Political Islam – a ‘European’ ideology?


An article written in December 2007 and published online in January 2008 has just attracted the attention of the spokesman for Islam, Integration and Extremism in the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The article is by the Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mustafa Ceric, and two things are remarkable about it at first sight. The first is its title, “The challenge of a single Muslim authority in Europe” (more on this in a moment); the second is the place of publication.
The article, which can be read online here, advocates the creation of a single global authority to regulate the religious and civil life of Muslims all over the world. It argues that the best place to start constructing such an authority is Europe itself.
The journal which has published this piece is European View, the journal of something called the Centre for European Studies, a mouthpiece of the European People’s Party (EPP), the parliamentary body in the European Parliament grouped around the German Christian Democrats. There is no doubt about the political affiliation of the journal: its editor, for instance, has an EPP e-mail address.
According to Kristina Köhler, the CDU spokesman on such matters, the article advocates extremism. On 12 May, she told Die Welt that the author was arguing that all Muslims in Europe should live under a common political and spiritual leader and under sharia law, and that the state should guarantee this parallel jurisdiction by treaty. “This would mean a European caliphate,” she said.
Ceric makes no bones about the fact that Muslims must obey shariah law. “The Islamic convenant, the shari’ah, is perpetual, it is not negotiable and it is not terminable,” he writes. According to him, “a European Muslim imamate” should be established “as a way of institutionalising Islam in Europe”. (By ‘imamate’ he means the application of shariah law in practice.) The author says that the two great strands of Islam, Sunnism and Shiism, should unite “with the objective of creating a global Muslim authority”. Ceric argues that Europe is specifically the best place to start creating such a global authority. He writes,

It is not enough that Europe recognises the presence of Islam on its territory. Muslims deserve more than that. They deserve that their presence be legalised in the sense of creating a political and economic climate in which European Muslims can represent themselves through the institutions that should have both governmental support and public acceptance.

This is the part of his text which Köhler attacks as implying “a parallel jurisdiction” and she is right. In a sense, we should not be surprised that such a call should come from a Bosnian. Bosnia precisely did have such parallel jurisdictions under Ottomon rule, with courts for Muslims and courts for non-Muslims. To some extent, the paraphernalia of minority rights, which became a centrepiece of the 1974 Yugoslav constitution and which continues to bedevil Bosnian politics to this day, is a hangover from that period: both stand in marked contrast to the English and French traditions of centralised statehood.
But what is really striking about the article – and what the Christian Democrat official naturally overlooks – is that the rise of a Muslim political identity (and even perhaps of a Muslim parallel jurisdiction of the kind which the Archbishop of Canterbury seemed to call in a recent and very controversial speech) is precisely made more likely by the weakening of national identity caused, in part, by the anti-national pan-European ideology of which the German CDU is one of the main propagators.
Ceric himself sees the link between Europeanism and political Islam very clearly. After a few concluding sentences which border on the threatening – European society is still too “immature” to realise the advantage of a single Muslim authority, yet it will come whatever the European political establishment now thinks – he concludes with this sentence:

A single Muslim authority in Europe will come sooner or later because of need by young European Muslims who are capable of seeing their Islamic identity as prior to their ethnic or national identities and who are comfortable with their European identity coexisting with their Islamic upbringing. [my emphasis – jl]

Elsewhere in the piece, the author makes the link between Islam as a “universal” religion and Muslims as “global citizens”. There is, in other words, a specific link between the proposal, which amounts to the creation of a global caliphate although Ceric does not use this term, and the general cosmopolitan ideology of globalism of which European integration is a key part. To put it bluntly, the stronger national identities, the weaker Islamic identity – and vice-versa.
Robert Dreyfuss makes the point, in his arresting work Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, (New York: Henry Holt, 2005) that British and later American secret operatives deliberately supported pan-Islamic radicals in order to weaken nationalist leaders in the Arab world. The more such people were committed to the ummah, the less they would be interested in creating strong nation-states. Ceric seems to have the same view, since for him the need for a Muslim political authority rises as national identities weaken, whereas European “identity” is no threat to it at all. Could there be a clearer indictment of the suicidal nature of the EU’s project of dissolving national identity in Europe today?


