In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, western observers have had harsh words to say about European Muslim communities. Ann Coulter, the right-wing pundit declared on Fox News that, maybe, it was a time for a “pause in Muslim immigration” to Europe. Pegida, a German group, has intensified its campaign against what is sees as the “Islamisation” of Germany. Meanwhile, Panorama, the UK current affairs programme, recently aired a show titled The Battle for British Islam. Everywhere, it seems, the question of how Islam and Europe can coexist is being raised.
A few years ago, I published a book called The ‘Other’ Europeans: Muslims of Europe. It took several years to write, but it only scratches the surface of the Muslim European story. It’s commonplace to talk about the input of Muslim Spain to European history. There is much to teach about that period, not least the contribution of Spanish and Portuguese Muslims to Europe’s Renaissance.
But there is far more Muslim influence to see in European history. While some politicians have been keen to define contemporary European society as rooted in only a Judeo-Christian framework, even the most cursory reviews of history would disavow that perception.
In southern Europe, Muslim Spain is well known, but Muslim Sicily is not. It was ruled by Muslim leaders for more than 150 years, beginning in the 9th century.