Edited from
Encyclopedia of Religion
Second Edition
by Lindsay Jones (Editor)

Muslims have been present in Europe almost as long as Islam has existed, most commonly as merchants traveling across the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, but also as captives in war and, less commonly, as slaves. Before modern times there were three main periods that left significant traces of a Muslim presence in Europe. In 711 CE a mainly Berber army crossed from North Africa into Spain at Gibraltar, quickly expanding northwards until they were stopped by Charles Martel (c. 688-741) at the Battle of Poitiers in 732. Muslim rule was thus established in most of Spain. Centered in Seville and Córdoba, its hold over the northern provinces was never firm, and it was from that direction that the Christian reconquista gradually pushed back Muslim rule beginning around the late tenth century. The kingdom of Granada held out for more than two centuries until its defeat in 1492 marked the end of Muslim rule in the region. It was to be another century before the remaining Muslim populations, in the meantime forcibly relocated to the northeast, were finally expelled. During these centuries, Muslim Spain was a major center of culture and learning and, together with a much shorter period of Muslim domination in Sicily and southern Italy (approximately two centuries until the late eleventh century), the region served as a rich route for the diffusion of Arabic and Islamic culture into Europe.

The second and third periods are interrelated, and they commence with the spread of a series of Mongol empires across Central Asia into the Middle East and eastern Europe in the thirteenth century. Originally holding various shamanist beliefs, the Mongol rulers controlling the kingdoms after the rapid breakup of the empire became Muslim. Of these kingdoms, the most significant for the purposes of this entry was that of the Khanate of the Golden Horde, whose territories covered southern Russia and western Siberia. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the khans were gradually pushed back by the growth of the Ottoman and Russian states, until the final fall of the Khanate of Kazan to Russia in 1552. The population, known in Europe as Tartars, were then able to move around within the growing Russian Empire, leaving major Muslim communities in present-day western Ukraine and the regions of the Crimea and the Volga River valley. During the period of Joseph Stalin (1879-1953) and World War II, large portions of this population were forcibly removed to Soviet Central Asia with great loss of life. Only since the 1980s have their descendants been able to return to their homes.

The growth of the Ottoman Empire constitutes the third period. Starting less than a century after the first Mongol conquests, the Ottoman family established a small state in Anatolia and soon became a major competitor to what was left of the Byzantine Empire. Over a period of two hundred years, the Ottomans were able to expand both in Anatolia and into the Balkans, until they finally conquered Constantinople in 1453 and made it their new capital, Istanbul. Over the following centuries, Muslim merchants, craftsmen, soldiers, and administrators settled in all the towns and cities of Ottoman southeast Europe. At the same time, parts of the indigenous population converted to Islam, especially in such communities as the Bogomils, which had developed forms of Christianity that found them persecuted by both the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic churches. On the whole, these converted communities lived in the countryside and only started moving into towns in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Significant communities of Turkish descent remain in present-day southeast Europe only in Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece, while the descendants of the indigenous Slavic and Albanian communities are spread across the southern half of the BalkansAlbanians in Albania itself, as well as in southern Serbia and Kosovo, Macedonia, and northwestern Greece; and Slavs in Bosnia-Herzegovina, with small numbers, usually called Pomaks, in Bulgaria and Greece.

WESTERN EUROPE—ISLAM BEFORE 1945. The contemporary presence of Muslim communities in western Europe constitutes a fourth period in this historical context. Before 1945, three countries led the way, namely Germany, Britain, and France. There are records of early Muslim immigration and settlement in German-speaking lands following the earliest contacts in southeastern Europe with the expanding Ottoman Empire. The two failed sieges of Vienna in 1529 and, especially, in 1683 left behind stragglers, deserters, and prisoners of war. More Muslims arrived and settled during the eighteenth century as Prussia expanded its interests eastward. Thus a group of Tartar cavalry ended up in the hands of Frederick I the Great (1712-1786), who made arrangements for them to observe weekly prayer in the barracks at Potsdam. By the mid-nineteenth century a Muslim cemetery had been established in Berlin, and in 1866 a mosque was opened. The Muslim presence in Germany, which had been united by Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898), grew substantially as the country developed its diplomatic and economic relationships with the Ottomans in the last few decades before the outbreak of World War I. By this time provisions were being made jointly by the German and the Ottoman-Turkish governments to address the spiritual needs of Muslim prisoners from Russia, Britain, and France. After the defeat in 1918, the fortunes of the Muslim communities declined, only to resume growth during World War II when the Third Reich recruited extensively among the Muslim nationalities of the Soviet Union.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire of the Habsburgs shared much of this history, with the major difference that, as the Ottoman Empire retreated in southeastern Europe during the nineteenth century, Austria-Hungary actually acquired direct rule over territories inhabited by substantial Muslim populations. This happened in 1878 when the Austro-Hungarian Empire occupied Ottoman Bosnia-Herzegovina. Smaller Muslim communities had existed on the margins of Habsburg territory, and even before 1878 laws had been passed governing Muslim family affairs. Soon after 1878 there was a resident muftı in Vienna. In 1909, Austria incorporated Bosnia-Herzegovina formally, and three years later passed a law recognizing the “followers of Islam of the Hanafite rite as a religious community,” a facility available within the 1867 constitution.

In the United Kingdom and France, the history of Muslim settlement is even more directly linked to the history of empire than is the case with Germany, whose relationship to Istanbul before 1914 might be termed “proto-imperial.” Already in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the East India Company was crewing many of its ships from the territories of its factories in India. When these ships returned to ports in Britain, these men were laid off and left to fend for themselves, until public outrage forced the company to establish boarding houses for them in the 1820s. The Muslim component in Britain grew significantly after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Companies shipping to and from India now recruited cheap labor at the new coaling station in Aden, which led directly to the establishment of Yemeni and Somali settlements in British ports. By the end of the century, these communities were finding religious structure and identity with the arrival of a shaykh of the 'Alawi Sufi order, an order of Algerian origin that had developed an offshoot in Yemen.

In the major ports of Liverpool and London, Muslim settlers came not only from India and Aden but also from West Africa. British merchants and aristocrats started to forge links with their counterparts in various parts of the empire and occasionally supported the education in Britain of the sons of the native colonial elites. Others Muslims, especially from Indian princely families, found their own way to Britain. The first formal mosques were established in London and Liverpool around 1890. The circle around the mosque in London, at Woking, obtained support both from the British establishment and certain Indian princes, as well as from the Saudi ambassador, so that it was possible in 1944 to acquire land in Regent’s Park and start the planning for what was to become London’s Central Mosque and Islamic Centre, which opened in 1977.

The foundations of Muslim settlement in France are linked closely to the French imperial project in North Africa, where Algeria was invaded in 1830. Businessmen, students, and exiles were most noticeable among the early French Muslim community, including such figures as Jamal al-Dın al-Afghanı (1838/9-1897) and Muhammad 'Abduh (1849-1905), who were exiled for a time from Egypt towards the end of the century by the British. But labor migration was an early dimension, especially with thousands of Algerians working in the olive oil industry around Marseille shortly before World War I. During the war, the need for both agricultural and industrial labor grew massively, especially when the French government started forcible requisition of Algerians, possibly as many as two thirds of the 200,000 or so who arrived during the war. In recognition of the Algerians, Moroccans, and Tunisians who had served as civilians and soldiers during the war, the French government provided funding for the building of the Paris Mosque and Islamic Centre, which opened in 1929. Labor migration continued erratically after the war, and after the French defeat in 1940 the Vichy Republic requisitioned Algerian laborers to help build the German Atlantic defenses. North Africans in France, and particularly Algerians in Paris and Marseilles, became involved in the campaigns for independence as early as the 1920s. Some observers have suggested that the rebellion, which started in the mid-1950s and led to independence in 1962, was essentially financed by Algerian émigrés in France.

WESTERN EUROPE—IMMIGRATION AFTER 1945. After the end of World War II, the devastated economies of western Europe initially met their growing labor needs from the pool of returning soldiers. But by the early 1950s it became clear that the sources had to be widened. In mainland Europe, the first regions that provided workers for the industrial heartlands of northern Europe were the countries of southern Europe: Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Yugoslavia. But there were early signs that this was not sufficient. The first immigrants to Britain from the Caribbean arrived in 1948, and through the 1950s large numbers of people started arriving from India. In 1957 an agreement between Turkey and the German state of Schleswig-Holstein assured the first official arrival in Europe of Turkish workers, while in France the numbers of Muslims coming from the traditional North African sources continued to increase gradually.

During the 1960s immigration of Muslims into Europe expanded almost explosively. Nearly half a million Moroccans arrived in France in the decade beginning in 1962, while the Algerian number doubled to 750,000, and the first 140,000 Tunisians arrived. Labor migration into Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the Scandinavian countries tended to take place under the auspices of bilateral treaties between governments, particularly with Turkey, Morocco, and Tunisia. In just three years (1960-1962), the number of Turkish workers in Germany increased tenfold, and it continued growing until it reached over 600,000 in 1973. In addition there were many thousands of other nationalities of Muslim background. Similar developments took place in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, and Switzerland, although in these areas the figures were, by 1973, still in the tens of thousands. The economic crisis caused by the rise of oil prices in the two years after 1972 put the brakes on the influx of Muslims into Europe, as most mainland European countries closed their doors to labor immigration.

In the United Kingdom this halt to immigration had taken place already in 1962. Following a period dominated by immigration from the Caribbean and India, social tensions were beginning to appear. In response to riots in London in 1958, a national debate initiated limits on immigration from colonies and former colonies, which until that point had been unrestricted. The debate alerted other groups to the danger that access might be cut off, and during the next several years, until the Commonwealth Immigration Act of 1962 came into effect, large numbers of Muslim immigrants arrived, including nearly 100,000 from Pakistan alone. Smaller groups had also arrived during this period, including Greek and Turkish Cypriots who were fleeing crises in their home country. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, significant numbers of Asian Muslims, mostly of Gujarati origin, arrived in Britain from Kenya and Uganda, where Africanization policies had made their positions untenable.

