Wars and oppression—from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan and parts of Africa—last year pushed more than a million people to seek safety and opportunity in Europe. This tide of migrating humanity has heightened Europe’s tensions around its growing Muslim community. Conflict is growing around terrorism, the status of sharia law, the construction of mosques, and the possibility and desirability of multicultural societies. On March 23, American University anthropologist Akbar Ahmed screened his 2015 film exploring these tensions in Europe, and discussed their implications, including those for relations between the Islamic world and the West.
Europe’s recent history with the Islamic world includes decades of immigration by Muslims, often as “guest workers” or from the colonies of European empires. But Europe has struggled over how, or even whether, to assimilate its Muslim peoples. Problems surrounding Muslim identity in Europe have moved to the fore of policy debates since the 9/11 attacks, and especially following last year’s terrorist violence that killed more than 140 people in Paris.