by Natalie Nougayrède
"Just as Europe is a patchwork of cultures and nations, Europe’s Muslim populations are extremely diverse, as is their history. This may sound obvious, but it’s something that gets easily pushed aside in all the heated debates about Islam, migration and identity politics. Muslims tend to get lumped together as a single entity. “In Europe, we Muslims have to acknowledge that we have no common narrative,” says the mufti, “there are many differences.” For example, he points to how ethnic characteristics play a more important role than many observers realise. Muslims can relate as much to their ethnic or national roots (Bosnian, Albanian, Turkish, Kurdish, Algerian, Pakistani etc) as they do to their religious beliefs. Religious revival, as in any faith, doesn’t mean you sweep away other parts of your identity.
But that’s not to say there can’t be a “common narrative”, and Grabus is adamant that: “As Muslims in Europe, our duty is to create one, in which we would expose our understanding of Islam belonging here.” Much of this, he points out, has to do with education and overcoming ignorance, both among Muslims and non-Muslims. How many people, he asks, know that Austro-Hungary, under the Habsburgs, recognised Islam as an official religion as long ago as 1912? How many know that the first mosque in France was built by the secular French republic (in Paris, in the 1920s) as a tribute to the tens of thousands of Muslims who died in the first world war? And how many people are ready to consider that the medieval scholar Averroes, born in Córdoba when Andalucía was ruled by the Arabs, was a European Muslim?"