Past Research (2001-2003)

Islam, Citizenship and European integration
January 2002 – August 2003

Sponsored by the European Commission DG Research Program “Improving the Human Research Potential & the Socio-Economic Knowledge Base” 5th framework research program

By referring to the political relevance of the concept of governance – applied to European integration – the project intends to focus on the issue of the religious dimension of citizenship. In particular, this research will concentrate on the ways in which the Muslim communities embedded in different European countries produce new forms of citizenship and political participation across Europe on the basis of their religious identity. To what extent does religious affiliation matter in the way individual and collective Islamic actors in Europe define themselves as citizens?

This is the first attempt at a European level to create an interdisciplinary research through scientific meetings and exchanges on questions of Islamic and European identity. Given the rather limited state of theoretical, methodological and empirical work in the area, we expect that the project will bring about a substantial increase of our knowledge of the integration of Muslim immigrants in Europe.

The project will provide a European coherence to hypotheses, data, and findings that can serve (and be of high relevance to) policymakers in the domains of immigration, race, ethnicity and multiculturalism – at both the national and European levels. It will also help in the dialogue between Muslim community leaders and public administration in different European countries.

Most of the available empirical research on Islam is not of a (European) comparative nature. The project aims to establish a European Research group whose work will be conceptually well anchored, and conducted according to common, rigorous methodological standards.

NOCRIME Network will investigate in detail two innovative questions:
1) In what ways and under what circumstances can Islam be a vehicle for either conflict or cooperation with national institutions?

This question is part of a more general inquiry into the status of religion in civil societies characterized by advances in pluralistic contexts. New forms of religious influence in the public arena pose new challenges to pluralism in European democracies, since a balance must be reached between the tolerance of differences and the conformity for the sake of civility. In this context, the presence of Islam in the West results in an intensification of the controversies surrounding religious freedom, tolerance, and the public expression of faith. As a result, any comprehensive analysis of transnational Islam must deal with the issue of how differences in religious status across Western democracies influence the conditions faced by each Western Muslim minority group. In other words, every European country defines Islam in relation to the notion of “religion” that they have already established legally and institutionally. In turn, this sets the framework for the organization of community life, and also for the self-defining process of every ethnic and cultural group’s identity. We will pay particular attention to two aspects: the public discourses produced by journalists, academics, politicians; and the specific constraints to integration – like the institutional inclusion of Islam in the religious pluralism of the European states and its influence on the social building of Islam in Europe.

2) How do Muslims create and organize their communities in Europe on a pluralistic basis?
This second part of our agenda deals with various relevant aspects that many of the participants have already developed in their own works (monographs). These aspects include: the variety of religious practices and social interactions related to Islamic religious affiliation; the internal differentiation within Muslim groups (secular vs. observant, gender differences, conversions to Islam etc.); typologies of interactions with non-Muslims (the accommodation to a different context, the establishment of different types of dialogue with different segments of the European societies – religious groups, representatives of social and political institutions etc.); and last, but not least, the formation of Muslim organizations, political mobilization, the forms of Islamic leadership, and the modes of production of Islamic knowledge and its transmission in a minority context.

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