The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Europe I Saw: A story of European Islam

Immersed in a slender French book, Bismah was seated not far from me in the University of Geneva cafeteria. Stylish and focused, she seemed at home. At first glance, I missed her hijab. Her headscarf so splendidly complemented her outfit that it ceased to stand out. She was the first hijabi I encountered on the university campus.

I’m European, people will eventually admit it, said Bismah, apologizing for her heavy French-Swiss accent.

Europe finds itself mired in what many have called an identity crisis. My lengthy tour of European cities, towns and even villages suggests otherwise. There is chaos due to evolution of European identity, not a crisis of it. The “European street” is conceptualizing an “Islam of Europe,” as opposed to “Islam in Europe.” The borders between supposedly exclusive categories of Europe and Islam are proving to exist in sand.

The pan-European identity is undergoing a metamorphosis of sorts, which entails significant alteration to the category that is “the other.” From being “the perpetual other,” Islam is beginning to comprise European self-expression. The existence of a “European Islam” is a running theme across pubs, bars, barber shops and family gatherings alike. I spent much time conversing with Europeans from various backgrounds and walks of life. The criterion for being European, as they put it, is a belief in the emancipatory ideals of the Enlightenment. The exclusion of European Islam from European self-expression is viewed by many as an abomination of Enlightenment ideals of liberty and accommodation.

That the conversation about Islam’s European nature has pervaded most of European social fabric is a step in the desirable direction. Not every civilization has the means, vocabulary and structures to negotiate the definition of the “other.” Most of Europe, in the context of Islam, I suggest, has cultivated the knowledge and, more importantly, the will to have the debate.

Tensions, both healthy and harmful, will arise out of this talk of the expansion of the European identity to include Islam. The rise in vicious Islamophobic rhetoric by anti-immigrant parties and unreasonable blackmail by infrequent pockets within Muslim communities both betray the very European legacies they aim to protect.

The process, although fraught with trepidations, is likely to succeed. The future of Islam in Europe and of Europe in its Islam is enmeshed and bright. The thrust of the current discourse about Islam in and of Europe is truly pushing the otherwise manipulated constitution of European identity. One senses in conversations a reluctance to believe that there could be a category like European Islam. But most admit, myself included, that there is.

Bismah is a living embodiment of European Islam, which belongs in Europe. She knows that, hopefully, everyone else will too.

Written by Abdul Manan ’18.

Leave a Comment

Comments (0)

If you wish for your response to an article to be submitted as a letter to the editor, please email [email protected].
All Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *