK are [mainstream] Sunni Muslims and they are the ones that build the mosques. The Deobandi movement is a Taliban movement. They have exactly the same ideology and apply the same methods. They have another name called Tabligh, which means "preaching".
One of the first scholars today mentioned the high unemployment among Muslims throughout Europe and perhaps England. I would say that Wahhabis and Deobandis have a very high unemployment rate; one of the reasons is that they do not seek employment as they wish to concentrate in propagating Islam. They like to live on the British state benefit system. What they basically want to do is preach Islam according to their own beliefs, which is extremism, and they want to establish an Islamic state. If I take you back to 9/11, 7/7, and then the current two arrests two weeks ago, all these people are either related to the Wahhabi movement or the Deobandis. They have nothing to do with [mainstream] Sunnis. The two arrests that were made two weeks ago were related to the Deobandi Movement. East London is dominated by the Deobandi Movement. They say that Islam is a long beard, long cloak, and a shaved head. On the other hand, we have the "radical road show" which is being funded by the British government and Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), again the MCB is very heavily influenced by the Deobandis. Iqbal Sacranie and Khurshid Ahmed are part of this radical road show.
The British government funded about half a million sterling pounds for the "radical road show." We had Hamza Yusef Hanson, who is a U.S. citizen from California, Tariq Ramadan and Tariq Suweidan. Now we all know who Tariq Ramadan is and what his views are. The "radical road show" has done no good whatsoever for the Muslims since it has been operating in the past year. The three organizations that are involved with the road show are Q News, which is a magazine that is published every month, Fosis [Federation of Student Islamic Societies in the UK and Ireland], which is a university students' organization, and the Young Muslims Organization (YMO). Fosis and YMO are either Wahhabi or Deobandi. The British government needs to know who they are bringing in to preach about Islam. You are bringing in people and intellectuals like Hamza Yusuf and Tariq Ramadan, who is not a qualified Sunni scholar, but perhaps a political speaker.
We are coming to a stage where Islam is looked at as being one idea of thought. It is either Wahhabis or Deobandis and people are not fully aware of Deobandis. Like I mentioned, they are very similar to the Taliban, they have the same ideas, and they implement the same regulations and rules. They abuse the rights of women. Sunni's are most certainly against this.
We have The Muslim Council of Britain and Lord Nazir Ahmed who has formed another organization called the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Body, which has collapsed. I just had an e-mail yesterday from one of the ministers saying that Tony Blair is really upset that this organization has collapsed, because what are you going to advise the ulema or the preachers of the mosques about what regulations should be implemented within the Muslim organizations, schools, or mosques within the UK? How do you stop terrorism, radical Islam, or Islamophobia in the UK? You stop it by bringing in the true scholars of Islam. You bring the Sufis in. If you go back in 1889, one of the first people to build a mosque in England was Sheikh Abdullah Quilliam, a convert, and that mosque is a registered historical building today. It was not Hasan al Banna or Tariq Ramadan and so forth. You have to understand that we are being labeled as bad Muslims but there is a need to define who are the Wahhabis and Deobandis.
Pakistan had a major Deobandi conference in the year 2000 under President Musharraf. There were extremist scholars in the conference who condemned US and British policies, and it was covered in detail by the tabloids and the international press. Also, you have to understand that Deobandis are very loyal to their religion first and foremost just like the Wahhabis. They would go out and perform jihad in any country in order to fight for their own religion as this is their strong belief. Whereas, in Islam jihad has a different terminology and meaning altogether. Why didn't the United States or British governments take action then? Today many of the madrasas in Pakistan are operated by the Deobandi ulema and the majority of the full time schools in England, recognized by the British government, are operated by Deobandis. The students who graduate from the Muslim schools in England and those who become extremists are mainly from Deobandi schools. They have the same brainwashing done to them as by that of the Taliban.
Thank you, Dr. Al-Alawi. I will return to some of the issues that I tried to raise in my introduction of this panel and to help define the stakes involved in understanding European Islam.
We have had several presentations here, all part of a cohesive argument regarding the broader European landscape, and specifically what is happening in one part of Europe with indigenous Muslims and what is happening with the largely immigrant population in Great Britain.
I am going to ask each of our panelists to provide a broader assessment on how each presentation here relates to U.S. policies in working with European colleagues, governments, and civic institutions, with Muslim leaders in Europe and the Muslim world, and with potential consequence for the Muslim community that continues to grow and flourish here in the United States. Please help bring together the larger stakes here as they pertain to culture and as they pertain to religion.
Dr. Al-Alawi, you have highlighted a number of intra-faith divisions of which I would say most Americans are probably not well aware. How do these divisions affect public policy?
Dr. James Lyon:
I can speak from a perspective of US policy and how we see the US acting and interacting in the Balkans with Islam. There has been a sort of split personality approach from the point of view of the US government, in my mind. First of all, there has been a startling willingness to turn a blind eye to some of the more extreme forms of Islam up until 9/11. This includes such absurdities as the US Army sector in Bosnia being home to the most virulent Wahhabi and Al-Qaeda factions in the Balkans and the US Army refusing to go and take action even though these factions were clearly involved in organized crime activities and attacks against NATO peacekeeping forces inside of Bosnia, all out of fear of force protection for US Army forces.
On the other hand, you have had since 9/11 the US engaged in activities which have angered some of the indigenous Muslim populations, particularly the completely illegal extradition and rendition of six people from Bosnia outside of Bosnia's legal framework to Guantanamo. Whether these men were guilty or not is beside the point. The point is that the manner in which they were taken out of Bosnia in violation of Bosnia's established court proceedings was very troubling to many Muslims inside Bosnia. It raised questions.
We do have the comforting news, that for all the efforts of the Wahhabis to infiltrate in the Balkans they have faltered, including in Kosovo where they have tried to make some serious in roads and the Albanians have had the commonsense and decency to send them packing in most instances. This also includes Bosnia where the country is so impoverished and the war has had such a terrible impact on the population that people were willing to accept money from any source and when the Wahhabis came offering money it was bound to affect certain public modes of behaviors and actions. In spite of this, we do see centuries old traditions of a tolerant Islam in the Balkans is still some how soldiering on. Unfortunately, there are many temptations.
We have to ask ourselves from a policy perspective, what the European Union and the United States can be doing to combat the more radical influences and to encourage the older influences that have been more stabilizing and typically contributed to a greater degree of multiethnic life. At this point, one has to ask whether the US is paying attention to these issues in particular or if it is just looking at all Muslims in the region through al-Qaeda colored classes. There are certainly things that can be done to encourage the growth of Islam in the Balkans in a tolerant form, but these do not seem to be policies that are actively pursued by either the European Union or the US.
Dr. Irfan Al-Alawi:
The situation of Islam in the United Kingdom, I think personally at this stage, is one where Muslims have lost trust in the British government and especially the British police force. I think one of the main reasons for this is that the ulema, or the clerics of the mosques, have been very laid back. We had highlighted this issue to them many years ago. You have to speak up and explain to the members of parliament that there are two faces of Islam. You have the extremist Islam and then you have the Sunni Islam. The extremist Islam has only one belief and that is that they are right and everyone else is wrong. They believe that every church or every synagogue or temple should be demolished and destroyed. We have some people living within England who still have these extremist views and whose extremist views have been implemented by their ulema in their mosques or Islamic centers. Until the British government [acts, we have to argue that] this has to stop, we cannot have Deobandi and Wahhabi mosques and Islamic centers. They will operate and gradually brainwash the new generation.
For your information, we have the [Federation of Student Islamic Societies in the UK and Ireland]. The majority of the student union members or the representatives of this organization, within every university, are run by the Wahhabis or Deobandis. A minority of the Sunnis control this. What has happened is that the new generation has already been, and is being, brainwashed that either Deobandi or Wahhabi Islam is the right path, which are basically the same. There is not much difference.
Now, how are you going to get rid of these people? Unfortunately, it took time to get rid of Abu Hamza and Omer Bakri. It should have happened years ago. Even until today when I go to my local mosque we still have HT giving out their leaflets after the Friday prayers. Now HT is Hizb ut-Tahrir, which was a splinter group that came from Palestine years ago. They have a very extreme belief. You could say that Hizb ut-Tahrir is a splinter group that was operated by Omer Bakri and Abu Hamza. The same rules and regulations apply as with al-Qaeda and Hezbollah.
In the British media and on TV, they have clearly said that what they want is an Islamic state. They want to do jihad. Now, they were banned from the universities. They could not hold their study circles in the universities. However, the thing is that even though these two people have been expelled [from Britain] their people are still operating in the Islamic centers. Some of them even wear their t-shirts. Sometimes they will not mention who they are, but they have their black Islamic flags. The thing is that if you are saying that there is extremist Islam within the United Kingdom, then I would say yes there is and we should have to clear our own houses out.
Dr. Jocelyne Cesari:
I would like to respond to your question on what US policymakers should do when it comes to Muslims in Europe. I would say that they have to be aware of different tendencies, trends and ways of being Muslim. I just want to make a comment as a scholar of Islam. All or most of the European Muslims are Sunni. Deobandi is not a sect of Islam. This is why it is so difficult to figure out what is going on. Deobandi is a revivalist movement that started in India in the 19th century and it is based not on the major body of Sunni tradition, which are four schools of jurisprudence. Deobandi goes back to the Qur'an and Hadith. You can call them fundamentalist in the sense that they go back to the original texts, but they are not out of the Sunni tradition. This is what the Muslim Brothers also did in Egypt and they called themselves and are recognized as Sunni. The Wahhabi did the same thing at the same time. We are here facing the importance of revivalist movements within the Sunni tradition. I think this is important to have in mind, because they are not considered as heretic for most of Muslim youth. This is also why they are so powerful.
Having said that, the ways that they go back to the Qur'an and Hadith are not same. It is indeed true that Wahhabi and Deobandi have a very extremist, puritan, and conservative approach to the text. They reject cultures, Sufis, philosophy, and, in the Western context, democracy, the West, dominate culture… everything is haraam. You have to live like the Prophet was living at the time of Medina. The paradigm is the Prophet at the time of Medina. All other things do not count and are very bad. This means that it does not help the process of integration. Having said that, you have the Muslim Brothers that also go back to Qur'an and Sunnah, but the way that they deal with the West and Western context is slightly different. What we have witnessed is a tension between Wahhabis, Deobandis and Muslim Brothers in the different European societies and also in America. Most of the Muslim organizations have been built on this tension between people influenced by Wahhabis, Deobandis, and Muslim Brothers.
The Muslim Brothers have a different strategy in the West, which is that they take part in the society. This shows in their dress code and interaction with the dominate society. In the book I wrote on Islam and democracy in Europe and the United States, what came up was that most of the Muslim agents influenced by Muslim Brothers are at the forefront of discussion with the main state to create representative bodies of Islam all over Europe. This is not the Wahhabi or the Deobandi, they are going to say that this is haraam. We don't want to do that. But the others are going to say that we are here, we are Muslims and citizens and we are going to be a part of the dialogue with you… politically. The question is when it comes to gender, family, and sexuality because they are very conservative. The concept of how much negotiation there is in politics is a question debated in Europe, because they have been accused of a lot of double talk and trying to make a step in gaining an Islamic state. The strategies are not the same.
These are the kinds of differences that you have to know. You have to know who is doing what with the Qur'an and Sunnah and who is fundamentalist in which way. This is part of the reality of European Islam. We tend to make a linear causality between Wahhabi and jihadi. What we have seen on the ground is sometimes a breakdown here. Who is becoming a jihadi? We have to say differently that not all Wahhabi and Deobandi become jihadi. Then as policymakers and scholars we have to look at the political and social reasons that will push people towards the jihadi. I think this is the real question. If we put everyone together, someone with a very conservative vision of women can be considered a jihadi which can at some point be politically dangerous with some Muslim youth, which are all over Europe indeed conservative when it comes to family values, gender values, and sexuality. I just wanted to make this difference clear to make sure that we are targeting the right people when we want to fight jihadism and terrorism. Thank you.
Thank you very much. This sets the foundation for a good, energetic discussion. Clearly what we see here, especially since most people in the audience are not Islamic scholars and experts, is an understanding of how complex these issues are within the faith itself. With that, why don't we open this up with questions? I see one, two, three, and four hands. Please identify yourselves by name and affiliation.
Stanley Kober with the CATO Institute. My question is for Mr. Lyon primarily. I lectured in Yugoslavia shortly after Tito died and there was an apprehension about the future, but nothing prepared me for the savagery of the conflict that erupted. You have had disintegration of other countries in Europe, Czechoslovakia and the Velvet Divorce for example. Yugoslavia was not velvet. What accounts for the difference? Why did national identity not take hold over two generations? How could a conflict of such savagery erupt, particularly along religious lines? Was something transmitted from generation to generation that we missed and if so how was it transmitted?
Dr. James Lyon:
How many hours do I have to answer that question? Let me be very bleak. I cannot answer the entire questions, because it goes a little beyond the framework of what we are discussing, but I'd like to chat with you about it after.
As a person whose been dealing with the Balkans for twenty-six years, I have to say that in the Balkans the first thing to keep in mind is that religion and ethnic identity are one and the same. In the Balkans there are many instances of individuals who change their religion and thereby change their ethnic identity, so you can be a Muslim and become a Serb simply by changing your name and religious affiliation and vice versa. It happens all the time. It has happened within the past ten years. We saw many examples of it happening during the wars of the 1990s. I would to say though that the passions we saw whipped up were largely induced by state controlled media playing up fears of a very poorly educated citizenry. I will leave it at that for the time being, but I'd love to chat with you in greater depth about this issue.
Sevi Akarcesme with the CSIS Turkey Project. My question is for Dr. Cesari. Based on your presentation it seems that it is important to understand the colonial memory and history of Muslim immigrants in Europe. After all, the riots that took place in France did not take place in Germany where there is a substantial Muslim population. I think that it is related to what you said about the colonial memory of those immigrants. If this is the picture, then why do you think that this element is overlooked, underestimated, and there is a growing discussion of a clash of civilizations and the irreconcilable differences between Islam and democracy?
Dr. Jocelyne Cesari:
We have been doing surveys among these communities for several years now about the colonial memory. We started the project with the first generation of immigrants coming to Western Europe. I know that each immigrant comes to the country with the idea or hope that they will go back.
What we have witnessed in the case of Muslims coming from North Africa, for example in France, is that it was more than an individual hope. There was an institutional framework that was supporting the idea that indeed these people are not part of French society on the side of the society that was sending. The Algerian state and the Moroccan state, for example, were especially eager to keep up the national link. What we have witnessed is that initially the rejection of French society was not based on Islam. It was based on nationalism and a new strong national identity. People were coming to France saying that, "We want to work here. We have no intention of adapting your culture, because we fought against you."
I remember an old man who told me that "I am going to go back to Algiers." He was saying this knowing that this was not going to happen. I was trying to understand why he was saying he was going to go back and he showed me his back. He had big holes in his shoulders from the French police that tortured him during the war for independence. If he showed this to me, this is a narrative that he has given to his children. This means that for a long, long time the second generation of this immigration was saying that they have nothing to do with this country. If you may recall, during the 80s there was a new generation coming in and they could not call themselves French. They were calling themselves Burr, which is a term that has disappeared since, but was putting the Arab origins and national link to the forefront.
All this has shifted in the last ten or fifteen years to where Islam is a tool of resistance to integration. The pattern is there in terms of resistance to accept the society that has been a society that has been fighting against their country of origin. This colonial memory is of course part of the difficult and painful process on the Muslim side, but it is also part of the rejection and resistance on the non-Muslim side. When you have young men from the outskirts and poor working class in urban areas they look like French, they dress the same way, they speak the same language, they don't know Arabic, or they speak broken languages of different kinds, but the people who see them they see them as Arab and so as Muslim, even if they live the most secular life you can think of. This is also a part of the mutual double perception on both sides that precludes reality and a realistic process of integration. That is why I say that this is going on for both sides.
Dr. James Lyon:
May I just interject, for the audience here, that Islam in Europe is not monolithic and that each country in Europe has Islamic populations coming from different parts of the Islamic world. Germany, for example, has strong Turkish and Bosnian components. France has a different population and so does England. They are completely different subsets. In a way, it is difficult to speak about Islam in Europe as one monolithic entity. We have to look at it literally on a country by country basis.
That is a point very well taken. Thank You. Alright, I have a question there.
Thank you. I am Daniel Pipes, Middle East Forum. Two questions for Dr. Al-Alawi. First, you indicated that Deobandi and Wahhabi are the same, but they didn't begin the same. Are you suggesting, as many others have said, that basically the Saudis bought the Deobandi movement and transformed it into their own image or are you suggesting that they always were the same? The second point has to do with your mentioning of the moderates and extremists in Britain. The sense that one had at a distance after 7/7 was that any Muslim who was not specifically connected to terrorism was deemed by the British government to be a moderate. Is that a fair definition in your view in terms of the British authorities?
