Integration and Muslim identity in Europe

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Kretz, Lauren Ashley
Birchfield, Vicki
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The portrayal of collective identity of Muslim populations in Europe presents an increasingly important issue within identity politics. While European Muslims represent a diverse population that has experienced longstanding socio-political concerns, they are also increasingly portrayed in light of wider global perceptions of Islam in a post-9/11 era. Consequently, there is growing concern over a confusing of such pre-existing domestic issues and larger international problems of radical fundamentalism and Islamic terrorism. The misrepresentation of European Muslims as linked to such issues in turn often exacerbates domestic problems and contributes to an evolving sense of oppositional Muslim identity in Europe. In light of these concerns over inaccurate depictions of Muslims and their harmful effects, many of which will be expounded upon below, a more critical and deliberate approach is necessary in scholarly assessments of Muslim populations. This thesis examines the situation of European Muslims amidst such portrayals of commonality and international influence. After discussing some facets of political identities and critiquing other approaches to this issue, the study focuses on the case of Muslims in France. Using the lens of universalism, I examine the context of Muslims in France and evaluate the accuracy of assertions of common identity. After illustrating the diversity of French Muslims, the study then turns to the situation of Muslims in Europe, comparing the French case with those of Great Britain and Germany. Finally, it returns to the recent French national identity debate for concluding remarks. The study demonstrates that, while portrayals of Muslims as a uniform threat to European identity are at present inaccurate and misleading, such assertions also carry potentially harmful effects in stigmatizing Muslims and contributing to oppositional identity formation.
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