The closing of the gates in 1962, and again from 1973 to 1974, did not lead to an overall decline in immigration, however. To the contrary, instead of young men coming with the intention of returning home after a few years, they now decided to stay and bring in wives and children. In Britain the result was that the number of people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin in the 1981 census was about 360,000, and ten years later 636,000. In France, while the number of Algerians stabilized in the two decades after 1973, the number of Moroccans more than doubled to over 570,000 in 1990 and the Tunisians by about 50 percent to over 200,000. In Germany over the same period, the number of Turks also more than doubled to 1.5 million.

By this time, Germany was also beginning to show signs of a new phase in immigration, in which the emphasis was increasingly on refugees and asylum seekers. This change was caused by two basic factors. The relentless and progressive restrictions on immigration for work and immigration of dependents made the refugee route gradually more attractive, despite its costs both in cash and in terms of involvement with criminal networks. In addition, the Muslim world witnessed a number of destabilizing political crises that uprooted populations and devastated economies. As a result, Lebanon, Iran, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine joined the list of sources for Muslim migrants to western Europe.

Common to the large majority of Muslim immigrants during these phases was their origins in certain rural regions or, in the case of Turkey in particular, in the rural immigration areas of major cities of the countries of origin. The Muslim immigrants to Europe therefore came from the more culturally conservative sections of society, in which religion had continued to play an important role. Most of the labor migrants found semiskilled or unskilled labor, and a high proportion of them had only a primary school background—the first generation of women immigrants were often illiterate. It is to this background that some social scientists attribute the low rates of educational success and high rates of unemployment among young people, which often characterize Muslim communities in Europe at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The causes are not unequivocally clear, but the experience of, for example, East African Asians in Britain, would seem to support the analysis, as there seems to be little correlation between religion and educational and economic success among this mixed Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh group whose urban roots are to be found in commerce and the professions.

A further factor is the encounter with racism and xenophobia, widespread in European cities, both west and east. This has encouraged minority communities to construct and preserve internal solidarity and has supported tendencies towards residential concentrations in specific parts of the cities and towns where they live. This is also a factor in contributing to widespread educational failure and partial or complete exclusion from a number of occupations.

SETTLEMENT AND ORGANIZATION OF MUSLIM COMMUNITIES. The closing of the gates of labor immigration in 1962 in the United Kingdom and in 1973 and 1974 on mainland western Europe was a turning point. Leading as it did to the settlement of families, it also, in effect, contributed to making Islam visible and to the forming of consciously Muslim communities. Until that point, with a few notable exceptions, migrant workers had related to their host societies in almost exclusively economic terms. They lodged cheaply, often in boarding houses run by people from their own background. In industry, Muslim workers tended to be concentrated in specific sectors and often worked in their own gangs or shifts, with employment mediated, again, by people of their own background. With the arrival of Muslim families, however, interaction with the institutions of the host society necessarily expanded, especially in terms of access to housing, health and social services, and education.

It is significant that the countries into which these immigrants arrived had extensive state welfare systems, in which the price of gaining benefits was a broad and deep contact with complicated official bureaucracies. Women were especially affected in the areas of health and education, often in ways that men in their cultural tradition were unused to dealing with, but which at the same time frequently touched on aspects of individual and family honor, personal hygiene, and religious ritual. By such routes, Islam suddenly became a matter of conscious significance, and ways of dealing with these issues were sought.

It is thus no coincidence that an immediate consequence of the beginnings of family reunion was the growth of the number of mosques and prayer houses in Europe. British official statistics show that from the mid-1960s, starting from a base of only thirteen, an average of seven new mosques were registered annually. From 1975, when hopes grew of financial support from the Middle East (hopes that often turned out to be in vain), the annual number of new mosques jumped to between twenty and thirty. A similar development can be observed in other western European countries after the 1973 to 1974 period.

Mosques and prayer houses were usually founded by local communities to meet specific needs, primarily the performance of regular prayer, especially the congregational Friday noon prayer, jum Eah, and the Islamic instruction of children. Most communities initially employed people from their home villages or regions to perform these tasks. In Britain this tended to mean men who met the accustomed criteria of a village or small-town imam, usually someone with minimum training and without any serious Islamic scholarship or experience of the country of settlement.

Not long after this first stage of local organization, organizations with regional or national significance in the countries of origin began to establish themselves, either by invitation of the communities or individuals settled in Europe or by their own initiative. Given the official sponsorship of much Turkish settlement in Germany, it was natural that Turkish religious institutions should have immigrated with the settlers. This development included Turkey’s official Department of Religious Affairs, the Diyanet, as well as several of the unofficial Islamic movements prevalent in Turkey. These groups had the added advantage that they could function much more freely in Germany than in Turkey, although there were joint German-Turkish efforts to limit their activities after the September 1980 military coup d’état in Turkey. The same Turkish institutions quickly came to pay a role in other countries with Turkish settlement, especially the Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland. They found their activities to be more difficult in Sweden, where the government actively discouraged external interference; in Britain, where the Turkish communities mostly came from Cyprus and had little interest in control from Ankara; and in France, where the rigid divide between state and religion was a major obstacle.

