The Legal, Political and Social Impact of the Muslim Migrations in Europe

by Michele Gradoli


Ago 28, 2017


The Legal, Political and Social Impact of the Muslim Migrations in Europe

El impacto jurídico, político y social de las migraciones musulmanas en Europa

L’impact juridique, politique et social des migrations musulmanes en Europe

Palabras clave: migraciones, Unión Europea, musulmanes

Keywords: migrations, European Union, muslim

Mots clés: migrations, Union Européenne, musulmans

Citar este artículo

Gradoli, Michele (2017). The Legal, Political and Social Impact of the Muslim Migrations in Europe. Derecho y Economía de la Integración n. 3, pp. 21-40.


Durante los últimos años del siglo XX, Europa se ha convertido en uno de los principales destinos de las migraciones internacionales, especialmente de los países de Oriente Medio y África del Norte.

Como cualquier otro tipo de migraciones, las migraciones externas europeas plantearon importantes críticas sociales, políticas y culturales que se han combinado con las producidas por las migraciones internas europeas de los países de Europa oriental a los Estados de la UE occidental y septentrional.


During the last years of the XX century Europe has become one of the main destinations of the international migrations especially from Middle Eastern and Northern African countries.

As any other kind of migrations, the European external migrations raised relevant social, political and cultural criticalities that have been combined to the ones produced by the European internal migrations from the Eastern EU countries to the Western and Northern EU States.


Au cours des dernières années du XXe siècle, l’Europe est devenue l’une des principales destinations des migrations internationales, en particulier des pays du Moyen-Orient et de l’Afrique du Nord.

Comme tout autre type de migrations, les migrations extérieures européennes ont soulevé d’importantes critiques sociales, politiques et culturelles qui ont été combinées à celles produites par les migrations internes européennes des pays de l’est de l’UE aux États de l’Ouest et du Nord de l’UE.

I. Introduction

During the last years of the XX century Europe has become one of the main destinations of the international migrations especially from Middle Eastern and Northern African countries.

As any other kind of migrations, the European external migrations raised relevant social, political and cultural criticalities that have been combined to the ones produced by the European internal migrations from the Eastern EU countries to the Western and Northern EU States.

Especially in the 90’s, Mediterranean Europe has become the main destination of important migration flows from Northern Africa and the Balkans and later the EU enlargements in 2004 and in 2007 facilitated the internal migrations from Eastern Europe to the other EU Member States.

It is important to underline that those migrations were very multifaceted because they were characterized by different cultural, social and legal features but the integration policies of the time were designed mainly on an economic/legal basis: in some cases the fluxes were considered economic migrations, in other cases the reasons of the mobility were classified as humanitarian.

More recently, the Mediterranean area has been the scenario of another series of dramatic events that completely changed the already instable assets of the region: the so-called «Arab Spring» (CORRAO, 2011) signed the end of the national dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt and then in Libya, however, the uncertainty that followed those events, generated a season of instability that is still dramatically threatening the region and countries like Libya or Syria.

In some cases, the Arab societies that produced the revolts, came out to be disorganized or not sufficiently competent to drive the democratic change: only Tunisia managed to gathered its own social, cultural, religious, political forces in a complete democratic and constitutional asset that could be able to produce a Constitutional proper balance among the national democratic institutions and with the people.

In the other Arab countries the immediate output of the revolts has been an increasing and profound instability that produced the fertile space for the dissemination of jihadist ideologies and the diffusion of violent islamist groups who started to threaten the attempts of peace of the democratic forces in the region.

It is a matter of fact that Libya has been the first country in Maghreb that did not managed to produce a constitutional asset because of the growing social fragmentation and, because of these inner political and social divisions, it was occupied also by the troops of the so-called Islamic State [1].

Furthermore, in Syria the rebellion against the regime of the President Assad did not succeed, the rebels did not manage to take the power against the official government and the fragmentation of the control on the national territory fostered the dangerous growth of the Islamic State. This lack of control of some Middle Eastern regions in Iraq and Syria in fact represents the main contemporary threat in the region as well as the jihadist groups of the so-called Islamic State that are endangering the Mediterranean basin and Europe too.

Those violent jihadist groups increased the instability of the region, blocked the attempts of an economic development that has been already interrupted after the Arab revolutions and, for some period of time, they managed to control a large area in Iraq, Syria and then in Libya.

Nowadays, the IS jihadist groups seem to be near their final defeat by a peculiar combination of Western and Middle Eastern forces, however the tragic explosion of the brutal jihadist violence pushed a huge number of people to migrate to Europe in order to rush to safety.

In this framework, it is important to underline that the jihadist violence annihilated any kind of cultural, religious or economic activity in the Syrian region and this is a relevant point in the reconstruction of the reasons of the migrations and their future evolution.

