Task: 9/3 Is there a clash of civilizations between Europe and the Muslim World and what role does religion play in the secular European Union? (Essay of 500 words)
Even though the EU is officially based on secularism, its religious heritage, which is largely Christian, is still quite present in society today. On average, 52% of EU-residents consider religion important (according to a public opinion poll led by the EU-Commission in 2007, p. 14f.1 ). However, it depends on the region people come from. While nearly 90% of Poland and Cyprus, or Italy with 78% regard religion as very important, only 30% of the Swedes and 28% of the Czechs think so. Hill explains this “mix of religious traditionalism and secularism in the EU” with reference to developmental processes: the more economically developed Europe has become, the less emphasis is put on religion (Hill 2004).
With regard to Islam, it is Europe’s fastest growing religion. After all, more than 15 million Muslims live in EU-Europe (Islam.de 2008). Immigrants often come from poor countries ruled by authoritarian regimes, which in turn might accommodate certain risks for conflict.
These facts about the given importance of religion within the EU and about Islam being on the rise can of course take effects on a possible clash of civilizations. By civilization is meant a “cultural entity”, differing in history, traditions, culture and most important – in religion, Huntington 1993, p. 23, 25). According to Huntington, the future scenario will look as follows: conflicts do not primarily emerge within civilizations anymore, but rather between them, i.e. either among core states or along their fault lines, in particular between the Western and the Islamic World.
Even though there might not be a real clash of civilizations in terms of a deadly global war, we can notice various signs for an increase in conflicts between the European and the Muslim World, moving “beyond the usual xenophobic and anti-immigration concerns of the far right” (Yale Global 2006): so for instance in 2004, Dutch director Theo Van Gogh was stabbed by a fanatic Muslim who blamed him for blasphemy in one of his movies. Or Pope Benedict’s inept utterances in his 2006 speech, expressing critical remarks about Prophet Mohammad, thus filling large parts of the Muslim world with indignation and resentment. Furthermore, look at the vehement disputes among both culture areas arising over and over again, when newspapers publish scoffing caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (as happened in Denmark). Regularly, there are disputes over customs and mores in the public (like the veil-issue) – among others in Britain, Germany, and France, leading some scholars to the conclusion that “secular Europe and some of its Muslims continue to clash” (YaleGlobal 2006).
Last but not least, Islamic terrorism plays a certain role. Since the deadly attacks carried out by fundamentalist Muslims in Madrid and London, almost two thirds of Germans are convinced that living peacefully together is not possible any more. According to a recent opinion poll led by Germany’s renowned Allensbach-Institut, 56% of the Germans in 2006 were convinced that we are currently faced with a serious conflict among Christianity and Islam, with just 22% denying. Two years before it was less than half: 46%, with 34% denying (SWR 2006).
To sum up: It cannot be denied that there are several obvious signs for a clash of civilizations between Europe and Islam (or stated more exactly: conflicts arising in certain areas), letting authors like former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt rashly conclude that “the west and the Muslim world seem far removed from a stable and peaceful co-existence” (Schmidt 2004). But just as Huntington calls for a deeper understanding of religions outside the West and for their (better) integration into (Western) societies (Huntington 1993. p. 49), we have to work a lot yet on removing ignorance to create a stable future for Europe.
1 EU-Commission (2007): Religion is regarded even more important than politics!
- Quote paper
- Natalie Züfle (Author), 2009, EU and Religion, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/180058