Religion and the political organization of muslims in Europe

Carolyn Warner, Manfred W. Wenner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Some analysts have raised serious concerns about the foreign and domestic, policy implications of the large numbers of Muslims living in Western Europe. The fear is that Muslims as a bloc will co-opt the domestic and foreign policy of various European states, subsuming it to those of Muslims from a variety of Islamic states in the Middle East and, Asia, and transform the secular nature of most European states. The historic and ingrained fear of Islam present in the populations of Europe (and, for that matter, the United States) has produced an inability to see the political nature of Islamic groups, especially outside the Islamic world. For example, both Europeans and Americans were quick to question the political motives and actions of Muslims in Europe and the U.S. when there was no organized and orchestrated condemnation of the attacks of September 11, 2001. What such critics fail to take into account is precisely one of the themes analyzed in the paper: the myriad, divisions found among the Muslims of Europe. Western fears and criticisms are partly based on serious ignorance of the characteristics of Islam and, of the people in Europe who adhere to it. Because Islam is a highly decentralized religion, it is structurally biased against facilitating large-scale collective action by its adherents. The one version which is hierarchically organized, the Shi'a, is barely present in Europe. In addition, Muslim immigrants are divided by their ethnic differences. Islam, being decentralized, allows for a myriad of practices in the different countries from which the immigrants came. Divided, by ethnicity and by their own religious beliefs, Muslims in Europe will not constitute a group which will be able to impose its goals on European foreign and domestic policy. Muslims will, instead, be a diverse population with which European states find it difficult to negotiate, because of Islam's decentralized structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)457-479
Number of pages23
JournalPerspectives on Politics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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