In this scenario it is a matter of fact that the migrations towards Europe started to be religiously characterized because the masses who abandoned the territories occupied by the jihadists are composed not just by persecuted Christians and Jews but their greatest part is formed by Muslims as well.

For the first time since it started, this external migration from the MENA countries could be defined as a «Muslim» migration towards Europe, carrying specific peculiarities and raising precise issues: the tragic situation of the greatest part of the Islamic Mediterranean countries is pushing a huge flow of Muslims in Europe and, unlike what happened during the economic migrations, the reason of this mobility are mainly humanitarian.

Since 2014 this trend has changed and the greatest part of the Muslim migrants from that area are asylum seekers and – as it will be specifically examined in a paragraph n. 2 – Muslim migrations towards Europe are predicted to grow steadily because of the instability and massive destructions generated in the area, even if the IS troops might be defeated.

Therefore European countries are called to give an organizational and legislative effort to ensure an acceptable management of the migration flows and, on the other hand, to elaborate a strategy able to protect rights and ensure religious pluralism.

This work will present a brief overview of the Muslim situation in Europe, the possible perspectives of the impact of the Muslim migration on the European society and the eventual role of the European Muslim communities in the integration process of the Muslim migrants.

II. The conditions of the muslims in Europe

Muslims are part of the European societies, in the past they have contributed to the progress of the European culture and especially in some countries like Spain or Southern Italy, the Islamic heritage has been essential for the development of those regions.

During centuries, coexistence with the Islamic communities in Europe has been characterized by a discontinuous peaceful relationship, there have been tensions and periods of calm coexistence, however the time we are living seems to be most critical because of the backlashes of the 9/11 that are still influencing the European public opinion and because of the fear raised by the violent jihadist attacks of the IS fighters in Europe [2].

Nowadays coexistence with Muslims in Europe is the center of a consistent political and cultural debate and it seems that it is the first time that a cultural/religious minority raises so many critical issues in the European contemporary history.

The theme of coexistence in general and with the Muslim communities is too widespread to be fully examined in this paper, however, with the purpose of properly contributing to the ongoing debate, it is important to give the appropriate tools and data in order to avoid any misrepresentation of the European Muslims.

According to the PEW Research Center (HACKETT, 2016), the Muslim share of the population is steadily growing and it passed from 4% of the Europeans in 1990 to 6% in 2010 and they are expected to grow and be 8% of the total European population in 2030.

Among the EU countries, the greatest concentration of Muslims is present in Germany (4,760,000), in France (4,710,000), in the United Kingdom (2,960,000) and in Italy (2,220,000), however, beside these numbers, it is important to underline that the list of the Muslim shares of the national populations shows a partially different picture. The EU countries that face the biggest impact of the Muslim communities on the national populations, in fact, are France (7.5%), Germany (5.8%), Greece (5.3%), the United Kingdom (4.8%) and Sweden (4.6%) (HACKETT, 2016).

Compared to the other religious groups, European Muslims are younger because their median age is 32 while it is 42 for the Christians or 37 for the unaffiliated ones (HACKETT, 2016).

As mentioned above, the Muslim presence in Europe raises tensions and debates especially after the spread of the so-called Islamic State in the Mediterranean region and the recent jihadist attacks on the European territory. The diffusion of jihadists in Europe and the violence of the Islamic State provoked a profound wave of islamophobia in Europe that related jihadism and Islamic terrorism with Islam and its communities.

Moreover, it is necessary to underline that jihadism, terrorism and violence cannot be related with the greatest number of the European Muslim communities that are composed of ordinary citizens who claim for the respect of religious pluralism and fundamental rights like religious freedom.

On the other hand, some nationalistic political parties or movements started to present the whole number of the Muslim communities as a risk for the protection of peace in Europe, describing them as potential hubs for jihadist fighters.

Beside any kind of simplification, it is not possible to deny that there is a huge percentage of Muslims living in Europe who legitimately demand the respect of human rights like freedom of religion in order to fully exercise their own cult. Moreover there is the general demand – Muslims included – of public safety in order to protect Europe from the risks of contemporary and local jihadism.

Even if the connections between these two themes are relevant, it is important to keep them distinguished because the legal tools for the protection of religious pluralism include different competences than the fight against Islamist terrorism.

This paragraph will be focused mainly on the analysis of the social, legal and cultural impact of the Islamic migration, given that public safety is an essential priority in the management of the migration as well.

In particular, it is evident that there might be a connection between Islam and jihadism but this connection is mainly theoretical because in reality the space of action of jihadists is not overlapping with the religious life of the Islamic communities since it is known that the radicalization of the fighters rarely happens in religious circuits, it is very rare in mosques but it is more common online, or in jails, as happened for the terrorist who killed 12 people in Berlin in December 2016 [3].

