‘Christian Europe’ and Islam in Europe
How does ‘Christian Europe’ receive Islam in Europe ? How to address the fear of ‘Islamisation’ of Europe and what are the chances for ‘Europeanisation’ of Islam? These were the questions addressed during the third meeting of the series of Dialogue Seminars devoted to Islam, Christianity and Europe organised by CEC, COMECE and the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation, on 3 July 2008 in the European Parliament.
According to Sara Silvestri, Professor at Cambridge University and the City University of London, Islam has clearly contributed to Culture and Science in Europe, whilst having had less influence on the political and legal organisation of society, by contrast with Christianity.
Muslims in Europe are now full citizens. According to Professor Silvestri, we should rid ourselves of the idea that identities are fixed once and for all and that Muslims belong to a monolithic category. Moreover, she notes that certain concepts are common to Islam and Christianity, such as concern for the well-being of every person, the holiness of every life and the engagement of believers in the public sphere. She recalled that Europeans, as much believers as non-believers, share common values and preoccupations such as social justice. It is rather the loss of values and spirituality in our secularised societies that worries Muslims. She concluded that the intercultural dialogue promoted by the EU will only make sense once it is implemented in a way which will foster the common good of the community of citizens.
Representing the Islamic community of Serbia, Sheikh Abdullah Nu’man warned against false interpretations of Islam which, taken from the Koran, are overlaid with a number of cultural traditions which result in misunderstandings. From a theological and demographical point of view, the fear of an Islamic invasion and the imposition of sharia is groundless. He also denounced Islamophobia as a racist pretext used to create hate or discriminate against Muslims. Islam is rather about ‘talking to and loving each other’, adding that Muslims ‘love humanity because it proceeds from God and love God because he created us’.
The Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the EU, suggested that Interreligious challenges are part of Europe’s multi-faith societies and appear in all spheres of society (work, school, etc.). In Europe many people have unreflected, but historically shaped fear of Islam, which is further promoted by stereotypical and partial representation of Islam in the media and by the general lack of knowledge on Islam.
Metropolitan Emmanuel underlined that Islam was and still is European through its roots and suggests that there is less a need “to Europeanise Islam” than to revise the perception of the existing values and traditions in all their diversity. The fear of Islam needs to be challenged by the European institutions, the Churches and the media. A new start could be made by more equal treatment in the media and by teaching of all religions at school. By emphasising the common features among religions rather than the differences, he suggests that we should be able to identify common priorities and offer a vision for Europe.
Concluding the debate, the MEP Margrete Auken (Greens-Denmark) underlined the need to pass on, listen and learn from each other in order to overcome misunderstandings. In this context, Dialogue with religions as prescribed in the Lisbon Treaty, is “both an obligation and a privilege”.
The final seminar will take place on September 11 2008 on the topic of external relations of the EU with Muslim countries, especially Reciprocity in terms of religious freedom for Muslims in the Europe and Christians in the Muslim countries .
For registration, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information, please contact:
Ms Elina Eloranta email@example.com
Mr Vincent Legrand firstname.lastname@example.org
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Full event report of the 3 July Seminar will be shortly be available on the website of CEC
http://www.cec-kek.org/content/intercultural.shtml and on the website of COMECE www.comece.org