North African governments, especially those of Algeria and Morocco, similarly attempted to retain a degree of control over their émigrés, and they established a number of organizations in such countries as France, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Some of these organizations have had a degree of independence, while others, especially Moroccan ones, were long controlled directly by the respective embassies. Pakistani and Bangladeshi state structures have not intervened in the affairs of their communities in Europe. In the United Kingdom, it has often been a matter of political parties in the country of origin seeking support, especially financial support. In addition, various mainstream Islamic movements that were independent of their governments were often quick to establish roots among the new Muslim communities in Europe, sometimes at their own initiative and sometimes at the initiative of followers who had joined the migration.

Eastern Europe. The presence of Muslim communities in eastern Europe can be traced back many centuries to the existence of Mongol/Tartar states and the Ottoman Empire. The region referred to here does not fully coincide with the eastern Europe of the pre-1990 Soviet system; rather it includes Albania, the former Yugoslavia, and Greece, but not eastern Germany, the former Czechoslovakia, or the Baltic states. In those countries, which were members of the Warsaw Pact, the official ideology of the network of Communist parties initially regarded nationalities as being of secondary importance compared with the solidarity of the proletariat. But by the time most of these countries came under Soviet domination after World War II, Soviet ideology had moved towards an acknowledgement of a role for nationalities within the overall system. This is of significance in a region where traditional religious adherence was a major factor in determining national identities during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The Warsaw Pact countries followed the Soviet lead by exercising very tight control over all religions within a generally antireligious ideology and public policy. All public manifestations of traditional religion, in the form of religious buildings, organizations, and education, were often brutally suppressed. In the case of Islam, official institutions were sponsored and controlled by the government, usually with an officially recognized head who was given the title of muftı or chief muftı. The few mosques that were allowed to function were placed under the direction of the official institution, and the content of the Friday sermon was often dictated centrally.

In Albania, especially under the rule of Enver Hoxha (1908-1985), atheist policy went further and all forms of religion, organized or otherwise, were banned and persecuted. Data from the 1930s suggest that over 70 percent of the Albanian population was Muslim at that time. In Yugoslavia, the government of Josip Broz Tito (1892-1980) decided in the 1960s to recognize the Slavic population of Bosnia-Herzegovina of Muslim heritage as a nationality distinct from the Croats and the Serbs, although all of them shared essentially the same language. For reasons having to do with both domestic and international politics, the term used to refer to them was “Muslims in the national sense.” Most religious communities in the region had experienced a very strong process of secularization, which Communist rule hastened. This was the case very markedly with the Muslims of Bosnia and Albania, so the Yugoslav concept of Muslim by nationality carried strong contradictions.

Muslims in Greece were for decades after World War I synonymous with Turks. The postwar settlement had included massive exchanges of population between Greece and Turkey, with thousands of ethnic Greeks leaving their homes in western Anatolia, especially in and around Smyrna/Izmir, and, similarly, with large numbers of ethnic Turks leaving Western Thrace. The position and rights of remaining communities on both sides were governed by peace treaties, especially the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. On both sides, the mutual mistrust that has been sustained into the present has meant that these minorities have been under close observation and control by their respective governments. As a result, both governments have repeatedly been found remiss in their application of article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which deals with religious freedom, to which both countries are signatories.

During the 1980s, as the old order was beginning to display its weaknesses, some Communist politicians sought to maintain their position by appealing to national chauvinism. In Yugoslavia, the targets of this increasingly violent trend were, during the 1990s, the “Muslims in the national sense,” namely the Bosnian Muslims and the Albanians of Kosovo and Macedonia. In Bulgaria, the regime also adopted this tendency and in the mid-1980s implemented a “national” policy that involved forcing people with Muslim names, Turks or Pomaks, to adopt Bulgarian names. The ensuing mass exodus to Turkey was a major factor leading to the fall of the Communist regime in that country.

Since the collapse of the Soviet system, all of the countries of this region have had to review their policies towards their religious minorities, including their Muslim communities, especially after signing the European Convention on Human Rights. On the whole, while there remain Muslim institutions that have inherited the mantle of the official bodies of the Communist period, they have become more distanced from the state. At the same time, it has become possible for other Muslim organizations and movements to establish themselves, and there has been a major growth in the number of mosques sponsored by local communities. In many of the countries concerned, a growth in immigration from the Muslim world has also been recorded. Some of the roots of this development can be found in students from the Arab world who were sponsored by the Communist governments. But other Muslim immigrants are businesspeople and people looking for work. In Bulgaria a large proportion of those who fled the Communist name-changing policy returned to their properties after the regime changed, but many subsequently returned to Turkey to escape the economic collapse. Like most of the other countries under consideration here, Bulgaria has, since the late 1990s, begun attracting immigrants from various parts of the Muslim, especially Arab, world.

Austria. A small, generally well-educated Bosnian Muslim community was established in Vienna during the late Habsburg period until the empire fell apart during World War I. Most of the contemporary Muslim population in Austria immigrated as workers during the 1970s, particularly from Turkey. During the 1980s, when labor migration slowed down, more Muslim immigrants arrived as businesspeople, students, and diplomats attached to the international institutions in Vienna, to be followed during the 1990s by a new wave of workers brought in by demand from employers, as well as thousands of refugees from the wars in the former Yugoslavia. Turks constituted about half of the estimated 300,000 Muslims in Austria in 1997, some 4 percent of the total population of the country. Only a minority of Austrian Muslims have acquired citizenship, and about half of the Muslim population lives in and around Vienna, with the rest living in the northern and western industrial regions of the country.