Dr. Irfan Al-Alawi:
To answer your first question, the Deobandi and Wahhabi beliefs are very similar and close. They had been operating in India since 1857. Although, they are Sunnis and they follow one of the four schools of thought, where on the other hand you have the Wahhabis who do not believe in the schools of thought even if they might say that they are of the Hanbali school of thought. What we have to understand on this side is that the Wahhabis are very extreme in their religion, in the sense that they go to certain extremes so that they will not celebrate the Prophet's birthday. On the other hand, the Deobandis would perhaps celebrate it up to a certain level, but not to title it perhaps the Prophet Mohammed's birthday. The idea is very close and what we have to realize is that Deobandis have only just come into force from the Indian sub-continent. They were not in Europe or anywhere else before that. Whereas the Wahhabis originated in Saudi Arabia and perhaps, if you go back in history, from Riyadh. The second question I am sorry I did not get. Can you repeat the second question?
Dr. Pipes, I have time for one more question. We will have an opportunity to continue this discussion afterwards. There is a question here and then we may have to close this panel.
I am going take the discussion towards the social integration of Muslims in European societies. How do you or policymakers in Europe define effective integration? Does it require things to help the Muslims integrate or adjust to the norms of the European society, or does it require a compromise from the Muslims sometimes of their values and Muslim identity? I have lived in Holland for many years and it has been a challenge for policymakers to make a balance between helping Muslims maintain their Islamic values and at the same time integrate into their European societies. So, how do we achieve this balance?
Are you directing that question to a particular panelist?
To any of the panelists.
Dr. Jocelyne Cesari:
In terms of social integration, I think that the question is not of Islam. The question is of a certain set of skills, related to education and job opportunities, which are not accessible to these immigrants today in Western Europe. I would try to disconnect the reality of Islam from the social integration process. It has to do with more materialist elements. I think that it is important to do that. If we don't do that, we trigger the feeling among Muslims that indeed Islam is the cause of their vulnerability and I don't think that is politically savvy. But that does not mean that the religious integration is going smoothly. Here, we have questions to address on the capacity of negotiating with Muslims in different European societies when it comes to this huge term "shari'a", which is not in the positive law of most European states. There are zones of conflict. There are zones where there are questions of making accommodations or not and this comes to civil law. Civil law regulates, in this case, marriage, divorce, and custody of children. This is where the conflict happens. The reality of Muslims in Europe is "How do I accept the dominate civil law that puts equality between men and women when it comes to talaq (divorce)?" This is what counts to them and there is lots of conflict here because some Muslim men are not ready to give up their privilege. You can see how the judge in Europe is becoming the major mediator in family conflicts. This kind of integration also has to be solved. There should be a tendency towards more accommodation of the dominate civil law. It is happening but there are zones of resistance here.
I am informed that we are going to have to conclude this panel. I will ask my colleague and conference partner Stephen Schwartz to convene the second panel on "Ideology and Theology in European Societies." I know that there are many unanswered questions right now and I hope that we have an opportunity to continue the question and answer period as energetically during panel two, panel three, and of course during the luncheon. I thank all the panelists for their insightful presentations and exchanges.
Panel B. Ideology and Theology in European Societies
• Moderator: Stephen Schwartz, Executive Director, Center for Islamic Pluralism
• Amb. Marc Ginsberg, Senior Vice President, APCO Worldwide
• Dr. Jytte Klausen, Associate Professor of Comparative Politics, Brandeis University
• Mirza efendija Mesic, Imam, Zagreb Islamic Center (Croatia)
My name is Stephen Schwartz; I'm the executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, we began as an American organization, but are now essentially a transnational organization, working with the Ulema – that is, with the official Muslim leadership of several countries: basically in Bosnia, but also in Kosovo and Singapore, Kazakhstan, there's a much better situation in Kazakhstan than there is in Uzbekistan, obviously, so we can work with them – and we are also beginning to develop close relationships with liberal dissidents in the kingdom of the two holy sites, Mecca and Medina.
I think there are a lot of Muslims here in the audience and that's good because you will know all the "inside baseball" vocabulary we'll be using and there are a lot of experts who are here, too. I told everybody that they had to explain every word they use but, some of the brothers were a little remiss and I'll have a firmer hand. I think brother Mirza's message will be quite good and show a proper Islamic teaching attitude as he is after all a teacher in a mosque. I'm just going to add one quick thing – I wish he was here to hear it.
In Sarajevo in 1999 I went to Jim Lyon, who is the best guy that the International Crisis Group had, and I said, "You have to finance a study of this thing called Wahhabism." And he said, why? I said, "because every Muslim in Sarajevo is talking about the clash that's coming." I went down to Kosovo and I worked for the International Crisis Group and I said the same thing again. I said you've got to do a study of Wahhabism. They let me do a study of religion in Kosovo – they took out all the stuff about Wahhabism. I said, "What's going on here?" And the then-Kosovo boss who's name will not be mentioned said, "We're not in the business of starting religious wars." I said, "Well, how about being in the business of preventing one?" Well, he didn't listen. But Lyon is my witness that in 1999 I was one of the people who tried very hard to warn basically that the clash was going to take place.
We have a very good panel here today. I'm very pleased - as Ambassador Marc Ginsberg who, as I think everybody in Washington knows, was the first United States Ambassador to an Arab country of Jewish religion. He acquitted himself very well in Morocco, he has shown himself to be a great friend of the Moroccan people, and everybody in Washington admires and respects his opinion. Dr. Jytte Klausen, from Brandeis who is a distinguished academic in the field of Islam and Islamic studies but is a professor of comparative politics. And then we have my dear friend and my imam, so to speak, Mirza efendija Mesic. Mirza is Imam of the Zagreb mosque and Muslims are a minority in Croatia as he will tell you, but the Zagreb mosque is a very distinguished institution in the history of Islam in the Balkans – also a very beautiful institution. And so, I think that this is a terrific panel and I'm pleased to preside over it. I will preside with a firm hand and we'll give everybody about ten to twelve minutes. How's that? Does that sound right? So I'm going to ask the first speaker to be Dr. Jytte Klausen, Associate Professor of Comparative Politics at Brandeis University, and our topic is, "Ideology and Theology in European Societies."
Dr. Jytte Klausen:
I just want to start out by thanking our host, Stephen Schwartz, for getting us all started and for having this opportunity to talk about what is really an important issue.
I started, about four years ago, a project based on interviewing Muslim civic and political leaders in Western Europe. When I started my project, I thought that the headscarf conflicts were over, and that in fact we were now in the recovery phase and the whole issue about Islam and the accommodation of Muslims would move into politics as usual. How wrong I was.
I want to address the questions about theology and political ideology today. Muslims understandably feel that their faith should not be held responsible for terrorism, but yet terrorism has raised some very large questions about the relationship between religion and politics. When you look at the European debates, there are different opinions about where Islamist terrorism comes from. There's a sense among many security people that it is an international movement. The folks who crop up here and there, engaging in terrorism, in Europe are recruits who have found Islam late in life and this is actually pretty much a statistical fact. And they have more in common with earlier generations of terrorists - like with the IRA or other groups, like the German Baader-Meinhof group or the Italian Brigate Rosse. A second theory is that terrorism derives from the issues related to the integration of Islam in general.
Then there are people who think that Islam is, in some measure, at fault. I think what is important to recognize is that it is common to say in the United States that there are ten times as many people arrested in Europe on terrorism charges as there are in the US. Well, there are also ten times as many Muslims in Europe as there are in the United States.
The latest North American plot suggests that it is probably not true that Europe is in any particular way responsible for breeding terrorism. Most of the recruits for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and terrorist operations in Iraq, have not been Europeans - although there was the woman, a Belgian woman, a convert who blew herself up --but most of the recruits really come from the Islamic states. It is, in sum, not clear to what extent general alienation and anger at the conditions Muslims are faced with in Europe really are responsible for the rise of terrorism. I think ultimately it's more interesting to address a much harder question about what does Europe need to do in order to come to terms with Islam? And what do Muslims need to do?
In the aftermath of the July bombings, it was interesting to watch the reactions among British Muslims: Muhammad Naseem, who was a candidate for the Respect party in the Parliamentary elections and chairman of the trustees for the Birmingham Central mosque, took the opportunity, when the police had a press conference after it was revealed that the July 21st bombers were from Birmingham, to stand up and say that he thought that the July bombers were innocent passengers who had been framed by the government. His statement eerily echoed the rumors that the 9/11 attacks on Washington DC and NY were planned by the CIA to make Muslims look bad. And he went on to say that Muslims all over the world have never heard of an organization called al Qaeda.
This was an example of the kind of denial turning into apologia, that you do hear occasionally. There were also sane voices. Immediately when he said this, the Labour MP, Khalid Mahmood, elected in Birmingham stood up and called for Mr. Naseem's resignation and said the man has his head in the sand, he's saying black is white, etc. etc. A more common, and perhaps more debatable way of addressing the relationship within Islam to the terrorists, is exemplified by the reaction by Imam Abduljalil Sajid, a prominent British imam, who has been in charge of interfaith dialogues for the Regent Park mosque, and argues that it should be forbidden to describe the terrorists as Islamic.
Imam Sajid argues that because what the terrorists are doing is against the Qu'ran, the term Muslim perhaps could be used to describe them, but not the term Islam, because the terrorists are outside the faith. In fact, this is a strategy that the EU has recently taken in, a new set of guidelines just issued for how the press should deal with issues related to Muslims and Islam. But when we think about it, this kind of nominalist response really doesn't work. The reality is that there are serious public policy issues that we have to come to terms with. We need to have a debate about theology and the compatibility with modern values.
In Europe, the debate is often wrapped up in a general worry about a new alliance between religious folks -- Catholics, American-style Evangelicals, and Muslims-- who are increasingly voicing common complaints about bioethics, abortion, and other issues. For instance, in Britain, the Muslim Council of Britain joined up with the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church to prevent an amendment to an adoption law, which would have allowed same-sex couples to adopt children. It is the same issues that often come up in complaints about the threat to secular values.
In reality, there are serious issues in Europe about how Europeans should learn to live with religious people. Europe does not have a First Amendment tradition, and currently as many of you know, it is standard practice in Europe to maintain lists of banned sects, which include many religious groups that are quite active in the United States, including Scientology, but it also goes much further than that. Most clergy, Roman Catholic or Protestant, are educated at public universities or publicly supported seminaries. In most European countries, the salaries of clergy are paid via tax money in one way or another. In Germany the federal government collects a church tax that it redistributes to the recognized faiths, which include the Protestant, the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the Jewish community, but not Islam.
I think it's very important to recognize that when we speak about the issues connected to the rise of fundamentalist religion, about the integration of Islam, there are various types of interpretations of Islam emerging, some of which are anti-democratic but others are not. We need to get the general picture of what it means to build a new faith in Europe. In a very short time span, Islam has become Europe's second largest religion and there is absolutely no infrastructure supporting the development and the institutionalization of Islam. To some extent, the fact that Islam is Europe's first congregational faith, in the sense that it is the mosque councils and the mosque communities themselves that are responsible for building mosques, for the supervision and the hiring and employment conditions of imams is a gift. We should learn to recognize that it is a gift because Islam is now being developed in Europe outside the control of authoritarian clerical elites and authoritarian Islamic states. This is what Tariq Ramadan speaks about when he talks about European Islam as a new movement, a source of revival within Islam, and an opportunity to rid Islam of the various kinds of rigidities--sometimes he uses the word impurities-- that authoritarian state elites and clerics have promoted over the past century.
Nonetheless, it is important to recognize that this movement takes place in private homes and private communities, not in the universities, and not with any assistance from the universities, and often against great opposition from local governments and national governments. In some cases, anybody who gets engaged in these theological reform movements will be subject to suspicion and even supervision. The German agency for the protection of the Constitution routinely blacklists any groups that are associated with Milli Görüs (MG), a Turkish group. MG has historically has been opposed to the state-sponsored Islam in Turkey. However, today the divide between state-sponsored and not state-sponsored Islam is not so clear anymore, because the Justice and Development party (a moderate Islamist party descending from the banned Refah party) is controlling the government in Turkey, and the current government has been pushing very hard to make the two groups work together in Germany. All of these issues impinge very much on the development of Islam in Europe.
Islam developing in Europe is free of clerical authority, except for that which is provided by the various governments in the Islamic countries that maintain an interest in development of Islam in Europe. Let me just briefly give you some numbers. We do not really know much about Islam in Europe, and that's why speculation can develop. By my estimate there are perhaps 6,000 mosques in Western Europe. This number is based on various types of censuses done by security agencies. A French Security Agency did a report that was published and found that there are over 1,000 imams in France; about half are working full-time. Only 45 percent are paid regularly, and the rest are paid either in kind or are unpaid. Of those who are paid, Turkey supports 60. Turkey has government-to-government contracts for supplying and supporting Turkish-educated and funded imams in a number of Western European countries, and has about 800 imams stationed in Western Europe annually. Algeria supports 80 in France, and Morocco only two. The Saudi Arabian government pays for about a dozen, who have graduated from Saudi Islamic universities but none of them are Saudis. They are the Wahhabis we were talking about. Less than 20 percent of imams are of French nationality, and of those who are French nationals, they have been naturalized. Very few are French-born, and over half are over fifty years old. One-third speaks French with ease, and another third speaks it with some difficulty and the last does not speak it at all.
We could probably do a census like that in any European country and we would find somewhat similar results, with the one difference that the countries of origin vary. Now, this tells you something about the challenge of developing a European Islam. In my interviews, it was very apparent very early on that European Muslims' dependency upon the Islamic countries for imams, the training of imams and religious scholars, and for funds for the construction of mosques, is a very big issue among Muslims. I spoke with Parliamentarians and city counselors, regional and national leaders of civic associations, mosques associations, and other groups, and among Europe's Muslim leaders today, the primary concern is how to develop Islam in a way that is detached from the influence of the Islamic countries. It was something that came up again and again. And, yes, people had concerns about political nonsense being preached in the mosques. Radicalism spread through the mosques was high on the lists of people's worries. If you go into mosques, the number one concern that any mosque council has is that there will be a radical identified in their midst, and the security agencies will storm the mosque and it will be closed down. Or, alternatively, their number two concern is that they will be unfairly targeted and the mosque will still be closed down.
Now these are serious issues, but Muslims have other reasons to want Islam integrated in Europe. Speaking in a sociological sense integration has an interesting way of coming in through the back door. Today, Muslim parents are keenly concerned about providing a model of Islam for their children that is compatible with getting an education, getting a job, and growing up. Now, I have probably presented a different picture to you than what you have heard before, but we know that perhaps only about 15 percent of Europe's Muslims are what we would call "fundamentalist." This number is based on very inaccurate, very methodologically difficult studies, but there are three different studies done that have come up with numbers in this range.
The fundamentalists aside, everybody else is looking for a way to practice their faith in a way that makes it possible to be a European, but the way the mosque community is organized creates a problem for Muslims in their daily lives. As one association leader said to me, "80 percent of the imams in my mosque association are incapable of dealing with the kinds of issues that routinely come before them: family conflicts, conflict with local governments, politicians who are saying nonsense about what goes on in the mosque, and so on." There was a collective movement, about 15 years ago to build new mosques, to get "the mosques out of the backyards" was how people saw it.
We can see, in retrospect, that in the mid 1980s, there was a sense that the "tmyth of return," the idea that settlement in Europe was temporary, had come to an end, and it was time to settle down roots and build proper mosques. That's when conflicts over Islam really started to emerge in Europe. Now we are in a new phase. Those mosques have pretty much been built, although in some countries problems remain. In Denmark, there is not a single purpose-built mosque, because local governments have consistently been opposed to giving permission to the construction of mosques.
Nonetheless, the second phase really regards religious education in schools, the training of imams, and the development of a presence of Islam in Western Europe. There is a great deal of bootstrapping going on, with mosque associations developing new capacities, and self-regulation is taking place, which is one reason why the radicals are no longer meeting in mosques. The days of the Finsbury Park mosque are over, it won't happen again. If you go looking for the extremist groups, such as the Hofstadt group, the group responsible for killing Theo van Gogh, the Dutch film maker, well, they were meeting in private apartments. Today, the radicals are recruited in prisons, in private apartments, not in mosques. That problem creates a real serious obstacle to inter-religious dialogue and to the development of an educated and articulated presence of Islam in Europe.
