10 key findings about religion in Western Europe

Most Christians in Western Europe today are non-practicing, but Christian identity still remains a meaningful religious, social and cultural marker, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of 15 countries in Western Europe. In addition to religious beliefs and practices, the survey explores respondents’ views on immigration, national identity and pluralism, and how religion is intertwined with attitudes on these issues.

Here are 10 key findings from the new survey:

1 Secularization is widespread in Western Europe, but most people in the region still identify as Christian.Rising shares of adults in Western Europe describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated, and about half or more in several countries say they are neither religious nor spiritual. Still, when asked, “What is your present religion, if any?” and given a list of options, most people identify as Christian, including 71% in Germany and 64% in France.

Even though most people identify as Christian in the region, few regularly attend church. In every country except Italy, non-practicing Christians (that is, those who attend church no more than a few times a year) outnumber church-attending Christians (those who attend church weekly or monthly). In the UK, for example, there are three times as many non-practicing Christians (55%) as practicing Christians (18%). Non-practicing Christians also outnumber religiously unaffiliated adults in most countries surveyed.

3Christians in Western Europe, including non-practicing Christians, believe in a higher power. Although many non-practicing Christians say they do not believe in God “as described in the Bible,” they do tend to believe in some other higher power or spiritual force in the universe. By contrast, most church-attending Christians say they believe in God as depicted in the Bible. And religiously unaffiliated adults generally say they do not believe in God or any higher power or spiritual force in the universe. Non-practicing Christians are also more likely than religiously unaffiliated adults to embrace spiritual concepts such as having a soul and feeling a connection to something that cannot be measured.

Majorities in most countries across the region say they would be willing to accept Muslims in their families and in their neighborhoods. Still, undercurrents of discomfort with multiculturalism are evident in Western European societies. People hold mixed views on whether Islam is compatible with their national values and culture, and most favor at least some restrictions on the religious clothing worn by Muslim women. In addition, roughly half or more in most countries in the region say it is important to have been born and have ancestry in a country to truly share its national identity. For example, roughly half of Finnish adults say it is important to be born in Finland (51%) and to have Finnish family background (51%) to be truly Finnish.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PEW RESEARCH 

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Islam’s contribution to Europe

akbar-ahmedThere is a widespread belief, especially among right-wing politicians in Europe, that Islam is incompatible with Western civilization and has contributed nothing to it. The Dutch politician Geert Wilders captured this perception when he described Islam as a ‘culture of backwardness, of retardedness, of barbarism.’ It is worth our while therefore to investigate whether this assertion is, in fact, correct. If it is not, the basis of the Islamophobia of Islam’s critics like Wilders collapses like a house of cards. They will then have to use some other arguments against Islam or their racial prejudices will stand exposed; they will be naked without benefit of a niqab to cover their modesty.

The impact of Muslims on European culture is deep and extensive. I will use material from my book Journey into Europe to illustrate the assertion over the next few weeks. Perhaps Islam’s greatest contribution was to introduce the idea of a unified understanding of our spiritual universe, which was reflected in the art, architecture, literature, and society in Andalusia based in religious pluralism and acceptance, one that valued learning and the ilm ethos. It is this society that produced an Ibn Firnas, who attempted flight, and religious philosophers like Maimonides and Averroes, who sought to balance reason and faith. Andalusian society, in turn, sowed the seeds for what would become the European Renaissance, which would lead to the Enlightenment and go on to shape our modern world.Ahmed-Krausen_Cordoba_940

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE DAILY TIMES 

European Christian responses to the migrant crisis have been radical and traditional

20180303_blp901ACROSS most of Europe, a majority of people declare some loose attachment to Christianity, while a much smaller percentage actively follow that faith. As a result, churches and their adherents have some influence over European affairs. People expect them to react when the continent is faced with great moral challenges, such as the recent, desperate influx of migrants by sea and land. Ghastly as they have been, the human consequences of that influx would surely have been worse still without the efforts of churches and religious charities to help destitute newcomers. Across Germany, nearly 400 churches have provided shelter for migrants who fear deportation.

But what else should Europe’s Christians do or say? In almost every European country there exist hard-line political movements whose declared aim is to protect the continent’s Christian heritage against alien influences. Religious leaders generally regard these parties as embarrassments or worse.

Even when you move a bit closer to the respectable mainstream, there are as many shades of opinion in European Christianity as there are denominations. That emerged in the glorious diversity of a gathering earlier this week in the Greek city of Thessaloniki, hosted by Dutch and Greek think-tanks (and at which your blogger co-chaired a session), where views ranged from the radical to the traditional. Broadly, their task was to look at Europe’s economic and refugee crisis from a Christian point of view.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ECONOMIST

Muslim leaders begin European bus tour against terrorism in the name of Islam

FRANCE-RELIGION-ISLAM-MARCHThe tour, involving around 60 imams, will visit the sites of terror attacks by Islamist extremists.

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Muslim leaders launched a European bus tour in Paris on Saturday to express opposition to terrorism in the name of Islam.

Under the banner “Muslims’ march against terrorism,” imams from around Europe and North Africa planned to visit sites of recent terrorist attacks, starting at the Champs Elysees and passing through Germany, Belgium and other parts of France over the next week.

