IB NEWS… The population of Muslims in Western Europe has been steadily rising in recent decades, largely due to immigration from the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa.
In Southeastern Europe, much of which once formed part of the Ottoman Empire, Muslims have been present for many centuries, but they are a relatively new phenomenon in the western part of the continent.
On the whole, Muslim’s represent about 5 percent of the population of the EU 27.
Far-right politicians in Europe have long warned that the Muslim numbers will continue to grow due to higher birth rates. Marine Le Pen, the head of France’s anti-immigrant National Front party, who openly discusses the rising number Muslims in France, could conceivably win next year’s presidential election, according to polls.
While the percentage of Muslims as part of the overall population of western European nations are in single digits, a 2009 study by the Telegraph newspaper in the UK estimated that by 2050, Muslims will account for 20 percent of the European Union’s populace. Long before that, Britain, Spain and The Netherlands will reach and surpass that figure.
In large urban cities, Muslims already account for a significant portion of the population For example, it is believed that one-fourth of the residents of Brussels, Belgium are Islamic. Moreover, at least three of Brussels’ 19 sections already have Muslim majorities.
Here are the nations of Western Europe with the largest Muslim populations (by percentage). Data comes from Islamicpopulation.com and are as of 2008, so they are likely to be somewhat conservative estimates:
Muslims came to Austria during the 1960s as migrant workers from Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. Vienna is now estimated to be 10 percent Muslim.
The recent arrival of illegal North African migrants onto Italy’s Mediterranean island of Lampedusa has placed the subject to Muslim immigration on the agenda, However Italy’s Muslim population is relatively low compared to its neighbors. The anti-immigrant Northern league want to halt further migration as well as stop the construction of any more mosques on Italian soil.
United Kingdom (2.8%)
British Muslims are overwhelmingly from Pakistan and Bangladesh, a community that has had deep roots in the UK for at least fifty years. UK Muslims are concentrated in the urban areas and are among Britain’s poorest and worst-educated and housed. Muslims in the UK have been heavily scrutinized since the 2001 terrorist attacks in the US, and tie 2005 bombings in London.
In the early 1970s many Muslims emigrated to Denmark from Turkey, Pakistan, Bosnia and Morocco, Later asylum-seekers arrived in huge numbers, mostly from Iraq, Iran, Gaza and Somalia.
The majority of Swiss Muslims are from Kosovo in the former Yugoslavia, with large numbers from Turkey as well. The construction of mosques in Switzerland has become a contentious political issue. In 2007 the city council of Bern rejected a proposal to build a large Islamic cultural center.
Immigration by Muslims into Sweden commenced in the 1970s, A great many are from Iraq and Iran, with sizable numbers from the former Yugoslavia.
Belgium’s Muslims, who are concentrated in Brussels, are generally from Turkey or Morocco.
The majority of Muslims in Germany are Turkish, who have been in the country in large numbers since in 1960s, when they were invited as “guest workers.”
Most Muslims in Holland originated in Morocco and Turkey, who were recruited by the Dutch government in the 1960s. Politicians are increasingly questioning the place of Islam in a modern secular Holland. In 2004, Mohammed Bouyeri, a Dutch citizen of Moroccan descent murdered film director Theo van Gogh who made a film critical of Islam.
The anti-immigrant politician Geert Wilders of the Dutch Party for Freedom was put on trial last year for inciting racial hatred.
France has Western Europe’s largest Muslim population by far, the vast majority of whom come from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco (all former French colonies). In recent years, France has seen riots by Muslim youths in the bleak suburbs outside of Paris and other cities, over poverty and discrimination. French President Nicholas Sarkozy has called for a national debate on Islam in France and has repeatedly called for the banning of Muslim outerwear like the hijab.