ISLAM IN EUROPE
In Europe, Islam is a recurrent theme for mass communication. It is not by chance that sociological bibliography on Islam in Europe has rapidly increased and that now some sociologists of religion, who were once mainly experienced in the dominant religion of their home country, have now become Islam experts, studying the relationship between the state and Islamic religion, the integration of Muslims in Europe and the role of Islam inside European society. The question is no more about Islam and Western countries: Islam is inside Western countries. Europe becomes a decisive ground for “Muslim Geopolitics” as well. The four blocks of religions (Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants and Muslims) are a fundamental basis for the construction of Europe. But religious Europe is not only a map of territories characterized by this or that religious culture, religious Europe has also and moreover the presence of a wide number of minorities: Orthodox or Protestants in Catholic countries, Catholic and Orthodox in Protestant countries, Jews and Muslims in the majority of European countries. Large divisions are those regarding the Caucasus people of Georgia (of Orthodox religion with a minority of Muslims), and of Azerbaijan (of Muslim religion, above all Shiites, with a minority of Christians). The importance of new Islamic presences in Europe is far too evident.
Islam in Europe
by Roberto Cipriani (University of Rome 3)
Introduction: Judaism and Islam
Judaism had arrived in Rome long before the affirmation of oriental cults, and it was destined successively to spread throughout Europe. In fact “owing to the Arab-Islamic conquest of Spain in the seventh century, this became the vital centre of Jewish history. Later on, many mystical movements took place all over Europe until 1492, when, with the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, had to keep on living in Palestinian territories” (Filoramo 2001: 174).
During the wider expansion of Arab dominion and up to 1492 (the year Hebrew people were expelled from Spain) the language spoken by the Jewish people was Arabic, in order to partake in the hosting societies. Hebrew was nonetheless spoken as well.
It must be taken into account that in Europe primitive forms of cults with mythological and countryside-wood contents, funerary or sacrificial, polytheistic and pagan (of oriental influences as well) were replaced by monotheist movements, mainly founded on the Holy Scriptures: Judaism and Christianity at first and Islam after, with all the inner articulations that respectively move from Sephardic and Ashkenazi to Zionist, from Catholics and Orthodox to Protestants, from Sunnites and Shiites to Sufi. But there are further inner subdivisions.
The picture, however, is not complete if we do not take into consideration the fundamental presence of Islam in Europe, and not only in recent times (thanks to the Turkish immigration in Germany) but also in ancient periods. Islam means submission and is seen as an omnicomprehensive religion, therefore which considers every aspect of human life. It was founded by Mahomet in 622 after Christ. Its fundamental book is the Koran, which means to recite, to read aloud. In fact, in the Koran schools one can learn to read, pronouncing Arab words with a loud modulation. The Koran has 114 suras (chapters), each sura has a title indicating its content.
After the death of Mahomet in 632, a number of caliphs followed, who were the major religious and political authorities. By the middle of seventh century, already, with Utman, the third Caliph, Arabian expansion arrived to the present Turkish, Armenian, Azerbaijan and Georgian territories.
By 711 Spain and France were also part of it until Charles Martello on 17th October 732 put an end to it with the victory at Moussais-La-Bataille (Poitiers). Spain instead remained mainly Muslim for the following 781 years, until 1492 (when Christians won at Granada, the last Arabian fortress and both Arabs and Jews were expelled).
In the meantime the eastern expansion was growing up to the Aral Lake, because of the inclusion of the Umayyad Empire, the actual Kazakhstan. Later on in the sixteenth century, the Ottomans occupied Eastern Europe, especially the Balkans. In the following centuries, the conquest included the Black Sea and arrived at the boundaries with Vienna and Kiev. In the nineteenth century the Arab-Muslim expansion reduced and started to recede, losing territories both in Western and Eastern Europe. However, entire areas previously of Christian religion had become Muslim, like Anatolia, now Turkey. Also in the previously Russian areas Muslims are numerically significant.
Islamic presence in Europe
Notwithstanding resistances, doubts, fears and misunderstandings the project of enlarging Europe keeps going on and reaches new goals, even unexpected ones, as in the case of the attempt of a Scandinavian Arab dialogue fostered by the Northern countries with a prevalence of Protestant and Arabian countries with the prevalence of Muslims, thus trying again to tighten relations dating back to centuries ago (Melasuo 1993).