Thank you, Professor, for that very enlightening presentation which I'm sure will stir some very interesting questions. I'm going to give the microphone now to the Ambassador Marc Ginsberg. You all have biographies and I think Marc, you are still involved in this Arab broadcasting project so…
Amb. Marc Ginsberg:
Well let me first preface my remarks by telling this very distinguished audience that I come at this topic from a much more practical and not an academic sense. I'm not an academic. I have spent most of my formative years as a Jewish kid growing up in the Arab world, studying Islam. I'd say over 30 years of my life was spent in and out of the Arab world and as Ambassador, I decided that because of, what I would call the genesis of Islam radicalism in Morocco, it became a passionate pursuit of mine to study the genesis, originations, and objectives of Islamic radicalism as it started spreading into Europe. I also head up an Arab language television production company that's producing programming for Europe and the Arab world about these issues that are not propaganda, but actually commercial-style television programming.
But let me look at this from the perspective, as a Fox News commentator on Islamic issues in the Middle East and someone who has deep and abiding admiration and respect for the Islamic faith and I daresay that without a cliché my time and my travels in the Arab world, from which I just came in a few days ago, remind me once again of the importance of outreach, engagement, dialogue, understanding, and, shall we say, a bit of compassion and less hubris from we, Americans.
But it's important for us to appreciate what is taking place in Europe, it is not merely an academic assessment, it is also a very practical problem that is affecting a generation of young Muslims. I deem it the cancer of national identity denial. It is not uncommon for disenchantment to seize the moment and create confusion in the minds of youth. What is most distressing is that there are two factors that are at work that are causing this cancer of national identity denial to steer young Muslims to beliefs that are inconsistent with their parents' and the surroundings from which they have arisen. Two of the reasons for this, as I have come to study, particularly because my understanding and studying of the Takfiri movement that made its way from Algeria and Morocco across into Spain, and to France as well as to Italy and Portugal and elsewhere. I'll talk more about the Takfiri movement in a minute.
First and foremost, while the mosques themselves – and I'm not necessarily convinced that they are – but the mosques themselves may have been purged, as a result of September 11th, of Islamic radicalism. The periphery of the mosque remains a potent gathering place for those who are still attending the mosque but are disenchanted with the message from within. The role of the internet, and the role of Islamic radical websites, coupled with the spread of Islamic radical theology now and what I would call in the periphery of mosques. And when I say periphery, it's also as my distinguished colleague said, in the home or perhaps in the backyards, perhaps in high schools. One cannot appreciate the enormous calamity of what the internet has done to these youth without studying exactly what is being said. I spent a great deal of my time reading the Islamic radical websites that permeate not just from the Middle East but also from Europe. I think it would come as no great surprise to many of you that Ansar al-Islam, coupled with the movement that was created long before Abu Musab al-Zarqawi made his way to Iraq was to create a very potent radical Islamic network of which many young Arab youths find fascinating and intriguing to be attracted to.
Whatever may be the European governments' response to the threat of Islamic radicalism in Europe, also coupled with the enormous importance that Muslims as well as non-Muslims give to civil liberties, the role of the internet in spreading the dangerous cancer of Islamic radicalism cannot be underestimated. It is everywhere and it permeates everything on the periphery of mosques as well as among Islamic youth. Why is this attractive to them? How do they find out about this? What steers them to some of these websites? Well let me try to answer some of those questions.
I mentioned that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was recently killed in Iraq, spent a great deal of his time and effort to develop what was essentially a network of Islamic radical websites and many of those websites are being run – I almost hate to use the phrase and I apologize and do not meant to be flippant – they are the Ham Radio operators of Europe for the 21st century. Young Muslim webmasters who are, in some respects, toying with the idea of Islamic radicalism but are more interested in becoming the technological "geek squad" for Islamic radical movement, spend a great deal of their time and effort getting these websites into the hands and into the eyeballs of young Muslims throughout Europe. It is a fascinating assessment when one just spends 24 hours reading what is being placed on these Arab websites and how they are being utilized from one country to the next to spread the theology of Islamic radicalism, and again I will not get into the ideological aspects – I think you all understand what is being said. Much of this is driven not just by what I would call radical news coverage of what is taking place, but also again feeding off of this belief system that national identity is trumped by the importance of Islamic identity in Europe.
Why does this have such appeal to the youth of Europe? I think one need not spend a great deal of time pounding one's chest over the reasons why. A lot of it has to do with the failure of integration of European societies, segregation of European societies, the failure to provide adequate social funding for many of the neighborhoods where many of the Muslims do live, whether it be in Spain or in the Netherlands or in England or in Germany. Also a great deal of this has to do with the fact that it's taken a long time, a very long time, for European governments to understand and to appreciate the threat.
There are many folks who study this from a political perspective who asses that from American security – the greatest threat to American security – is the continuing growth of Islamic radicalism in Europe. I'm not here to make a strong case for that. What I'm here to do is to basically focus on three things. First, the role of the Takfiri movement in Europe. The Takfiri movement is a very diabolical Trojan horse movement of Islamic radicalism. The very effort is meant to integrate into Europe, by appearance and by practice of petty crime, et cetera, Islamic radicals who are able, in effect, to avoid being identified by European authorities, and to ingratiate themselves and integrate themselves as much as possible by appearance into the societies from which they are. We have assessed, and my contacts within European intelligence agencies particularly with the French Counterterrorism Intelligence Service, that the Takfiris themselves were largely responsible for making sure that the young Muslims in England were getting access to many of these websites and spreading some of the information from community to community without it being identified or them being identified and many of them are using, and have married, European spouses to carry on this exercise. Why and how does this Takfiri movement generate its direction and command and control structure is something that is still very hard to uncover, but it is there and I just wanted to make sure people appreciated it.
The second is the fact that while European societies, and particularly – I'll just try to use this illustration – the British authorities, finally after 15 years shut down the Finsbury Park mosque. Let me remind you that London was the first city to host an al-Qaeda office in Europe and its taken the British authorities an enormous amount of time and effort to come to grips with the spread of Islamic radicalism in their midst. Now they understand it, unfortunately as a result more of the London bombings than anything else. But there's no doubt that while most of the Islamic terrorists that are going to Iraq at this point in time derive themselves from countries from Morocco to Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, et cetera, but not all of them are going to Iraq in order to stay in Iraq. We have been able to trace that, for every ten Islamic terrorists who go to train and then to participate in the insurgency movement in Iraq, at least one if not two of them are dispatched to leave for places unknown. We do not know where they're going; we know of one thing: that the Syrian government is facilitating to a large extent through the Hezbollah this outbound movement of terrorists in and out of Iraq. Now, I say this as someone who is not doing this just based on wild accusation, but on a continuing assessment, not only by European intelligence services, but also by Arab intelligence services, particularly the Jordanian intelligence service, as to what is taking place. It is not meant to provoke resentment, it is meant merely to make a statement about what is taking place there.
Finally, let me make a comment about the Islamic youth that I have spent time with, both in Morocco as well as in Europe that I have met with and my interviews for the book that I hope to have out shortly. Many of them say to me, in my interviews with them, that was is most attracting them to their lost identity is their sense of lack of identity for themselves and their sense of who they are and what they can do in their lives in the future in their countries. I think it is a cliché almost to say that a vast majority of Islamic youth in Europe is unemployed or underemployed. They're untrained and not able to have the same access to jobs that many of their counterparts in their societies do, and just look at the events in France – the riots that preceded recent events in Canada and elsewhere to let everyone understand that the same problems that exist for Islamic youth in Morocco exist for Islamic youth in Europe. The fact is that under the circumstances there are far more resources, greater resources, available in Europe to help deal with the problem of integration than there are in Morocco or Algeria or Libya or Egypt. And finally, in conclusion in order to give more opportunity for questions and answers, I would like to say that those youth with whom I talk to understand that their parents who made it as a first generation Muslim immigrant to Europe, feel a deep sense of abiding faith and confidence in what their parents have taught them but who lack a sense of direction in their lives and seek adventure, and these websites – again going back to the websites – offer them a sense of opportunity and adventure that's missing in their own lives. I'm not apologetic for it. I'm merely saying that, in order for us to begin thinking about suffocating the ideological underpinning of Islamic radicalism among youth in Europe, one cannot ignore how the internet is playing a crucial role in this process. Thank you.
Thank you, Marc. Since, as I said, I know the non-Muslims in the audience have been deluged with what must be in some respects a rather strange vocabulary I'm going to let Marc – would you give a very one-line definition of "Takfiri"?
Amb. Marc Ginsberg:
Well, I'll give you what I consider the practical definition of Takfiri. It comes from – the Takfiris are actually an offshoot of the Salafi movement. The Takfiri belief is essentially even more diabolical than anything written by al-Qaeda, because what essentially Takfiris promote is the belief system of promoting a true Islamic identity, even if it means perishing less-Islamic believers in your midst.
One of the things that I think is a great landmark about this conference is that I think anybody who attends this conference will walk away and say that it was a conference that didn't just talk about Europe as Western Europe and we made a point of having the Slovene participation and Jim Lyon and now I'm going to hand over the platform to Mirza efendija Mesic who is an imam in the distinguished mosque in Zagreb, Croatia.
Mirza efendija Mesic, Imam:
Peace be upon you. Dear sisters and brothers, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Mirza Mesic. I'm an imam and I work as a professor in the Islamic Center in Zagreb. In beginning, I want to thank Mr. Schwartz and Ms. Peros and the Woodrow Wilson institution – they invited me to attend this very important conference. I also want to apologize because my English is not so good, but I hope you will be able to understand me.
Mirza efendija Mesic:
If you have any questions, Mr. Schwartz will answer instead of me. Because he invited me, I had a proposal that I only be a visitor, only to watch and to learn because it is my first visit to the United States of America. Really it's my first time that I have to speak English in front of an audience. I have a bit of the jitters but I hope that you will have an understanding of me.
I come from Croatia; Croatia is one typical Christian, or Catholic country, population is 4.5 million people. In Croatia, Muslims are very well-integrated in the Croatian society. We have the same language and we Muslims are generally Muslims; we are not immigrants. What I have to note on this occasion is that Croatia – as a state – recognizes Islam as a religion. Only four states in Europe recognize Islam as a religion. In 1912, it was Austria, 1960 it was Croatia, and in 1992 Belgium and Spain. No more states recognize Islam as a religion.
Having said that Muslims are very well-integrated, we have a contract between the Croatian government and the Islamic community. We have a right to organize our schools. I as imam have the right to go to prisons to visit prisoners who are Muslim, or to go to the hospital freely. We have organized teaching our children in public schools. We fortunately have no problems in Croatia. During the war, I was born in Bosnia, unfortunately in Bosnia (inaudible) Muslim. I want to say that Muslims can be an example for my brothers and sisters in Europe. How they love their Islam, their religion, but unfortunately in 1992 or 1995, only one day in (____), 10,000 men were killed for only one reason, because they were Muslims. I hope that will never happen again. Those people watch the United States of America and come to the United States of America and expect to be protected because it was genocide against indigenous Muslims.
I have in front of me what we name the Coalition of European Muslims, which is authored by Professor Mustafa ef. Ceric – somebody mentioned him. The Declaration of European Muslims has three parts. I need fifteen minutes, please.
You have it. Starting now.
I'm going to read now:
"Expressing the sense of the European Muslims regarding the attack in New York in September 2001, the massacre in Madrid in March 2004, and the bomb explosion in London in July 2005.
Whereas on September 11, 2001, thousands of men and women who worked at the World Trade Center in New York were killed by a terrorist attack, and on March 11, 2004, hundreds of people who had traveled by a train in Madrid were massacred, and on July 7, 2005, many innocent passengers were victims of bomb explosions in London, and whereas all these acts of violence against humanity have been attributed to "Islamic terrorism";
Whereas following the New York attack, the Madrid massacre, and the London bombing European Muslims live under the heavy pressure of a collective guilt for "Islamic terrorism," which is constantly being propagated by some politicians and media;
Whereas European Muslims believe there is no collective guilt, but an individual responsibility;
Whereas European Muslims suffer from Islamophobia due to irresponsible coverage of Muslim issues in Europe by some media;
Whereas European Muslims love freedom for others as they love it for themselves and appreciate citizenship and human rights in multicultural societies;
Whereas European Muslims would like to raise their children in peace and security with other religious communities in Europe on the basis of "the ethics of sharing";
Whereas Islam teaches Muslims that Jews and Christians are People of the Book and so all Jews, Christians, and Muslims should learn to share their common spiritual roots and their common future hopes without prejudice in order to avoid discrimination, low self-esteem, demoralization, religious and racial hatred,
helplessness, lack of control, social avoidance, lack of opportunities, and political under-representation;
Whereas Europe is a shared continent of many faiths, nations, languages, cultures, and customs;
Whereas Europe is proud of its road from slavery to freedom, from mythology to science, from might to right and from the theory of state to the legitimacy of state, as well as Europe's commitment to the basic values of human rights and democracy;
Whereas European Muslims want to be part of a European life and prosperity as well as of the social, political, cultural and moral development of European societies:
Now therefore be it declared to the European Union, it is the sense of European Muslims that:
Europe is the House of Peace and Security based on the principle of the Social Contract.
Europe is the House of the Social Contract because it is possible to live in accordance with one's faith in the context of "the principles that free and rational persons concerned to further their own interests would accept in an initial position of equality as defining the fundamental terms of their association." (John Rawls).
A Contract is a person's dictate of reason, whereas a Covenant is person's will of the heart/faith. Hence, the Muslim is a person with an allegiance to God as an act of the will of the heart/faith; and the citizen is a person with a duty to the state as an act of the dictate of reason. By the Covenant man gives his heart to God and receives Inner Security; by the Contract he gives his reason to the state and receives security as an inhabitant of a city or town. A citizen is entitled to the rights and privileges of a free person, a member of a state, a native or naturalized person who owes loyalty to a government and is entitled to protection from it of life, religion, freedom, property and dignity.
European Muslims are fully and unequivocally committed to the following European common values:
(a) the rule of law;
(b) principles of tolerance;
(c) values of democracy and human rights;
(d) the belief that each and every human being has the right to five essential values: the value of life, the value of faith, the value of freedom, the value of property, and the value of dignity.
As they try to live a decent life in Europe, European Muslims have the following expectations: (a) an institutional [presence] of Islam in Europe; (b) the economic development of the Muslim community so that it may have a full spiritual and cultural freedom and independence; (c) the development of the Islamic schools capable of educating European-born Muslims for the new challenges in multicultural societies; (d) political freedom that will enable European Muslims to have legitimate representatives in the European state parliaments; (e) a reform of European immigration policy, which has tended to be very restrictive toward Muslims recently; (f) opening the way for Muslim law to be recognized in matters of personal status such as the Family Law; (g) the protection of European Muslims from Islamophobia, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and similar atrocities.
European Muslims are committed to a comprehensive joint program for religious dialogue 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 highlight factors leading toward positive contributions by religions to common efforts for truth, justice and peace;
(g) identify religious principles, moral and ethical values, and norms that are common and that can be affirmed for the sake of 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 recall memories of good-neighborly relations 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.
To Muslims who live in Europe, it is the sense of the European Muslims that:
Muslims who live in Europe should realize that freedom is not a gift given by anyone. Muslim freedom in Europe must be earned. And the Muslim presence must be recognized in spite of a xenophobic opposition.
Muslims who live in Europe should be more concerned now about their responsibilities than about their freedoms because by assuming their responsibility in European economic, political, and cultural life, Muslims who live in Europe will earn their right to freedom. Hence, the freedom of European Muslims will not be at somebody's mercy, but a possessed value that can neither be denied nor taken away.
Muslims who live in Europe should present Islam to the Western audience as a universal Weltanschauung, and not as a tribal, ethnic, or national culture. Muslims cannot expect other Europeans to appreciate the universal message of Islam if they are constantly faced with an ethnic or national expression of Islam. It is not only that European Muslims can impress the wider European public with the universalism of Islam, but Europe is also a good place for the Muslims themselves to discover the power and beauty of the universality of Islam.
It is in the West that many Muslims discover Islam in a totally different way from how it exists in their homeland, because here they meet their fellow Muslims from other parts of the Muslim world and thus begin to appreciate the diversity of Islamic experience and culture. Muslims who live in Europe have the right -- no, the duty -- to develop their own European culture of Islam as a proof of the third interaction between the East and the West and as a need for a new renaissance that will lead the humanity to a better and safer world.
The young generation of Muslims who live in Europe should be spiritually strong and intellectually bold enough to break the Muslims' own stereotypes about Islam before asking others to change their stereotypes. Muslim youth must take the lead in shaping their future, not waiting for the elders to do the job. Muslim youth should not be shy in taking the lead into a better future for Muslims who live in Europe.
