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 Islam and Muslims in Europe    by Dr Tariq Ramadan

References and principles

During the first few years of the Muslim presence in Europe, the feeling most widely shared by the immigrants and Muslim scholars ('ulam‚) was that they were in the midst of a transition. The feeling was that one day or another, they would return to their country of origin. Strengthened by a few legal opinions communicated as quickly as possible (meat, mosques, financial transactions etc), no real or organised thought had been made because at the time, it just did not seem necessary. Satisfied with the answers widely used to deal with the mundane, no further thought was given. It is only with the appearance of the young Muslim generation that it was deemed necessary to re-analyse the main Islamic sources (Qu'ran and Sunnah) when it came to interpreting legal issues (fiqh) in the light of the European context. This interpretation (known as ijtih‚d) would make it possible for the younger generation to practice their faith in a coherent manner as many of them had the intention of settling in the country, and a large number had already received their European citizenship. It is important to note that this was a very recent phenomena which obliged the scholars and Muslim intellectuals to take a closer look at the European laws, and simultaneously, take time to think about the changes which were taking place within the diverse Muslim communities. To list all the multiple facets of this transformation is impossible to highlight in this article. What we can mention, however is the five main points which were established in the light of the Islamic sources and recognised by the great majority of Muslims living in Europe:

A. A Muslim who is a resident or citizen should understand that they are under a moral and social contract with the country in which they reside. In other words, they should respect the laws of the country.
B. The letter and spirit of the secular model permits Muslims to practice their faith without it meaning a complete assimilation which would translate into partial disconnection of their Muslim identity.
C. Used by the jurists during a specific geopolitical context (IX century), the ancient denominations (dar-al-harb, place of war and dar-al-Islam, place of Islam) are invalid and do not take into account the realities of modern life. Other concepts were determined to exemplify more positively the presence of Muslims in Europe.[5]
D. Muslims should consider themselves as full citizens and participate with conscience in the organisational, economic and political affairs of the country (in which they reside) without compromising their own values.
E: With regards to the possibilities the European legislation offered, nothing stops Muslims, just like any other citizen, from making choices which respond to the requirements of his own conscience and faith. With respects to any obligations which could be in contradiction with the Islamic principals (a situation which is quiet rare), this would represent a case which must be studied in order to identify the priorities and the possibility of adaptation (something which should be developed at the national level).

These five principals as presented do not take into account the ensuing thought, adaptation and most of all, steps which were taken in the evolution of scholarly and intellectual Muslim thought. Not very apparent, the latter becomes particularly important when a great number of situations from the past without any answers, had found today a point of reference in which to refer. The five points mentioned above translate into the most essential principals. This made it possible to provide subject matter which was more explicit in areas where Muslims often referred to, especially in matters marginally understood and badly interpreted. The following are three examples of such cases:

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