Islamic Legal Cultures and Accommodation of Islam in Europe
The religious claim of Islamic communities in Europe has grown significantly since the 1980s. This has raised intense debates and unleashed passionate opinions, particularly in France when discussing whether veils could be worn at school. Let us remember in passing that France is home to the two largest Jewish and Muslim communities in Europe.
Beyond the movement of “judicialization” of Islamic normative orders in the wide sense and the application of Sharia by European judges or special Councils, there has been growing interest in the humanities (and more recently legal studies) in what is felt and claimed by large Islamic communities in Europe in regard to the threat of identity loss. The inevitable question is, of course, whether this threat is due to what many researchers formulate in terms of confrontation, or even culture clashes, or due to the fact that Islamic religious and cultural references are devalued or conflict with relations of domination and integration in host societies.
How do Muslims in Europe manage Islam’s normative universe and the pressure of socialization through the image of family, neighbors, community, and religious leaders on the one hand, and the creation of their own practices according to a plural globalized culture on the other? How can we identify the specificity of Islam as compared to other religions, especially in regard to belonging? How is it possible that different cultures, religions and civilizations come together without clashing in pluralistic European societies?
It must be noted from the start that Islamic cultures are characterized by intertwined legal-religious, political, social, and moral spheres, which are also variable according to “Islams” or Islam in the plural. Moreover, to better understand the multiple facets of the Islamic history in Europe, the episode of the Iberian Peninsula is unavoidable. A long period in Spanish history, namely al-Andalus, has been characterized not only by conflicts and wars but also by a peaceful way of living together: Convivencia. Is it a myth? How can we understand Islamic legal cultures today through the legal figure of dhimmi and the conception of Otherness in Islam? A careful reading of those analytical categories may lead to cautious propositions for finding some interesting solutions to ethnic, religious and civilizational tensions in a world that lives through communication and societal interchange in the “global age”.