Muslims who live in Europe should commit themselves to the following imperatives of their faith:
?? Read and Learn!
?? Believe and work hard!
?? Be pious and respect your parents!
?? Be honest and fight for your rights! Success
?? Be aware of tomorrow!
To the Muslim World, it is the sense of the European Muslims that:
The Muslim World is a Universal Community of Muslims who are brothers by their common faith in One God and in the prophethood of Muhammad, peace be upon him.
The idea of global awareness should not be a strange thing to Muslims. In its essence, Islam is a universal faith and a global phenomenon. It would have been fully appropriate if the Muslims had come forward with an agenda for globalization in terms of a global freedom and security, because Muslims are scattered almost everywhere on the globe and so their freedom and security are of a global importance.
Not only have Muslims failed to come with a genuine idea of globalization, but they are, generally speaking, failing now to live in a global world. Muslims have no global strategy; they have no global mind and head; they have no global calendar to save them form the embarrassment of the confusion about the date of Eid. Unfortunately, they have the image of threatening the freedom and security of the world; they have a stigma of global terrorism.
It is because of the stigma of Islamic terrorism from which Muslims are unjustly suffering today that a Declaration of the European Muslims to the Muslim World should be worked out in order to emphasize the importance of a change from a bad global image to a good global image of Muslims, especially in matters of their faith.
The center of Islam should take the lead in providing global guidance in practical matters of our universal faith, in global issues of our time, and in global dialogue with our neighbors.
Muslims, wherever they may be, should prove to the whole world that Islam is both a sincere faith and a righteous religion; that it is both attractive in its culture and peaceful in its politics; that it comprises both good people and rich lands; and that Islam includes both the wise man of the East and the rational man of the West.
It is wrong to blame Islam for the lack of democracy in the Muslim world. It is sin to violate human rights in the name of Islam; it is crime against Islam to tolerate a high rate of illiteracy in the Muslim world and to witness a huge gap between enormously rich and extremely poor people in the Muslim world.
European Muslims have the right and the duty to raise these and other issues that have an impact on the future of their children as they are trying to figure out who they are and what they are supposed to do as Muslims in a European environment.
European Muslims call for a global Muslim Community to take the lead in promoting peace and security in the world.
The Muslim World is a legitimate Ummah that should be capable of carrying out the duty of a morally good, rationally balanced, economically just and globally effective Community which is worthy of trust, partnership and friendship everywhere.
We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other everywhere!
Friends are God's way of caring for us!"
I don't think there's anybody in the audience who didn't understand Mirza, but if there's anybody who didn't they can question him afterwards. We're going to run until about 12:10 for questions, so I'm going to ask people to make questions brief and identify themselves when they ask their questions. I'm also going to ask the respondents to be brief because at 12:10 we're going to eat a terrific lunch. Sir –
This question is for Dr. Klausen. You mentioned that there are approximately 6,000 mosques in Western Europe. Are there any Islamic seminaries in Europe? I'm motivated to ask by the excellent piece that appeared in the New York Times Sunday about the movement to establish an Islamic seminary here in the United States.
Dr. Jytte Klausen:
The University of Amsterdam started a program a year ago to educate imams. It's a four-year program to educate people in Islamic chaplaincy, and it takes in 20 students per year. In Britain, there are a couple of schools that have established degree programs in collaboration with local universities; one is the Islamic Foundation and it's working with Loughborough University, another one is the Muslim College which is working with Birkbeck College.
The issue is that all of these programs are educating people who expect regular salaries, which no real mosque can afford to pay, so the graduates of these programs tend to get jobs in prison services, in hospitals, or in universities and colleges, and social services. There are various types of madrasas.
We talked earlier about the Deobandis as an example of a growing fundamentalist movement within Islam. There are about 25 Deobandi seminaries in Britain, and they teach according to a syllabus that is entirely in Urdu. It's a made-to-order education, a brand name, which is transferred lock, stock, and barrel from Pakistan. It's like McDonald's, it's the same product wherever you go, and most of their graduates don't even get jobs in Britain either. They move elsewhere, South Africa, Pakistan, anywhere where there is demand for the product they teach. One of the core problems is that we estimate about less than 5 percent of the current 10,000 imams in Western Europe actually have an education from a European university. And when they do, they are often people who are part-timers. So the question is, who among these people should we really be concerned about?Well the numbers will show you that the Wahhabis have 20 out of 1,000 imams in France, and that's probably a good estimate of what the Wahhabi influence is.
Then there are the religious entrepreneurs, and if we think we should worry about what goes on in the mosques, it's the religious entrepreneurs that should worry us the most. They are the people, who set up the mosques and live out of it. Abu Hamza al-Masri, the one-eyed, one-armed radical cleric from the Finsbury park mosque is an example, as are Abu Qatada (know also as Omar Abu Omar) and Omar Bakri Mohammed. And actually that also accounts for the Danish imam, Abu Laban, who organized the traveling show that took the cartoons around to the Islamic countries. Because he was a political refugee from the Emirates, he had some other young imams travel for him. He is a religious entrepreneur; he lives out of the mosque. When I visited him in Copenhagen, I asked him how he knew how to satisfy the needs of his flock. He pulled out a stack of surveys that he had distributed during the month of Ramadan asking the worshippers what they expected of him. Should the imam go on TV and talk about politics? Yes! Yes! Yes! 85 percent said he should. So there are a lot of issues about education, and I think that the primary issue that we need to be aware of is that there is a lack of educational institutions. There is no presence of Muslims among the theological faculty of Europe's public and private universities, where typically Islam today is taught by Christian clergy.
I just wanted to add – we have some very good seminaries in the Balkans, especially in Sarajevo. And the Center for Islamic Pluralism is working with the Institute of Islamic Studies in Sarajevo to develop curriculum and some very exciting new ideas that I won't bother to go into. Let's see…next person – Ali? Oh, I'm sorry, I was going to ask Dr. Cesari first.
Dr. Jocelyne Cesari:
Thank you. Could you elaborate on this number, this proportion of Takfir movement in Europe? You mentioned increasing (indiscernible)…Do you have any statistics or data? What do they represent? How much of the youth of Europe do they represent? This is my question. And just a short commentary on your reason of this influence related to socioeconomic failure.
I would say that even tomorrow, in the best world possible, if we get rid of unemployment and socioeconomic marginality, I'm not convinced that we'll get rid of this influence of Islam as an ideology as you describe and there is here. We have evidence that people from the middle class are more inclined to get in the leadership of this movement than the poor disenfranchised young men of the banlieues. So, it's just an addition to what you were saying; I'm not saying that people are not getting into this movement for social frustration – but there are other reasons related to the symbolic status of this class or group in European society that is not even addressed today in Europe.
Amb. Marc Ginsberg:
Well let me just say I agree with you and I did not want to leave the impression that there's one answer and one solution and that if you just split the switch, eliminate lower social class poverty, that Islamic radicalism would disappear as an attractive theology for the youth. I'm going to go back and give you my assessment. During the time I was Ambassador, from 1994 to 1998, and then from 1998 until 2003, there was an estimated 7,500 hardcore Takfiris that we estimated had managed to abscond their way across the straits and into Europe. Some of them had made it legally, but most of them had made it illegally, particularly from Algeria, as well as from Morocco. Now, how many of those 7,500 have proliferated into 9,000 or 10,000? I don't know the answer to that. Relatively speaking, the number may seem insignificant, but relatively speaking, to my understanding of the Takfiri objectives, it's a major number to contend with. And I want to point out to you that the leadership of the Madrid bombings was all Takfiri.
Number two, just to finish the comment, I have tried not to get myself into the position of cliché-ing the threat and the source and the solution to Islamic radicalism. One can make – and commentators on TV try to make – the very simplistic argument that there are theological as well social cannon fodder for Islamic radicalism, and that the sociological and economic cannon fodder for Islamic radicalism would be less of a problem if there was more opportunity for these youth. That doesn't mean to say that the issue of identity, of national identity is resolved through the stratification and bootstrapping of Islamic youth - (tape ends)
Thank you, Marc. I'm going to take a question from Ali. We're going to give first priority to some of our guests and we'll be finished by 12:15. So first Ali, and then Weisman, and then Anjul, and then al-Alawi.
Ali al-Ahmed, Director, Institute for Gulf Affairs:
My question is very quick. I wanted to address the issue about the fact that the European social system has enabled many of these extremists to live and have free housing while they do their work, like Abu Hamza and others who were actually living and paid for by the British government, similarly in France and in other countries, they were not working as one of you said. They don't like to work. They just sit around, have babies and do their work, is there anyway that the European social system and welfare system can be reformed in order to give only those people who are in need, not those people who live off the "infidels" while trying to murder them at the same time?
Who was that addressed to, Ali?
Dr. Jytte Klausen:
I'll take care of it. I mean if you start saying that there should be political criteria for giving social services, there'd be an awful lot of people living on the streets in Europe, certainly, right? There was a concrete reason that Abu Hamza wasn't removed from the Finsbury Park mosque, and that was that the police and MI5 agreed that he should stay where he was. He took over – hijacked – the mosque; there was a complaint made to the mosque council two years before the mosque was stormed and he was physically removed from the mosque.
There's an organization called the Charities Commission that oversees mosques; the Charities Commission was told to sit on the fire until the security services decided to arrest him. This has become a big issue subsequently because during Abu Hamza's trial it became clear that he had engaged in all sorts of – he was a basic thug. He asked for protection money from people, and there would be people who would be made to go away, et cetera. And that was clear to many of the people in the Finsbury Park community who he had intimidated and threatened, but this was a decision made at the highest level of government, not to route him out earlier.
OK, I'm going to recognize Dr. Riseman from Slovenia.
Dr. Denis Riseman, Center for a European Perspective:
Thank you, Stephen. Dennis Weisman, Center for a European Perspective. Thank you for all your insightful points of view. One reply to Abu Hamza, just before I start. The main reason he was not deported, or moved away, was because the United Kingdom's government could not find a reason how to deport him.
Dr. Jytte Klausen:
They could have put him in prison; they had plenty of evidence to put him in prison.
Dr. Denis Riseman:
No, that was the main reason why they couldn't. I lived in the United Kingdom for four years and I think people would agree with me that there was a big contentious issue on how to deport him. Secondly, I cannot think but to say, on this declaration by Ceric – which is excellent – if Muslims and all Muslims lived by what was written inside we would not have any problems today, however that is not the case. What I would like to ask to all three of you is, what practical steps actually need to be taken within Muslim communities and EU policy makers to consolidate the position of Islam within the European Union, because currently there are many different aspects of Muslim communities, of Muslim ideas, what kind of path or the way of Islam should actually be in the European Union?
I'm going to ask, since we're getting late, I'm going to ask each of the panelists to reply with one or two sentences as to the recommendations. I know that's asking just to read the cover of the phone book, but we will take up these issues after lunch as well, so if each of you could give one or two quick statements on things that need to be done in Europe, starting with you, Marc.
Amb. Marc Ginsberg:
I was almost going to start by saying that I don't know, but let me just try to save myself by making one particular recommendation. The very point that the religion is so dispersed and un-centralized cries out for at least there to be something that I would call, euphemistically, a conference of imams, of European imams, who essentially are able to spend a great deal of time collectively trying to deal with these issues, and I would like to see that type of, what I call, pan-European council of imams created. I haven't seen much significant movement from any effort to that effect.
Dr. Jytte Klausen:
Actually, I think there's a lot going on in that direction. Charles Clark was getting ready to announce the council and starting a census of British mosques. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia had a proposal on the table, then the government was kicked out and the Christian Democrats came in. Christian Democrat, has invited at the end of the summer, she's going to have a meeting, a summit meeting with representatives of all the different Muslim groups, and meeting with both people from the Turkish government group. The French experiment is not going well, and I think there's a lot of valuable lessons to be learned about how not to do things. The number one rule is that you should keep a roundtable and have everybody sit around the table – don't rule anybody out. And number two is be flexible; don't impose too rigid a format.
Mirza efendija Mesic:
I think that "confidence" is a magical word. Confidence – we need confidence in the true constant education. Somebody mentioned to me, we organize these debates constantly but when we go back to our homes, we continue to speak "we and they." No – we must be a "we." It's a problem for Muslims, for European Muslims. It's my opinion that some negative situations in the Islamic world have an impact on situations or positions of Muslims in Europe. You take examples – 1999, Iranian Islamic revolution, you can take example – madness of the Taliban, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and I think that unfortunately it has a very strong impact on the situation of Muslims in Europe.
[addresses respondent – indiscernible]
My question is related to a previous question. Since this is a panel that has to do with ideology and theology, I would like the opinion of the panelists – whoever would like to answer. Why has so little been done, at least in the Western European context, to combat the ideological sources of extremism and terrorism in Europe, and as Daniel Pipes asked earlier in the previous panel, do governments, such as the British government in particular but others as well, seem to take the view that anyone who's not a terrorist is therefore a moderate Muslim?
Amb. Marc Ginsberg:
Let me take a quick stab at it because it's dear to my heart as a question. I lecture all over the world on Sayyid Qutb and when I bring Sayyid Qutb's – what I'd call, what is probably the most magnificent piece of prison literature ever written –
In the Shade of the Qur'an
, to Western eyes and ears, most have never heard of it. I say you've heard of Mein Kampf, you've heard of Karl Marx, but how many of you have heard of Sayyid Qutb. Most of his works, for example, are not taught or even translated.
In the Shade of the Qur'an
has not been completely translated and annotated. How are we ever going to win the battle of ideas if we don't understand the enemy, and what the enemy has written? And I couldn't agree more.
Dr. Jytte Klausen:
The answer to Dr. Pipes' question is: Yes. In Britain, it is now official policy that everybody is a moderate unless they are violent extremists. I've written a report about it that's going to be published by the US Institute of Peace – it'll be up next week – about the British government's new counterterrorism strategy, faith-based counterterrorism, which means basically relying on Salafists to convert the bad dudes into peaceful Salafism.
I do want to make one brief comment. You know, we Muslims don't like the use of this term "Salafi" to refer to the Wahhabis. "Salafi" refers to the first two generations after the Prophet, and to let them use that name – it also refers to a reform movement in the nineteenth century – to let them use that name would be as if we were to call neo-Nazis authentic American patriots, or as when it happened in the past, Communists said, "Oh, we're just liberals." They're Wahhabis – everybody in the Muslim world knows that. I'm going to cut off now. I was going to let Sheik al-Alawi ask a question, but I know we're one minute away from lunch and Sheik will have his time again after lunch. I want to thank everyone for coming, and I want to thank everybody for participating.
Intro – John Sitilides, Chairman Southeast Europe Project
Luncheon Keynote address:
"The American Perspective" by Scott Carpenter, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Middle East Bureau
Ladies and gentlemen, after the intellectual intensity of this morning's panels, this luncheon could not come at a better time. I am very pleased with the caliber of presentations that we have been privileged to hear this morning, the level of questions that have been asked by audience members, and the energetic engagement of our panelists. Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge the presence of the Deputy Director of the Woodrow Wilson Center, and a gentleman whose participation and input was vital to securing the federal grant that made this conference possible, Michael Van Dusen. Michael, thank you for joining us.
I will ask all of you, to the extent that your schedules permit, to please return to the auditorium when this luncheon program concludes. The third panel will be outstanding. We will look at "The Road Ahead: Islam and Europe in the 21st Century." It will be moderated by my colleague, the Associate Director of the Wilson Center and Director of the West Europe Studies Program, Dr. Samuel Wells. The panel will include Daniel Pipes, the Director of the Middle East Forum, Dr. Sara Silvestri of the University of Cambridge, and Dr. Kemal Silay, who chairs the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Program at Indiana University. I think it will be the critical closing of this first part of our analytical endeavor to understand the dynamics of effective integration of European Islam.
At this time, it is my pleasure indeed to introduce our keynote speaker. The Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Scott Carpenter, is here at a significant juncture in his own professional portfolio. After he concludes his remarks, he is off to the airport and flying to Yemen where he will head the U.S. official delegation at the convening of the Foundation for the Future, a non-governmental organization that is a part of the the Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) initiative, launched by the administration. He will be there heading the U.S. delegation, along with about four hundred organizations from around the world that are being brought together by this initiative of the U.S., the G8 and other European countries.
To provide you a sense of the importance that the Bush administration is placing on the Broader Middle East and Northern Africa initiative, the head of the U.S. official representation for the Foundation for the Future is the recently retired Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor. We will wish Deputy Assistant Secretary Carpenter a safe and productive trip to Yemen.