Belgium. The Muslims of Belgium originate from Morocco (125,000 in 1999) and Turkey (71,000), followed by other Arab nations (Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Syria), as well as Bosnians and Pakistanis, making up altogether about 370,000, or 3.7 percent of the Belgian population. Most Muslim immigrants arrived in Belgium in the 1960s and early 1970s, followed by smaller numbers of refugees in the 1980s and 1990s. Changes in the laws of citizenship in 1984 and 1991 have led to almost half of these immigrants acquiring Belgian citizenship. Turks are concentrated in the industrial areas of north Belgium, while most Moroccans live in Brussels and in the south.

Bulgaria. The 2001 Census recorded 967,000 Sunni Muslims and some 53,000 Shi'ahs, making up some 12.9 percent of the total population. In terms of ethnicity, there were 747,000 Turks (a decline of over 50,000 since the 1992 census, mainly due to emigration to Turkey), 150,000 Bulgarians (“Pomaks”), 140,000 Roma (“Gypsies”), and about 5,000 Tartars and Circassians.The more than 5,000 Arab settlers, concentrated in 1992 in the major cities, especially Sofia, have increased significantly in number since then. Ethnic Turks are concentrated in the south, southeast, and northeast, with Pomaks in the Rhodope Mountains of the south, and Roma dispersed all over the country.

Denmark. Denmark’s estimated total of 150,000 Muslims in 2000, making up about 2.8 percent of the population, is among the most ethnically mixed in Europe. Major groups include Turks, former Yugoslavs (especially Bosnians), Somalis, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Palestinians, and Moroccans, as well as smaller groups of other Arab and South and Central Asia nationalities. This reflects the accumulated effect of labor migration occurring during the 1967 to 1973 period, as well as refugee flows in the 1980s. Acquisition of Danish citizenship has been slow. Denmark’s main concentrations of Muslims are found in Copenhagen, Aarhus, and Odense, with significant smaller groups in the industrial towns of eastern Denmark.

Finland. Official statistics for 1999 allow an estimate of some twenty-thousand Muslims in Finland, or about 0.4 percent of the population. A small group, less than one thousand, are Tartars whose presence, mostly in Helsinki and Turku, dates back to the nineteenth century when Finland was part of Russia and their forebears arrived as traders. The majority of Muslims living in Finland today have come from the eastern Arab world and Somalia, mostly as refugees during the 1980s and 1990s. Most of them live in and around Helsinki, with smaller numbers in the main cities of the south and southwest.

France. Estimates of the number of Muslims in France are based on statistics concerning nationality, which suggest that between four and five million Muslims, up to 7 percent of the population, lived in France at the end of the twentieth century. By far the largest proportion come from North Africa, of which over 1.5 million are Algerians, with approximately one million Moroccans and about 350,000 Tunisians, as well as some 450,000 so-called Harkis, the descendants of Algerians who sided with the French during the war of independence. There are a further 350,000 Turks, some 250,000 Muslims from sub-Saharan Africa, and over 100,000 Muslims from the Middle East. The major period of immigration occurred in the three decades before 1974, after which Algerian figures stabilized due to a subsidized policy of return, while the numbers of Muslim immigrants from other regions continued to increase. The largest concentrations of Muslims are to be found in the industrial areas of Paris, Lyon, and Marseilles, as well as in smaller towns in eastern France. Turks are also prevalent in forestry and light industry in the Alsace-Moselle region. Most Muslims of North African origin have French citizenship, and the rate of naturalization among Turks grew during the 1990s.

Germany. In 2000, just over three million Muslims were estimated to be resident in Germany, making up 3.2 percent of the population. Three-quarters of these are of Turkish origin, followed by Bosnians, Iranians, Moroccans, and Afghans. Germany long maintained that it was a country of temporary migration, not immigration and settlement. The majority of Turks arrived in Germany during the 1960s and early 1970s, while the other nationalities arrived mainly as students or refugees. Only in 1998 did Germany ease access to citizenship, so about 90 percent of Germany’s Muslims remain legal foreigners. Most Muslims live in the former West Germany in the limited inner city districts of Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, Munich, and Frankfurt am Main, and in the Ruhr district cities of Düsseldorf and Duisburg.

Greece. The main Muslim populations in Greece are those of Western Thrace, whose rights as a religious and ethnic minority are protected by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, and the Albanians, mostly immigrants from Albania and Macedonia since the early 1990s, making up altogether about 370,000 people (3.7 percent of the total population) at the beginning of the twenty-first century. While the Turks remain concentrated in the towns and villages of Western Thrace, Albanians have spread to wherever there is dynamic economic activity, including both the major cities and the countryside and, more recently, also the islands. Significant numbers of immigrants from the Muslim world, in particular the Middle East, have settled in Athens and other major cities since the 1980s, but figures are unreliable.

Hungary. The majority of the twenty to thirty thousand Muslims in Hungary came as students from Arab, South Asian, and Central Asian countries. They make up less that 0.3 percent of the Hungarian population.

Ireland. A small community of Muslims of different origins, mostly students and businesspeople, are concentrated in Dublin. They total approximately 15,000, or 0.3 percent of the Irish population.

