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The Globalization of Islam >
State Administration of Religion

The fear that Islam and Muslims in the West constitute a potential fifth column precipitated policies by several European governments that sought to control the leadership and the message of the mosque. For example, the Spanish constitution declares that Spain is a secular state; at the same time, it allows the state to enter into agreements with religious bodies. Due to fears about the potential influence of radical imams on prisoners, pastoral care became regulated by the Islamic Commission of Spain that was put in charge of accrediting imams. In 2007, Muslim prison chaplains were placed on the state payroll as long as they serve at least 10 or more prisoners. The Spanish National Intelligence Center reports were to be taken into consideration when assessing imams. As of 2008, there were about 7,000 Muslims in the Spanish prison system. Furthermore, the Spanish government funds cultural activities in Muslim communities through a grants program which in 2008 amounted to over 700,000 Euros or 40% of the total given to minority religious communities. Attendance at Catholic military services by non-Catholic soldiers was made voluntary in 2009.

Other European countries also initiated policies that sought to control the leadership of mosques. In 2004 the Danish Parliament passed the “Imam Law” which specified that imams must speak Danish and must respect Western values. After the murder of van Gogh, the Netherlands passed an imam law. In the Netherlands, imams were required to watch videos that promoted Dutch values, which included images of topless women.

Along with attempts to regulate what can be preached as Islam, various governments sought to limit the number of asylum seekers. A 2003 Asylum and Immigration Bill in the UK introduced electronic tagging and reduced the number of appeals that an asylum seeker can use. It decreased the number of days for applying for financial support to three days from entering the country. The government deported 500 suspected extremists after the 2005 bombing. In 2006, parliament passed the Racial and Religious Hatred Act which while affording Muslims certain protections it made it illegal to promote religious hatred. A 2012 marriage immigration law set up certain minimum economic status in order for the foreign spouse to reside in the UK. Other legislation that the British government has undertaken includes anti-terrorism acts which grant the government more rights in detaining terrorism suspects without charges or trials. Despite this, the UK is considered the destination of choice by asylum seekers.

Muslims comprise an estimated 50% of the prison inmate population of France and the situation is worse in some jails in the Paris and Marseille regions that number reaches 80%. A 2005 report from the National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies found that unemployment among those of French origin was 9.2% whereas it was 14% for those of foreign backgrounds even taking into account educational qualifications. The overall unemployment rate for graduates of French origin was 5% compared with 26.5% of university graduates of Northern African descent. Even in the face of these forms of discrimination, religious practice appears to be increasing in France. A 2009 survey by IFOP found an increase in mosque attendance as 23% of Muslims attend regularly instead of 16% in 1989, greater observance of Ramadan as 70% fasted in contrast to 60% in 1989, and 6% had made the pilgrimage to Mecca compared with 4% in 1989.

The German state has vacillated in its reactions to its growing Muslim minority. The state has been unwilling to recognize Muslims officially as a religious community and thus unwilling to provide the attendant tax and financial benefits enjoyed by other groups. The German government has seemed reluctant to devote the necessary resources in schools for immigrant children. Chancellor Merkel has maintained ties with Turkey and has sought to emphasize the importance of Turkish Muslims in German society. In 2002, the German Foreign Office began a project of “Dialogue with the Islamic World” which supported cultural, educational, professional, and scientific exchanges with the Islamic world.

In response to this situation, the first Islam Conference was held in 2009. Incorporating Muslim organizations and individuals, as well as federal, state, and local representatives of the German government, the conference was intended to initiate dialogue in the wider community and to discuss the integration of Muslims into German society. The next Islam Conference took place the following year and sought to translate the dialogue into concrete practices, law, and politics. However, several major Muslim organizations boycotted the conference, which was criticized for not properly engaging the Muslim community and being less transparent and concerned with Islamophobia.

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