By Spyros A. Sofos; Roza Tsagarousianou;
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Extra info for Islam in Europe: Public Spaces and Civic Networks
The basic legitimation of conquest over native peoples Islam in Europe: A Genealogy 41 is the conviction of our superiority, not merely our mechanical, economic, and military superiority, but our moral superiority. Our dignity rests on that quality, and it underlies our right to direct the rest of humanity. Material power is nothing but a means to an end. (quoted in Edward Said 1993: 17) This perspective on the relationship between Europe and the ‘Orient’ required evidence. To this end, an array of Orientalist descriptions of the inhabitants of the region as savage, degenerate, hostile and even deformed, largely drawing on earlier imagery from the era of the Islamic expansion, served as metaphors for the cultures of the ‘Orient’ and the capacity (or lack of) of those living there to participate in the world shaped by European modernity.
This reduction of the Muslim ‘other’ to invisibility, to being inconsequential and negligible further contributes to their minoritization, to exclusion from the mainstream and, in a way we would add here, from having a stake, a claim to citizenship. Although academic debate has already contributed to the elucidation and demystification Muslims in Europe: Belonging and Exclusion 27 of aspects of public discourse on Islam and Muslims in Europe, or to a better understanding of aspects of Muslim lives, values and attitudes throughout the continent,20 there is still a lot that needs to be done in areas such as better understanding of the meaning of being Muslim in Europe and how this impinges on key aspects of the daily life, collective action and self-expression of Europe’s Muslims at local and translocal level.
Indeed, many of the ‘barbarian’ German and Slav notables who had filled the vacuum of the collapse of the Roman empire adopted Christianity and accepted the primacy of the Papal authority in the West and sought some sort of accommodation with the Byzantine Empire in the East. The very same ‘barbarians’ later posited themselves as defenders of European Christendom against an advancing ‘alien’ Islam and were welcomed and recognized as such. In contrast to their Muslim counterparts, they were not challenging the Christian ideology underpinning Europe but were willing to integrate into Christendom and the ecclesiastical and political architecture of the continent.