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Az alábbiakban olvashatók mindazok az események melyek velem szakmai pályám alatt megestek, vagy amelyek befolyással voltak rá. Kedves Olvasó! Kérlek jóindulattal olvasd soraimat és ha érdekesnek, tanulságosnak, esetleg szórakoztatónak találod meséld tovább ismerőseidnek. Pap Norbert

2012. november 24., szombat

Muslims in East-Central Europe (lecture)

15-16/11/2012 International Conference on Cultural Diversity and the Geopolitics of Minorities, Pécs (Hungary)
Plenary Session
Author: Norbert PAP PhD

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today I am going to talk to you about the rapid islamization of Europe and its impact of East Central Europe, the political and cultural consequences.

If we look at this map of Europe you can see that in the north, west, south and east of ECE  the rate of the Muslim population is higher than the regional avarege, and in some places e.g. in the Balkans, homogeneous Muslim zones can be found. As you can see, the examined region is an intermediate zone, a hole in the map of Europe, being a continent where islamization is in process. What are the explanations for this? How have the Muslims settled down?

Based on the 2011 survey of the Pew Institute 43 million Muslims live in Europe, which is 5.8% of the total European population. According to the 2030 prognosis this number may increase to 57 million, that is change to 7.8% of the full population. On the next table  you can see the country specific figures.

Muslims (number of people)
Their proportion of the population
Muslims (number of people)
Their proportion of the population
Czech Republic*

Central East   Europe total
Source: Pew Research Institute, 2011  http://features.pewforum.org/muslim-population/

Within this, a total of 130 thousand Muslims can be found in the five East Central European countries that we studied, where their ratio is less than one per thousand. According to the 2030 prognosis there is either a stagnation or a decline in the number of people, the ratio does not change substantially.  

It should be noted that there are other surveys and data as well, but the figures do not reasonably differ.  

How do these communities get to the region? Partly they have been living in the region for a longer period of time, they are of Turkish or Tatar origin. The other group of a similar size got to this area due to the migration in the past few decades. They are mostly Arabs but smaller groups of settlers have arrived also from other parts of the Islamic world (Turks, Albanians, Bosnians, Chechens and Afghan refugees). A small but growing group is composed of the local Muslims who changed religion, they converted to the Islam.

The usual explanation to diversity is the past that can be characterized by a communist and a locked-in period. The region was left out of the modern migration that emerged in the western part of the continent in the 20th century.

It is a potential explanation that the region also missed modern colonization. In these cases there were no cultural and personal relations between the nations which could give direction of the migration. There are other factors to consider such as the open or closed nature of the host country, the labour market characteristics or the quality of higher education and its attractivity. The East Central European countries joined the modern migration processes relatively late and not as hosting but more like as sending countries. The main reasons why they came ECE: to study, to do business or as the case may have been, as asylum seekers. The prognoses do not show the likelihood of higher population growth and it can not be expected that a lot of new gaps would open up that could attract employees from Muslim countries.

How have the followers of Islam settled down, in what way have they arranged their way of life? The legal backgrounds of the religious groups varies in the ECE countries but the acceptance is tied to the number of people involved.

In Poland and in Rumania Islam has been accepted and the Church of Islam has been registered for a longer period of time. In the other states, however, its organizations were established during the past 25 years. The only state where there is no recognition of their religious nature is Slovakia. However, the civil sector evolved (developed) everywhere and it provides an appropriate background for the communal demands. Their activities are financed to a lesser degree by the state, mainly in Poland and in Rumania, but external funding also appears here as well, mostly from Turkey. The financing of the Muslim communities is not transparent enough, the Zakat (Islamic charity) plays an important role in this issue. Among others private individuals and organizations from the rich Arab oil states give money for the operation, construction of mosques. This is the relation that fills the authorities with suspicion. It is assumed that Islamic fundamentalist or maybe terrorism-related organizations provide the money.

All the divisions that characterize the community appear in the civil sphere. The major dividing lines extend between the “old” Muslims and newly arrived ones, Sunnis and Shiites, “local” Muslims (converts) and immigrants. 
The situation in Hungary well illlustrates the whole of ECE. Three major organizations have been developed recently. Based on the 1990 legal regulations it was relatively easy to found religious organizations and that was how the Sunni Muslim organizations were established. The Hungarian Islamic Community is the oldest organization which was founded by Balázs Mihályffy in 1988. The church leader (president) is Zoltán Bolek from Hungary and the members are typically Hungarians, too. They regularly organize national and international charitable events, they sustain Muslim missions in the refugee camps and carry out pastoral care in prisons.

The Muslim Church of Hungary, which was established in 2000, parted from the former organization. Its two subcentres can be found in Szeged and in Pécs. It is a member of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe. Its leader is Zoltán Sulok, there are a large number of foreign-born believers among its members.  

