Europe and its Muslim “strangers” : combating the challenges faced within the socio-cultural integration process

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Vazaiou, Maria-Athina
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The relationship between Europe and Islam has always been a subject of cultural controversies. The increasing Muslim migration flows in Europe during the last decades, together with the recent sharp manifold crises and dramatic events that took place around the globe, have exposed a great uneasiness with regards to the presence, accommodation and socio-cultural integration of Muslims within European societies, leading to divergences over cultural and religious matters, and thus phenomena of panics and of deep communal segregation among populations. As a consequence, there has been an explicit renouncement of multicultural policies and a subsequent shift into the concept of civic integration as a model of accommodation at a European level, progressively understood in a strict and more assimilative sense. This prevalent shift, however, brings to the forefront serious concerns over the management of cultural and religious diversity, as it seems to have a negative and disproportionate impact on the lives and consciousness of Muslims in their European societies of settlement. Meanwhile, and in order to provide alternative solutions, the Council of Europe has developed the theory and practice of interculturalism as a more coherent approach to migrant integration. Focusing on the European context and especially in the countries of Belgium and Greece, this thesis aims to reflect on the current challenges faced by Muslims within their European socio-cultural integration process, suggesting, at the same time, that a combination of critical multicultural policies and of intercultural dialogue could positively affect the smooth inclusion of Muslim communities in Europe. Keywords: European values; Islam; culture; religion; moral panic; Muslims; migration; integration; civic integration; assimilation; multiculturalism; interculturalism; human rights;
Second semester University: Université Libre de Bruxelles
Europe, Islam, social integration, muslims, migrations, culture, religion, intercultural relations, Belgium, Greece