Leaving out Russia and Turkey, Europe is now home to about 26m Muslims, who account for about 5% of its population and are typically much younger than the locals. In many European cities Muhammad (in its various spellings) has become the most popular name for a child.
Precise numbers are hard to pin down. Besides, Muslims are not a homogeneous group; they differ by religious practice, culture and ethnicity. Their experience also varies from country to country. British law protects diversity in religion and practice, whereas in France the display of religious symbols, including the veil, is banned in most public institutions, including schools. Yet French Muslims tend to be less religious than British ones, and non-Muslims in France are happier to have Muslims as neighbours and more likely to marry one.
America’s Muslims until fairly recently considered themselves a cut above Europe’s. They were more middle-class, more integrated and enjoyed a more harmonious relationship with their chosen country. But a combination of America’s involvement in the Middle East, the jihadist reaction to it and a concurrent surge of white nationalism has disturbed the harmony. In a survey in 2017, 42% of Muslim schoolchildren in America said they were bullied because of their faith. One in five Americans would deny Muslim citizens the right to vote. President Donald Trump encouraged such hostility during his election campaign, pledging a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”. Soon after coming to office he tried to impose a visa ban on six mainly Muslim countries. And last month he stirred fears of Muslim immigration again by suggesting that prayer mats had been left at the Mexican border where he wants to build a wall.
Past and recent experience has made Muslims wary of taking their future in the West for granted. But if the mainstream prevails, they are about to embark on a new phase. Three generations after their arrival, they are fashioning a theology for highly diverse societies and secular systems of government in which Islam does not hold power. In short, they are building a Western Islam.
Read more in Islam in the West, a Special Report.