LINKS launches program “Europe and the Islamic World”.

Muslims make up a sizeable part of the European population, and Muslim nations are Europe’s neighbours to the south and the south-east. Europe’s relations with the Islamic world are therefore not to be based on bigotry. They need to be built on mutual respect, tolerance, a deeper understanding of each other, and honest and dignified dialogue.  This dialogue between Europe and the Islamic world can no longer be conducted on the fringe of political society. It is one that with which the mainstream of European society, as well as its political elites, need to engage in with vigour.

Events in and around Europe, in the first months of 2015, have raised important issues about the state of relations between Europe and the Islamic World.

The year started badly with the terrorist attacks in France targeting the magazine Charlie Hebdo. A month later similar violence hit the Danish capital, Copenhagen. The overall feeling in Europe is that these were attacks against basic values of freedom of ideas and freedom of speech which underpin contemporary European societies. After Paris and after Copenhagen we saw unprecedented unity between citizens and leaders across Europe, calling for steadfastness in the face of senseless violence.

At the same time, in Europe’s immediate neighbourhood to the south and the south-east, the last few months have also seen disturbing events, as violent groups, particularly the so called “Islamic State”, perpetrated despicable acts of cruelty against Muslims and Christians alike, in territories that came under their control. Christian and Muslim leaders and others united in their condemnation of these atrocities.

Yet there were also those who took advantage of the situation to try to whip-up anti-Muslim hysteria in European societies. The incidence of Islamophobia in Europe is on the increase, as in many ways are anti-semitism and xenophobia, and other expressions of intollerance. This is now a serious challenge to our societies as we know them.

Muslims make up a sizeable part of the European population, and Muslim nations are Europe’s neighbours to the south and the south-east. Europe’s relations with the Islamic world are therefore not to be based on bigotry. They need to be built on mutual respect, tolerance, a deeper understanding of each other, and honest and dignified dialogue.  This dialogue between Europe and the Islamic world can no longer be conducted on the fringe of political society. It is one that with which the mainstream of European society, as well as its political elites, need to engage in with vigour.

In order to contribute to this process, LINKS (Dialogue, Analysis and Research) has recently launched a program with the theme “Europe and the Islamic World: there is more that unites us than divides us.” A spokesperson for LINKS said: “Over the next year we will work with partners in the European Union and wider Europe, and in the Islamic world to provide a space for this dialogue, and to contribute towards spreading a message of peace and tolerance and mutual respect. We are also looking forward to conducting research and analysis that will help inform our work in this area. Although this area of work is not new for LINKS, we will be making this work one of our main prioirities for 2015/16.”

For more information you may contact Europe and the Islamic World Programme at LINKS (Dialogue, Analysis and Research) at info@links-dar.org.