Dossier: Islam in Europe, European Islam
edited by  Stefano Allievi

 

In the last decades, Islam has made his appearance in the European context: in the duration of a generation, it has become the second religious community in Europe (and in Italy), ranking second after Christianity. Islam is, today, a definitive and irreversible presence – a turning point in history for "the West", and for Islam itself.

As a matter of fact, in Europe we are witnessing a process of "de-ethnicisation" of Islam, meaning a progressive – even if incomplete and not inevitable – detachment from its own ethnic, national and linguistic roots. In the meanwhile, a process of "Europeisation" is under way. There appears to be a shift from an Islam which is only "physically" in Europe, to an Islam that is a product of Europe itself, as highlighted in the article by Stefano Allievi (Editor of the Special Issue), Islam in Europe, European Islam.

Within European societies, the idea of multiculturalism itself is being challenged, in relation to the growing importance of Islam. The article by Felice Dassetto, European Islam, multiculturalism and the complexity of pluralism, underlines the crucial theoretical questions raised by the presence of Islam in Europe. By examining the different variants of pluralism existing in Europe, the Author proposes an interpretation of the role played by the Islamic communities, questioning the idea of labelling them as "minorities". The transformation of individual and collective identities of Muslims is also examined.

Brigitte Maréchal, in her article titled Integration of Islam and Islamic communities in Europe: an assessment, elaborates on the idea of integration and non-integration, by empirically focusing on labour, school and education. This approach helps highlighting some important changes occurring, within the Islamic communities, with regard to organisational assets, economy, culture and the mentality itself.

Silvio Ferrari, deals with the relationship between state and religion, with particular reference to the space allowed to Islamic communities (Law and religion between multiculturalism and identity. The question of the juridical status of Islam in Europe). The Author analyses the actual dynamics of self and mutual recognition by Muslims and Christians.

Enzo Pace, in The divisions of Islam, clearly show the non-monolithic character of European Islam, highlighting some deeply rooted inner differences among communities belonging to a different tradition. According to the Author, one crucial cultural divide is to be found in how Islam conceives ideas such as "modernity" and "democracy". At the same time, European Islam’s potential capability of promoting a process of internal reform should be noted.

The collection of essays is concluded with a question mark posed by the Editor himself. In Islam and other Religions. Which dialogue in Europe?, Stefano Allievi deals with the interactions between Islam and other beliefs in the European context. Given the changing religious landscape (due to migration itself, and to accompanying processes of secularisation and pluralisation), the Author looks at the actual experiences of inter-religious dialogue, insisting on its social dimension, arguing that it is precisely in this dimension that the actual dialogue happens, well beyond the present interruption (if not impasse), of interfaith dialogue limited to the theological level – accused of being carried out merely with books and conferences, and, too often, only by religious authorities of the countries of origin.

 

 

Antonio Ricci: Migration from Romania into Italy in the new Europe

Romania, in the past immigration territory from the North East regions of Italy, is now a land of emigration, with Italy as the favourite destination point. By 2000, following the Moroccans and the Albanians, the Romanians had become the third largest immigrant group in Italy: Caritas estimated them at about 85,000. Since the Italian quota system does not meet their migration needs, the Romanians are also involved in illegal migration to Italy and they represent one fifth of Central East European immigrants currently in Italy. Romanians are also migrating to other large countries, such as: Germany, the United States and Canada. Romania itself has also become the transit point of a growing migration flow from other countries interested in settling in Western Europe.

Almost half of the Romanians seem to prefer settling in the central regions of Italy, mainly in Rome and the Lazio region. A significant share (67%) migrate in the hope of fulfilling job expectations ; more than half of them holds a secondary education diploma. Crime is a serious issue: the Romanians account for 10% of the police reports against foreign citizens, but among the regular ones the percentage is much lower.

Romania is also a very important country for the Italian economy: there are 10,634 Italian companies (13% of foreign companies) in Romania, employing almost half a million people (while only 1,000 Italians live in Romania). It is not coincidental that Italy is Romania’s first business partner.

The immigrants’ remittances are contributing to their country’s growth and development; only a fraction of them, however, is transacted through the banking system (4.4 million euros). Even more now than in the past, migration plays a crucial role for both countries: it matches the business interests of Italy and it favours Romania’s economic development, showing, once again, that immigration can be seen as an opportunity.

 

Dean Krmac: Emigration from Istria in transition years between the Hapsburg Empire and the Kingdom of Italy (1918-1924)

The Author traces the causes of the remarkable demographic decrease in the Istrian population when sovereignty passed from Austria to Italy. Between December 31, 1910, and Dec. 1, 1921, Istria lost 15.1% of its population – the last survey under the Austrian empire recorded 404.309 inhabitants: estimate which was reduced to 343.401 by the first Italian census after the war. While such a decrease is certainly related to the changeover in political administration, there is still another cause at play that cannot be underestimated: emigration. In the immediate post WW1 period, Istria was the stage of an intense migration flow. The town of Pola, for example, was badly affected by the drastic dismantling of the massive military and bureaucratic apparatus of over 20.000 soldiers and security forces, and the dismissal of the employees from its ship-yard. The serious economic crisis in the rest of Italy forced thousands of peasants to move into Yugoslavia, which then became the main destination of the Istrian exodus. The political factor as well played its part, especially in reference to the local intellectual elite.

Due to the lack of reliable statistics, however, the true magnitude of Istrian emigration during that period cannot be assessed accurately. Estimates provided by varying sources and with different research methods show that 30.000 Istrians migrated between 1918 and 1921. The lack of reliable information is in fact partially linked to the attempt of hiding uncomfortable truths, as it often happens in between regimes. Even the arrival of official statistics is of little help. Data are clearly inadequate when one considers that, while the General Bureau of Statistics counted 16.233 persons as emigrants between 1921-24, at that same time there was also a very active transoceanic migration taking place.