This critical situation that has been complicated by the recent migrants’ emergency and the frequent misrepresentations of the Muslims in Europe affected the European public opinion so that Muslims’ reputation varies a lot across the European countries. For example, the Southern and Eastern European countries present more negative views while the respondents in the UK, Germany, France, Sweden and the Netherlands showed a more positive approach towards their Islamic citizens (HACKETT, 2016).

It is possible to notice that along with the diffusion of nationalistic discourses, the recent migrations from Syria and Iraq increased islamophobia in the States that are the first destinations of the flows like Greece, Italy, Hungary or Poland, countries that, on the other hand, are less historically used to diversity and pluralism than other European countries like France, United Kingdom or Germany.

These countries are called to realize a real cultural revolution because historically they have been countries of emigration rather than immigration and this recent switch might not be accompanied by an automatic adjustment of the national societies.

The mistrust against Muslims is portrayed in the political level as well as islamophobia is often linked with ideologies: the greatest part of the islamophobic positions are placed in the nationalistic or right wing parties with the exception of Hungary and Poland where islamophobia is widespread both in left and right wing parties with a 6% (Hungary) or a 1% (Poland) difference, underlining how the Muslim migrations – presented as an Islamic invasion – affected the public opinion and how the misrepresentation of the Islamic presence in Europe shaped the political positions of those parties (PEW RESEARCH CENTER, 2016).

The intolerance against European Muslims is often justified by some islamophobic arguments like the alleged will of the Muslims to distinct themselves from the European society or – in the worse case – their support to jihad [4] and the so-called Islamic State.

According to the PEW Research Center (2016), 58% of the Europeans think that Muslims in Europe want to distinguish themselves from the other members of the national community and they want to reject the adoption of Western customs. This is an important point because this argument often justifies a priori discriminations of the Europeans against Muslims, accused of being anti-Western and intolerant against the so-called European values and tradition.

The second islamophobic argument which describes every Muslim as a potential jihadist and IS supporter, confirms the above mentioned descriptions of Italy, Greece, Hungary and Poland whose citizens are worried of living together with communities that are believed to potentially support or encourage the diffusion of IS.

In this context of an alleged cultural «clash of civilizations» (HUNTINGTON, 1996) the image of the Muslims as a «natural» enemy for the Western societies has become very popular in the public opinion and the Islamic issue turned out to be very present in the discourse of the media and in the newspapers.

This overexposure of the European Islamic presence has also misrepresented the real number of the Muslims living in Europe and it is already a matter of fact that the European citizens overestimate the Islamic population (INTERNAZIONALE, 2015) and, in some cases, those Europeans believe that a cultural invasion form the Islamic Middle East and Northern Africa is taking place in Europe against the Christian and European values.

These attitudes towards Muslims show that one of the very first consequences of the jihadist attacks in Europe – after the number of victims of the killings – is the widespread intolerance against the Muslims called «islamophobia».

This feeling is raised by the fear of future violent attacks made by jihadists against the Western societies but at the end, the consequence is that – in addition to the victims of the killings – the European Muslims are the final victims of the attacks which are raising the intolerance and the discriminations against the Islamic communities.

Jihadism produces a series of brutal violence that hits the European societies that fall under the seduction of the hateful fear of an ideal Islamic enemy. Moreover, the increasing intolerance against Muslims affects the European migration policies and the policy-makers must face the fact that some groups of the European societies are openly hostile against Muslims and Muslim migrants.

 III. A «Muslim» migration towards Europe

Definitions are important especially when policy-makers need to elaborate an efficient political, legal, economic and social strategy to manage such a huge phenomenon like the contemporary «Muslim» migrations towards Europe.

As above mentioned, in the past, migrations towards Europe have been classified using other categories than religion: scholars preferred classifications based on nationalities, on gender, on age or on the education levels of the migrants. In this moment of time, however, it seems necessary to underline that this mass migration coming from MENA countries is transversal, it includes men and women of all ages, educated or not: it is an enormous group of migrants united by religion. This is the reason why this migration started in the late 2013 and going on until today, might be defined as a «Muslim» migration.

Nowadays Europe is facing a real «Muslim» migration and this proposal of classification would be useful in finding the proper integration policies for a big number of people who would probably present the same demands and criticalities in the field of religious pluralism and respect for diversity.

On the other hand, this new perspective would enable the policy makers and the European governments to find the best actors and mediators – in this case the European Islamic communities as well – for the elaboration of an efficient and adequate course of social inclusion and peaceful coexistence.

The following data will show how this transversal migration can be fully considered as a «Muslim» migration towards Europe, taking into consideration that the approach needs to be long-term because this kind of migration cannot be considered as a contemporary emergency: the Islamic presence in Europe – as mentioned above – is historical, it is expected to steadily grow in the next years while, on the other hand, the reasons of the origin of the mobility are not going to be solved in a short period of time.

