Muslim Europe

Muslim Europe

Europe's reluctance to join the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq had much to do with its Muslim population.

Read Time:
1m 32sec


“Europe’s Muslim Street” by Omer
Taspinar, in
Foreign Policy "text14"> (Mar.–Apr. 2003), 1779 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20036.

Europe’s reluctance to join the U.S.-led war
against Iraq reflected more than a different orientation toward power.
Europe has a much stronger Muslim constituency than the United States,
observes Taspinar, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution’s
Saban Center for Middle East Policy: “The 15 million Muslims of the
European Union—up to three times as many as live in the United
States—are becoming a more powerful political force than the fabled
Arab street.” That France and Germany alone have nearly 10 million
Muslims and only 700,000 Jews helps to explain Europe’s different
perspective on the Middle East.

Muslims in Europe have seen their clout increase with
their growing enfranchisement. Nearly half of the five to seven million
Mus­lims in France (population: 61.4 million) are already citizens.
Germany, which began grant­ing citizenship on the basis of birth rather
than ancestry in 2000, counts a half-million Mus­lims among its 82
million citizens, and is adding 160,000 a year. Newly enfranchised
“German Turks” gave the incumbent Social Democrat-Green
coalition vital support in last Septem­ber’s close election.

Turks, Algerians, Moroccans, Tunisians, and Pakistanis
came to Europe as invited “guest workers” during the 1950s and
1960s, when European countries wanted to ease their postwar labor shortage.
But when recession hit in the 1970s, the workers stayed, often joined by
their families. Today, Taspi­nar notes, the Muslim birth rate is three
times the non-Muslim rate. By 2015, if current trends continue, the Muslim
population in Europe is expected to double, while the non-Muslim population
is projected to shrink by 3.5 percent.

“Whether Brussels, Berlin, Paris, or
Wash­ington likes it or not,” concludes Taspinar,
“Europe’s Muslim constituencies are likely to become an even
more vocal foreign-policy lobby.”

More From This Issue