What are Muslims’ greatest struggles in Western Europe?
What is God doing in Western Europe today?
A wide variety of languages and cultures are represented among the nearly 26 million (mostly Sunni) Muslims throughout Western Europe. Some arrived recently as refugees, while others arrived generations ago. Half of them are under 30 years old. In recent years the Muslim population has grown in two ways: through a higher birth rate and through immigration.
There are nearly six million Muslims in France (9% of the population), five million in Germany (6%), about four million in the UK (6%), three million in Italy (5%), 1.2 million in Holland (7%) and just over one million in Spain (3%).
Muslims typically come to Europe seeking better education, employment, or asylum. Germany is home to the most refugees (1.4 million), followed by France (402,000) and Sweden (328,000).
Some Muslims struggle to assimilate into the culture because of their strong religious commitments and their tendency to live in their own isolated communities – sometimes for generations. These communities can become fertile soil for radicalization, especially when combined with high unemployment and low education rates. This, along with terror attacks in different European cities, has made many non-Muslims wary and sometimes slow to accept Muslims into their communities.
Muslims may find integrating into society a struggle in Western Europe. Those whose Islam is more cultural than religious have fewer problems assimilating. For example, they can simply refrain from eating pork and drinking alcohol and still consider themselves Muslims. Others, while enjoying the freedom of living in the West, go to great lengths to avoid contact with non-Muslims. Along with mosques, they create parallel institutions, such as schools and banks, in order to live according to Islamic principles.
Is Islam compatible with western democratic ideals? Can Muslims participate fully in European society? Some Muslims and Europeans would answer this with a hearty yes; others would vehemently deny that it is possible. The European Jewish writer Bat Ye’or coined the phrase “Eurabia,” describing Europe as an extension of the anti-democratic Arab Muslim world. She claims that the “Islamization” of Europe began in the 1960s, when large numbers of Muslims started migrating to Europe. Recent years have seen a steady rise in far-right, anti-Muslim nationalists in European politics who agree with her.
Faithful Christians are reaching out to Muslims across Europe. Some minister to international students who come from Muslim countries. Others welcome Muslim families for kids’ clubs, international meals, holiday celebrations, and English classes in local churches. Many Christians are serving refugees throughout Europe. One organization alone, Samaritan’s Purse, reports that more than 40,000 have heard the Gospel and more than a thousand decided to follow Jesus. Major Christian organizations conduct summer outreaches in large European cities among the hundreds of thousands of Muslims visiting from “closed” countries.
Reports note that in Germany and Switzerland several thousand Muslim refugees became Christians between 2014-2017. They were drawn by the love shown to them by Christians, as opposed to the cruelty from which they fled. Trinity Church, in a Berlin suburb, grew from 150 to 700 people because of the number of Muslim converts. Other German churches have held mass baptisms for converts at local swimming pools.