J. Scott Carpenter joined the Near East Affairs Bureau in August of 2004 and is responsible for overseeing the Middle East Partnership initiative. He was appointed by Administrator Paul Bremer as Director of the Governance Group for the Coalition Provisional Authority, in Iraq. He began his tour of duty in Iraq in May of 2003. In that capacity, Deputy Assistant Secretary Carpenter helped to guide the political transition and initiate a wide array of democracy initiatives during the whole of the Coalition Provisional Authority's existence.
From May of 2003 to July of 2004, he served as a key advisor to the Administrator facilitating the formation of the Iraqi Governing Council, the formation of the first post-Saddam Hussein cabinet, the drafting and signing of the Transitional Administrative Law – which was Iraq's interim constitution – and the establishment of Iraq's interim government. In effect, he has presided over the design and implementation of the largest democratization effort in one country since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
It is a great pleasure for me to welcome him here to the Woodrow Wilson Center, to address an issue of pivotal importance for the United States, in Europe, and amongst our Muslim colleagues throughout the world. Ladies and Gentlemen, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scott Carpenter.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Scott Carpenter:
Thank you, John. Thank you, Michael. Thank you for the invitation. I really appreciate the opportunity to come and be here at the Woodrow Wilson Center. It is always a great pleasure. A keynote address always sounds a bit dramatic. I am really hoping that we will be able to have a conversation about our perspective on the issue of integration of Muslims into our society and also into European society and what dynamics we are confronting as we try to advance a foreign policy in the Arab world that looks to address some of these issues, as well.
I am sorry that I was not able to be here this morning. I saw the panels that were assembled. They seemed to be very good panels and I understand that discussion was animated. I think that the intellectual energy that I heard discussed before I came into the lunch room is something that I really regret missing. I regret, in particular, not hearing the other keynote address that shared with us the European perspective on Muslim integration.
First of all, I want to share some personal anecdotes. It is true that I am heading out to Sana'a later this afternoon. There, are non-governmental organizations from across the Arab world, from Europe, and from the United States coming together with governments from the G8, governments from the Arab world, plus countries like Spain, the Netherlands, and other countries that have a stake in the future of the Arab world to talk about real issues of political importance in the region. How are these countries going to create the necessary political openness and economic engines that will be able to keep these societies from succumbing to the demographic pressure that is mounting there? These are real and practical issues.
Last week, in part in preparation for my departure for Sana'a, I went to Detroit. That may seem like a rather odd thing to do for a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State who is responsible for foreign policy in the Arab world, but the fact is that the largest population of Arab-Americans in the U.S. is in Dearborn and the Detroit area. In part, I wanted to go and talk with them about our foreign policy in this particular area and to solicit from them ideas and thoughts. I also wanted to encourage them to use the networks they have back home to be able to explain what it is that we are trying to do and to work with us on making our programs and our policies more effective and efficient.
Of course, whether I am in the region or Detroit, one of the issues that is always raised is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It is a source of great resentment and simmering difficulty. What we all recognize is that that issue has been with us for a very long time and is not going to be solved overnight, it has not been solved to date and we need to continue to work it. In the mean time, there are tremendous stresses that are being built up in the region as a result of governance issues that I think was also have to address.
To engage Arab-Americans, get their perspective and get their advice on how best to proceed forward has, I think, a dual benefit. One is that it actually does help. The other benefit is that it reminds the Arab-American community in the United States that the government is engaging and wants to have their perspective on some difficult and challenging issues.
The United States of America is obviously very different from Europe. We are a young country. We were built on the idea of immigration. We have these mobilizing myths about ourselves in terms of our being a melting pot and the idea of the American dream when everyone can come and succeed if they only work hard. There is also the idea that anybody can be an American and this is a mobilizing idea. It has tremendous force. That makes us a bit different, I think, from the way in which Europe evolved. The various cultures and traditions of peoples from Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, and the Middle East help to create this rich diversity.
This does not mean that all is harmony, but that there is a rich diversity and the mobilizing myth and idea of the United States that is more or less shared by everyone. To the degree that people do not share this idea, the same problems arise that are being confronted in Europe and elsewhere. Our history has been punctuated with periods of great violence. One thinks of the great wave of catholic immigration in the 19th century and how a predominantly protestant culture had to absorb that and the difficulties that we had with that. But on the whole we have been able to adjust and adapt the American idea to the latest immigrants coming to us. I think there is a lot that could be said and I understand that John did say a bit this morning about the nature of our more recent immigrants and the differences in terms of demographics about who has been coming, so I won't spend any time really talking about that.
So why am I here? Why is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State standing here talking about these things? It is because for us and for the Bush Administration September 11th was a defining moment for the United States. Our lives were changed forever, whether for better or for worse. The prism through which we viewed America and the world around us also changed rapidly. I remember the shock of most people, including my parents and others, who would ask "Why would anybody do this to us?" I remember hearing the same thing from the Danish Foreign Minister while he was watching his embassy burn in Beirut, "Why? We're Denmark. Why would anybody do this to us?"
Well we wanted to understand the reasons why anyone would do that to us and there are multiple facets to that, of course. The one that I deal with is the idea that the President expressed in 2003, which is essentially that we had to reexamine fundamentally our approach to many of the governments in the region. Terror has many faces. As we know terrorists can be educated, uneducated, rich, poor, motivated by one ideology or another, but the underlying difficulties in the Arab world arise from former governments that were not responsible to their people. Lack of freedom clearly does contribute to these problems.
The President said that in asking what September 11th means, we had to recognize that a fundamental change in our policies toward the Arab world was in order. The change was predicated on the idea that Western nations -- not just the United States but Western nations -- should no longer excuse and accommodate a lack of freedom in the Middle East. President Bush said that "Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe -- because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export. And with the spread of weapons that can bring catastrophic harm to our country and to our friends, it would be reckless to accept the status quo."1 So we have a conservative Republican talking about it being reckless to accept the status quo.
The commitment to freedom and opportunity for people in the broader Middle East is perhaps the single most important policy change for the U.S. in decades. It is a product of our belief that without freedom the region will not be able to fully integrate itself into the global community. To us this integration is the key to stability and peace. Democratic institutions offer perhaps the only hope for peaceful expressions of dissatisfaction and resolution of grievances otherwise expressed by terrorism, extremism, or other revolutionary impulses.
Since 2003, the program that I run, the Middle East Partnership Initiative, has been coordinating our economic support funds for the region to make sure that the types of programs running are actually working to promote the types of reform that we have been seeking to achieve. In 2002, the President started the Middle East Partnership Initiative to support primarily the non-governmental sector and we are doing that to the tune of about 300 million dollars over the last few years for programs supporting civil society.
In June of 2004, when the United States was in the presidency of the G8, we launched something called the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative. The Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative looked to take advantage of various programs that we were running whether it was the European Barcelona Process/Euro-Med, the New Neighborhood Policy, the Middle East Partnership Initiative, other bilateral programs, and the programs that the Japanese, Germans and others were running in the region. We said "Why don't we bring all of the governments together from the region? Why don't we also invite civil society to join this process for the first time? What can we do together to address the challenge of reform in the region?"
The U.N. Human Development Report, the first one in 2002, pointed out the great deficits in the region: economic deficits, political deficits, the inability of women to be fully empowered, and the profound lack of modern education that could address the needs of societies in the 21st century. The World Bank calculates that some hundred million new jobs will need to be created in the Arab world as a region in the next fifteen years. What we know about non-oil GDP of the whole region is the equivalent of Spain. Clearly, the challenges are great.
We recognize together with the Europeans and the governments of the region that by bringing the G8 into this equation we would have the best hope of actually achieving something there. It is that context that I am going to Sana'a, by the way. One of the elements of the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative is something called the Democracy Assistance Dialogue. This is where non-governmental organizations make presentations to governments on various elements and aspects of political reform. In addition to that, we together at last year's Forum for the Future launched a new foundation. The board has finally come together and we will be having the first meeting of the board shortly.
I think the successful work of the Democracy Assistance Dialogue, the establishment of the Foundation for the Future, the annual Forum for the Future meetings, other Broader Middle East and North Africa activities, combined with the Barcelona Process/Euro-Med Process and other activities of Europeans, demonstrate that there is a desire for partnership. There is a desire and an understanding that unless the problems of the region are addressed at home and unless change comes at home the problem of immigration will increase. The prospect of having an integration process can take place without the overflow of massive numbers of refugees in the region.
This also demonstrates that there is in the region a strong desire to see change. In 2000-2001, I remember the words "reform" and the "Arab world" were not used together. There was a really strong sense that it was a place that was stagnated, but that was okay because that was the way it was and the way it would always be. When people started to call for reform in the Arab world and people were saying that Arabs were not ready for democracy, George Bush said that we cannot let ourselves be held hostage to the soft bigotry of low expectations. Why should this be the only part of the world that does not have the benefits of human freedom? Slowly and together I think that we and Europe have recognize that we need to do something more on this.
I was handed, right before I came into the building, the statement that just came out of the U.S.-E.U. summit. It is the declaration. There is a paragraph that I will just quickly read to you "We [Europe and the U.S.] will continue to support reform in the Mediterranean region and the Middle East and will promote greater participation of civil society in the reform process through our respective efforts, including the Barcelona Process, the European Neighborhood Policy, the Middle East Partnership Initiative, and our joint actions through the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative and the Foundation and Fund for the Future."2
We are in this together. We recognize that the challenges that will confront Europe are going to be very difficult and the dynamics of effective immigration are foremost on the minds of many communities. We only need to point to events such as the London bombings and recent alleged plots to commit terrorist acts in Canada to know that challenges remain. Even within the U.S., a lone Muslim Iranian immigrant, who spent most of his life in the United States, drove his car into a courtyard full of students at the University of North Carolina claiming to take revenge for U.S. actions against Muslims worldwide. He was a recent UNC graduate, the student council president in high school, and a member of the National Honors Society. Out in Detroit, I heard many complaints as American Muslims are under scrutiny not only from law enforcement agencies but also from within their own community.
No one wants their faith hijacked in the name of violence. Many major Muslim American organizations have repeatedly pledged cooperation with law enforcement and with organizations like the State Department. American experience of full political, cultural, and economic integration and a sense of having a stake in the future of the community are the core of the American experience. These are some of the best guarantees against individuals becoming disaffected. As I said there are no guarantees, but the system is important. How people participate, how they have access, whether they feel that they can be treated as equals, societies that have a degree of flexibility, and having concrete ways of politically expressing themselves is important. Most people like to be governed from the center, not left or right, but from the center. The extremes and tails of the bell curve are small. It is in societies where you can see a huge tail and a very thin center that you know there is something wrong inside the society.
The United States is committed and persistent in the cause of advancing freedom in the Middle East and North Africa. We are not backing away. We believe that democracy and greater openness can bring peace, prosperity, and fuller stability to the region. It can ensure its full participation and integration into the international community. It is also our commitment to full integration at home that allows our citizens to seek dialogue with their representatives rather than to engage in violent actions. We look forward to looking with many partners, the Europeans and others, towards this collective goal.
With that I will just stop and see if we can take some questions. Thank you very much.
[inaudible] … this proposal grows out of the cartoon controversy, but it obviously promises to create a great deal of discourse between the West and Islamic countries because in the West it would be seen as an intervention against the freedom of speech. I know that people in the U.N. are already quite (INAUDIBLE) about how to deal with this issue and I was wondering how you saw it. Do you think there is any room for compromise on this or any way of defusing this potential conflict or the addition of religious information as a human right?
: I hate to admit it, but I am not familiar with the specific OIC decision to make this move. I think that, in the discussions that we and others have had with the leadership in the OIC there has been this desire to not stoke the flames further and to not create a head on battle over these issues. I hope that we can find a way to talk about this, because I agree with you that this would be polarized and therefore not in anyone's interest. I am not sure how far this has developed or expanded, but my supposition is that perhaps there are other interim steps that can be worked on before getting to that particular point.
My question is about the MEPI program [Middle East Partnership Initiative] and similar programs. I am the director of The Gulf Institute. I see that there is a tendency in both American and European programs to be limited to very few countries: the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Egypt. You don't see programs in Libya, Sudan, the Gulf, and other countries. This is partly because you have Levant immigrants directing your funds only to their own countries and own people, while there are higher needs in areas like the Gulf, Africa, and Yemen, for example. Are you attempting to equalize those funds and distribution of these funds to countries that are in higher need, especially for education Yemen, Sudan, and even in the Gulf with the issues for women, children, and so on?
I think that I need to correct a misperception. In fact, the Middle East Partnership programs are available across the Arab world. It is true that in countries like Jordan we have a lot of programs going on and in Lebanon we have a lot of programs going on. Frankly, the focus really has been on trying to find ways to support think tanks in the Gulf, like the Gulf Research Center, especially on women empowerment issues. We have a number of programs in Yemen specifically because of the issues you raised and that the challenges and needs are greater there than elsewhere.
The Middle East Partnership Initiative doesn't cover the same ground as the Arab League geographically. The Sudan, for instance, falls out. Djibouti is not in. Mauritania is not in. However, from Morocco all the way across we have many, many programs and we are open to new ideas all the time. We have two regional offices. One is in Tunis; it covers North Africa. The other office is in Abu Dhabi.
If you are interested or have ideas, please get in touch. We really are looking to empower organizations that do things related to reform, across the Gulf in particular. Part of the problem for us in the Gulf is that there is so much money. People ask, why would the United States and American tax payer spend any money in the Gulf? It is because these governments aren't going to spend money on these types of things. That's the answer. We want to be able to help, if we can.
Hello. Thank you for the lecture. My name is Youness and I am from the Embassy of Morocco. My question is that since the morning we have been talking about and listening to you and the other scholars about terrorism, but the only events that we have been talking about have been Madrid, London, and September 11th. That is my question. Why don't we talk about it in a more global perspective? It happened in Casablanca. It happened in Beirut. It happened in Saudi Arabia itself. Why are we treating it from a very limited space? That is my question. Thank you.
I think the answer is pretty straight forward. September 11th took us by surprise. Maybe it shouldn't have, but all of a sudden we woke up to all of these challenges and problems where we didn't see them before. If I think about Morocco in particular, about how responsive and quick the international condemnation was the bombings in Casablanca and how our foreign policy, especially towards Morocco, moved quickly. [We] worked to make sure that the Agency for International Development in Morocco didn't close as it was scheduled to do. We have been working very closely with the government of Morocco on MCC and other issues….
When you are asking the question that I think is being asked here, how are American society and European societies struggling with the concept of integrating Muslim communities? The question in part stems from the fact that if you don't look to find ways to integrate people and have them feel that they have a stake -- either in the United States, or in Europe, or in Egypt, or in Morocco -- then people are going to become frustrated to the point that they may resort to violence.
It is a global phenomenon. We recognize that and we work with all the governments in the region on this issue, but at the same time we have to get at some of these underlying challenges. In Morocco, I think, these also stem from lack of economic opportunity and so we are working with the government to do as much as we can to drive the prospect of opening up opportunity. The King has been a great reformer. As I said, we are working in partnership. The question about why the United States is pushing a new agenda of reform in the Arab world couldn't be answered unless you talk about September 11th.
[inaudible] … a point of clarification on behalf of the Wilson Center and our partner organizations. The reason that we emphasized the terror attacks on those European cities, in Istanbul, Madrid, and London, during the first two panels and during the opening keynote address is because those attacks in other parts of the world, however great the sympathy from the United States and the Western world for the victims of such attacks, are not directly symptomatic of the issue at hand here – that is, Islam in Europe. I need to convey that distinction. It is not fair to Mr. Carpenter to have to answer that question, which falls under the responsibility of the conference organizers instead.
Sevi Akarcesme. CSIS Turkey Project. You talked about the importance of encouraging democracy in the Middle East and free elections; but, as we saw in the Hamas example, elections do not always bring about desired results. How do you think that the United States reconcile such situations of balancing encouraging democracy and peaceful governments?
Let me say this, we believe that greater political openness leads to greater stability. Especially in countries where there are very deep and real divisions, sometimes when you don't have a benevolent dictator to rely on democracy has to be the only way. If you look at Iraq right now, if you did not have a political process underway, if you didn't have those elections and a referendum, if you didn't have a political leadership that was willing to work with these issues, I think you would be in a lot worse off position than you are right now. It may be hard to imagine, but I can guarantee that it would be the case.
I think that in West Bank Gaza, had there not been elections in January there would have been civil war. We may be headed that way now, but the fact is that the election at least created the possibility of having a legitimate government on the Palestinian side that would be able to talk about the peace process with the Israelis and hopefully lead us in a different direction than which we are heading.