Italy. Due to the high proportion of unregistered immigrants in Italy, figures are unreliable, but best estimates suggest a Muslim population of as many as 700,000, or about 1.2 percent of Italy’s total population. The largest groups are Moroccans and Albanians, followed by smaller but still significant numbers of Tunisians, Senegalese, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Algerians, and Bosnians. Less than 5 percent of the Muslims in Italy have Italian citizenship. With few exceptions, most arrived during the 1980s and 1990s, among them a high proportion of refugees, especially from Albania and Bosnia. Most live in Italy’s northern industrial regions and around Rome.

Luxembourg. According to Muslim estimates there were upwards of seven thousand Muslims in Luxembourg (1.6 percent of the population) in 2000, two-thirds being from Bosnia-Herzegovina. The principality signed a labor agreement with Yugoslavia in 1970, which led to the first wave of immigrants, who were followed by refugees during the 1990s.

Netherlands. Official statistics record almost 700,000 Muslims in 1999 in the Netherlands, equivalent to 4.6 percent of the population. The two largest groups are the almost 300,000 Turks and 250,000 Moroccans, with smaller numbers of Surinamese, Iraqis, Somalis, Iranians, Pakistanis, and Afghans. Over half have become Dutch citizens. The major immigration of Turks and Moroccans took place during the 1960s and 1970s to meet the demand for labor. Later arrivals came primarily as refugees. The population is overwhelmingly urban, concentrated particularly in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht.

Norway. During the 1970s and 1980s, people from Pakistan, Morocco, and Turkey started arriving in Norway in search of work. Since then more have arrived as refugees. Estimates at the end of the twentieth century suggest a Muslim population of between 100,000 and 150,000, or about 3 percent of Norway’s population. Most of Norway’s Muslims live in and around Oslo, with smaller numbers in other major cities.

Poland. With a total of about fifteen thousand people concentrated in the major cities, Muslims make up only 0.038 percent of Poland’s population. About one-third of the country’s Muslims are Polish citizens of Tartar origin, mostly from areas near the Ukrainian border. The rest came as students during the 1980s, or as traders and refugees in the following decade.

Portugal. Between half and three-quarters of Portugal’s Muslims are citizens; most came from colonial Mozambique and are of Indian origin. The remainder of Portugal’s thirty to forty thousand Muslims (0.3 to 0.4 percent of the population) came from former Portuguese colonies, particularly Guinea-Bissau, and from Arab countries. The latter arrived mostly during the 1990s, while the earliest major immigration was caused by the decolonization processes of the 1970s and 1980s.

Romania. A total of about sixty thousand Muslims make up less that one quarter of 1 percent of Romania’s total population. The majority are citizens of the centuries-old Turkish, Tartar, and Albanian communities, concentrated in the Dobruja region of southeast Romania. In recent decades small numbers of students and traders, especially from the Arab world and Central and South Asia, have settled in Romania.

Spain. According to Spain’s 1996 census, there were between 300,000 and 400,000 Muslims in the country, comprising about 1 percent of Spain’s population. Nationality statistics for 2000 indicate that about 250,000 originate from North Africa, mostly Morocco, and about 22,000 from sub-Saharan Africa, with smaller numbers from the Middle East and South Asia. Only a minority of Spain’s Muslims have Spanish citizenship. The main period of immigration started in the 1980s, with immigrant workers settling around Catalonia and Madrid, and subsequently as workers in the tourist industry of the Mediterranean coast.

Sweden. Estimates for 2000 indicate between 250,000 and 300,000 Muslims live in Sweden, about 4 percent of the population. Although some arrived during the 1960s and 1970s looking for work, most came as refugees during the 1980s and the 1990s from a number of countries, with Iraqis, Iranians, Turks (especially of Kurdish descent), Bosnians, and Palestinians from Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan being the largest groups. By far the largest numbers of Sweden’s Muslims live in and around Stockholm, with sizable communities also in Gothenburg and Malmö.

Switzerland. The federal census of 2000 recorded approximately 310,000 Muslims, or 4 percent of Switzerland’s total population. Over half have their origins in the former Yugoslavia, especially Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Many immigrated for work before the collapse of Yugoslavia, while many of the later arrivals came as refugees. About 20 percent of Switzerland’s Muslims are of Turkish origin, mostly arriving during the 1970s and early 1980s. They are settled in all the major cities, particularly Zurich, Bern, Basel, Lausanne, and Geneva. Few of the Muslims living in Switzerland have succeeded in meeting the country’s strict citizenship requirements.

United Kingdom. The United Kingdom’s 2001 census recorded some 1.6 million Muslims, constituting 2.7 percent of the population. The main period of immigration was during the 1960s and 1970s, with continued family reunion occurring thereafter, along with a rise in the number of refugees during the 1990s. People of South Asian origin make up more than half of the country’s Muslims, about half of whom were of Pakistani origin. Other significant groups come from the Arab world, Turkish Cyprus, and the commonwealth countries of western and eastern Africa. Outside of London, which has the most mixed population, including the most Arabs, the largest Muslim communities, with South Asians dominant, are to be found in the West Midlands, West Yorkshire, Manchester, and Glasgow.

