Muslim Controversies in Europe

P Statham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Even before September 11, 2001, the position of Muslims in European societies was already a key reference point for scholars and commentators in fiercely contested debates about the consequences of multiculturalism. At stake in these controversies is the state’s capacity for maintaining social cohesion as well as the liberal conception of individual rights on which it rests. Problems arise from the increasing demands that migrants put forward for special group rights and recognition, exemptions from duties, and support from the state for cultural differences and identities. Public controversies have raged in response to Muslims’ cultural demands, which sometimes appear to challenge the very essence of liberal values. One high-profile case involved the British Muslims’ demand that Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses be banned for blasphemy, in which Muslims took to the streets to burn effigies of Rushdie as well as copies of his book. The “headscarf affairs”—conflicts over the wearing of religious symbols in state institutions—have rumbled on across Europe, principally in France, since 1988, when a headmaster first sent headscarf-wearing Muslim girls home from school. In addition, there have also been problems associated with cultural practices of Muslims. Some issues, such as food requirements, have been easily accommodated, as they were in previous generations for Jewish migrants. Others, such as polygamy and female circumcision, quite clearly contravene most liberal moral understandings of individual and gender equality. Much depends on the extent to which Muslims wish to practice such cultural traditions. Nonetheless, in light of such issues, which have received many column inches on opinion pages, the presence of Muslims has often been depicted by politicians and commentators as a challenge to the norms, values, and principles of liberal democracy.
Translated title of the contributionMuslim Controversies in Europe
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 6
Number of pages6
JournalHarvard International Review
Publication statusPublished - May 2006


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