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 Islam and Muslims in Europe    by Dr Tariq Ramadan

Pressure of the second and third generation

For two reasons, which may on the surface appear contradictory, it was the second and third generation Muslims who played an assertive role in evolving the mind set among the diverse Muslim communities in Europe. On the one hand, the level of young Muslims practising Islam was somewhat weak because for many, integration within the society meant a total assimilation.[2] Compelled by this phenomena, the first generation leaders of the mosques and associations rethought their framework and how it was being implemented. Born of exile and committed to Muslim governments and militants, they learnt to adapt to the context facing these young people as well as the language which they spoke. They were to redefine their religious teachings and reorient the execution of social and cultural activities.

On the other hand, the resurgence of a young, practising Muslim minority created a multitude of associations. Within fifteen years, their number had doubled or even tripled. Empowered, these young Muslims, usually around the age of thirty, born in Europe, often time students or educated in European universities, became involved in an increasing amount of activities. Their commitment compelled a deep shift in mentality because they considered themselves at home in Europe and having the right to make the most of their predicament. This is where the rift had occurred between generations-contrary to the first generation immigrants, these young people looked at occupying very openly the intellectual and social sphere.

Their energy and European culture stimulated their elders, previous members of Islamic movements in North Africa, Near east and Asia, to completely reassess their previous way of functioning and their intellectual positioning in accordance to the country they were living in. This phenomena provoked important debates within the Muslim communities and, in particular, among the Muslim scholars ('ulama). Consulted on matters such as Islamic law and jurisprudence, they were compelled to re-evaluate their own postulate among new legal opinions which were adapted to the western way of life.

These associations were being formed because the eighties and nineties saw the necessity for a resurgence of Islamic thought in the west. As Europeans, these young Muslims asked directly and indirectly questions which required explicit answers. Should Europe be considered (according to the terminology and geopolitical factors of the 'ulamā of the IX century) as a dar al-harb (an abode of war), vs. dar al-Islam (a place where Muslims are the majority and live in security and according to the law). In other words, is it possible to live there? If the answer is yes, what should be the relationship of Muslims with regards to the National legislation? Can a young Muslim acquire a European nationality but play fully his role as a citizen? So many questions in which the Muslim scholars had never as of yet been able to respond in a manner, which was concrete, complete and detailed.

With the 90's, the encounters multiplied with the subject matter being theology and legal issues. The 'ulamā of the Muslim world but also, more and more Imams and intellectuals settled in Europe and took part in these profound dialogues.[3] With regards to Islamic Jurisprudence, this undertaking brought up some very important points. Both sides, scholars as well as the European Muslim communities[4] arrived at a consensus. The following are highlights of some important principles:

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