Muslim Mosaic in Europe

Interview With José Morales of University of Navarre

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PAMPLONA, Spain, NOV. 7, 2005 ( The “silent revolution” of Muslims in Europe has bubbled up violently in France in recent days.

To put the violence in perspective, ZENIT turned to theology professor Jose Morales of the University of Navarre, who has researched the impact of Islam on the Continent.

His most recent book, “Musulmanes en Europa” (Muslims in Europe), has just been published by Eunsa.

Q: Europeans, and Spaniards in particular, “do not think a sincere relationship is viable or possible between Muslims and Westerners.” This is a strong affirmation. Can you add to it?

Morales: I speak in general terms, which allow for exceptions. Muslims are seen as people who belong to another cultural world and who have a sensitivity that is different from our own on important issues for the organization of life and coexistence.

When I say “sincere relationship” I am referring to a personal relationship of a certain depth and to a community of “existential horizon.”

Many of us Europeans have wonderful Muslim friends, with a great capacity of fidelity and true affection. Moreover, they need to be integrated for reasons of work, social security, medical care, housing, schooling for their children, etc.

But they usually do not assimilate themselves, that is, they do not become a vital and active part of society. They are integrated pragmatically and yet live in a ghetto.

Q: Do you regard European Islam as more dynamic and open than it is in its countries of origin?

Morales: It is too early to say. It is an ongoing process and we cannot know now how it will evolve.

The fact is that, at present, European Islam is a mosaic of attitudes, currents, groups and sects that try to acquire power and influence over Muslims who live on the Continent.

At the moment there are no signs that make one think of a more dynamic and open European Islam than that of the countries of origin.

No doubt there are individuals who are more open but with little repercussion on the Islamic collective, which obeys other more-rigid sociological laws and evolves with incredible slowness.

Q: You allude to a significant number of people in Europe who convert to Islam. What are the reasons for this fascination with Islam?

Morales: I don’t think I have said anywhere that the number of “conversions” of Europeans to Islam is significant.

Rather, I try to lessen the importance of the phenomenon of those more or less formal adherences to Islam and I say it is a trivial event, which is exaggerated considerably for ulterior and ideological motives.

It is a marginal phenomenon of adding and subtracting due, to a large extent, to the crisis of the Church in Europe. I think that the two chapters of the book dedicated to the matter explain it reasonably well.

Q: Muslims criticize Christians for having a “weak” faith. Do you think this will make Christian believers wake up?

Morales: Muslims know little about Christianity, as they usually know little about their own religion, with some honorable exceptions.

They are right, undoubtedly, when they say that we Christians have weak faith at this historical moment. I don’t think, however, that we will wake up by the advice that Muslims give us or their appreciation of Christians.

In general they look upon us with resentment because we belong to the civilization that dominates economically and politically.

It is possible, of course, that contact with Islam will make many Christians increase their sense of evangelical identity and realize that they are the depositories of a Revelation not imagined by man.

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