“Our message is clear: Islam cannot be associated with these barbarians and these murders,” who kill in the name of Allah, said Hassen Chalghoumi, the imam of Drancy, France, according to Le Figaro. The initiative is the brainchild of Chalghoumi and Marek Halter, a French-Jewish writer and intellectual.

The tour will land at the site of an attack on a Christmas market last year in Berlin on Monday, before holding a ceremony in Brussels on Tuesday. It is set to stop in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, France (visiting the grave of a priest who was stabbed), and a Jewish school that was targeted in Toulouse. It will also pass back through Paris and the Bataclan nightclub, according to the Belgian paper La Libre, wrapping up on July 14 in Nice, where French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to participate in an homage to victims on the anniversary of the truck attack on the Promenade des Anglais.

FULL ARTICLE FROM POLITICO

‘The Way People Look at Us Has Changed’: Muslim Women on Life in Europe

02Muslimvoices1-superJumboThe storm over bans on burkinis in more than 30 French beach towns has all but drowned out the voices of Muslim women, for whom the full-body swimsuits were designed. The New York Times solicited their perspective, and the responses — more than 1,000 comments from France, Belgium and beyond — went much deeper than the question of swimwear.

What emerged was a portrait of life as a Muslim woman, veiled or not, in parts of Europe where terrorism has put people on edge. One French term was used dozens of times: “un combat,” or “a struggle,” to live day to day. Many who were born and raised in France described confusion at being told to go home.

Courts have struck down some of the bans on burkinis — the one in Nice, the site of a horrific terror attack on Bastille Day, was overturned on Thursday — but the debate is far from over.

“For years, we have had to put up with dirty looks and threatening remarks,” wrote Taslima Amar, 30, a teacher in Pantin, a suburb of Paris. “I’ve been asked to go back home (even though I am home).” Now, Ms. Amar said, she and her husband were looking to leave France.

Laurie Abouzeir, 32, said she was considering starting a business caring for children in her home in Toulouse, southern France, because that would allow her to wear a head scarf, frowned upon and even banned in someworkplaces.

Many women wrote that anti-Muslim bias had intensified after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January 2015, and in Brussels, Paris and Nicemore recently. Halima Djalab Bouguerra, a 21-year-old student in Bourg-en-Bresse, France, dated the change further back, to the killings by Mohammed Merah in the southwest of the country in 2012.

“The way people look at us has changed,” Ms. Bouguerra wrote. “Tongues have loosened. No one is afraid of telling a Muslim to ‘go back home’ anymore.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

Hungarian Leader Rebuked for Saying Muslim Migrants Must Be Blocked ‘to Keep Europe Christian’

Viktor OrbanHungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, was criticized online and in person on Thursday for writing in a German newspaper that it was important to secure his nation’s borders from mainly Muslim migrants “to keep Europe Christian.”

“Those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims,”Mr. Orban wrote in a commentary for Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung, a German newspaper. “This is an important question, because Europe and European identity is rooted in Christianity.”

“Is it not worrying in itself that European Christianity is now barely able to keep Europe Christian?” Mr. Orban asked. “There is no alternative, and we have no option but to defend our borders.”

On the cusp of progress: Radical Changes Taking Place in Islam

muslim womenAn ‘inclusive mosque’, a woman leading prayers, a gay Imam. Even as traditionalists look on frowningly, radical changes are taking place in Islam

In 2005, surrounded by reporters, television cameras and photographers, a woman led Friday prayers in New York. In 2012, an Imam established the first “inclusive mosque” on the outskirts of Paris for gay, lesbian and transgender Muslims. And in 2013, the spotlight was on the first gay Imam in the U.S., Daayiee Abdullah, who, despite condemnation, performed funeral rites for a gay Muslim who had died of AIDS. All these examples show that winds of change are sweeping over Islam. Of course, not everybody agrees with these actions. For some these show signs of a revolution, for some it is ‘biddat’, an unapologetic innovation, and for others it is just sheer blasphemy.

The “inclusive” mosque was established by Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, an Algerian-French Imam. The mosque, Zahed says, was a project that stemmed from “a long personal journey” — he grew up tolerating many snide remarks before coming out to his parents at the age of 21. Zahed said in an article in The Guardian that he set it up so that there could be “a place of worship where people will always be welcomed as brothers and sisters, whatever their sexual orientation or ethnicity.” It all started when a Muslim transgender died and nobody was ready to lead prayers for burial. Zahed stepped in and created history, and this immediately led to the integration of the marginalised. Says Zahed: “Thanks to both the media’s interest and to academic work, we sought to organise inclusive Jumu’a prayers despite the risks. Nobody generally wants to pray for a transgender’s death or for gay weddings. Today this is no longer the case.”

Keeping Zahed company in the U.S. is Imam Daaiyee Abdullah, believed to be the only openly gay Imam in the U.S., who came out to his supportive family many years ago. Born to Christian parents, Abdullah acknowledged his sexuality before embracing Islam. His story is similar to Zahed’s: he also led the funeral prayers for a gay Muslim when other Imams refused to step in. Such has been the impact of Abdullah’s work that when I speak to Zahed, he recalls Abdullah’s words to substantiate his point. Says Abdullah: “Islam is a living religion, it must breathe.” Zahed adds, “Diversity as sacred, unified yet differentiated human nature — that is the ‘social contract’ that the Quran has offered for 14 centuries. And the Arab-Islamic civilisation, known until recently for its tolerance, was to some extent its vivid illustration.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HINDU