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UC Berkeley professors edit book exploring interplay of Islamic, European identities
21 June 2002

By Kathleen Maclay, Media Relations

Berkeley - Whether in French elections or in connection with anti-immigrant nationalism, much of Europe is fiercely debating the increasing Muslim population on that continent and its future.

Book cover of Muslim Europe or Euro-Islam
The cover of "Muslim Europe or Euro-Islam" was designed by Nezar AlSayyad, UC Berkeley professor of architecture and planning, and director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. He and Manuel Castells, UC Berkeley professor of city and regional planning and sociology, edited the new book about Muslim populations in Europe and about Europe's role in framing Islam today.

"Five centuries after the expulsion of Muslims and Jews from Spain, Europe is once again becoming a land of Islam - albeit for a minority of the European population," Nezar AlSayyad and Manuel Castells of the University of California, Berkeley, write in their introduction to "Muslim Europe or Euro-Islam" (Lexington Books, 2002)

"The main issue now is citizenship. What does it mean to be a citizen of Europe in the 21st century?" said AlSayyad in an interview.

He and Castells asked scholars from Cairo, the United Kingdom, Paris, Germany and the United States to submit papers addressing such questions as:

* How powerful is Islam as a force in shaping identity?
* How do migration and citizenship issues affect relations between countries of Muslim origin and European countries of resident destination?
* What is the "European identity"?
* What is the effect on Muslim migrants of a unity of belief contrasted with wide variations in ethnic, national and cultural backgrounds?
* How do practices of assimilation and multiculturalism relate to Islam or other minority populations in Europe?
* How do Muslim Europeans view themselves, and how are they seen by their non-Muslim counterparts?
* How does Islam in France differ from Islam in the U.S.?

The resulting seven essays originally were submitted for a 1998 UC Berkeley conference,"Islam and the Changing Identity of Europe," that was co-hosted by centers directed by Castells and AlSayyad. The papers were updated for the just-released book. The authors come from political and strategic studies, international and area studies, international relations, speech communication and other scholarly fields. They write about themes or case studies.

"The view that Muslims in Europe are guest workers who will eventually go home has long been untenable, but many Europeans have been slow to recognize the corollaries: that there are now large, permanent, indigenous Muslim populations in most of the countries of Europe; that they will not assimilate in the same way as previous waves of migration; and that Islam is now a European religion," AlSayyad writes in his own essay.

Now, he writes, Muslims in Europe's various nation-states have the opportunity to rethink their identities and to mold new ones.

"While many Muslims resist Euro-American postindustrial culture on moral grounds, they often thrive in the infrastructure of globalization, which is the product of capitalism," AlSayyad says in his paper. "There are also indications that Muslims in Europe are devising a liberal form of Islam, which is accommodating of European ideas of citizenship."

With population projections of a 20 percent Muslim Europe by the year 2050, and heightened attention to many things Middle Eastern since Sept. 11, the book edited by Castells and AlSayyad helps meet a growing demand for information about all aspects of Islam.

While interest in the book generated pre-publication sales and has led to it being printed in Spanish and French, not all reaction has been positive.

For example, AlSayyad said, the second part of its title angers some Islamists, who are offended at the suggestion of Muslims adopting Europe's dominant beliefs and politics. AlSayyad's cover art, a bright yellow cross inside a faded Middle Eastern star, also has generated complaints from religious conservatives, he said.

AlSayyad is chair of the UC Berkeley's Center for Middle Eastern Studies, which concentrates on cultural issues rather than conflicts. He also is a professor of architecture and planning. Castells is the former chair of the Center for Western European Studies at UC Berkeley and a professor of city and regional planning as well as of sociology. Both write extensively about cultural history.