2015 has been the year when the Muslim migration towards Europe has been stronger than ever: in 2014 the greatest number of illegal migrants has been detected entering the EU through the Mediterranean route but this trend changed in 2015 when the greatest number of migrant illegally arrived from Middle East in Europe through the Eastern Mediterranean and the Western Balkan.

Available data (BBC, 2016) highlight how the Muslim migration from Middle East is compact and chiefly directed to the European Union, underlining the evidence of the common religious and cultural feature of the total number of the migrants.

The other empirical data that proves the Islamic definition of this migration is the number of asylum claims received and approved in the EU in 2015 (BBC, 2016): EU countries approved 292,540 asylum applications and the main nationalities who presented these claims were Syrian, Eritrean, Iraqi, Afghan and Iranian. Moreover, the applications for asylum are generally presented in the European Union by migrants who come mainly from Islamic countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, followed by the Balkans and some Asian and African countries (BBC, 2016).

It is another prove that Europe needs to start formulating a proper inclusive policy for those Middle Eastern citizens, considering them in their whole identity, religion included.

In conclusion, the presented demands for asylum claims in Europe by those Muslim migrants are another element that should focus the attention of the European policy makers because, in addition to the complexity of the origin of the Muslim migrations, those movements/settlements of Muslim migrants are expected to be permanent or long-term.

IV. The impact on the European society and the critical execution of the relocation of migrants in the EU

Given that those migrations could be defined by their religious features as well and given that those movements are expected to be long-term, it is important to examine the eventual possible impact of those migrations on the European society.

As mentioned in the Introduction, the Islamic presence is strongly debated in Europe, especially after the jihadist attacks and, unlike any another religion, the exercise of the Islamic cult is often presented with concern. In 2016, for example, some French municipalities approved local regulations which banned the use of burkini [5], highlighting how some European parties or groups are generally suspicious and distrustful against the Muslims.

On the other hand, it is necessary to face the fact that those Muslim migrants will need to be included in the European societies as well as they will legitimately demand for their inclusion in the public sphere. This is the reason why it is important to understand the future location of those groups of migrants in Europe.

In this perspective, the division of the total number of the incoming migrants from Middle East and Northern Africa in quotas to be relocated in the EU countries already would delineate a future possible demographic map.

This measure has been proposed in May 2015 by the European Commission that approved a «European Agenda on Migration» in order to gather all the EU States in the management of the migration crisis with the purpose to «ensure a fair and balanced participation of all Member States to this common effort» (EUROPEAN COMMISSION, 2015, pg. 4).

The relocation of the migrants should relocate all the displaced persons in need of international protection in the territories and under the competence of other EU Member States, after their arrival in the first European country (usually Italy or Greece).

However, in the months that followed the approval of the European Agenda on Migration, the system of the relocation itself has been debated and strongly criticized by the governments of some EU Member States and it seems that this system that was presented by the European Commission as a «precursor of a lasting solution» (EUROPEAN COMMISSION, 2015, pg. 4), is already threatened [6].

The greatest number of the migrants would be allocated in Germany, in France and in Spain even if a small quota is addressed to each European country in the light of the solidarity invoked by the European Commission. On the other hand it is important to highlight that, along with the allocation of the quotas, the greatest number of asylum claims in 2015 has been granted in Germany (140,910), in Sweden (32,215), in Italy (29,615), France (20,630), Netherlands (16,450) and United Kingdom (13,905) (BBC, 2016).

These so-called «Muslim» migrations present a number of criticalities that the EU and the governments of the European countries must consider: Islam has certainly been part of the European context for centuries, however it should be noted that the recent spread of jihadism among the European countries has complicated the relationships with the Muslim communities that are the victims of the Islamist terrorism as well.

The mentioned data about the granted asylum applications and about the possible division of the quotas demonstrate that this wave of Muslim migrants is going to be settled in Central-Northern Europe and in the Mediterranean countries that are the first destination of the migrants’ route.

Northern Europe – not the Arab Mediterranean countries – has become the final destination of those flows: in 2015 Germany and Sweden have the highest number of asylum claims granted, Italy is exceptionally the third European country for the number of granted claims because it is one of the main first countries of entrance in the EU for migrants, and France, Netherlands and the United Kingdom follow the German and Swedish trend.

On the basis of the solidarity among the European countries, the division of the quotas of migrants among the EU Member States represents the first concrete action that may support Italy and Greece that are directly affected by the migration flows and the partition has been defined also by two Decisions of the Council in 2015 (Council Decision EU 2015/1523 of 14 September 2015 establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and of Greece; Council Decision EU 2015/1601 of 22 September 2015 establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and Greece).

