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The Formation of Muslim Identity in Europe

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In defining Muslim identity the widely held belief is that religion is the defining element. This is only partly true. Religion is only part of the picture, the normally secondary elements of class, gender and national belonging need to be examined. The issues of religion and identity formation can be explored thusly: differing concepts of religion and Islam should be considered to see how they have present particular frameworks. It is important to note that immigrants have identities other than those associated with their religion. These include ethnic, linguistic and national identities, the experiences of Muslims in France and Britain are contrasted to illustrate this point. The quantitative nature of population studies or census data answers only part of the question, additionally it must be asked, “If there is such a thing as Muslim identity how should it be defined?”

The desire to understand the formation of Muslim identity in Europe is at the center of this work. The history of Europe and the Muslim world has done much to influence the perception and experience of Muslims. To many, Europe fulfilled the prophecy of secular democracy as a stable and fixed point of reference to promote the transformation of other societies. We did not expect Europe to be transformed and shaped by its encounter with the issues related with Islam.

The experience of Muslims in Europe as guests in a host country does not help to frame the two-way change that is already underway, shaping both Muslims and Europeans, and reducing the differences between them. It is those social groups and generations that are in Europe, without hope for return, distanced from the national origins of their parents, shaped by new life experiences, languag...

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