Islam in Europe
Europe has been influenced by Islam ever since the Moors first conquered al-Andalus in what is now Spain and Portugal in the early 8th century.
While Spain came under Muslim rule for more than 700 years, historians report that Islam also reached other parts of Europe under its own steam, from Russia to Italy.
Sicily, some southern Italian islands, Constantinople (now Istanbul), the Balkans, the southern parts of France, the Russian Caucusus, Switzerland and parts of Romania experienced some sort of Muslim settlement when Islam was still in its infancy.
In the modern era, the Muslim-dominated European countries are Albania, Kosovo and Turkey as well as the former Soviet states of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Muslims in Bosnia comprise the largest single faction, though they are outnumbered by Roman Catholics and Serbian Orthodox followers put together.
Muslims with deep roots in Europe also make up significant minority populations in countries such as Russia, Bulgaria and Macedonia while mostly immigrant Muslims can be found in large numbers in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The number of Muslims throughout Europe is estimated to be about 115 million, with Turkey’s 67 million, France’s 6 million and Germany’s 4 million accounting for most of them.
While Muslims have tried to integrate into society in countries in which they are a minority, they have faced problems given the mistrust many Europeans harbor toward Islam.
Recent frictions, fueled by the perception of Muslims are terrorists have not helped. In France, the government has banned women from wearing hijab to schools (in addition to symbols of faith from other religions), Denmark had to deal the reaction of Muslims to newspapers cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) as a terrorist while xenophobic abuse is not unusual in many European countries.