Right now, Hamas is elected and the President said that it was a great election. He praised the Palestinian people. The Central Election Commission, the only independent central election commission in the entire region, did a fantastic job. The media covered the elections well. It was extraordinary. However, now the government has a policy that if it is going to be a part of the international community, it has to change and be different from being in opposition. No one is questioning the democratic results of the election, but as an international community we are questioning our responsibility of dealing with that government. We have concluded as an international community that we are not going to deal with that government until it changes some of its fundamental positions.
Since sanctions against the Hamas administration are on the agenda and seriously discussed not only the United State but also in Europe, how is it possible to convey the message to people in the Middle East that democracy and free elections are respected and encouraged?
I think that we have to differentiate, and perhaps this is the lack of experience with the democratic process in the region, but you have to distinguish between the process that elects the government and what the policies are. We have elections coming up in this country in November. There is a great deal of debate about what direction the country is headed in, whether the United States is going to be ready to embrace wholesale change, and what not, but policies matter and ideas matter.
No one took away or wanted to take away the Palestinian right to make a choice about who would govern them, but when you make a decision you have to live with the consequences of your decision. I do no think and Abu Mazen clearly does not think that the Palestinian people voted for continued war with Israel. They voted for Hamas because the wanted to vote against a perceived corruption and an inability to govern on the part of Fatah. That is why I think that Abu Mazen is looking at the polls and thinking that this referendum idea looks pretty good. Seventy-five percent of the Palestinian people say that they should be negotiating with the Israelis and recognizing their right to exist, so that maybe this whole nightmare will go away on the other side.
Governments have to relate with governments. That is my job. I would like to relate, as a member of the State Department and Executive Branch, with lots of different people, but my first call has to be to the foreign ministry. This is the challenge of the international community. Hamas has a choice to make.
I don't think that Palestinians or anyone in the Arab world should take the wrong message from the election in West Bank Gaza. They can also look at the election in Iraq. We are prepared to work with people that we don't normally like. It is a matter of policy, not position. If you look around the world, we deal with governments that we don't "like". We deal with the will of the people and governments, whether they like it or not, have to deal with us, because we are also a democracy. The legitimacy of the choice is not in question.
Dr. Irfan Al-Alawi:
How does the Bush government see the relationship with Saudi Arabia? I was a fortnight ago in Atlanta and I delivered a speech regarding the destruction of holy sites in the Kingdom of Mecca and Medina. Basically, what I am trying to say is that one of the good things that George Bush showed the world was exposing the extremist movement of the Wahhabis. After 9/11, many people have become aware of what the Wahhabi movement is and what it has been causing for the past hundred years or so.
Recently, there have been some developments in Saudi Arabia where King Abdullah has been addressing a lot of people about the abolishment of the mutawwa, which are the extremist religious clerical militia who have been operating in the Hijaz for many years. They have actually gripped hold of the Saudi youth and are preaching a lot of hatred against America and the West. How does America see that?
That is an excellent question. I think that we recognize that the export of Wahhabism from Saudi Arabia is backed with the huge wealth that the Saudis have and that it is a huge problem. I sometimes think about how any idea that would be backed with hundreds of billions of dollars over a very long period of time would probably have some equal success around the world. I think about Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and whatever. We all recognize it wherever we are. It is a brand. This idea is a challenge.
I have to say that, and I know that there are people in the room who won't agree with me, King Abdullah has really sought to begin to address this seriously. He has introduced the notion that all four schools of thought can be part of the judicial process. He has met with Shi'a in the holy cities, where there were not suppose to be any. He has begun to look at the mutawwa and begin to circumscribe a bit of what they are able to do. The policy of the Saudi government now is to stop the export of hate literature and to change the curriculum of their textbooks. If you go to the embassy and ask them the question, to see what they have to say on the issue, I think that they will say that that's right and that they want to stop the export of this literature that is causing such problems.
Interestingly, when I was last in Saudi Arabia, I was asked to go and visit this museum in Riyadh. I thought, "I am only here for a day and half and we have a lot to do. Why do you want me to go to this museum?" Then it occurred to me why. There were ancient artifacts in that museum from pre-Wahhabist times. There was in the museum the idea of the history of the kingdom and the notion that Saudi Arabia was more than simply where the holy cities of Mecca and Media were.
This represents a bit of a shift in the ideology of the kingdom in a way that recognizes that the source of real instability is coming from within the kingdom. I don't know. They may have started too late. They could turn it off like this. Anything could happen. I have to say that in the last year and half or so they have begun to take incremental steps, which I think are positive. We are starting from a fairly low base, but getting to tolerance would be excellent. We recognize fully that the source of a lot of the extremist ideology has been exported from there and also all of our oil: yours and mine.
Thank you all again very much. I really enjoyed the conversation and I hope we'll have another chance to do so.
Ladies and gentlemen, this will conclude our luncheon program. Mr. Carpenter will have to depart and we will ask all of you to assemble in the auditorium for the third and closing panel of today's conference. Thank you all very much.
Panel C. The Road Ahead: Islam and Europe in the 21st Century
• Moderator: Dr. Samuel Wells, Director, Wilson Center West European Studies Program
• Daniel Pipes, Ph.D., Director, Middle East Forum
• Dr. Sara Silvestri, University of Cambridge (Great Britain)
• Dr. Kemal Silay, Chairman, Ottoman and Turkish Studies Program, Indiana University
Dr. Samuel Wells:
I'm Sam Wells, Associate Director at the Wilson Center, I work mainly on Western Europe but have a long, continuing interest in the Middle East, so this subject is very much one that I have long-term interests in. We're looking at "The Road Ahead: Islam and Europe in the 21st Century." This is an opportunity to break out our crystal ball and look into the future. We have three very well-experienced and well-prepared specialists to help us do that. You have their bios with your material; I won't go into it, but I will say that all of them have worked extensively on the issues that this panel covers and we will have each of them speak about 12 minutes and leave as much time as we can for discussion and exchange among the panelists, and among the morning speakers as well. So our first speaker is Dr. Daniel Pipes, Director of the Middle East Forum, and a long-time specialist and speaker on issues related to Islam and the modern world.
Dr. Daniel Pipes:
Thank you, Sam, and good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. This morning Dr. Cesari said, Muslims in Europe don't want to change the nature of Europe. In contrast, the distinguished German professor of Syrian origins, Bassam Tibi, posits a more open question: "Either Islam gets Europeanized, or Europe gets Islamized." I tend to agree with Tibi, seeing Europe's future vis-à-vis Islam remaining an open question.
At this early date, I will suggest, we don't know whether Muslims in Europe will be more changed by Europe or will more change Europe. In my few minutes, I shall provide arguments for each side of this topic – that Europe will be Islamized and that Islam will be Europeanized.
Some compelling arguments exist to believe Europe will be Islamized. I shall treat three of them - faith, demography, and a sense of heritage – first from both the European and then the Muslim standpoint.
First, an extreme secularism has come into play in most European countries, and among the elites in particular. It has reached the point that believing Christians are seen as mentally unbalanced or unfit for public office. Recall the incident in 2005 when Rocco Buttiglione, a Catholic believer and distinguished Italian politician, who was denied a position as Italy's European Union commissioner because of his views, for example on homosexuality. Entrenched secularism also means empty churches: in London, it is said, one finds more Muslims in mosques on Friday than Christians in churches on Sunday, although there are perhaps 7 times more born-Christians in London than born-Muslims.
This aggressive secularism in Europe is something with which we Americans are quite unfamiliar. Here is one illustration of the difference, as noted by Hugh Fitzgerald in 2003:
The most memorable utterances of American presidents have almost
always included recognizable Biblical phrases. … This source of rhetorical strength was on display this past February when the Columbia shuttle blew up. Had it not been an American but a French shuttle that had blown up, and were Jacques Chirac having to give such a speech, he might well have used the fact that there were seven astronauts, and evoked an image of the Pleiades first named in pagan antiquity. The American President, at a solemn national ceremony that began and ended with Biblical Hebrew, did things differently. He took his text from Isaiah 40:26, which led to a seamless transition from mingled wonder and awe at the heavenly hosts brought forth by the Creator, to consolation for the earthly loss of the crew.
It's striking to note, by the way, that some 25 years ago, these and other differences between Europe and the United States were rather minor compared to what they are today. In other words, this difference results not from a historical pattern going back centuries, but is a distinctly post-1960s phenomenon. However deeply that decade affected the United States, it had a far deeper impact on Europe.
Demographic collapse suggests a second reason for Europe being Islamized. The total fertility rate in Europe today averages about 1.4 per woman, whereas sustaining one's population requires just over two children per couple, or 2.1 children per woman. The existing rate is just two-thirds of what it needs to be; one-third of the requisite population is not being born.
To avoid a severe diminution of population, with all the woes that implies – and specifically, an absence of workers to fund pension plans – Europe needs vast numbers of immigrants. That third of the population tends to be Muslim, in part because Muslims are close by – it's only thirteen kilometers from Morocco to Spain, only a couple of hundred to Italy from Albania or Libya; in part because, as was mentioned this morning, colonial ties continue to bind South Asia to Britain or the Maghrib to France; and in part because of the violence, tyranny, and poverty so prevalent in the Muslim world today that prompt large waves of emigration.
A third reason for Europe being Islamized concerns what is often called Europe's political correctness but what I believe is a deeper phenomenon, namely, the alienation of many Europeans from their heritage, a sense that their historic culture is not that worth fighting for or even saving. It's striking to note the differences within Europe in this regard. Perhaps the country least prone to this alienation is France, where traditional nationalism still holds sway, whereas the country most alienated is the United Kingdom, where the government actually has created a program, "ICONS - A Portrait of England," to connect Britons to their heritage.
This diffidence has had direct implications for Muslim immigrants, as Aatish Taseer explained in a Prospect magazine article, "A British jihadist."
Britishness is the most nominal aspect of identity to many young British Pakistanis. The thinking in Britain's political class has at last begun to move on this front, but when our tube bombers were growing up, any notion that an idea of Britishness should be imposed on minorities was seen as offensive. Britons themselves were having a hard time believing in Britishness. If you denigrate your own culture you face the risk of your newer arrivals looking for one elsewhere. So far afield in this case, that for many second-generation British Pakistanis, the desert culture of the Arabs held more appeal than either British or subcontinental culture. Three times removed from a durable sense of identity, the energised extra-national worldview of radical Islam became one available identity for second-generation Pakistanis. The few who took it did so with the convert's zeal: plus Arabe que les Arabes.
On the Muslim side, three parallel arguments suggest why Europe will be Islamized. First, the buoyant faith of Muslims and their sense of superiority could not be more different form the lapsed European Christianity. We have all heard the outrageous supremacist claims, so I need not repeat them here. When combined with a jihadi sensibility, it leads many Muslims to see Europe is a continent ripe for conversion and domination.
Likewise, the high fertility of Muslims complements the paucity of children among indigenous Christians. As was rightly pointed out this morning, although the Muslim fertility rate is falling, it remains several times higher than that of European's indigenous population. No doubt, this has something to do with the premodern circumstances in which many Muslim women find themselves. One symbol: In Brussels, "Muhammad" has for some years been the most popular name given to infant boys, while Rotterdam is on track to be the first major European city with a majority Muslim population.
Third, immigrant Muslims widely disdain European civilization, focusing on such issues as pornography, divorce, and homosexuality. Here is one example: The mother of the notorious Khadr brood, known as Canada's first family of terrorism, returned to Canada from Afghanistan and Pakistan in April 2004 with one of her sons. Despite her seeking refuge in Canada, she publicly insisted just a month earlier that Al-Qaeda-sponsored training camps were the best place for her children. "Would you like me to raise my child in Canada to be, by the time he's 12 or 13 years old, to be on drugs or having some homosexual relationship? Is it better?"
By way of footnote, it's ironic to note that in centuries past, as Norman Daniel has extensively documented, it was the Christian Europeans who looked at Muslims with their multiple wives and harems as overly-sexualized, and felt morally far superior.
To sum up: this first argument holds that Europe will be Islamized because the yin of Europe and yang of Muslims fit quite perfectly: low and high religiosity, low and high fertility, low and high cultural confidence. Europe is an open door through which Muslims are walking right through. Europeans will quietly submit to the dhimmi status or convert to Islam.
Or will they? Islam might yet be Europeanized, that is to say, be turned into a European phenomenon. Or as Stephen Schwartz likes to use the metaphor in the U.S. context, Muslims might be induced to sit at the great table of American religions. Will Muslims sit at Europe's table of religions, as just one of many? Will it be reduced to a manageable phenomenon that fits in Europe?
The main argument in favor of expecting Islam to be tamed is that Europeans will one day wake up and demand this. They will say "Enough," and require Muslims to fit in or to leave. One already sees a chafing among Europeans, not so much among the elites as the wider populations, at the changes that are taking place in their countries. Illustrations of that include the anti-hijab legislation in France, unhappiness over the restrictions on the display overt Christian signs, the insistence of serving wine at state dinners, and so on. In reaction, for example, a movement developed this last winter to serve pork soup to the poor in several French cities, specifically seeking to exclude Muslims by the ingredients in the soup.
The beginnings of this demand are already evident in various nativist reactions. The Lega Nord in Italy was for years part of the ruling coalition. In Denmark, the Conservative Party came to power in 2001 after 72 years in the wilderness, basically because of anger concerning immigration. Jörg Haider and the Freiheits Partei Österreich was in office for a brief period. The presidential race in France in 2002 came down to a contest between Jacques Chirac and the neo-fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen. And insurgent anti-immigrant parties are developing in other countries.
Admittedly, the record so far is fairly meager, but these parties, some cases with neo-fascist backgrounds, have a huge potential. Their anti-Islamist and sometimes anti-Islamic messages resonate; they will undoubtedly grow stronger. Also, parties focused on immigration and Islam are growing more respectable over time, shedding their antisemitic origins and their dubious economic theories, focusing instead on the questions of faith, demography, and identity. They are learning about Islam and Muslims. The British National Party offers one example of such a move toward respectability, which may one day be followed by electability. That said, one cannot dismiss the fascistic and violent overtones, of some groups, and the possibility that the anti-Muslim backlash could take ominous forms.
Powerful forces pull in each direction – Islam taking over or Islam being tamed. I have no idea which way things will go. Other analysts, such as Bat Ye'or and Oriana Fallaci, see Islam taking over, but my crystal ball is cloudy.
This topic has no precedent. As a historian, I know of no prior analogy, whereby a large area shifts peacefully from one civilization to another through the collapse of one population, faith, and identity in the face of another, through immigration and assertiveness. Nothing comparable has ever occurred, so we lack guidelines. We march through terra nova without maps.
However the issue of Islam's career in Europe is resolved, we can all agree, has vast importance, and not just for Europe. Europe has served as the motor force of world history for the half-millennium, 1450-1950; while it' s certainly lost that position during the past half-century, it remains a vital continent in economic, political, and intellectual terms. Which direction it goes has huge implications for the rest of us, and for especially Americans.
Taking up a different subject, the role of poverty, unemployment, and criminality came up a few times this morning, with emphasis on these ghetto pathologies existing widely among Muslims in Europe but not in the United States. The American Muslim population does indeed enjoy a much higher socioeconomic standard and educational background; in brief, there are no Muslim ghettoes or banlieues in the United States. Therefore, Europeans tend to look at the United States as a model.
I agree that socioeconomically, the Muslim population of United States is better off and better integrated than that of Europe, but I dispute the notion that that is a way to obstruct the jihadi mentality. No evidence suggests that disaffection, unemployment, or other problems lead to jihadism and other forms of violence. Indeed, I would argue that sociology is nearly immaterial. Jihadism is a body of ideas, an ideology, that can attract anyone – poor or rich, male or female, old or young, European or American.
Here are some examples of American converts to Islam, none of whom were in particularly stressed circumstances, but who were arrested or are now in jail or fled the country because of terrorism or attempted terrorism: Ryan Anderson, a white convert in Washington state; David Belfield, a black convert who murdered an Iranian exile in the outskirts of Washington, D.C.; Rodney Hampton-El, a black convert who was part of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; Mark Fidel Kools, a black convert who fragged his officers in Kuwait; John Walker Lindh, the white, Marin-county Talib; John Muhammad, the lead Beltway sniper; and Randall Royer, the Virginia paintball jihadi. All these are people who, from what we can tell, suffered no particular stress, and did not grow up in an antidemocratic environment.
There are many, many other examples of born-American Muslims who had no particular stresses in their lives. A recent case making this point is that of Mohammed Taheri-azar, a well-liked and successful graduate of the University of North Carolina who three months ago drove an SUV into a crowd of pedestrians at the university, hoping to kill as many of them as possible. Fortunately he killed none, but he 'd been planning that operation for two years and his statements to the press were pure jihad. The scary thing is, there was zero indication that he would do what he did.