@ johnnycanuck


I think that Henry kissinger (born in Germany) is much more an American patriot (and committed to US interests, the US Constitution and therefore its 'identity') than, say  Barack Obama (born in the USA) could ever be.   On this website, a character called 'Armor' was (probably) born in France, but has a schizofrenic relationship with French identity.  Etc....

"Identity" requires a conscious decison (or at least 'awareness') on the part of the human individual. Otherwise, it becomes pretty much a meaningless (automatic, robotic) concept.  

Democracy is not an identity

marcfrans - "a European 'identity' (rooted in - and associated with - a democratic culture)"

I'd like to think a European identity could be based on something much more substantial than mere 'democracy'. Political ideas come and go but one's cultural identity is something you are born into, not some idea that may be a passing fad. Besides for most countries in Europe and for most of their history they have not been democratic - certainly not in the way it is meant today.

Democratic muslim laws

1) There is not one single sunni authority, there are only paymasters and rulers who force their views upon the uneducated.
2)Bringing shia and sunni together under one authority??? This idiot wants to accomplish in Europe what nobody in islamic history could achieve, he is nuts.
3) In each muslim country where they apply sharia, except for the Saudis and the Iranis, there is also a Western type civil law and courts to which the cases are directed to avoid chaotic situations in the judicial system. The thinking goes like: let those idiots play games in the lower courts, we will correct it in the higher courts. This is the case all around the Gulf, Egypt, Pakistan and further east.

@ traveller I 100 per cent

@ traveller

I 100 per cent agree! The degree to which both Shia and Sunni Muslims are emigrating to European country and the US can as a result only end in civil war, amounting to, say, the situation in Iraq.

Canucki-fate in Canuckistan

@ Atlanticist

Rest assured that 'they' are working on inclusion of Canuckistan in the broader Eurabian Caliphate.  After all, Canadian 'social-democracy' is ideologically very close to the (misnamed) European social-democracy.   Western cultural 'liberalism', or naive-leftism, is pretty similar throughout Western civilisation these days.

The question I have, is: how did Deborah Gyapong manage to survive - for 12 years! - as a "journalist" at the CBC?   It does not bear thinking about. Could she have lasted that long at the BBC? That is another question.

Political islam

The author is undoubtedly right that a "parallel (muslim or sharia) jurisdiction" would help undermine national identities.  But, he is wrong to juxtapose it to "English and French traditions of centralised statehood".  After all, such parallel muslim jurisdiction would just as much be in conflict with Swiss or Italian or American or (postwar-)German traditions of decentralised statehood.   

Whether a western democratic country is centralised or decentralised has little or nothing to do with parallel jurisdictions IN THE SAME PLACE for DIFFERENT INDIVIDUALS.  But rather, it has to do with divisions and distributions of power across many different authorities in the same polity.  The crucial distinction here is that ALL citizens get treated by the law in the same way in the same place (i.e. GEOGRAPHIC jurisdiction).   

The crucial problem with the demands for parallel jurisdictions for muslims is that it conflicts with the democratic (and typically 'western') value of equal treatment under (or before) the law of all INDIVIDUAL citizens.  This is not a matter of centralisation versus decentralisation.  This is a matter of respecting the primacy of 'democratic' constitutional law.  The essence of western democracy is NOT majority rule, although that is important.  The essence of western democracy is equality of all citizens before the law (not equality in terms of 'results', like wealth or whatever else).

Furthermore, while the EU project - as currently practiced - suffers from a major 'democratic deficit', it does not necessarily have to be so.  There is no a priori reason to assume that a European 'identity' (rooted in - and associated with - a democratic culture) could not slowly arise in the future.   A parallel muslim jurisdiction would be just as much in conflict with such a European national identity as it would be with current national identities in Western civilisation.  

Cosmopolitan and/or globalistic trends and even ideologies do not per se have to be in conflict with national identities.  Whether they do, or not, depends on the nature of such 'ideologies' and on the strength of the national identity in question.  Not all 'globalistic' trends question the primacy of national constitutional protections for the individual.