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Making European Muslims­­

Completed project

These pages show completed projects. Note that the pages and descriptions have not been updated since the project ended.


Making European Muslims: 
Islam and the Struggle over Beliefs, Perceptions and Identities among Children and Young People in Western Europe

Two-day conference in Copenhagen, Denmark

Friday 28 to Saturday 29 October, 2011

Organized by the Arab and Islamic Studies Unit and the Child and Youth Unit, Aarhus University

Discussants: Professor Michael Merry (University of Amsterdam) and Professor Jørgen Nielsen (University of Copenhagen)

As states and politicians in North-Western Europe focus more and more on the “integration” of Muslim populations, the religion of Islam becomes ever more controversial. While the focus of attention is often elsewhere, it is among children and young people that the struggle over the making of Europe’s Muslim citizens is most intense. Although some European Muslim children attend private schools catering to students of Muslim background, most attend public schools operated by the states in which they reside, and it is in these schools, above all, that religious beliefs, perceptions and identities are contested and constructed. The conference explores the processes and interests involved and their outcomes.

Previous studies have pointed out the importance of Islam as an identity marker and as a common point of reference for schoolchildren with minority backgrounds. Less attention, however, has been paid to ways in which Islam is constructed in changing social, intellectual and cultural contexts, and how boundaries between religion and culture are negotiated and shifted. These, along with the construction of identities, are among the focal points of the conference.


Conference aims and objectives

The conference has a dual purpose: to broaden perspectives in relation to an ongoing Danish project on Islam and Muslims in Danish public schools, and to establish the foundations for a multi-author book, Making European Muslims: Islam and the Struggle over Beliefs, Perceptions and Identities among Children and Young People in Western Europe, with a target publication date of 2014. The book will be arranged thematically rather than geographically: rather than attempting comprehensive coverage of the European scene, it will focus on the most significant issues and interfaces.

The topics to be explored include, but are not limited to:

  • Broader contexts. These include conceptions of secularism and the interplay between politics, the media, and schools. What are the views of educational authorities and school managements on the proper place of religion in general, and of Islam in particular, in education? How do political imperatives and media stories develop, and what impact do they have?
  • Classrooms. The classroom is where the individual Muslim child meets the school, and thus indirectly meets relevant broader contexts. What processes are involved in the formation of identities among Muslim and non-Muslim children? What perceptions of religion and of Islam are formed? What beliefs are created, confirmed, and excluded?
  • Families. The school is only one environment in which children grow up. The family is also extremely important, and differences between family and school environments and authorities create conflicts that children must resolve or negotiate. How do Muslim families (and especially parents) view public schools and the values and practices they promote? How do parents respond to whatever conflicts they perceive? How to children navigate between the worlds of home and classroom?’
  • Outcomes. What are the perceptions of each other, and understandings of Islam and of religion in general with which children--Muslim and also non-Muslim—emerge? Are there specific Danish or European ways to be Muslim? What identity issues emerge from the experiences in schools? And in what ways do different kinds of public schools open different identity spaces?


The program is available here.


There is a possibility for a limited number of people who are not giving papers to attend the conference. All those interested are invited to contact Laura Gilliam.