Those EU Decisions are based on the assumption of a shared solidarity among the European countries, however it must be noted that some European governments reacted in a negative way to the decision of the relocation of migrants, considering the emergency of the flows as a problem of the countries who first receive the migrants. The main example of these feelings among some EU countries has been the Hungarian referendum on quotas which took place in October 2016.

In Hungary the supporters of the referendum against the relocation of migrants accused the European Union to endanger the national security, increasing the allowed presence of migrants in Hungary. On the other hand, the Hungarian society presented a big division between the citizens who are still certain to follow the guidelines of the European Union and those who firmly oppose to the European measure for the division of the number of migrants among the States.

The result of the Hungarian referendum is very interesting because it describes the situation of the so-called Euro-skepticism that is spreading across Europe. This feeling is often linked with nationalisms and right-wing movements and it tries to present the European Union as an illegitimate reduction of the national sovereignty.

According to the nationalistic and euroskeptical vision, the EU relocation policy has become one of the symbols of this European «invasion» against national sovereignties because it is described as the imposition of a binding obligation that the Hungarian citizens did not choose to assume in their own country and on their own territory.

The final result of the referendum is null and void because more than half of the electorate did not vote, however more than 98% of participants (KINGSLEY, 2016) voted to reject the admission of refugees to Hungary and this result encouraged those movements which support the idea that this referendum expressed the feeling of a great number of citizens who refuse the idea that the European Union may impose political or legal measure in order to execute the relocation of refugees that is presented as a choice made by the European Union without the consent of the citizens or consideration of the national interests [7].

Events like the Hungarian referendum present a double risk: on one hand there is the danger that those consultations may slow down some EU measures that should be rapid and cohesive in order to be effective; on the other hand, these political episodes present the risk to support European nationalisms and to be considered as plebiscites about the democratic legitimacy of the European Union which is more and more under the attack of the euroskeptical movements that accuse the European Union not to be responsible towards its own citizens.

Both risks are very relevant for the purpose of this paper: the first risk of an intermittent execution of the relocation of migrants might endanger the redistribution of the refugees in the territories of the European Union, relegating those people in few countries and raising the possible already-existing tensions.

The failure of the relocation system would correspond to the necessity of re-elaborating the management of the migration crisis and, at the end, it would completely fragment the European societies of the countries that will be managing the emergency and those countries who will reject any engagement in spite of the European solidarity among Member States.

The second risk is the increasing growth of anti-migrants and islamophobic feelings that might affect the inclusive processes of the migrants in the European societies. As mentioned in the other paragraphs, islamophobia is widespread throughout Europe and it represents the greatest obstacle to the inclusion of the Muslims in the European societies because it interferes with every aspect of the public ordinary life of a person like housing, education, employment or healthcare.

In some way, the consequence of those plebiscites is the eventual «democratic» validation of racist or intolerant positions with the risk of propagating those aggressive ideologies that would be considered less and less dangerous or shocking because of their growing presence in the public debate.

V. Possible future perspectives

It is predictably difficult to outline the eventual consequences of very complicated events that are still evolving such as the contemporary migration crisis, however the available data about the incoming migrants and the relocation policies can be helpful in the delineation of the probable future perspectives for the life of the Muslim migrants in Europe.

Moreover, in order to outline these possible perspectives, it also should be examined whether the countries, that will host the largest number of Muslim migrants – if the relocation of the refugees will be fully implemented by all the Member States and if the mobility of the migrants across Europe will be granted -, are prepared in terms of national and local legislations to efficiently protect the religious pluralism that will come into being, once the first emergencies will be solved.

The first impact of these migrations is the certain development of a wider religious pluralism that is already protected by the European legislations.

Of course religious freedom is both internationally and nationally protected in Europe: the international safeguard of human rights is given by the European Convention on Human Rights of the Council of Europe [8] and by the of EU Charter of Fundamental Rights [9].

In both of the documents it is possible to find almost the same definition of religious freedom which includes the right to have or not a religion, the exercise of the cult in private or in public, alone or in community, and the right to manifest the cult through worship, teaching, practice and observance.

This last points of the definition of religious freedom present criticalities especially when the needed regulation of the worship is referred to the Islamic communities that are often criticized because of the above-mentioned reasons.

In particular, the Islamic practice – as any other religious cult – needs to have proper regulations that may allow specific customs or rituals (e.g. halal butchery, Islamic burial and so on). These concrete perspectives of religious freedom are regulated by national legislations and the national legal dimension of the management of the Islamic cult is strongly fragmented across Europe because each EU Member State presents a peculiar and typical tradition and approach to secularism. For example, the French laicité elaborated a unique approach to the role of religion in the public space, underlining how the religious confession of the individuals should be relegated to their private sphere with the consequence of banning any religious symbol in the public sphere. This ban, however, has been very controversial in the Islamic case because it affects some traditional customs like the use of the Islamic veil that is permitted in other European countries like Italy, where the concept of secularism is interpreted in a more inclusive and tolerant way towards all the cults that are present on the national territory.

