Many Voices, Few Listeners: an analysis of the dialogue between Islam and contemporary Europe

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Theses / Dissertations
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Master of Arts
University of Canterbury. National Centre for Research on Europe
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Boyce, Valerie

Enlargement of the European Union (EU) coupled with immigration and rising transnational flows of people has led to increased contact between different cultures, religions, ethnic groups and diverse languages. Historically, the reproduction of ethnic and racial bigotry from generation to generation has marred the European landscape. Cognisant of this, the EU is committed to the development of intercultural competences and the promotion of intercultural dialogue, involving not only public authorities but also civil society. As part of a strategy to build a cohesive integrated ‘social Europe’, the EU launched the 2008 European Year of Intercultural Dialogue (EYID) at Ljubijana in Slovenia on January 8. Beneath the carapace of ‘Unity in Diversity’, the aim of EYID is to promote a better understanding of Europe’s complex cultural environment in an effort to move beyond ‘mere tolerance’. In recent years, however, increasing tensions involving Europe’s Muslim population have been exacerbated by their visible difference, youth riots, terrorism and the current global discourse of “clash”. Considering that Europe’s largest ethnic minority is Muslim, any attempt to foster tolerance through intercultural dialogue could be severely limited by Europe’s ability to sustain a meaningful dialogue with Islam.

Thus, this thesis focuses specifically on dialogue with Islam in contemporary Europe. Its aim is to contribute to the present discussion concerning the perceived need for policy makers and citizens to redefine the space/identity allocated to Europe’s Muslim population. Beginning with a brief history of Muslim immigration to Europe this dissertation then analyses the marginalisation of these immigrants by the development of institutionalised inequalities. Pursuant to this is an examination of the scholarly debate surrounding the phenomenon of a nascent ‘European identity’ and its compatibility, to an equally embryonic ‘Euro-Muslim identity’. Using EYID as a tool, this treatise then examines the themes reflected in academic discourse, which emerged from the EU level debates in relation to the acceptance of Europe’s minorities. As Europe attempts to rethink a broader identity by accepting that immigrants are no longer sojourners but a necessary part of Europe’s future, this thesis asks, how meaningful was the EYID to the discourse between Europe’s Muslims and European leaders, policy makers, and civil society?

European Union, European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, Euro-Islam, Muslim, Identity
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Copyright Valerie Boyce