However, Arab-Islamic communities are progressively growing in Europe, as well as Turkish-Islamic communities, Albanian, Bosnian, Senegalese, Moroccan, Tunisian, Algerian, Egyptian, and many other communities (Iranian, Pakistani, Bengali) who are either recently established or since old times.
In Europe, Islamic East is a recurrent theme also for mass communication. A first result is evident already. The European immigrant is no longer Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, but more and more frequently from Morocco, Tunisia or Turkey. Once again it is all assimilated in one generic category: Arab Muslim, even if the indicated individual is neither Arab nor Muslim. At last, generalization is the best way to avoid a deeper knowledge, stigmatizing is the short way to avoid hosting and meeting others. That’s why “Muslim immigrants, instead of being, they become ethnic groups. Ethnicization is a classification process where social actors are low classed and reclassified so that through a system of crossed and complementary imputation re-qualifies social hierarchy. This way, racism confines immigrants in a stigmatized position that puts discredit on them. However, isolated ethnicity never emerges. Ethnicities correspond one to another and are linked to each other” (Bastenier 1991: 15).
It is not by chance that sociological bibliography on Islam in Europe has rapidly increased (Dassetto and Conrad 1996) and that now some sociologists of religion, who were once mainly experienced in the dominant religion of their home country, have now become Islam experts, studying the relationship between the state and Islamic religion, the integration of Muslims in Europe and the role of Islam inside European society (Jenkins 2007). France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Spain and Switzerland are among the countries that care more about new themes of Islamic content, in relation to areas such as immigration, citizenship, political representatives, community organization, means of mass communication, identity processes, the perception of European Union, the identification with Europe, Islamization of Europe, Islamic associations in European territory, social and religious Islamic networks, youth education, inter-ethnic conflicts, the use of free time, criminality, entrepreneurship, work, polygamy, minority conditions, linguistic barriers, law statute, places of worship, woman’s role, religious practice and conversions.
Allievi (2002: 30) opportunely considers that “Islam is no more on the other side, but is here, among us, in the millions of Muslims present and established and (definitely) European citizens. Estimates vary between 8 and 15 million or more and the definition of Muslims depends on the countries considered, which were chosen and, obviously, depends on the thesis to “demonstrate”. The frontier between the two worlds has changed: actually, there is no longer only one. The question is no more about Islam and Western countries: Islam is inside Western countries. It is nowadays history”. Islam is therefore part of and integrated in Europe, especially as far as the second generations are concerned, who are completely socialized within European territories, speaking one or more European languages, and who are de facto Euro-Islamic generations (Allievi and Nielsen 2003; Maréchal 2003). Actually “Muslims’ Europe is quite different from what we know as an institutional projection. At first, it is larger: it is not limited to the fifteen countries (whose inside and outside boundaries have no relevance to Islam), and strongly headed towards the East. In some East European countries there are, indeed, relevant Islamic non-immigrated minorities, therefore with a regular citizenship, with secular and experienced modalities of relationship with majorities and of institutional management of a specific Islamic religion (which is also linguistic and cultural, thinking about the case of Turkish speaking minorities, last residual of Ottoman domination) from the involved States. Also this Europe starts from the Atlantic Ocean, but is heading more towards the Urals” (Allievi 2002: 141).
Allievi hypothesizes that Europe itself might be dar al-islam, which means “nothing but the European part of Umma, but with a different meaning from the traditional one: it is Islamic territory as well, and Islam is only one of the others, with no pretensions over the others, not even for definitions”. Europe becomes a decisive ground for “Muslim Geopolitics” as well. In the future there is, however, a “plural” Europe (Allievi 2002: 179). Islam itself is “one and multiple”, as Pace affirms (2004: 12), passing through the different solutions experienced in Europe for public acknowledgement and state regulation of Islam and Muslim identity. In France, according to Pace, the principle of jus soli prevails where each and every citizen has full rights, in Germany, however, jus sanguinis is enforced, and it tends to keep citizenship as a privilege for natives only. From these two different conceptions the attitudes towards Islamic people also derive (as well as towards other immigrants). In the United Kingdom “social policies are moved by a social and cultural conception that classifies people according to their human race and, as a consequence, confirm the idea that the diverse ethnic peculiarities of a single race have to be respected, and if they are not, the State is obliged to intervene in order to promote active policies to protect their differences (affirmative action). In this way, British policy was dominated on the one hand by the aim of avoiding any kind of racial discrimination and, on the other hand, by a gradual recognition in public opinion of all the distinctive elements of this or that ethnic group” (Pace 2004: 42-43).
