Islam in Europe in Times of Terror

Islam in Europe in Times of
Dr. Tilman Lanz
Minorities and Multilingualism Program
Department of Frisian Language and Culture
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
The frequency of terrorist attacks by young
Muslims in Europe suggests that there are
significant problems with the integration of
these youth into European societies. We may
also assume that there are significant tensions
among Muslims in Europe what the ‚right‘
Islam is. This is a European problem, merely
aggravated by the Islamic State.
Lecture Outline
1. Angry Young Men and Islam in Europe
2. Islamic Instruction in Europe: The Example of
3. The Limits of Reinterpretation: The Example
of Catalonia
4. Conclusions/Openings for Debate
Angry Young Men
• Young Muslim women are redeemable, young
Muslim men are not
• Katherine Ewing: Stolen Honor
• Mujatweets and the IS as a youthful
• Believing in something
The Practice of Islam in Europe
• Mostly an immigrant religion
• Imams and other religious leaders or
instructors are frequently imported from the
migrants‘ former homeland (e.g. Turkey,
Algeria, Morocco); legacy from the 1970s
• Three generations of Muslims in Europe today
(For a detailed discussion of the situation in France and Britain,
see: Bowen 2012)
The Example of Germany
Islamic Education in Germany
Turkish Islam dominates
Diyanet: Turkish ministery for religious affairs
Ditib: German branch of the Diyanet
Imams and religious teachers are sent for a
period of three years (maximum: six years) to
Problem: Today these imams and teachers are
largely out of touch with the lived reality of
third generation Muslims in Germany
The lived realities of Turkish Imams sent to Germany Ditib/Diyanet for a few years and
young (Turkish) Muslims in Germany have nothing in common.
So, where can young European
Muslims turn for orientation?
One Choice: Indigenous Imams
German radical Muslim Pierre Vogel with some of his followers.
Another Choice: Mujatweets
• Tweets to recruit young European Muslims for the IS
• Highly professional productions (in contrast to al Qaeda)
• In English to make sure young European Muslims can understand the
 Young European Muslims have access to alternative narratives about Islam
today, wich were not present a generation ago.
Alternatives: In Practice
• Lamya Kaddor
• Teacher of Islam in a German Middle School
• Teaches Islam in German, with an emphasis on
meaning, not recitation
• Has co-authored a book (in German) entitled
‚The Qur‘an for Children and Grown-Ups‘ to
disseminate understanding of Quranic
• Is a graduate of the first German program on
Islamic Studies at the University of Münster
• A few of her former students are now fighting
for IS in Syria
 Kaddor‘s work aims at making Islam
transparent for young German Muslims.
Alternatives: In Theory
Tariq Ramadan
Prolific Writer and a powerful voice of
European Islam
Calls upon European Muslims to integrate and
participate in the societies they live in ‚as
Rejects dogmatic interpretations of Islam and
propagates a substantial reinterpretation of
the sources in light of Western modernity
The Ramdan-Hirsi Ali debates a few years ago
are a milestone in the development of Islam in
 Muslims in Europe need to adapt to the
realities in their new homelands; likewise their
practice of Islam has to be changed but this is
a two-way street.
Why the Alternatives Fail
• Western media and politicians demonize moderates
like Tariq Ramadan as double-tongued radicals
• Muslim conservatives condemn the reforms of Islam in
Europe (by European Muslims) as unislamic
• The former homelands of migrants want to continue to
exert influence by sending Imams
• Understanding Islam is not the objective of the young
men and women joining the IS – they merely want to
fight for a good cause that also makes their lives
simpler and, strangely, more meaningful
Example: Ramadan Coming to Britain
An Example for Failure: The Muslim
Communities in Barcelona
Consell Islamic de Catalunya – main
representation of Muslims in
Controlled by Morocco (government)
Diseminates a very conservative
version of Islam
Leadership is exclusively Moroccan
Large following among all Muslims in
Catalonia (mainly because there are
few alternatives)
Note: Immigration and, therefore, also immigration of Muslims is a recent
phenomenon in Catalonia. We cannot expect to find the same level of
articulation and differentiation among migrant communities as, say, in
Abdenur Prado
Catalan convert to Islam
Has published several books on Islam
and frequently appears in Western
media on the topic of Islam
Local contacts to many non-Muslims
Very few (if any) Muslim followers
because most migrants find his
version of Islam too Westernized and
radically reformist
Example: Prado argues, in one of his
books, for a feminist reading of the
The problematic of young European Muslims
radicalizing will not disappear until the
discourse about Islam in Europe is no longer
dominated by hardliners on both sides.
To put this a bit more provocatively: Wahabis
and the Front National ensure – in
harmonious, deadly collaboration – that the
next terrorist attack will happen soon.
Thank you for your attention!
Bowen, John R. 2012. A New Anthropology of
Islam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kaddor, Lamya and Müller, Rabeya. 2008. Der
Koran für Kinder und Erwachsene (engl: The
Qur‘an for Children and Grown-Ups).
München: Beck.
Ramadan, Tariq. 2004. Western Muslims and the
Future of Islam. Oxford: Oxford University