An unprecedented, richly, detailed, and clear-eyed exploration of Islam in European history and civilization
Tensions over Islam were escalating in Europe even before 9/11. Since then, repeated episodes of terrorism together with the refugee crisis have dramatically increased the divide between the majority population and Muslim communities, pushing the debate well beyond concerns over language and female dress. Meanwhile, the parallel rise of right-wing, nationalist political parties throughout the continent, often espousing anti-Muslim rhetoric, has shaken the foundation of the European Union to its very core.
Many Europeans see Islam as an alien, even barbaric force that threatens to overwhelm them and their societies. Muslims, by contrast, struggle to find a place in Europe in the face of increasing intolerance. In tandem, anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination cause many on the continent to feel unwelcome in their European homes.
Akbar Ahmed, an internationally renowned Islamic scholar, traveled across Europe over the course of four years with his team of researchers and interviewed Muslims and non-Muslims from all walks of life to investigate questions of Islam, immigration, and identity. They spoke with some of Europe’s most prominent figures, including presidents and prime ministers, archbishops, chief rabbis, grand muftis, heads of right-wing parties, and everyday Europeans from a variety of backgrounds. Their findings reveal a story of the place of Islam in European history and civilization that is more interwoven and complex than the reader might imagine, while exposing both the misunderstandings and the opportunities for Europe and its Muslim communities to improve their relationship. Along with an analysis of what has gone wrong and why, this urgent study, the fourth in a quartet examining relations between the West and the Muslim world, features recommendations for promoting integration and pluralism in the twenty-first century.
Advance Praise for Journey into Europe
“The fundamental message of Journey Into Europe is that throughout history, Islamic and European civilizations have often been not just compatible, but complementary. It’s crucial to acknowledge their shared past to reject today’s resurgent tribalism. The stakes, as Ahmed puts it, are ‘Andalusia or dystopia.’”
—Atossa Araxia Abrahamian, New York Times Book Review
“This highly instructive work deserves careful attention as people across the world wrestle with how to balance community with difference in an age of reinvigorated tribalism.”
“A dense but rewarding anthropological account of European reactions to Islam and Muslim immigrant communities, and vice versa. . . . Academic but of considerable interest to any student of current affairs and geopolitics.”
“At various times a travelogue, a popular history, and a sociopolitical text, Journey into Europe is a good resource for those wanting a crash course on modern European thought in regard to Islam and Islamic immigration.”
—Benjamin Welton, Foreword Reviews
“Journey into Europe is at once an intellectual inquiry, critical commentary, social observation, part-autobiography and case-study-focused, all skillfully interwoven by an expert social anthropologist and storyteller.”
—Professor Tahir Abbas, London School of Economics Review of Books
“Akbar Ahmed has a well-earned reputation as one of the most balanced, learned, and original interpreters of Islam in its engagement with the non-Muslim world. It is hard to exaggerate the importance of this work, like so much else he has done, at a time when myths and fantasies still stir up corporate fear between our communities. A deeply welcome and thoroughly professional study.”
—Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and Master of Magdalene College, University of Cambridge
“Ahmed’s splendid blend of scholarship and reportage is unmatched in the literature. Like his study of America, the readers will also perhaps think they know the local situation when it is exactly by revealing much that is below the surface for which Ahmed’s contribution is so vital. In the context of a series of elections now taking place in Europe that depend in no small part on the image of the Muslim migrant, this timely study is, like Ahmed’s other ventures, an indispensable accompaniment to any policy conversation. The Brookings Institution Press should take great pride in having facilitated this series and take special pride in its latest addition.”
—Lawrence Rosen, Cromwell Professor of Anthropology, Princeton University
“Ambassador Akbar Ahmed stands out among the global thinkers and leaders working to illuminate the way in our darkening landscape. His latest project on Muslims in Europe is yet another illustration of his vision by offering us understanding of, commitment to, and hope and compassion for humanity.”
—Haris Silajdžić, former Chairman of the Presidency and Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina
“An acclaimed bridge maker among communities through his lectures, books, articles and films, Ahmed has made a singular contribution to understanding the contemporary world. His Journey into Europe, last in the quartet series, is a tribute to his rigorous scholarship and fortitude. It also shows his burning desire to see the world communities live in peace and harmony despite their differences. His is a Clarion call for closing cleavages and imbibing shared experiences. This is a book that should be on the bedside reading table of all thinking humans.”
—Mohammed Wajihuddin, Albilad Daily English