In The Netherlands, at first, the migration flux was accepted, afterwards the system of acceptance underwent a crisis because many immigrants established themselves in the country with their families (and with their religion, either Islamic or other). Within a decade the Muslim population in the Netherlands doubled and in the meanwhile the Dutch society had to face economic recessions. Especially second generation Muslims were damaged because they experienced a reduction of rights. In Belgium there is a representative organism of Muslims that keeps in touch with the Belgian government but also respects the law.
In Scandinavian countries jus loci is applied, as well as in France, thus facilitating the citizen’s access, but also helping immigrants of European origins limiting access. However, here a fiscal crisis was registered as well which has complicated the management of immigrant fluxes. Moreover, many refugees have been accepted for humanitarian reasons, but they are submitted to strict controls. Nonetheless Islamic schools and mosques were opened. However, between Scandinavian countries there are some differences, as for automatic registration of newborns to national Churches, in particular to the Swedish Church, which has such privilege since 1990. In Sweden there have been some conflicts with Muslims: that is why there are some difficulties in the “passage from the assimilation policy to that of respectful integration of socio-religious differences in Islam” (Pace 2004: 88). The difficulty also arises from considering Islam as one, as if it were a single “congregation”.
Finally, Italy and Spain have demonstrated to be open to Islamic immigration flux, especially at the beginning; only after, restrictions occurred. In 1992 in Spain an agreement for the recognition of the code of law of Islam was signed: but by the year 2000 law restrictions occurred. In Italy, Muslims entrance is growing, from many different origins: their juridical recognition poses many problems which are still unsolved.
To conclude about the Islam question in Europe (Bistolfi and Zabbal 1995; Nökel, Tezcan 2007; Rath et alii 2001) a comparative analysis concerning Buddhists and Muslims from European citizens’ perception can be interesting. In fact these perceptions influence legal decisions and the dynamics of future society with their attitudes (Liogier 2006). According to some studies carried out in France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, United Kingdom, Scotland, Austria, Germany and other places in Europe, appreciation for Buddhism has increased, while appreciation for Muslims has reduced. In fact, “everywhere in Western Europe Buddhist groups are recognized or on their way to be recognized, notwithstanding sometimes the scarce number of members. Recognition arrives, and is always more rapid than that of Islam, which is better established within European territories than that of Buddhism” (Liogier 2006: 78). Finally, Buddhism is (or appears to be) more European and westernized than Islam. Furthermore, Buddhism apparently represents the future of Europe. Except for conceiving Islam a sort of new Buddhism, based on some peculiar religious values.
Culture and politics
Culture plays an important role for the presence of religion and Churches in single nations. In other words as re1igion is a fundamental part of each culture, the consequence is that traditions, habits, customs and institutions are influenced at different levels and for many generations, so that at a distance of years and centuries their historical and sociological outcome can be seen. Here is a synthetic picture of the relation between cultures and religions in Europe – on a modification of what Huntington suggested (1996) – but non always the relation is univocal, for example in Bosnia and Herzegovina there is an Orthodox culture together with the majority of inhabitants who are Muslim (a similar situation is that of Kazakhstan, while The Netherlands and Germany register Catholics within a Protestant culture):
Table 1. Religions and countries
Bosnia, Herzegovina (also Islamic)
Kazakhstan (also Orthodox)
The Netherlands (also Catholic)
West Germany (also Catholic)
Politicizing culture and religion is what Vrcan (2006) points out. He examines the coming together of a nation, culture and religion (van der Veeer and Lehmann 1999) within the countries of exYugoslavia, making a distinction between borders and frontiers: “the most important distinctive feature of today’s frontiers is that they are becoming more volatile and permeated by ideology in the guise of de-ideologized culture than ever before. But they are less territorialized than before. This means that frontiers have now become a strange type of boundary that generates hostis or an enemy. This stranger or enemy can be everywhere and nowhere, internal as well as external, highly visible and barely discernible, to be defeated here and now as well as in the distant future – but invariably suitable for extermination” (Vrcan 2006: 218).