Rather than look at socioeconomic problems, I urge you to look at the positive – what attracts people to radical Islam. Unfortunately, that attraction cannot be addressed via socioeconomic improvements.
Dr. Samuel Wells: The second presentation will be by Dr. Sara Silvestri, who is at the Center for International Studies at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.
Dr. Sara Silvestri: To the Chair and the organizers, thank you very much for inviting me to this very enriching conference at such a prestigious international research and policy center. The title of this session is concerned with the road ahead for Islam in Europe. I find that commenting on this is a daunting task. Firstly, because the previous speakers have covered a range of issues and topics that I planned to discuss, perhaps I'll make links to them but I won't expound on them as I had planned to earlier on, and also it is difficult to make predictions about a phenomenon which is in progress. Islam in Europe is developing and Muslims, not only Muslims but also European citizens, are constantly growing and these are the problems that European society is facing, disconnected to the issue of European Islam.
So what I will try to do today is point primarily at two issues, or sets of issues and transformations and challenges that are facing both Muslims and non-Muslims in Europe. As Professor Cesari earlier rightly pointed out, the fact that not only are Muslims transforming Europe but also Europe is transforming Muslims and European Islam. I will also try to put a few things that I say today into a broader perspective. The first main issue which is at stake here is an issue of identity. Especially after 9/11 and all the terrorist attacks in Europe and outside Europe that were carried out by people who were fighting allegedly in the name of Islam, Europe has been increasingly questioning Muslims about what Islam is.
On the other hand, Muslim practices and certain doctrine seem to challenge certain principles and certain values that are characteristic of European society and European history. In analyzing this dynamic of interrelations between Muslims in Europe and European society, we realize that first of all, within middle (?) Europe, Muslims can be regarded as cohesive entities. Europe – by Europe perhaps I should point to the fact that I am dealing with the European Union as an amalgam of states, which are still very strongly attached to their own sovereignty and although they have been trying to interact with each other and to develop common policies, it's difficult to say that there's a European identity in the same way that there is an American one because people are very jealous of their characteristics of their regional identity or their specific history, the particular mentality that has been developing in a particular region.
For instance, if we take the issue of intercultural relations and the relations between different communities, we cannot say that there is one European approach. We have the multiculturalist approach in the UK and in Holland, and then you have for instance the assimilationist pattern which is characteristic of France. If you want to address the issue of secularists – ok, the West in general has adopted an attitude which is secularist but interpretations of secularists vary greatly across the European countries depending on philosophy, on history which has marked particular countries. The Enlightenment and philosophy has still left a very strong mark in France where you cannot really speak of religion in the public sphere. You cannot wear religious symbols in the State's buildings and so on. In Italy, the fact that Italy hosts the Vatican in its territory definitely marked the way Italian society relates to religious communities and has led to particular privileges being given to the Catholic Church. In the UK, you have an established religion, that of the Church of England, and yet, because of historical developments nowadays Britain is perhaps one of the most secularized places in Europe.
Perhaps we discussed it amply this morning when Wahhabism and Sunnism and Deobandism were discussed, Islam is perhaps even less homogeneous and discussing Islam is more difficult when discussing European identity because of the fractures that exist along historical, doctrinal, geographical lines that characterize the Muslim inhabitants of Europe. The characteristics that differentiate Muslims, in the Muslim states, are perhaps even more visible when they come into Europe. When all these individuals are transplanted from Asia, from North Africa, from the Gulf, and so on, we have all these microcosms coming into existence in Europe and people living a very short distance from each other, yet perhaps not communicating with each other, because people still gather, and go to mosques and form organizations primarily along national, or ethnic, or linguistic lines so you have for instance mosques where people speak Arabic, because they are attended by Muslims of Arab origin, you have mosques where people tend to speak Urdu, and so on. There are actually dynamics of rivalry between many associations and organizations of Muslims that exist in Europe.
To go back to the challenges that Islam presents for Europe, the fact that Muslims have come up in the last ten to fifteen years in the public sphere, participating in social and political life by asserting their allegiance to their religion has created a ___ in European mentality. It seems as if Islam was challenging European values. If we see people in Europe still not educated enough to understand the variety of Islamic interpretations that exist in Islam - ideological and doctrinal differentiations that exist in Islam – people are scared that Islam wants to take over, that shari'a's going to be applied in Europe, and in extreme cases, such as demonstrations against the cartoons of Muhammad in February that took place in the streets of Europe, there was a great fear across Europe that Islam is going to challenge European values of freedom of speech, of toleration, and of democratic political participation in the democratic system.
On the other hand, Europe is scared and shocked by the fact that Muslims are reasserting their identity and participation along the lines of religion because Europe is going through a big identity crisis – about its own history, about its own values, and about the purpose and the essence of this political organization, the EU, which seems to be at a standstill when Turkey is at the door and trying to get into Europe. When we talk of identity, of a crisis of identity, I think there is also - as I said earlier I want to put things into perspective, because when we speak of Muslims and the problem of radicalization of the young generation, we seem to forget that in Europe, in general, there is an increasing problem of communication between generations – a generational gap. We say the imams in the mosque are out of touch with the younger generation, with what people are doing. Well I wonder, are priests in Catholic churches or rabbis in their own temples in touch with the youth? No. When we say that Muslims are demonstrating in the streets, or in violent ways rather than participating in the normal political system according to the structures which are there; what about the low percentage of people that vote in the national elections? What about the general mistrust and disgust for what our democratic systems are doing for their own citizens? What about the dislike of European citizens for the foreign policies of their own governments?
So, again, when we discuss the problem of identity, yes there are challenges that Islam is posing to Europe and that Europe is posing to Islam, but also there is a lot of positive interaction going on. There is a convergence in political movements, in unconventional political movements, for instance last year in the UK, the Make Poverty History campaign was launched, and many Christian, secular, and Muslim organizations participated in it. So this is an example of a positive interaction which is going on and each group maintains its own identity and fights for the same cause without rejecting its own origins, and actually finding common values. Again, the anti-war demonstrations in the entire country against UK foreign policy and the decision to go to war in Iraq, you can find people of different backgrounds campaigning together.
The other issue which is at the heart of my studies – and there's actually an article forthcoming on this – is how the problem that both Europe and Muslims are facing about organizing religion in society and about developing appropriate measures for governments to relate to religious organizations and vice-versa. Broadly – because I'm late with my presentation, I won't go into details about this – we know Europe as a secular and Christian society and so, it has developed political and legal strategies for interacting with religious organizations, primarily keeping as a format, the traditional historical relations with the Catholic Church or those that Christian churches have developed with their governments.
So the prime first attempt was to see whether Islam could fit into that pattern, but because Islam lacks a hierarchical organization, lacks one clear leadership, and it's so much fragmented into different doctrinal schools, European governments and Muslims for that matter have been trying to find alternatives to relate to each other and to allow Muslims to have a voice in the public sphere and to interact with the governments, passing by this particular structure. So we have seen the creation of Muslim consultative bodies and representative bodies very often promoted actively by European states because they undermined the idea of promoting an artificial notion of moderate Islam and therefore stopping the rise of extremism and Islamic fundamentalism. For their part, part of the Muslim communities across Europe have bought this course of moderate Islam and some have just participated in this format of Muslim councils as I call them, simply for opportunistic reasons, because that was the only path made available, that was the only channel available to make their views – to inform their views within European society. And other groups have been, have remained, very aggressive and hostile to this pattern because it seems as though governments in Europe want to domesticate European Islam.
Of course, the problem of creating appropriate organizations and appropriate channels for Muslims to relate with the governments has also triggered a series of dynamics and political anomalies I want to describe further, because I'm late, but among Muslim organizations, and as well between Muslims organizations and political parties themselves. I know the British sphere better than others and for instance, everybody in the field knows that the Muslim Council of Britain is a creature of the new Labour party and that it has gone into decline almost at the same time that the Labour party went into decline in the past two years because of the connection with the war in Iraq. The Liberal party has tried to contact, to attract, all those Muslims that previously used to vote Labour party and now have become disaffected by the policies postured by the Labour government.
Therefore there is another, third example of another party which was created a couple of years ago – the Respect party, chaired by Mr. Galloway – that again is trying to run a more extremist line and is trying to draw the most disaffected Muslims and the most angry against the Labour party. So there is a competition among secular political parties about gaining the vote of Muslims and within themselves, Muslim organizations and Muslim individuals are fighting for gaining the recognition of the official establishment and of other Muslim fellow citizens. The Muslim Council of Britain has gone through a crisis of legitimacy because it was created by a group of self-appointed leaders, and as someone was saying this morning, these leaders tend to come from one particular pool of people coming from Southeast Asia and with connections – distant connections – to the Jamaati Islamic group. With the 7/7 bombings, further dynamics have developed. Muslims that would not come out in the public sphere to express their views about Islam and the relationship between Islam and politics in Europe and about their allegiance to the… - not to comment on their religious and national affiliation – came out because they found themselves under the spotlight and needed to give an answer to whoever was questioning Islam and questioning the connections with radicalism.
So, with 7/7, various organizations were called by the government to form a task force that would address the issue of the problem of radicalization, but for the first time, perhaps because some government officials realized that the Muslim Council of Britain had not done a good job of representing the views of Muslims to the state and had lost its little context, had lost any trust on the part of the Muslim community, the government tried to invite a broad range of voices to participate in discussions about how to develop policies that would counter the radicalization of Muslim youth, from policies from education, to jobs, to security issues, and so on. Another organization also came up – again it was mentioned this morning – the British Muslim Forum, that surprising represents the voices of the Sufi that until 7/7, Sufi groups in general did not participate in politics. It's a very spiritualistic and a very private religious movement very much concerned with private, individual and spiritual life of a person, but in that case the situation was so problematic that they found they needed to speak. So the fact that more voices came up in the public sphere in the UK was a positive outcome of 7/7.
In general, recommendations for the future: First of all, I think it's dangerous to put people into boxes. So when someone asked this morning, what kind of policies should the EU or individual EU member states push in order to help, I think it's a bit dangerous to force people to fit into boxes and categorizations, say I am a Sunni, I'm a Shi'a, I'm a Deobandi, I'm a Sufi, and so on, because there is a large number of people who do not have a clear identity; they were brought up in contact with many realities and they are likely to have come from maybe a Deobandi family but in fact when they go to school or when they go to the workplace they may come into contact with other Muslims who practice other traditions. I know persons that have approached Sufism and previously were coming from more Asian-style families. And also, there is a large number of people have become very, very secularized and resent the fact of being tagged as Muslims and being forced to define themselves this way – they would regard themselves first of all as citizens and they would like to benefit and to enjoy the rights of any citizen about participation, about having opportunities to get work, not because they are Muslims but because of their qualifications and so on. So what should we do? Again, I think it dangerous to insist too much on positive actions because of this very same reason, although to a certain extent, initially they are to be welcomed. In general, I think education is something to be pursued intensely – education about Islam but also education about European history, about the origins of European political thought, about the origins of European ethics, because there is a very strong unawareness about this. Thank you.
Dr. Samuel Wells: Our final presentation will be from Dr. Kemal Silay, who is Chairman of Ottoman and Turkish Studies at Indiana University.
Dr. Kemal Silay:As I try to figure out this PC, let me start by saying that I'm humbled by the invitation from the Wilson Center, even though I am not a political scientist. I would also like to thank the European Institute and the Center for Islamic Pluralism. I should also mention that I'm serving as its [CIP's] President and am enjoying working with Stephen Schwartz very much.
PowerPoint Slide 1: (caption)
"Religion is an issue of conscience. Everyone is free to conform to the commands of their conscience. We show respect for religion. We are not against a way of thinking or thoughts. We are only trying not to mix religious affairs with the affairs of the nation and the state." — Kemal Atatürk, Founder of the Republic of Turkey
Anyway, let me mention that my interest in Islamic studies is because of the fascinating Islamic civilization that I have been studying since my student years and am still studying as a professor. It was particularly its literature and its music, but today in the 21st century, like all of you in this room I believe, I'm trying to figure out this thing called Islamism, and I will make a little attempt to define what an Islamist is, but of course mine is not going to be a final version. What I think is an Islamist is and this article, this list, needs to be written in a collaborative manner, not by one person.
"Political events in many Muslim countries, especially the emergence of Islamist movements with anti-Western undertones, resurrected old fears and negative images of Islam… Because some segments of Europe's Muslims found… Islamist discourse and some even acted upon it, they damaged the image… of all Muslims."
As a Muslim, living in the United States happily for almost twenty years, I could not agree more with these important introductory statements made in an edited volume entitled Islam, Europe's Second Religion.
However, beyond the initial pages, it became clear that this book was another frustrating example of the dominant contemporary scholarship's failure to distinguish Islam as a cultural phenomenon and Islamism as a political and militant program. These two very different concepts were mixed and confused throughout the work, thus further complicating the key issues of "immigration," "integration," "assimilation," and "accommodation" taken up within its pages.
In his article entitled "The Muslim Diaspora and the Islamic World," John Esposito represents his ideas of "Islam" and Islamism and once again fails to distinguish the two. His firm apologetic position, manifested in his labeling of Hasan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, Mawlana Mawdudi, Necmeddin Erbakan, Fethullah Gülen, and others as either "Islamic activists" or "Muslim intellectuals" who are "training Muslim students" seems to serve the interests of Islamism rather than that of Muslims or the field of Islamic Studies. Esposito does not seem to find any problems with defining the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hizbullah and Refah as "Islamic activist organizations."
In his "Europeanization of Islam or Islamization of Europe?," Tariq Ramadan takes a fundamentalist approach in trying to deal with the issue at hand. According to Ramadan, "… Muslims have to do what is strictly prescribed. If one wants to pray… one needs to have a text specifying how to perform it." This essentialist stance assumes the existence and uniformity of an "Islamic world" which, in reality, does not exist and perhaps never did. It ignores the pluralism of all the societies of Islamic heritage and their multiple interpretations of "Islam" throughout the centuries. Ramadan seems to advocate for what I call the textualization of Islam through some imagined fundamentalist "authority" which is actually and always has been created by the political establishment of a given time and space. This authority decides what "Islam" is and how the Muslims of the world should follow it. This rather dangerous approach is further fortified by Ramadan's statement that "[s]hari'a is the Muslims' way to remain faithful to their universal principles anywhere in the world." Ramadan believes that "[A]ll Muslims… are part of the same understanding of the shari'a."
Perhaps my position comes from my Turkish cultural background and my own possible biases, but I feel rather fortunate that the "Islam" I grew up with had nothing to do with the "Islam" Mr. Ramadan hopes to establish in Europe for European Muslims. Even the medieval Ottomans did not base their social order solely on the concept of shari'a. They had the need to create man-made secular laws and began doing so starting in the 15th century. Even the Kemalist Republic of Turkey, while doing away completely with such medieval concepts as shari'a, provided no threat to Muslims and their freedom of belief and worship, but tried to eliminate the social conditions that might allow the development of Islamism (which ranges from theoretical Islamism to the terrorism we know only too well in our century). The Kemalist revolution did this by establishing a state which separated Islam from politics, thus confining Islam to personal conscious. Of course the Islamist infiltration since the 1980 military coup exists: Milli Görüs, AKP, IBDA-C, Hizbullah, and various Nurcu movements, etc., Indeed it has come to an alarming level recently in Turkey but this requires some lengthy discussions that I can't go into right now.
Both Esposito and Ramadan are by all means free to express their interpretations of any subject or concept in a civilized, democratic society (although they might not enjoy that freedom in the kind of fundamentalist Islamist regime that they seem to be at least flirting with). But their naïve postmodern, and in the case of Ramadan, fundamentalist positions regarding "Islam" cannot succeed in reestablishing the image of Muslims as a significant part of the world's civilization, nor can they promote the beautiful faces of popular Islam as a normal, tolerant, loving religious tradition. The Turkish and Ottoman Islam could tolerate, for example, the court poets' direct criticism and dislike of the orthodox interpretations of the religion. Some even criticized the Holy Book itself. The greatest Turkish Sufi poet of all time, Yunus Emre, could depict the five orthodox pillars of Islam as nothing but "crimes," and still be tolerated and dearly loved, while the relatively new ideology called Islamism would not hesitate to take thousands of lives in the 21st century in the name of its text-based "Islam."
