“Islam holds a place in our Western societies.
Islam belongs in Europe.
It holds a place in Europe’s history, in our culture, in our food and – what matters most – in Europe’s present and future.
… the very idea of a clash of civilisations is at odds with the most basic values of our European Union.”
– Federica Mogherini,
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy
and Vice-President of the European Commission
This is an abridged version of the speech delivered by Federica Mogherini at the “Call to Europe V: Islam in Europe” conference held in Brussels, Belgium on June 24th, 2015.
Let me begin by thanking Massimo D’Alema for organising this conference and for inviting me. As I told him while entering this room, this conference shows we are finally approaching the question of Islam and Europe from the right perspective, after years – or decades – of misunderstandings.
I will start with an anecdote. I graduated two years before 9/11 and it was hard at that time to find a professor who would accept that political Islam could be the subject for a dissertation in political science. Italy has a great university system, but I had to go to France with the Erasmus programme to find someone who would consider Islam as a topic not for history, or literature, or cultural studies thesis, but for political science.
On Islam, Diversity & Clash of Civilisations
A lot has changed since then. In the following years the idea of a clash between Islam and “the West” – a word in which everything is put together and confused – has misled our policies and our narratives. Islam holds a place in our Western societies. Islam belongs in Europe.
It holds a place in Europe’s history, in our culture, in our food and – what matters most – in Europe’s present and future. Like it or not, this is the reality.
As Europeans, we should be proud of our diversity. The fear of diversity comes from weakness, not from a strong culture.
I shall be even more clear on that: the very idea of a clash of civilisations is at odds with the most basic values of our European Union – let alone with reality. Throughout our European history, many have tried to unify our continent by imposing their own power, their own ideology, their own identity against the identity of someone else. With the European project, after World War II, not only we accepted diversity: we expressed a desire for diversity to be a core feature of our Union. We defined our civilisation through openness and plurality: a mind-set based on blocs does not belong to us.
On Europe & Islam common fight
Some people are now trying to convince us that a Muslim cannot be a good European citizen, that more Muslims in Europe will be the end of Europe. These people are not just mistaken about Muslims: these people are mistaken about Europe – that is my core message – they have no clue what Europe and the European identity are.
This is our common fight: to make this concept accepted both in Europe and beyond Europe.
For Europe and Islam face some common challenges in today’s world. The so-called Islamic State is putting forward an unprecedented attempt to pervert Islam for justifying a wicked political and strategic project.
Western media like to refer to Daʼesh with the world “medieval”. This does not help much to understand the real nature of the threat we are facing. Daʼesh is something completely new. This is a modern movement, reinterpreting religion in an innovative and radical way.
Grand Imam of al Azhar weighs in
It is a movement that, rather than preserving Islam, wants us to trash centuries of Islamic culture in the name of their atrocities. Da’esh is not a State, and it is not a State for Islam. The Grand Imam of al Azhar, Ahmed el Tayeb, argued: “There is no Islamic State, but a number of Islamic countries that the terrorists are trying to destroy”. This is the
reality we face and we don’t say this often, but we should do so to dismantle their narrative. Sometimes, by describing the atrocities of Da’esh, we do them a favour: atrocities are part of their propaganda. The more we describe them as evil, the happier they are.
Daʼesh is Islam’s worst enemy in today’s world. Its victims are first and foremost Muslim people. Islam is a victim itself.
First of all, I believe the Daʼesh propaganda fills a void, a vacuum. The terrorists are recruiting people who feel they do not hold a place in their own communities, that they do not belong in their own societies.
Lessons from Tunisia
I was very much impressed, when I was visiting Tunis … Tunisia is a modern country and still is one of the countries with the highest number of foreign fighters in Da’esh. I asked a young girl, very engaged with civil society, why she believed so many people her age were joining Daʼesh. She told me something I will never forget: you know, people my age in Tunisia feel they have no place in the organigram. They are looking for their own box, for a role, for defining who they are. They ask: where is my place? What is my role? This is the real challenge not only in the Arab world, but here in Europe.
That is why I believe the best way to prevent radicalisation in Europe and in our region is not only education, but also employment. We have so many well educated and frustrated young people, with a lot of energy, a lot of willingness to find their place in their society and their community. And they have lost hope that they will be able to do so.
Read the complete speech at the source:
About Federica Mogherini
Federica Mogherini is the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission since 1st November 2014. She was the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs from February to October 2014 and a Member of the Italian Parliament (Chamber of Deputies), where she was elected for the first time in 2008.
During her terms in parliament, Mogherini was the Head of the Italian Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and Vice-President of its Political Committee (2013-2014); member of the Italian Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (2008-2013); Secretary of the Defence Committee (2008-2013) and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. She also coordinated the Inter-Parliamentary Group for Development Cooperation.
Federica Mogherini is a member of IAI – Istituto Affari Internazionali – and a fellow of the German Marshall Fund for the United States. She is also a member of the European Leadership Network for Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (ELN) and of the Group of Eminent Persons (GEM) of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).
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