Muslims in interwar Europe: A Transcultural Historical Perspective

The study of Muslims in interwar Europe is a rising and intriguing field of research. No comprehensive attempt has yet been made to cover the history of Muslims in interwar Europe. The history of Muslims in Europe during this period is still fragmented into various fields of study as a side aspect of other issues. Historians of the modern Middle East underestimate the role of interwar Muslim actors in writing a history of Islam, whereas historians of Europe underestimate their role in intra-European developments. Some of these works deal with Muslims in interwar Europe as part of Middle Eastern and Asian history, colonial studies or briefly as related to European migration history. Other historians deliver nationally focused narratives of the Muslim presence in western, central, and eastern European territories focused on specific countries, framed within a national history. The talk thus emphasizes the interconnections between Muslim religiosity, political activism, and modernity in interwar Europe by considering them as complex, borderless, self-organized, cross-cultural, and multi-ethnic groups. Here there is a focus on the idea of the entanglement of Muslim and European memories as “parallel histories.” Studying Muslim networks in interwar Europe from this perspective of “entanglement,” and “trans-culturality” with and within Europe will, therefore, be useful in creating a global approach and a bigger picture by avoiding the numerous traps of the politics of forgetting or selective remembering beyond the historical narrative of the nation-state. The talk represents a step towards a systematic global approach of Muslim connections in interwar Europe. More historical reflection on Islam in Europe can put the present “fear” for Islamization of the West into perspective.

Umar Ryad (Utrecht)