The issue of the role of religion in current European affairs comes to a head every time there is an incident such as the recent headscarf debate. That incident was more about political rather than just a religious problem but it leads to the uncertainty about the place religion has in a post-modern, secular Europe.
Religion has a far greater impact on present-day European identity than is either acknowledged or given credit for. The evidence to prove this statement is not difficult to come by. The European Union has so far failed to provide a basis for a common identity among the member states. Schlesinger and Foret write “the putative Eurodemocracy is still hunting for its principles and conditions of existence”. (Schlesinger and Foret, 2006 p.76). Given this lack of unity, it is inevitable that a shared religious identity should become the basis for communal identity.
It is the expression of religion rather than just a system of values which has created this importance of religion in the European mind. Challand argues in a 2009 article that religion was not a significant concern in Europe before 1980. He gives evidence for this by saying that the number of articles published in journals and newspapers combining the words ‘religion’ with ‘Europe’ increased steadily over the decade from 1980 to 1990. There are two conclusions to be drawn here: the first is that the place of religion in Europe had become a debatable topic long before the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th 2001; the second is that religion became a mounting concern in the European mind as the rates of non-Christian immigrants to the European Union increased. The mention of migrants immediately brings to mind the presence of a Muslim population within Europe and the place Islam can be expected to have within a secular Europe.
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