Moreover, in order to exercise their worship, the European Islamic communities need specific national regulations that, in some countries, are given by specific agreements between the State and the religious confessions. This is what happened in Spain where the exercise of the Islamic cult is regulated by an acuerdo de cooperación [10], ruled under the Ley Orgánica de Libertad Religiosa n. 7/1980.

This agreement has been signed by the representatives of the Islamic Spanish Commission and the State in 1992, it came into force with the law n. 26/1992 and it rules the exercise of individual religious rights [11] and the rights of the religious communities [12].

In this case the protection of the exercise of the cult by the State is full and granted because each aspect of the Islamic worship has been agreed by the Institutions and the confession. In these countries where the exercise of the Islamic cult is already fully regulated and protected, the impact of the Muslim migration is expected to be less problematic than in those countries where the exercise of the Islamic cult is not regulated by any law or agreement.

For example, in Italy the worship and the exercise of the Islamic cult is not regulated by a specific agreement with the Muslim communities while other cults, that are present in the country, have signed a specific intesa (agreement) with the State.

The Italian Constitution gives the confessions the possibility to sign an agreement called intesa with the State in order to regulate their worship and the rights of the religious communities as well as in Spain, however the Italian Islamic communities did not manage to sign an intesa yet because of their internal divergences.

This paper will not analyze the reasons why the Islamic Italian organizations and the Italian governments did not manage to reach an agreement during these years, however it is important to underline that in those countries where the Islamic worship is not regulated on the whole national territory, the Muslim migrants may find more difficulties in creating their own communities for the exercise of the cult with the result of increasing obstacles in the integration process with the other citizens.

It seems clear that a group of Muslims may constitute a more open and communicating religious community in a State where there is a specific law about religious freedom of the Muslims rather than in those countries where the Islamic worship is exercised in private and without certain standards of transparency. Moreover, a specific legislation about the exercise of religious freedom would guide the migrants’ groups in the creation of new religious communities under the European common standards.

On the other hand, on the institutional side, the lack of a specific regulation may complicate the work of the Institutions that will have no legal or normative reference in the management of the demands of the new Islamic religious communities.

The second challenge raised by the Muslim migration will involve the capacity of the Europeans to include migrants coming from a different cultural and religious background and their diversity.

In fact, it should be analyzed if those European and national legislations have the proper tools to protect Islamic communities from possible discriminations and racism which, urged by the violence of European jihadism, are spreading more and more widely across Europe.

As briefly mentioned in the previous paragraphs, Europe is facing a rapid growth of anti-Muslim feelings due to the violent attacks of the Islamic terrorism even if it must be noted that a certain level of islamophobia has always been present. Nowadays, this anti-Muslim ideology is often linked with the growing demand of security and with the fear of a cultural regression of the secular European values.

The first effects of these islamophobic argumentations are the increase of the discriminations against Muslims [13] and their resulting social exclusion.

Of course discriminations are persecuted by the European law and by the national legislations, however a specific regulation dedicated to the repression of islamophobic acts or intents does not exist yet in Europe. Moreover, it must be noted that the repression of islamophobic actions is complicated by the fact that there is not a unique legal definition of the term and, because of the lack a specific legislation, it is not possible to collect proper data about those facts.

On the other hand it is necessary to formulate specific and effective legal tools to repress the diffusion of islamophobic ideologies in order to prevent further discriminations and to persecute the increasing number of islamophobic actions that constitute a significant obstacle for the inclusion of the Muslim migrants in the European societies [14].

Moreover it should be noted that Muslim migration will have an impact not only on the traditional European societies but also on European Islam itself that, especially in some countries, has taken on specific and particular features.

Like any other type of flow, Muslim migrations are transferring cultures, religious traditions and new future Muslim migrants’ communities may overlap with the existing European Islamic communities.

The encounter of the Muslim migrants with the European Islamic communities may give several outputs: the more organized and structured European Islamic communities may cooperate in the general inclusion process in order to include Muslim migrants. This perspective may be supposable for those countries where the Islamic presence is more consistent, rooted and historical like France, Germany, or the United Kingdom. Muslim communities of those countries might play an important role in the integration process of the Muslim migrants because the Islamic groups might become informal welcoming/inclusive communities for the refugees.

Recently European scholars and policy-makers often demand the contribution of the Islamic communities in the field of security and in the fight against jihadism, however the Islamic communities might represent important social groups able to transfer the European values to migrants, since the greatest part of them is the result of a previous migration.

