Integrating Islam: A New Chapter in 'Church-State' Relations
This brief examines the role of intercultural dialogue as a tool for strengthening relations between European governments and the Muslim community, reinforcing religious freedoms, and tackling issues of racism and extremism. Drawing on examples from throughout the European Union, the report illustrates the benefits of such dialogues, which can replace prevalent assumptions, redress misunderstandings, allow community members to assume an independent consultative role in representing their respective federations’ interests, and ultimately, normalize Muslim religious practice in the Member State and European contexts.
The report addresses the “who, how, and why” of intercultural dialogue as it relates to the pressing example of Muslim communities and European governments—how to select participants, how to set a mutually acceptable agenda, whether dialogues work best at the local or national level, and how to prevent such forums from subverting mainstream political processes.
In doing so, the author identifies five essential principles for institutionalizing an orderly, lawful, and politically irreproachable consultation: clearly defining the purpose, parameters, and goals, of the dialogue; providing a platform for debate but ensuring separation from the political process; focusing on pragmatic matters of religious practice, integration, and intercommunity tensions as opposed to value-based themes; ensuring that representation is guided by the purpose of the dialogue, respects the plural nature of Muslim communities, and is always rooted in the rule of law; and considering that national and local dialogues can be mutually reinforcing.