Political Islam, World Politics, and Europe
by Bassam Tibi
Tibi, a leading figure in the debate over the future of Islam in Europe, is a Muslim believer born in Syria and professor in international relations at Goettingen, Germany. His challenging volume presents an exceptionally broad and detailed survey of main topics that will likely become a standard reference work on Islamist ideology in Europe.
Tibi is committed to a moderate and pluralistic form of Islam, which supports democratic principles, for a Europe in which Muslims could live on equal, non-confrontational terms with their non-Muslim and non-religious neighbors. His approach will doubtless be especially provocative to those who deny that a moderate Islam is possible, much less can flourish, or who see the new presence of Islam in Western Europe as a threat to a major component of Judeo-Christian civilization.
Tibi writes, "It matters whether a political jihadist Islam or a civil Euro-Islam will prevail among Muslims living in Europe." He further declares, "I want to warn against any indiscriminate criticism of the Islamic diaspora in Europe and propose my concept of Euro-Islam as an alternative to jihadism."
Tibi has summarized "Euro-Islam" by posing the question, "Europeanizing Islam vs. the Islamization of Europe?" He reproaches historian Bernard Lewis for "an exaggeration" when Lewis warned that Europe would become "an Islamic space" by the end of the twenty-first century. But Tibi acknowledges that "it is certain, however, that Muslims are on their way to becoming in the next few decades a very powerful and major sector of the European population."
For him, European ideals of freedom should include acceptance of Muslims who become "Europeans of the heart," but "Europeans themselves are challenged to deliver what the 'idea of Europe' promises."
He avers that he has "failed to become a European in Germany" since "European societies continue to be ethnically-exclusive entities." His solution, nevertheless, is founded on the introduction of European Enlightenment principles into the Islamic intellect; in sum, "the idea of Europe endorsed by a liberal and reformed Islam."
Much of Tibi's writing in this book is autobiographical, describing his own journey from the Arab world and his encounters with German leftist intellectuals. He is also well-known as a critic of the Islamist intellectual Tariq Ramadan. Tibi combatively distinguishes his vision of "Euro-Islam" from the views of Ramadan, who holds that Europe is part of the Dar al-Islam, or Islamic territory. Tibi condemns this attitude as "religious imperialism" and "an offense to the idea of Europe."
He also thoroughly dismisses the multiculturalism that, according to him, results in ghettoization, radicalization of the young, and the institutionalization of Islamist ideology. Instead, Tibi proposes "cultural pluralism." Thus his instincts and attitudes are moderate in all aspects.