Boundaries were also built with the support of the same Churches and religions, which contributed in bringing culture into politics and continuously recalling religious patrimony, leaving on one side all these supporters of tolerance towards differences and not keen on extreme positions possibly leading to hostility. Whereas “Catholicism in Croatia was obsessed by the idea of Croatia because for centuries it had been an antemurale Christianitatis under pressure from the East either from aggressive Serbian Orthodoxy or from encroaching Islam. Orthodoxy in Serbia was obsessed by the idea of being situated on the western frontiers of the entire world of Eastern Christianity… Islam in Bosnia was convinced that, since the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1878: ‘the entire cultural, political and social life of Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina had been marked by a desire to survive in the new context’ ” (Vrcan 2006: 219). Moreover, many particular situations throughout Yugoslavian territories show that national-oriented culture and religious politicization processes were widely popular in the country. In fact Catholicism in Herzegovina was a “religion in a border region”, but actually it has become a “border religion” (Vrcan 2006: 222). This is the reason why characters of closure towards differences were dominant with nationalism, activism and Church focused principles. As far as Islam is concerned, Muslims from Bosnia and Herzegovina eradicated from some territories have become of strong influence in others. Actually, “nowadays, owing to the drastic politicization of religion and the ‘religionization’ of politics everywhere – as well to the radical politicization of culture – the re-islamization of Bosnia has made significant progress, This has helped to homogenize Bosnian Islam and to strengthen the feeling that Bosnia belongs to the Islamic world” (Vrcan 2006: 223).
Muslims in Europe
Another issue is the Islamic presence and its role within European societies, also considering the many souls of this faith that go from Sunnite to Shiite and Wahabite, from Sufism of the Middle East to Hanefism of Turkey. “Therefore, one may say that Islam represents a condition of the growth of reflexivity for the secular institutions of Europe” (Bontempi 2005: 183).
The question, however, does not only involve the outcome of migratory phenomena. There are more ancient issues where religion plays a strategic role. A particular case is that of Cyprus where a part of the Island is Greek Orthodox and the other is Turkish Islamic. Even more complex is the situation in other parts of Europe, especially in the territories which once belonged to the Soviet Socialist Republics. It deals with the Slav roots which include Russians, Belarussians and Ukrainians. Notwithstanding the use of the same language and the use of the Cyrillic alphabet there are substantial differences even within the same Orthodox religion of Byzantine roots. In fact Ukrainians and Belarussians have always defended their own autonomy from the Muscovite Russians. Larger divisions are instead those regarding the Caucasus people of Georgia (of Orthodox religion with a minority of Muslims), of Armenia (of Orthodox religion with a few Catholics using Armenian rites, and with a minority of Monophysites) and of Azerbaijan (of Muslim religion, above all Shiites, with a minority of Christians). Each of these three nations has a very strong identity and this creates conflicts of various kinds which also influence the different religions.
Within Orthodox Georgia there are also the Abkhasians, whose language is substantially different from the Georgian official language. Within Islamic Azerbaijan, there are also Armenian Christians from Nagorno-Karabakh. And finally there are also the Islamic Azerbaijanians from Nahičevan.
In the south of Europe there are very significant groups of Muslims in Istanbul and Turkey but also in Albania, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia. But it is the most recent immigration that brings very many Muslims onto the European continent, so much so as to make Islam the second religion, for the number of followers, in various European nations. One must not forget the Jewish presence for so many centuries, which has resisted against every form of anti-Semitism succeeding in maintaining very solid roots in Europe.
The four blocks of religions (Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants and Muslims) are a fundamental basis for the construction of Europe. They are actually the corner-stones posed at the four angles of European chessboard: the point of convergence could be Brussels (or Belgium), where the presence of the four religions is clearly shown. History and sociology teach us, however, that such religious blocks may represent an obstacle on the way of a continental unique identity process. It is also true that there are many experiences showing the possibility of a cohabitation of religions.