The third and smallest organization, which was established the latest, is the Islamic Church with its headquarter located in Budapest in the Dar as-Salam Mosque. The Islamic Church was established in 2003 on the basis of the initiative of some of the believers who parted from the Muslim Church of Hungary. The religious leader is Tayseer Saleh of Palestinian origin, who is believed to be following salafi tenets.

In the situation that evolved after the New Church Law had been adopted, the Muslim organizations were bound to join forces and the two largest ones of them (the Hungarian Islamic Community and the Muslim Church of Hungary) created the Islamic Council of Hungary in 2012. Currently this organization takes care of the representation of the Muslims in Hungary as stated in the law.

In Hungary there are several active civil Muslim organizations. The Dialogue Platform Association was established in 2005 with Turkish and Hungarian members and it is bound to the Gülen movement. The Aluakf foundation operates in Miskolc and it maintains a prayer house also in Miskolc. The Hanif Cultural Foundation has outstanding merits concerning their publishing activities. Organizations and operations of a similar type appear in the other countries.

In what way do Muslim private individuals and organizations appear in the dimension of politics? 

Political appearances have two main features. One of them is that they appear in public speeches, in the media tied to foreign policy issues, to the hot spots of world politics (Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, caricature scandal, Mohamed film etc.). This is more or less well-known and dealt with, I would not speak about this here and now.

The other sphere of phenomena is related to building mosques.   
Currently mosques and Islamic cultural institutions represent the objectified targets of debates concerning Islam. The construction of new mosques and especially minarets divides the non-Muslim societies throughout the world. In Islam, the mosque  (masǧid / مسجد) is the “place for bowing” in other words. The so-called djami (جامع), the “place for gathering” is nothing else but the the so-called great mosque, where the Friday prayers are held.  
In Poland there are only three mosques in the classical sense. Two of them can be found in the north-eastern corner of the country, in Podlasie Voivodeship, built by the Polish community of Tatars. One of them was built in the 18th century, the other one in a rural area in the 19th century and the third one in Gdansk in 1990. In addition to these Islamic cultural centres and prayer houses (about 10) were also set up.      
Facilities associated with Islam generally do not evoke intense emotions or opposition in the Polish society, only very little evidence can be brought up regarding this. One of the very rare exceptions was the demonstration against (and also in favour of!) the establishment of the Muslim Cultural centre in Warsaw in early 2010. The demonstration was organized by the Polish organization named the “Europe of the Future”. The authorities did not intervene, the protest did not reach its goal. Despite this phenomenon, it can be said that regarding the mosque issue, the Polish society and the polish state belong to the most tolerant ones in East Central Europe. 

In the Czech Republic numerous initiatives were born and burnt to ashes typically due to the opposition from local residents. The first mosque was built in Brno in 1998 after fierce battles with the local authorities. A year later a second such facility was completed near Prague. Besides these there are prayer rooms in the country, in the university centres and spas (frequently visited by rich Arabs from the Near East). 

In Slovakia the right to build places of worship is the right of the religious denimonations. There was an experiment for the establishment of an Islamic cultural facility with a similar function in Bratislava but based on “cityscape protection” considerations the initiative was rejected. There are three-four prayer rooms in Bratislava and countryside centres.

In Rumania a large number of mosques were built back in the Ottoman era. A century ago their number exceeded 250. Today 77 works, mostly in Dobrogea but there is also a newly built one in Bucharest. Building a mosque or a church is the legal right of every registered religion, including also the 700-year-old Islam. That is why the context of building mosques in Rumania is very different from that of in other states of East Central Europe. Arguments concerning this topic are not known.

The case of Hungary is rather unique from several points of view. A few historic mosques remained from the Ottoman era. One of them can be found in Esztergom. It was restored recently and is used as a museum. From among the historic mosques in Baranya county, the Ali Pasha Mosque in Szigetvár and the Gazi Kasim Pasha Mosque in Pécs are consecrated Catholic churches. However, as a result of the monument reconstruction, the original architecture looks excellent. The Siklós Malkocs Bey Mosque and the Pécs Jakovali Hassan Mosque are museums. However, they are regularly used for religious purposes as well by the local Muslim believers. There has not been a classical domed mosque with a minaret built recently in Hungary, and there is only one of that kind in the country’s historical area in Subotica, in the area of the present-day Serbia.  Besides these there are 8 so called mosques (prayer houses and prayer rooms) in the country, they are Islamic centres.

However, an anti-Islamic protest took place in the 11th district of Budapest when the Islam Church began to build a new mosque and cultural centre, otherwise on the basis of valid permits. When the local residents started their protest they referred to the expected growth of traffic, the environmental load, noise and also an increased terrorist threat. The construction was also added to the political debates on Home Affairs in the 2010 election year. In the end the construction was made to be impossible and the local authorities withdrew the building permit.   

The political debates primarily take place within the local society, there are no nationwide significance.

Thank you for your attention!

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