Thus, under a harmonized institutional guide, the European Islamic communities might be included in the elaboration of the policies of welcoming and hosting Muslim migrants so that they would become informal driver of the above-mentioned European values and, in the eyes of the migrants, their reliability would be confirmed by the religious/cultural connection.

Otherwise the migrants’ Islamic groups might establish new communities in the territories where the Islamic presence was not very consistent.

In these cases, there may be the development of new Islamic communities based on the common «national» origin of its members and this possibility could complicate the transversal European processes of social inclusion that should overcome different national origins and be as much inclusive as possible. In this hypothesis, the new Islamic communities will represent migrants’ communities and not religious communities based on sharing the same cult and confession. In the perspective of the integration of the migrants, this kind of national communities represents a difficulty because it adds further internal fragmentations and distinctions inside the main religious Islamic groups.

This hypothesis might be realized in those countries where the Islamic presence is already fragmented on the national territory as Italy and where the divisions among the main Islamic organizations are already based on the national origins of the components.

The last possible – as preferably preventable – scenario is that European Islamic communities and the migrants’ groups might clash in conflicts because of national or ideological differences or – more likely – because of their own interest of strengthening their presence on a specific territory.

The growth of national communities or the development of many divided communities based on the profession of different interpretations of the same religion might endanger the process of inclusion and the formation of a single and solid Islamic presence in Europe. In this final case, the contribution of the existing European Islamic communities is essential because they are called to be as much inclusive as possible, welcoming the traditions and the religious customs of the migrants.

This last perspective, in fact, may slow down the inclusive social processes, however it may be anticipated by studying the original religious cultures of the migrants and the possible reactions of the host Islamic communities.

In conclusion, it must be underlined that the Islamic communities must be supported by the national institutions in their work with the Muslim migrants because of two reasons: on one hand it is important for the national institutions to start creating new synergies with those religious groups that rarely participate in the national or local public initiatives, on the other hand the institutional supervision is needed in order to monitor the processes and to harmonize them in the whole national territory.

VI. Conclusion

The current European situation demonstrates that the migration crisis cannot be considered as an emergency any longer: the reasons of the origins of the migrations are still far from their final solution so the presence of refugees in Europe needs to be considered long-term.

In this study and in the elaboration of the most effective policies for the inclusion of the migrants in the European societies, it is necessary to assume an innovative approach to the migrants’ flows, starting to consider their religious and cultural features. The current migrations can be considered as a «Muslim» migration towards Europe because of the original countries of the flows and because of the will of the migrants to keep their religion and religious customs in the European context.

On the other hand, this Muslim migration cannot be considered as an Islamic «invasion» as some political parties or movements are used to claim because Muslims have always been part of the European society and the European heritage itself is the result of the encounter with the Mediterranean/Arab culture.

In the 90’s the Mediterranean region has become one of the main routes of the international migrations, however since 2014 the development of the so-called Islamic State represents the main reason that provoked the growth of the migrations from Middle East and Northern Africa.

Nowadays it seems sure that the migrations towards Europe will continue even after the eventual defeat of the IS because of the dramatic level of instability and destruction raised by the jihadist violence.

That is the reason why the EU and the European governments cannot consider the migrations as an impending emergency and it is necessary that they will start working on the elaboration of proper inclusive policies for the new Muslims that are going to live in the European Union, including actors of the civil society like the European Muslim communities.

Up to now the only one effort that the European governments are asking the Muslim communities is a peculiar alliance in the fight against islamist terrorism, especially after the jihadist attacks in Europe. On one hand this cooperation highlights the relevance of the Islamic communities in the European societies, however, on the other hand this kind of collaboration needs to be followed by a proper communication because these policies may feed the populist misrepresentation of the Muslim communities as potential hubs for jihadists and they may underrate their potential skills in the integration processes of the Muslim migrants.

As presented in the last paragraph of the paper, the encounter of the Muslim migrants with the Islamic communities may produce several results and outputs, however it seems highly probable that the inclusion of the Muslim communities in the integration processes can accelerate the transmission of the so-called European values by the Islamic communities that might act as a reliable driver of dialogue and integration.

Moreover, the current flows can be considered «Muslim migrations» also because it is evident that the result of these fluxes is a more consistent Islamic presence in the EU, a presence that will launch social, cultural, religious and political challenges to the European countries.

In conclusion, it must be underlined that the European Union and the EU Member States are called to respond to these challenges with innovative and effective legal tools that may protect the European citizens from the risks of the growing European jihadist groups and the European Muslim communities from any kind of discrimination.

The increasing level of anti-Muslim feelings in the public opinion can constitute a relevant barrier in the dialogue with the refugees and with the European Muslims and Europe must elaborate an effective legal, political and cultural policy aimed to the elimination of the racist stereotypes and to the repression of islamophobic actions and discourses.

