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1. The Muslim presence in Europe
The first wave of Muslim immigrants to Europe was as early as 710 when the first Arabs and North African Berbers landed on the Iberian peninsula, where they founded a series of dynasties before the Catholic reconquista at the end of the 15th century. Muslim cultures that arose under these conditions were of immeasurable importance in the development of Christian Europe.
In the 19th century, social and political reform movements in Muslim countries encouraged their rulers to send students to European countries for further studies. Since then, Muslims have had a constant presence in the large metropolis of Europe.
The first waves of Muslim migrants were workers from North Africa, Turkey,
India and Pakistan, and they were generally poor, driven to migration by
economic necessity. Their level of education and the precariousness of their
status made it unlikely that they would think in terms of a European Islam.
It took the arrival of the second and third generations to modify the ways in
which these migrants saw their presence in their host countries. This has been
clear in France, although, in Britain, migrants have tended to stay within their
own communities, reproducing some of the social structures of their countries
and regions of origin.
Currently there are in total about 23 million Muslims in Europe as a whole -just over 3.5 per cent of its total population. Among these are over 7 million Muslims who live in western Europe - some 2 per cent of the latter region's total population. The size, settlement histories, cultural backgrounds and ethnic identities of the main Muslim groups in each country differ considerably. The Muslims in Western Europe have come as immigrant labour from the 1950s to the 1970s. Since 1945, Western Europe has experienced successive waves of immigration. One involved the post-war phase of returning nationals displaced by new frontiers or by processes of decolonisation. Another phase surrounded the massive flow of workers and later their dependants, who now account for about 15 million persons in the European community. Finally there has been a flow of refugees, in some cases liberated to travel by the political upheavals of eastern Europe, in some cases claiming political status now that the economic doors have closed, but increasingly cases displaced by the civil wars in the former Yugoslavia. The different flows of migration have overlapped and have interacted with each other.
After World War II, the situation took on a new dimension by the arrival of the so-called "guest workers". Today, Muslims are an integral part of European societies, making an invaluable contribution to the economic and social welfare of all. Most immigrant Muslims came in search of economic prosperity. They are professionals with a good educational background and skills. A large number of students have also come over the years and many settled here once they completed their studies. The overwhelming concern with economic prosperity has meant that Muslim parents have not been able to pay as much attention to the upbringing of their families, especially children, as the situation warrants. The negative influences of the host society are all too obvious in Muslim communities across Europe.
By 1851, the first year official records of this nature were kept, there were 380, 000 foreigners in France or 1% of its total population. By 1881, just thirty years later, that number had nearly tripled to 1 million i.e. 3% of France's total population. And by 1931 it had increased to 2.7 million or 6.4% of France's total population of 42 million. This was a higher proportion of the population in terms of percentage than the United States, which was the main destination for European immigrants since the middle of the nineteenth century.
France then, has seen large numbers of immigrants entering the country at earlier
points in its history. The attempts of these immigrants to settle in France
shows up the persistence of hostility and resistance by the French to them.
Contrary to the myth of earlier culturally similar immigrants settling in easily,
many European immigrants in France faced fear, hostility and racism and found
their integration into French life to be a difficult process.
Mosques in France
For example, on September 29, 1995, at the end of a long manhunt, French television
viewers watched as the police cornered Khaled Kelkal, a 24-year-old beur accused
of involvement in terrorists acts, into a dark street in Lyons. In the course
of a shootout, the police killed him. Afterwards, one police officer kicked
his body; to make matters worse, another screamed "Finish him off! Finish
him off!" Many Algerians, while accepting the need to go after Kelkal,
found the police actions excessive; "They shot him to death like a dog
to teach all of us a lesson," was a widely heard comment.
probable Muslim population in Britain in 1951 was about 23 000. By 1961, there
were about 82 000 Muslims in Britain, by 1971 about 369 000, by 1981 about 553
000 , by 1991 about 1 million, and by 2000 about 2 million. These numbers are
based on the ethnic origin of the minority population of Britain and about 75
per cent is made up of groups originating in the South Asian sub-continent.
has the most recent record of Muslim movement. The numbers are dominated by
the Turks whose arrival in substantial numbers began in 1961, regulated
by bilateral agreements between the German and Turkish governments. In 1961
there were 6700 Turks in Germany. By 1970 there were 429 000; by 1976 there
were over 1 million; by 1981, 1.5 million and the number has fluctuated about
that total since then. There were in 1990 1.67 million Turks in Germany; a more
recent estimate is just over 2 million (Source: Peach and Glebe,
1995). Not all Turkish nationals are Muslim, of course. Apart from staunch
secularists - of whom there are many - there are significant groups of Armenian
and Syrian Orthodox Christians. Moreover, the Muslim Turks are ethnically, culturally
and linguistically quite heterogeneous (Source: Schmuck, 1982).
Among Turkish nationals living in Germany, Kurds, the largest minority living
in Turkey, are estimated to be as much as 25 per cent of the population.