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION. At the official level, one of the major challenges to European states with Muslim populations has been how to incorporate Islam, as well as other religions that have appeared in Europe since 1945, into the patterns of church-state relations that have been built up through centuries of sometimes conflicted history. Although society and politics during the late twentieth century became increasingly secular in nature, most European states are not formally secular in the sense of a clear separation between church and state. Patterns range from the clear church-state separation introduced in France in 1905 and integral to the constitutions of Ireland and most nations of eastern Europe, to countries such as Denmark and Greece that retain a state church or one church in a highly privileged position. In between are states such as Belgium, Austria, Spain, and Germany that offer official forms of recognition for religions, and others, such as Italy, that retain concordats with Rome. But the official status often does not reflect the influence of traditionally dominant churches. In some cases they have an impact far above their official status, as in the case of the Catholic Church in Ireland and Poland, or, conversely, far below their official status, as with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark.

Muslims have had to find their way through this confusion, and they have achieved legal recognition in several countries where it is available, including Austria (1979), Belgium (1974), and Spain (1992). In other such countries, including Germany, some of the Swiss cantons, and the Alsace-Moselle region of France, such legal recognition was still to be obtained as of 2004. Recognition brings with it different privileges in different countries. In Austria, legal recognition gives Muslims access to the state broadcast media and provides for religious instruction in schools, the latter a privilege that also comes with recognition in Belgium. For a long time it was the view in Germany that recognition was required before access to religious instruction in state schools was possible. More recently, German politicians and educators have begun supporting the view that religious education can go ahead without recognition.

Whatever the legal situation, for most European Muslim communities, acknowledgment of them as an inherent part of public life is more than a mere formality. During the 1990s the French government became involved in the sponsorship of a Muslim representative body. To achieve this, French authorities have had to enter into ever greater compromises with the country’s Muslim communities. A broadly based Conseil Français du Culte Musulman, sponsored by the Ministry of the Interior, was elected in April 2003. The establishment of the Muslim Council of Britain in 1997 served a similar purpose for a number of years, but it never succeeded in broadening its initial base of support among Britain’s Muslim communities, and its role as interlocutor with the government remained circumscribed.

That such national Muslim representation developed in France and Britain is due in part to the citizenship status of most people of Muslim background in these countries. In Great Britain, commonwealth citizens have the right to vote and to stand for election, and access to citizenship for the children of residents is accorded by birth or a relatively unrestricted process of naturalization after five years of residence. French rules are slightly different, but the principle of citizenship by birth is also the legal foundation there. So in both countries there has been a long tradition of political participation, which is only gradually spreading to the rest of Europe as laws are changed. This was the case in Germany at the end of the 1990s, when limited access to dual citizenship and citizenship by birth were introduced. In some countries, such as the Netherlands and in the Scandinavian countries, political participation at the local level was encouraged by the introduction during the 1980s of the right to vote and to stand for election in local government for foreigners of longer than three years of residence.

EDUCATION. Education has been a priority for Europe’s Muslim communities. For most Muslim parents, education has been seen as the key to a better future for their children and their families, and European governments have regarded their educational systems as one of the main tools for building national identity and, therefore, for the integration or assimilation of people of foreign origin. At the same time, modern child-centered educational thinking, linked with a liberal and pluralist view of Europe, has required a recognition and validation of children’s cultural identities.

The United Kingdom was among the first countries to restructure syllabuses of religious education to take into account the presence of faiths other than Christianity, when local authorities introduced “multi-faith” religious education during the 1970s. The Education Reform Act of 1988 specified for the first time that Christianity was the be the main faith taught, but the law also guaranteed the teaching of other religions, most prominent among which have been Islam and Judaism. In other European countries where religion is taught in state schools, the curriculum was traditionally linked to a specific Christian tradition. In some cases, as in Germany, the churches have cooperated in expanding the curriculum to include knowledge of other world religions, especially Islam and Judaism, while some countries, including Norway and Sweden, have restructured their official programs on British lines. In Eastern Europe since the collapse of Communist regimes, changes are only slowly taking place, since in most cases the priority has been the reintroduction of religious instruction in the parents’ faith after decades of atheistic indoctrination.

As the teaching of Islam has spread in schools, so Muslim organizations have become increasingly involved in designing syllabuses and teaching materials, as well as contributing to the training of teachers. Since the national, linguistic, and cultural origins of Muslims in many countries are mixed, Muslims have had to become accustomed to an internal pluralism that was often absent from the regions of origin. This involvement in education has thus often required Muslim participants to reach a consensus on what should be taught as Islamic faith and practice, and also how to deal pedagogically with the variety of cultural forms through which Islam finds expression in society. It remains a fact, however, that the main cultures of origin continue to influence the image of Islam that is variously presented in schools across Europe.

ISLAMIC MOVEMENTS AND TRENDS. The countries of origin have also played a major role in determining the Islamic trends that became established in various places. The vast majority of Muslims in western Europe are Sunnıs who tend to identify with the legal and ritual schools (madhhab) of their parents. There are a number of Shi'i communities in the United Kingdom, notably Ithna'asharis and Isma'ilis; they are primarily of Iranian, Arab, and South Asian origin. The Iranian government has long played a role that, in the Hamburg Mosque on the Alster Lake, predates the Islamic revolution of 1979. But other groups are also to be found, such as the Khoei Foundation in London with its link to the eponymous family of Iraqi Shi'i scholars. The Isma'ili community has a major center in London, and promotes philanthropic and developmental activities through the Aga Khan Development Network.

