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Spread of Islam in the Modern World, The

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Atlas of the World’s Religions, Second Edition What is This? Depicts the historical development and present state of the world's major religions

    Spread of Islam in the Modern World, The

    THE HISTORICAL presence of Islam in Europe can be traced back to the rule of Muslim empires: the Umayyads in Spain, the Fatimids in Sicily and the Ottomans in eastern Europe. The population of Muslim Spain and Sicily remained essentially Christian, but the number of converts to Islam in eastern Europe was considerable; the two largest homogeneous Muslim communities in eastern Europe, the Albanian and the Bosnian, date back to the fifteenth century. Eastern European Muslims are mostly Sunni, of the Hanafite legal school, with some Shi'is (Alevis) in Bulgaria.

    Spread of Islam in the Modern World, The

    2. Islam in Europe today

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    Five centuries of Ottoman rule over Albania resulted in a majority Muslim population (c.70 per cent) at the time of independence in 1912 . A communist ban ( 1967 – 85 ) on all religious activities affected the three main religious communities: Muslim, Greek Orthodox and Catholic. However, a religious revival during the 1990s opened the country up to missionaries of other denominations. About two million, mainly Muslim, ethnic Albanians used to live in the Kosovo province of modern-day Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro). After General Tito's death in 1980 the fragile ethnic and national balance of the country collapsed. Serbian nationalism revived under Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic who, in 1989 , removed Kosovo's autonomy. Continued displacement of ethnic Albanians by the Serbs came to the world's attention in 1998 and NATO intervened. The diaspora of ethnic Albanians from the province exceeded half a million, and there were unknown numbers of casualties.

    Islam in Europe

    Unlike eastern Europe, the presence of Muslims in western Europe mainly results from modern economic and political migration from Muslim countries. Waves of immigration often reflect historical links, as in the case of migration from former colonies (from the Maghreb to France, from Commonwealth countries to the UK). The favourable economic and political circumstances of host countries also play a relevant part, as in the case of Turkish migration to Germany. Several factors have an impact on the flow of Muslim migrants; political circumstances; national legislation; the displacement of communities as a result of the Balkan war. Official figures are not always reliable, as shown by the case of illegal immigrants, such as France's ‘sans papier’.

    European attitudes to Islam in general were severely undermined following Islamic jihadist attacks by al-Qaida on the West, notably the 9/11 outrages in America in 2001 , which were followed by bomb attacks in Madrid ( 2004 ) and London ( 2005 ) and a rash of security alerts. Neverthless, these events did much to foster renewed efforts to establish closer relations between Muslim and Christian communities in Europe.

    The religious configuration of Muslims in western Europe reflects the varieties of Islam in the originating countries. While most immigrants are Sunni Muslims, the role of traditions such as Sufi brotherhoods should not be underestimated, especially for the North African immigrants to France. Popular or reformist movements, such as the Barelwis and Deobandis among Indo-Pakistani immigrants to Britain, are also significant.

    Islam in Contemporary Southeast Asia

    Indonesia and Malaysia are the most important countries in Muslim Southeast Asia.Indonesia, though not constitutionally an Islamic state, has the world's largest Muslim population (about 160 million in 1985 , c.87 per cent of the total). It is overwhelmingly Sunni, following the Shafi‘i school of law. In Malaysia Islam (c.58 per cent of the total in 1990 ) is the official religion, co-existing with traditional Chinese religions as well as Hinduism and Christianity. Independent Indonesia and Malaysia have built largely secular states on European models, but the political and cultural role of Islam has been consistently increasing.

    Spread of Islam in the Modern World, The

    1. The growth of Islam in SE Asia and the Pacific

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    In the Philippines and Thailand, less than five per cent of the total population is Muslim. Islam is a minority religion which is trying to resist state control. In the Philippines, the community was marginalized by a process of de-islamization, provoking the emergence of radical groups like the Moro National Liberation Front which used armed struggle and guerrilla techniques to achieve recognition of independence for the Muslim population, concentrated mainly in the south. Autonomy was eventually granted to the Muslim region in Mindanao in 1987 and limited executive powers were transferred to the regional government in 1990 . Thailand, although predominantly Buddhist, also has a concentration of Muslims in the south, near the border with Malaysia. Some Islamic separatist movements, allegedly backed by Iran, are active in the southern provinces.

    Minority Islam in the Pacific

    Although the first Muslim migrations to the Pacific region date back to the late nineteenth century, it is not until the 1950s that Muslim communities can be identified. In Australia, Muslims are estimated at c.1.4 per cent of the total population ( 1993 ). The vast majority of Muslims in Australia comes from Turkey and the Lebanon, along with others from the former Yugoslavia. Students from neighbouring Muslim countries, especially Malaysia, form an increasingly important presence. New Zealand's small Muslim community is mainly from Southeast Asia, and there was a particularly important immigration wave after the 1987 coups d'état in Fiji. The mosque in Christchurch is said to be the furthest from Mecca in the world. Both Fiji and New Caledonia have sizeable Muslim communities. Fiji's Muslims can be traced back to the late nineteenth century when French authorities deported anti-colonial leaders from the Maghreb, particularly Algeria, to the penal colony of Fiji.

    The small Muslim community of Japan, in part allegedly of Turkish origin, increased during the twentieth century by immigration from South Asia.

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