Today there is so much being said about Muslim immigration in Europe. Yet it is all too often in the abstract — we don’t usually meet those who are involved or hear their stories.
Last year, over 3,000 died trying to reach Europe, and the over 170,000 who managed to make it to Italy looked forward to what is often an extended period of misery as they encountered confused and sometimes contradictory European policy towards them. In the last week alone, Italy rescued around 4,000 migrants from the sea.
The immigrants who arrive enter the category of “illegal” and live in the shadows of Europe. To understand their plight and the challenges they are creating for European countries, I wanted to speak to the people involved, both the immigrants themselves and representatives of European governments who are dealing with them. With the current humanitarian emergency, notably in the Mediterranean where so many continue to die, it is crucial to hear their stories. Perhaps then we can gain some insight into what needs to be done to alleviate this monumental crisis.
It is for this reason that I launched the Journey into Europe project to study the Muslim communities of Europe, which has taken myself and a research team across the length and breadth of Europe, from France and Germany to Greece and Bosnia. In Catania, Sicily, in the last wintery days of 2014, I made the acquaintance of a 16-year-old boy from Gambia. It is important for all of us to hear what he has to say.
Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Identity
Europe today confronts complicated and controversial issues surrounding its Muslim population including Sharia law, terrorism, the building of mosques, female dress, and the pressures of immigration and multiculturalism.
Akbar Ahmed, the world renowned Muslim anthropologist, is now embarking on a new study of Islam in Europe which will take him and his international team across the continent.
Journey into Europe is the fourth part of an unprecedented quartet of award-winning books exploring relations between the West and the world of Islam after 9/11.