The interaction of Islamist or jihadist ideology with the Qur'an is a fundamentalist one, a rigid, intolerant, and reductionist political endeavor. The interaction of the majority of the world's Muslims with the same text is usually a less textual and more ritualistic traditional communication. Yet the Islamist elite in our century seems to be convinced that "shari'a is the Muslims' way to remain faithful to their universal principles anywhere in the world," may it be a Muslim country, Europe, or the United States. What would Mr. Ramadan or other Islamists think if they could see that hundreds of Ottoman Turkish Islamic manuscripts did not cite the Qur'anic verses correctly, and their Turkish renderings were more like approximations than accurate translations? How would they react if they were to discover that, for centuries, Anatolian Muslims created their own versions of Islam, the Qur'an, and Muhammad, freely mixing it with elements from Judaism and Christianity, or pre-Islamic Turkic religious traditions? What if they were to discover the fact that in the folios of thousands of Ottoman literary manuscripts, Muslim poets were freely expressing getting intoxicated with this-worldly wine or other substances, and depicted their sexual interactions with their beloveds? Similarly, do the Islamists have a plan for the spiritual needs of the millions of Alevis in Turkey and Europe? Does their text-based "Islam" have any room for addressing the Alevis' need for more Cem Houses and not for more mosques? If a universal shari'a mechanism were to be imposed upon all the Muslims of the world, I am afraid only a fraction of the 1.6 billion Muslims would be Muslim enough, the rest would be persecuted as heretics. The shari'a is not a Coke product! You can't have a Diet version of it!
"We are the Soldiers of Allah! Allah is Great!" These were the words of a Turkish lawyer named Alparslan Arslan who, on May 17th, 2006, entered the Second Bureau of the Turkish Council of State and opened fire upon five judges who were then in a legal session. The judges had previously ruled in a case involving the ban on the headscarf. With a law degree from Istanbul's Marmara University, with connections to the Turkish Hizbullah, and Islamofascist mafias, Arslan attempted to take their lives, inspired by the instructions of a medieval "law."
A similar case had occurred in 1995 when a Turkish jihadist named Izzet Kÿraç killed Ali Günday, the Head of the Gümüÿhane Bar Association, in the name of shari'a. Ali Günday had approved the court decision to ban the entrance of lawyers into court if they were wearing a headscarf. Izzet Kÿraç was sentenced to life in prison but managed to spend only 6 and a half years behind bars. Today he is free and his freedom allows him to make the following statement: "I do not recognize any other law but shari'a!"
At this point I would like to share a few quotes which underscore the incompatibility of ideas espoused by some prominent Turkish Islamists and the fundamental principals of the West.
Slide 2: How to turn Islam the Religion and Culture into
Islam the Politics and Militancy:
The Turkish Case
Slide 3: Can an Islamist Change?
The following statements were made by some of the most influential Islamists in recent Turkish politics. Today some critics believe that they have changed, others think that theirs is simply a takiyye strategy.
Slide 4: "Now the real problem for us is to decide whether Islam[ism] should be established softly or with blood!" — Necmeddin Erbakan
"Like it or not, I am a member of the Hizbullah!... Those who do not belong to the Party of Allah belong to the Party of Satan!" — Refah Party Representative Ÿevki Yilmaz
(Source: Baskÿn Oran, Elçin Aktoprak, "RP'den AKP'ye Kabuk Deÿiÿtiren Türkiye," Radikal Daily)
Slide 5: "To work for the Party is to work for shari'a!" — Recep Tayyip Erdogan
"Democracy is a streetcar: we will ride on it until we reach our destination,
then get off!" — Recep Tayyip Erdogan
"Thank God, I am a supporter of shari'a!" — Recep Tayyip Erdogan
(Source: Ruÿen Çakÿr, Fehmi Çalmuk, Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Bir Dönüÿüm Öyküsü)
Slide 6: "They keep arguing that laicism is being lost! Listen, of course it will be lost, if that is what this nation wants!" — Recep Tayyip Erdogan
"We are going towards a new world where Islam[ism]'s just struggle will triumph over the Imperialist West!" — Recep Tayyip Erdogan
(Source: Ruÿen Çakÿr, Fehmi Çalmuk, Recep Tayyip Erdoÿan: Bir Dönüÿüm Öyküsü)
Slide 7: "The name of our task is jihad!" — Fethullah Gülen
(Source: Ÿnancÿn Gölgesinde, v.2 by M. Fethullah Gülen)
"The origin of the Jews' and crusaders' hatred of Islam, which continues to this day, goes back to the [founding] of Islam." — Fethullah Gülen
(Source: Asrÿn Getirdiÿi Tereddüdler, v. 2 by M. Fethullah Gülen)
"The sole and only future power will be Islam!" — Fethullah Gülen
(Source: Asrÿn Getirdiÿi Tereddüdler, v. 3 by M. Fethullah Gülen)
Slide 8: "America will continue to be the source of orchestrations and terror!" — Fethullah Gülen
(Source: Prizma, v.1 by M. Fethullah Gülen)
"What the American soldiers do is nothing but tyranny!..." — Fethullah Gülen
(Source: Prizma, v.1 by M. Fethullah Gülen)
"The greatest pleasure for a true believer is to take ablution with his own blood!" — Fethullah Gülen
(Source: ÿ'la-yÿ Kelimetullah veya Cihad by M. Fethullah Gülen)
These are some older quotes like from 1998 to 2001. Now let's get some recent ones. This is right after the Islamofascist attack to the Turkish judges; our Prime Minister made a very important statement:
Slide 9: "We are going to make [Turkey] a safer country in order to protect the supremacy of laicism, democracy and law!" — Recep Tayyip Erdogan
(Source: Radikal Daily)
Slide 10: "An insult to Atatürk is an insult to my nation!" — Fethullah Gülen
And I can't agree more with Mr. Gülen here, in his quote:
"The politicization of Islam is a great betrayal to the spirit of Islam! Turkey is a secular state!" — Fethullah Gülen
If even Turkey (itself a Muslim country by tradition) cannot afford to "integrate" or "accommodate" Islamism, who should expect Europe or the United States to be obligated to fulfill Islamist demands or expectations, when that very agenda is hostile to the democracy and individual freedoms at their foundations?
The future of Euro-Islam or Islam in general depends decisively on the world's commitment to identifying Islamists as such, and weakening Islamism. If Islam is not separated from Islamism in contemporary discourses on "Islam," there is no hope for the so-called process of effective integration. Followers of this religion (whether they are secular/cultural or practicing Muslims) can indeed be successfully integrated into any Western society, but not the followers of Islamism.
Thank you very much!
Dr. Samuel Wells: We've had three quite clear and provocative presentations. We have some time for questions. If you will identify who you are addressing the question to, and if you will identify yourself and your own affiliation – we have microphones…the gentleman here in the back –
Respondent: Hi. My question is for Daniel Pipes. In the 21st century, they say that Denmark is going to be the first nation that the Islamic population is going to overtake the European population. When that happens, what do you conjecture would be the future? Or the projected future?
Dr. Daniel Pipes: Well we have a specialist on Denmark here, so I'm feeling a little shy about answering that; perhaps you want to take that? …I would say in demographic terms, the largest Muslim population – in percentage terms is in France, in Western Europe, yes, new Muslim populations are in France. The country of Christian Europe which is most likely first to become a Muslim majority would be Russia. The Christian population of Russia is going down rapidly while the Muslim population is burgeoning. The chances of Russia becoming majority Muslim are far greater than those of any other country in Europe.
Dr. Samuel Wells: The gentleman here –
Respondent: Thank you for your lectures; my question is for Daniel Pipes. I've read a lot of articles on your website and I read one of your articles where you were defending the cartoon's publication of the prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him – under the concept of freedom of expression; however, I read another article that was talking about the PBS channel broadcasting a film about – it's called, Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet and you have attacked it very aggressively and you have advocated for a lawsuit against PBS. Now, my question is, do we have to defend and advocate freedom of expression only on occasions and only when it fits our agendas? And the second question is for all of the panelists, whoever wants to answer. I hear the words "radical," "extremist," "fundamentalist" used very often. Are these words interchangeable? Thank you.
Dr. Daniel Pipes: On the question of the Danish cartoons – Denmark seems to loom large today – my position was really less about freedom of speech and more about imperialism, about an attempt to hold non-Muslim peoples to the standards of the Shari'a, the imposition of the Shari'a on the Danish newspaper editors, and that I believe, must adamantly be resisted.
My argument about the PBS documentary on Muhammad had to do with its being taxpayer funded. If this had been done privately, I'd have no problem with it at all, but it was done with partial taxpayer funding, and anything that's done with government moneys may not propagate a religion. That documentary did just this. For example, it's propagating a pious Sunday-school version of Muhammad's life, telling how Muhammad went by horse from Mecca to Jerusalem in one night and then went to heaven and returned, as though these were historical facts. That's not a scholarly presentation. In contrast, the earlier PBS documentary on Jesus was not at all pious; it presented a critical, analytical, scholarly assessment of the latest research on Jesus' life. Key here is that we have freedom of speech, but taxpayer-subsidized documentaries must not propagate religion.
Dr. Samuel Wells: Would Sara, either you or Kemal like to…?
Dr. Sara Silvestri: I'd also like to make a point on the Islamization of Europe. Birmingham is definitely becoming the town with the largest Muslim population in the UK, with a Muslim population overcoming the non-Muslim and this is going to happen in 2015. I don't think this will cause any big change in the way the city is run. The city is the second largest city in the UK after London. Because after all, if you think at the elite level, it is the elites that tend to (tape ends)…the country, and the elites are those that adapt first to whatever is more convenient to their job, to their interests, and so on. The Muslim elites do not differ by much from the non-Muslim elites in the UK. On some definitions, personally, I regard these three terms – fundamentalist, radicals, and extremists – as just adjectives that can be used to define any political or social phenomenon. In particular, if you think of political Islam and the ideology of Islam as it was defined this morning, you can see that there are three shapes of the way the ideologies are put forward, and none of the three necessarily relates to terrorism, actually, but the governments, the policy makers – at least in Europe – are not well-prepared, are not well-informed, and they all attempts to use the terms, and very often in my writing I replicate the terms that we use and then put them in inverted commas to specify and then explain how I use them. In my view, there is a growing – the connotation is stronger – as you go from fundamentalists to radicalism to extremism, but this is not necessarily linked to Islam. It's linked to any political movement and there's plenty of extremist political movements in Europe. I think very often the problem of the so-called Islamist terrorism should be detached from Islam and be regarded as a problem of any extremist form of political violence that becomes terrorism.
Dr. Samuel Wells: Kemal, do you have anything to add?
Dr. Kemal Silay: In terms of the terms used of course there is a confusion there sometimes; people use words simultaneously to define one concept but I personally try to reduce it to "fundamentalist" which means one who believes in the fundamentals of a particular religion, even going back to the beginnings, like in the case of Islam, people just do it as described in the Shari'a way. To define the rest of the people, basically I was talking about Islamists, I use the term "Islamism," even "militant Islamism" is not really necessary sometimes because there is a concept of Islamism, and that Islamism can start as a theoretical endeavor and with the right conditions, can easily be transformed into terrorism, or militancy.
And if I could make one more comment on the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad's face: yes, of course what the Danish cartoonists did is freedom of speech; how he depicted a great religion's prophet is wrong, but we Muslims need to get used to criticism a little. That person does not need to know Islam; he is not a Muslim. I'm not a Christian, and by mistake, maybe I do something or taking advantage of benefiting from my freedom of speech in this country, I write something and I depict something that might be so offensive to many Christians, but that does not mean to ban this altogether, that you cannot depict a picture or image of Prophet Muhammad. First of all, it is historically not correct; I believe it is a Wahhabi product that teaches that the face of Prophet Muhammad cannot exist. For centuries, Turkic Iranian manuscripts depicted the Prophet Muhammad freely. In today's Iran, you can just stop by any bookstore and get Muhammad pictures – his youth, and that somehow goes there, but somehow when it comes to what happened in Denmark, that was an orchestrated attempt to mobilize Islamists or rather, use Muslims join the Islamists for other purposes, unfortunately.
Dr. Samuel Wells: We have a number of people who want to raise questions but we've promised our panelists we would let them go at three. I'm gonna take two more, then others can come up and try and put questions after the session. Dr. al-Alawi - ?
Dr. Irfan Ahmed al-Alawi: Yes, this is a question for Sara [Silvestri]: When you mentioned that there are, obviously there are different sects of Muslims, there are Wahhabis and Deobandis and perhaps we should not box them up, I think it's – don't you think it's important to highlight these issues and let people be aware, although I can understand that there might be some Deobandis who might be celebrating the Prophet's birthday and might be inclined towards Sufism and originally they were born as Deobandis – but I think it's important that the people should be highlighted although the Deobandis might show some inclination by celebrating the Prophet's birthday with the Wahhabis, that that doesn't simply make them a Sunni Muslim or a neutral believer because they still have those hardcore imbedded inside them.
Dr. Sara Silvestri: Now I think in general, you shouldn't force identities upon people and many Muslims were brought up in tradition. They don't want to become a member of an organization or become a member or become affiliated with one particular form of Islam because they see all these party politics and rivalries going around between the organizations and themselves – many Muslims – are scared of the extremist interpretations, then they end up distancing themselves completely from Islam and becoming like the secular Muslims, so I think that's the risk, and on the part of the government, basically, if you use this categorization, the government is trying to include people who are so-called liberals, and these people don't fit into any of the categories then they are out of the game; they cannot have any voice, and that's dangerous. It's a problem for the whole Muslim community that maybe shared those views because, as you know better than me, the majority is called the silent majority within the Muslim community.
Dr. Samuel Wells: The gentleman here in the second row…
Respondent: Hello, my name is Primoz Sterbenc and I'm here as an associate for the Center for a European Perspective from Slovenia. We have already heard that Slovenia will take presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2008 and since Doctors Silvestri and Silay opened a number of very interesting questions like is Islam changing Europe? About the European identity and common values…I would like to emphasize that we in Slovenia, for a long time, lived together with Bosnian Muslims, for more than 100 years and we do know their language, and we do know their culture, we do know their religious opinions, and therefore I would like to emphasize that in my opinion, if one would like to know some very inspiring views which would help us to resolve those questions, then we should look to Bosnian Muslims. However, I have a question for all three of you. On the one hand, we do know that Bosnian Muslims are extremely liberal; their theologians and their lawyers hold very liberal views, for example, (indiscernible) is emphasizing that in a multicultural society there is only one appropriate solution and that is the separation of church and state, and there are others. So my question would be, on the one hand, it is often said that Bosnian Muslims should be, or could be – and I believe that they really can be – a kind of bridge between the Islamic world on the one hand and the West on the other. On the other hand, we might equally somehow see Bosnian Muslims as a kind of island because they can also be somehow separated from two banks; one of the Islamic world and the other from the West. Why am I implying this island? Well, because during the Bosnian war, sometimes it is possible to get an impression that those Bosnian Muslims are too Islamic for Europe and not Islamic enough for some Islamic writers or some groups, and during the Bosnian war – this is about the identity of Europe – during the Bosnian war, there were indeed some showings, let's say, with the great powers that they were not so much interested in crimes committed against Bosnian Muslims. So, bridge or an island? Thank you.
Dr. Samuel Wells: So who would like to…?
Dr. Sara Silvestri: I'll get that. That's a point I wanted to address but cut out because I was long. Yes, I believe that there can be a bridge. Simply, the most simple reason to say this, is because of the historical connections that the former Yugoslavia had with Europe. It's not – often people say that Turkey is going to be a bridge. I'm not too sure, whereas I'm more convinced that the Bosnians can because at least with Austria, and with a certain part of Eastern Europe like Bulgaria for instance, the whole of the Muslim population of the former Yugoslavia did have contacts up to the 19th century, the end of the 19th century, and actually my idea is that whereas nowadays, Muslims in Western Europe have problems in finding ways to relate officially, to institutionalize their communities and their relations with states, now that we have Slovenia, when we have Croatia in, and if we have any other Balkan country into Europe, it would be much easier for Western Muslims as well to institutionalize their religion and to better official relations with the government. Nowadays, Dr. Ceric who was mentioned this morning is already highly regarded as a leading figure in Western Europe; he's been on several visiting trips to the UK and to Germany and so on, and he's always acclaimed and welcomed by the local Muslim population even if he's a Bosnian Muslim, and ok, he's kind of the "big Bishop" if you want to compare the position – I know it's completely inappropriate – of the Muslim communities in the Balkans. He's already catering as a leading figure for several Muslim countries, not just in Bosnia, so the fact that he's already acclaimed in Western Europe shows the potential for the Muslims of the whole of Europe to find ways to institutionalize their religion better.
Dr. Samuel Wells: Thank you. Any final word? Kemal, would you like a final word on that or can we declare victory, or…?
Dr. Kemal Silay: A final word? No, I wouldn't have time to do that.
Dr. Samuel Wells: Well, please join me in thanking the panel for a very interesting session.
Related Topics: Balkan Muslims, British Muslims, Deobandism, European Muslims
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