Islam and Europe Have to Adapt to Each Other, Says Scholar

Bassam Tibi Urges Understanding — on Both Sides

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ROME, JAN. 27, 2003 ( A Muslim scholar thinks Islam can adapt itself to Europe, but warns that the continent in turn has to soften its stance on laicism if it wants to survive.

«Islam, as it has done in all places where it has become established, must adapt itself to the context of Europe,» Bassam Tibi, a professor of international politics, said during an address Friday at the Goethe-Institut of Rome.

In order to be European, Islam should comply with some premises, which the Muslim scholar enumerated: «separate religion and politics; accept democracy; promote human rights; be pluralistic; and respect civil society.» Islam hasn’t achieved this goal yet, he said.

Tibi, a Syrian immigrant from Damascus, is a professor at the universities of Gottingen and Harvard. He coined the term «Euro-Islam» in 1992. He also had a word of advice for Europe.

«If Europe does not say ‘Welcome, Islam,’ without forgetting the principle of laicism, it will not have a future,» Tibi said, alerting his listeners that by 2035 there will be 40 million Muslims in the continent.

«Islam is not Islamism,» Tibi stressed. Islamism is a political ideology with religious roots, whereas Islam is a religion, he explained.

«We must avoid the dichotomy between the West and Islam and remember that in the war against terrorism, the West must have Islam as an ally,» he said. «The war against terrorism cannot be a war against Islam.»

«The entry in Europe of other civilizations, such as Islam, is an impressive challenge,» Tibi observed, lamenting that politicians of the Old World have yet to understand this.

Things are different in the United States, he said. He noted that the University of California at Berkeley has allocated $500,000 to study the topic of a Muslim Europe or of a «Euro-Islam.»

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