The relation that other religions have with Europe cannot be denied. Bonds are evident, sometimes they are inextricable, therefore they have a certain importance and an influence on Europe. Understanding the significance, as well as knowing the dynamics and evaluating possible consequences of all, is not a small thing (Mortensen 2006; Friedli, Schnewly Purdie 2004; Journal of Religion in Europe). Even collecting data may be an operation full of tricks, misunderstandings, reserves, deformations, ideological censure; methodological and chronological difficulties therefore are comparative difficulties as well. Nonetheless, it was worthwhile consulting different sources, trying inferences, filling gaps of knowledge, so as to offer an up-to-date picture, vast and reliable, even within the limits of such a complicated international approach. Relatively recent data on 49 “European” countries (total amount of 740.000.000 inhabitants) are as follows:
Table 2. Muslims in Europe
Bosnia, Herzegovina (2002)
18 (Turkish Cypriotes)°
0,1; 0,5 (non registered)
Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo (2005)
The Netherlands (2000)
68 (Sunnites); 30 (Shiites)
United Kingdom (2001)
(°) 98% in Northern Cyprus
N.B.: “Republics” with a certain autonomy are also to be considered, such as: Nahičevan (Islamic, in Azerbaijan), Chechnya (Islamic, in Russia) which seceded in 1992 from Ingushetia (Islamic, in Russia), and Kabardino-Balkar (Islamic, in Russia)
Pluralism and fundamentalism
It can be useful to verify the rate of pluralism by observing the presence of religious teaching (mandatory or optional) in European public school (for another analysis of religion and education in Europe see also Jackson, Miedema, Weisse, Willaime 2007: part two; Genre, Pajer 2005; for Western Balkans: Kuburić, Moe 2006). The outcoming picture is once again complex and articulated:
Table 3. Countries and religious teaching
Catholic or Islamic or Other
Catholic or Hebrew or Protestant or Orthodox or Islamic; or Areligious-Ethical
Orthodox or Islamic
Catholic or Orthodox or Islamic or Protestant or Other; or Ethical (secondary schools)
Knowledge of religions
Lutheran; Religious History (prevailing) in secondary schools
‘Objective information’ or Lutheran or Orthodox or Other
A free day in primary school to attend religious education in a chosen Church; Catholic or Protestant or Hebrew in Alsace and Lorraine
Catholic or Protestant or Islamic or Hebrew or Other
Orthodox (in historical and cultural perspective)
Optional and extra curriculum
Catholic or Hebrew or Other
Religious or Ethical
Religious or Ethical
Catholic or Lutheran or Calvinist; or Ethical
Catholic or Protestant or Orthodox or Hebrew; or Ethical
Catholic; or Ethical
Orthodox or Other
Cultural Orthodox or Other
Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo
Orthodox or Other
No confessional, with some exceptions
Catholic or Protestant or Hebrew or Islamic or History of Religions; or Islamic out of school timetable
No confessional: Protestant or Catholic or Other or Liberal
Interconfessional (Multifaith Religion)
Bulgaria had an opportune action in this regard: already by the academic year 1997-1998 the optional teaching of religion, both Christian and Islamic, was introduced in schools. However, relations between Christians and Muslims do not foster conflict situations, as a matter of fact fundamentalism does not seem to be so relevant, young people are open to new cultures and religions different from their own. Some prejudices, however, are still present as far as Gypsies are concerned (Bogomilova 2005: 236). They usually decide to follow the dominant religion of the hosting country: that is why there are so many Orthodox, Muslims, Catholics and Jews as well as Protestants among them.
In 2006 a Catholic publisher has printed 15.000 copies of a textbook (in Spanish), Descubrir el Islam (To Discover Islam), to be used in Spanish primary schools.
Confirmation about a reduced fundamentalism among young people comes from studies about Malta (Abela 1995). In France (Talin 1995), however, fundamentalism still attracts, especially with the Charismatic Renewal, with Opus Dei, with some forms of conservative movements, in some groups of Protestants and among both Jews and Muslims. In Germany (Wahl 1995) fundamentalist groups among young people are quite varied and are mainly due to problems of social affiliation and look for a gratifying belonging. Finally, in the case of Turkey (Çelebi 1995), the youth called “Young Turks” are not apparently keen on fundamentalism because they are not agents of political Islam.
“Religious Europe is not only a map of territories characterized by this or that religious culture, Religious Europe has also and moreover the presence of a wide number of minorities: Orthodox or Protestants in Catholic countries, Catholic and Orthodox in Protestant countries, Jews and Muslims in the majority of European countries” (Vincent and Willaime 1993: 91). Also Jews and Muslims have particular characteristics in each nation, sometimes in the specific territory of their establishment. Moreover Jews have a great difficulty, after the Shoah and Diaspora, to identify with Europe just as the Muslims consider the continent as a country of immigration or of exile.
