Islam, Europe’s Second Religion

Post 7 Week 8 //

Justin Vaisse, a senior fellow in the center of the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution wrote and article called Muslims in Europe: A short Introduction. In this article he discuses the different myths regarding Islam in Europe and the issues and challenges this religion faces.

Justin Vaisse 

The first myth Vaisse brings to topic is that; being Muslim constitutes a fixed identity, sufficient to fully characterize a person. He goes on further to support his myth by stating, “ When it comes to Muslims, people wrongly assume that religion – rather than nationality, gender, social class, etc. – necessarily trumps other identities.” (Vaisse, 2008) Society is always first to jump to conclusion and fall into stereotypes, I believe that media plays a big role in this. Vaisse uses an example about how in 2005 violence broke out due to largely immigrant communities and the social and economical condition, the media was coining the term “Muslims riots in France” to cover this topic. However these riots had absolutely noting to do wit the Islam faith, “ Muslim groups, who tried to play a mediating role, discovered themselves tot be irrelevant and powerless.” (Vaisse, 2008)


Myth number two says that Muslims in Europe are, in one way or the other, inherently foreign, the equivalent of visiting Middle- Easterners who are alien to the “native” culture. However many Muslims living in the European culture, and have been as early as the 8th century. Many would not think of themselves as anything but Europeans, they hold nationalities of French, British, and German to name a few. “…There is more difference in political culture and social codes between a French Muslim and a German Muslim than there is between a French Muslim and a French of other religious orientation.” (Vaisse, 2008) This proves that Muslims are more than just inherently foreign they in fact are very diverse in culture.

The last myth I would like to talk about is Muslims are demographically gaining on the “native” population. I agree with the point that Vaisse makes to contradict this myth. With the rate of intermarriage and integration through many countries this myth become more and more less true. Birth rates do have an effect on this however, “European birthrates are generally low, and birthrates among immigrant groups are often high. But in the latter group, they actually fall rapidly after their arrival and among subsequent generation, as they tent to conform to the national norm.” (Vaisse, 2008)


It is important to understand the distinction between the religious and political dimension of Islam. There is in fact a distinction between the two as many people clump them together. Shireen T. Hunter gives an example of the difference in the book Islam, Europe’s Second Religion, he says that Regarding ‘Ibadat (worship) Muslims have to do what is strictly prescribed, if they want to pray they have to do exactly what is written down. On the political side “ One can do whatever one wants as long as it does not contradict a prescribed principle.”(Hunter, p. 210) The distinction between the two have been around since the middle ages and It is important to recognize the difference in the two because it is a very important topic to the Islamic faith.

Education and social rifts in Europe have brought many challenges to Muslim communities in Europe. Education is declining “ Whether in Muslim families or any other families, the old clear cut divisions (family providing education and school providing learning) are dead and gone…” (Hunter, p.216) This then shift responsibility on to others because of the transparent line. Ramadan suggests Muslims should find their place in society, and work together to determine the school education.


       Social rifts are also bringing challenges to Muslim communities “The question of unemployment is haunting many people and more pockets of economic marginalization, social exclusion, and hence delinquency are developing.” (Hunter, p. 216) From this violence is breaking out in more towns, cities, and suburbs in Europe. Ramadan suggests that they develop partnerships at local levels in order to fight all type of social devastation. (Hunter, p.217)



Shireen, Hunter T. Islam, Europe’s Second Religion. Westport: Praeger, 2002. Print.

Vaisse, J. (2008, September). Muslims in Europe: A short introduction. Retrieved from:


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