Importance of the meeting
The Portugal-based international academic Research Network MEL-net (Muçulmanos em Espaços Lusófonos; Muslims in Portuguese Speaking Areas, hosted at ICS-UL) and the initiative “Our Shared Europe” (British Council) share as one of their major objectives to provide a space for academic and public debate on current issues which relate to Muslims in Europe. After having realized the workshop and symposium on Muslims in Europe and Islamopobia in April 2010, this second joint mission of international scope, entitled At the Margins of Europe? Muslims in Finland, Ireland and Portugal will further contribute to this goal at integrating new collaboration partners, as the Lisbon-based Gulbenkian Foundation and the above named research projects hosted at the departments of the Study of Religion of the University of Helsinki and the Irish University College Cork.
Apart from eleven expert speakers (nine from abroad, two Portugal based), the event can count on two-three pioneering and leading authors in the field of Muslims in Europe as discussants.
Research interest and state of the art which relate to Muslim communities in present-day Europe is usually more advanced in those countries which count on a numerically stronger and historically slightly earlier established Muslim presence, such as France, Britain and Germany, countries which also hold a more prominent position in the EU. This workshop presents an important opportunity to gain comparative insights in the societal, legal and historical experience of and with Muslim communities in more marginal European countries, such as Finland, Ireland and Portugal. For all three countries, immigration at large is a historically more recent phenomenon then in the core countries, and they present a smaller percentage of Muslim citizens and members of society. And still, all three countries show specific cases, diverse Muslim communities and processes of establishment. The Portuguese example makes this particularly clear, as its Muslim presence must be understood as a postcolonial rather than a recent immigration phenomenon. In Finland, there has been a permanent (but very small) Muslim community since the 1870s (in their fifth generation by now), while the majority of Muslim residents only arrived from the 1990s onwards; the latter being the case of Ireland. In Portugal, again, it is also since the 1990s that its Muslim community experiences a diversification due to immigration.
What are the different historical linkages and experiences with Islam in these countries? Which legal positions, policies and forms of engagements shape the societal experience of and with Muslims?
The workshop provided a platform for comparative debate on such similarities and particularities by bringing together experts on Muslims in Finland, Ireland and Portugal.