However, reality has its own way and develops towards other conceptions thus revealing that Europe is no longer a Western territory, because many Eastern influences can be found all over Europe. Frontier limits are no longer a problem: airplanes fly over it, sound waves can go through it, telecommunications do not have barriers, signs can supply the differences between languages. Events do not remain closed up in the place where they actually occur. Everything overflows and goes beyond. Therefore, definitions are unsteady and characterizations do not fit into place as in the past. The change is clear enough if seen on the gross percentage of religious belonging, carried out by Willaime (2004: 19):
Table 4. Religious belonging in 15 and 25 countries Europe
15 countries Europe
25 countries Europe
It is not easy to have reliable data on the number of followers of Churches and religions present in Europe. Estimates are not even easy, but a brief, partial picture (however more than 25 countries, but Russia is not included) can be as follows:
Table 5. Religions and followers
NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS
Other Christian religions
All Christian religions
The nations on which we could base the data taken into consideration above are more numerous than those considered strictly European (25 countries): we should enlarge the statistical diagram to all the following national situations: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia-Montenegro-Kosovo, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, including the smaller states such as Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican.
The most important changes in the European setting occurred after the migratory flow which modified in a very relevant way the demographical data of the single nations, on the basis of the number of immigrants which constitute the four main flows of transmigrations prominently coming from North African countries towards Portugal, Spain, France and Italy, from Turkey towards Germany, from the Middle East towards Europe in general, from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh above all towards the United Kingdom. The levels of immigration are the following: 5.000.000 registered and 700.000 non registered in Spain (2005), more than 3.700.000 (2006) in Italy.
Table 6. Countries and immigrants
COUNTRIES OF IMMIGRATION
NUMBER OF IMMIGRANTS
Even if approximately, the data shown suggest some considerations. The numeric entity of fluxes is obviously influenced by social politics carried out by the different countries. Problems emerge when the chain of immigration takes place, that is to say when the families follow the already established immigrant, arriving in the country of destination as well. At this point the bases for a linguistic, cultural and religious community are built. As a consequence, the problem of having a place for worship emerges. However, this is not always immediately realized. Therefore, tensions may occur, also because of some conflicts with religions and Churches established before. Finally, an intercultural and inter-religious question emerges and the European Union may be asked for an intervention, starting from a legal level.
The question, however, does not only involve the outcome of migratory phenomena. There are more ancient issues where religion plays a strategic role. A particular case is that of Cyprus where a part of the Island is Greek Orthodox and the other is Turkish Islamic. Even more complex is the situation in other parts of Europe, especially in the territories which once belonged to the Soviet Socialist Republics. Large divisions are those regarding the Caucasus people of Georgia (of Orthodox religion with a minority of Muslims), and of Azerbaijan (of Muslim religion, above all Shiites, with a minority of Christians). Each of these nations has a very strong identity and this creates conflicts of various kinds which also influence the different religions.
Within Orthodox Georgia there are also the Abkhasians, whose language is substantially different from the Georgian official language. Within Islamic Azerbaijan, there are also Armenian Christians from Nagorno-Karabakh. And finally there are also the Islamic Azerbaijanians from Nahičevan.
Religious and ethnic minorities are also found in Russia and out of Russia where the Russians emigrated, above all in the Ukraine (as many as 11 million) and in Belarus (1.6 million).
In the south of Europe there are very significant groups of Muslims in Istanbul and Turkey but also in Albania, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia. But it is the most recent immigration that brings very many Muslims onto the European continent, so much so as to make Islam the second religion, for the number of followers, in various European nations.
The perspectives for a European future (Greeley 2003; Knippenberg 2005) cannot leave out of consideration the responsibility for religious problems. New arrivals, especially from Africa and Asia, are changing the inner composition of European nations, also on a religious level, as can be seen in the table below; the data are limited to the 31st December 2000 regarding Europe of fifteen countries, and refer to foreign populations divided into religious belonging:
Table 7. Countries of immigration and religious belonging
COUNTRIES OF IMMIGRATION¯
Source: Pittau, F. (2006: 115) ‘Europa, allargamento, immigrazione, religioni’, Religioni e Società XXI (54): 115
The importance of new Islamic presences in Europe is far too evident. Therefore, it can be foreseen that boundaries, also religious ones, will disappear. The Mediterranean Sea towards Africa, and the Bosphorus gulf towards the Middle East are no longer obstacles or closed doors. They actually become more and more ways of access, places and bridges of connection.
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