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Europe, Islam in

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The Oxford Dictionary of Islam What is This? Covers the religious, political, and social spheres of global Islam in the modern world

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    Europe, Islam in

    In the late twentieth century there were about eighteen million Muslims in Europe, with approximately nine million each in the western and southeastern parts of the continent. The largest group is in the Balkan states and consists of all social levels, including religious, intellectual, artistic, and commercial elites. In western Europe, Islam is essentially a religion of migrants, unskilled laborers, small merchants, and lower-level white-collar workers; large numbers have come from former colonies and most are not citizens, though there is a small number of converts. The historical antagonism between western and eastern Europe is apparent in the history of Islam there. During the late Middle Ages, Western Christian powers reconquered the last Muslim territories in Spain and the Mediterranean. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the last vestiges of Islam were removed from western Europe. Meanwhile, Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453 and expanded into the Balkans. In the twentieth century the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire, dominance of Communist rule, and revival of nationalism caused the suppression of Islam in southeastern Europe and destroyed much of its ancient heritage and infrastructure. In western Europe, a stream of Muslim migrants and refugees arrived, resulting in significant Muslim populations in all countries there today. Mosques are the most important centers of Islamic education in western Europe and also serve as Muslim community centers, where feasts, wedding parties, circumcisions, and mourning rituals are held and where counseling services and social services are provided. Numerous national and international organizations for the promotion and protection of Muslim interests have been founded. Their major concern is legal pluralism and the right of Muslims to adhere to Islamic law both privately and publicly.

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