However, it is often the Muslim movements that arose in the Muslim world during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that have been most visible. So among Muslims of Indian subcontinent origin, the Deobandi and Brelwi movements remain strong and continue to reproduce their mutual controversies after settling in Europe. To them must be added the network of organizations emanating from the Jama'at-i-Islami, founded by Abu’l A'la Mawdudı (1903-1979). Among North African Arabs, branches of the National Liberation Front continued to exercise influence for many years, but during the 1990s younger Arabs increasingly found themselves attracted to organizations linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, a trend also to be noted among Muslim students elsewhere in western Europe, and in some cases institutions supported and funded by individuals or organizations from the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia.

From the beginning, Turks were split between an educated minority that tended to support the official secularism of the tradition of Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) and a majority that through the 1970s became increasingly organized through federations of mosques. These federations were run by either the local representatives of the Diyanet, a network that was expanded significantly after the September 1980 coup in Ankara; the Milli Görü¸s movement; or the more Sufi-oriented Süleymanli movement.

While most movements remain ethnically identified, some have established high levels of cooperation across borders based on a sympathy of ideas. This has most clearly been the case in cooperation between organizations based in the Muslim Brotherhood, the Jama'at-i-Islami, and the Milli Görü¸s. But a few movements have crossed ethnic and national borders, above all the Tablighi-Jama'at. This movement originated in the context of the Indian Deobandi movement but spread around the world during the 1950s and 1960s. During the 1980s it particularly found followers in France among North Africans, where it was know as Foiet pratique, and very soon after the regime changes in eastern Europe itinerant Tabligh preachers were seen in Bulgarian villages.

Sufi networks, although generally less visible than other, more formal organizations, have developed a strong presence in Europe. In the Balkans the Bektashı network, traditionally strong among Albanians, is also to be found among ethnic Turks in Bulgaria. Related to the Bektashıs, and currently going through major revival and change, are the so-called Alevis. Originating in Anatolia (and not to be confused with the Syrian group of the same name), many Turks and Kurds of Turkish nationality are now publicly professing to be Alevis. In some instances, especially among the Balkan village communities, it is difficult to distinguish between these movements and isolated traditional popular religious practices, but it is also clear that, with the growth of communications and freedom of movement, the two forms of expression are being linked.

Other more traditional Sufı orders are also widespread, especially various branches of the Naqshbandı order, prevalent among both Turks and South Asians. Among communities from sub-Saharan West Africa, especially among the Senegalese, the marabout networks retain significant influence, including economic influence. New European cross-border networks have arisen as offshoots from the more traditional orders, the most well-known of these probably being that of the Cypriot Shaykh Nazim al-Haqqani (b. 1922), whose followers, although limited in number, range from Central Asia through Europe to North America.

Smaller, more extreme groups have made themselves noticed since the early 1990s, usually when the media have temporarily linked them to political events. This was the case at the time of the Bosnian crisis early in the decade, the period of the Algerian civil war from the middle of the decade, and in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. Most wellknown among these groups is the Hizb al-Tahrır network, which has appeared in most European countries and in former Soviet Central Asia.

As a younger, educated generation appears in the Muslim communities in both eastern and western Europe, many European Muslims are beginning to develop European forms of Islam. On the one hand, they are loosening their adherence to the culturally specific forms of Islam identified with their parents and countries of origin; on the other hand, they are working out those dimensions of Islam that they regard as essential to being a Muslim, while also exploring how to be Muslim in ways that harmonize with being European. This has, among other things, given rise to a debate within Muslim circles concerning an Islamic “minority law” fiqh al-aqalliyat. It is this field above all that will determine during the first quarter of the twenty-first century the extent to which European Islam can integrate and to which the central Islamic lands will continue to influence Muslim identity in Europe.


There has been an explosion in literature on this subject since the early 1990s. Detailed bibliographies can be found in Wasif Shadid and P. Sjoerd van Koningsveld, eds., Religious Freedom and the Position of Islam in Western Europe: Opportunities and Obstacles in the Acquisition of Equal Rights (Kampen, Netherlands, 1995); Felice Dassetto and Yves Conrad, eds., Musulmans en Europe occidentale: Bibliographie commentée (Paris, 1996); and Jochen Blaschke et al., eds., Muslims in Europe: A Bibliography (Berlin, 2002). Much of the present entry is based on Jorgen S. Nielsen, Muslims in Western Europe, 2d ed. (Edinburgh, 1995), together with the substantial thematic discussion and updating, including Eastern European material, to be found in Brigitte Maréchal, Stefano Allievi, Felice Dassetto, and Jorgen Nielsen, eds., Muslims in the Enlarged Europe (Leiden, 2003), which includes an extensive bibliography. The country statistics are from Brigitte Maréchal, ed., L’Islam et les musulmans dans l’Europe élargie: Radioscopie (Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, 2002).


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