Democracy, social inclusion, protection against discriminations, elimination of the social barriers in order to guarantee the development of the individuals and of the community constitute the significant core of the alleged European values and in this time of the European history, the European Union and the EU Member States are challenged by the Muslim migrations and by the Mediterranean crisis to find a proper way to realize those values in the contemporary scenario.


[1] The so-called Islamic State is a Jihadist organization that is mainly active in Syria and in Iraq that is the reason why the first names of this organization have been Isis («the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria») or Isil («Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant»).

As a successor of the group Al-Qaida in Iraq («AQI»), the Is came into being in 2006 under the name of «Islamic State of Iraq» (ISI).

The instability generated by the Syrian civil war in 2011 facilitated the expansion of the group in Syria. In this moment the organization started to use the name «Islamic State of Iraq and Syria» (Isis) and gathered its own forces under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

More recently the militants of the Islamic State occupied other territories in Maghreb (for example in Libya) and in Africa.

[2] In the last two years, for the first time in the European history, many jihadist attacks took place in Europe and a great number of people died during these killings.

The first attack has been organized in Paris in January 2015 when 16 people died. The office of the satirical magazine «Charlie Hebdo» has been attacked by some terrorists on January 7th and on January 9th a Jewish supermarket has been under attack.

On 14th February 2015 in Copenhagen, a man has been shot and three people have been wounded during a conference on freedom of expression organized by Lars Vilks, author of many satirical sketches about the Prophet Mohammed.

The jihadist violence did not stop and other attacks have been carried out in Paris in November 2015 when 130 people died in three different but coordinate attacks. A group of terrorists attacked the popular Parisian theatre Bataclan during a concert killing 90 people; a man died in an explosion near the Stade de France and 39 people have been shot in the bars and cafes of the 11th arrondissement.

On 22nd March 2016 three simultaneous attacks killed 31 people in Brussels (two attacks at Zaventern airport and one in Malbeek metro station).

France is the country that has been more attacked by jihadists and during the 2016 national festivity of July 14th a man killed 87 people in Nice driving a cargo truck in the crowd that was celebrating the Bastille Day. The last terrorist attack in Europe has taken place in Berlin where another jihadist drove a cargo truck over the crowd in Berlin downtown and killed 12 people.

[3] Anis Amri was a Tunisian jihadist terrorist who probably has been radicalized during his 4-years stay in the jail of Palermo, Sicily.

[4] Both in the jihadist and in the islamophobic discourses, the term jihad is used to indicate the duty of the «holy» war of the Muslims against those who are considered infidels or enemies of Islam.

[5] Burkini is a swimsuit designed for women who want to cover their body and their head.

In summer 2016 the use of burkini has been very debated in France and across Europe: near Marseille a private event was organized in a water park and it was dedicated to the women who wanted to wear burkini. This event has been very criticized and it was canceled.

Few days later, in Cannes a municipal ordinance banned the use of religious clothing on the beach and, on August 15, a similar decision has been taken by the Mayor of the French city Sisco, after a fight which took place in the beach of the town.

[6] Reports on the evolution of the implementation of the relocation of migrants and the general European Agenda on Migration are available at:

[7] Of course this kind of accusation must be considered as false and nonsense because the EU democratic decisional procedures involve the institutional representatives of the European citizens following the mechanism of the representative democracy.

[8] Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights states: «1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others».

[9] Article 10 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union states: «1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or in private, to manifest religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

2. The right to conscientious objection is recognised, in accordance with the national laws governing the exercise of this right».

[10] Acuerdo de cooperación is an agreement of cooperation signed by the State and the confession.

[11] The individual rights regulated by the acuerdo de cooperación are the legal effects of religious marriage; religious assistance in the Armed Forces; the right to religious assistance in jails, hospitals, retirement homes and similar public centers; the right to religious teaching in public schools; and the right to observe days of rest and to celebrate religious holidays.

[12] Collective rights regulated by the acuerdo de cooperación are the right to have proper places for the worship and proper cemeteries; the right to nominate ministers of the cult with a professional secret; the right to be part of the Regimen General de la Seguridad Social; the right to receive and organize offerings; the right to the exemption of certain taxes; the right to establish centers to provide charitable activities; the right to maintain relations with their organizations and with other faiths, in Spain or abroad; the right to protect and promote the own religious and cultural heritage and the protection of the traditions concerning alimentation and food.

[13] Victims of islamophobia are mainly veiled women because they are more recognizable as Muslims.

[14] Anti-islamophobia laws are demanded by the Islamic communities and they are necessary because regulations of this kind would also allow the detection of these episodes: the greatest part of the studies on islamophobia in Europe are based on surveys of associations, however a strict anti-islamophobia regulation would permit police officials and governments to provide clear and objective data.


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Michele Gradoli

LUISS Guido Carli University | Department of Political Science | Italia

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