Limits of European Islam: Turkish Islamic organizations' responses to host country policies in France and Germany
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Through an analysis of three key Turkish Islamic umbrella organizations operating in France and Germany, this paper discusses how Turkish Muslims practice, redefine, and respond to citizenship, integration, and church-state policies engineered by host states. Relying on a detailed examination of governmental and organizational publications, media reports, and semi-structured in-depth interviews conducted with organization leaders as well as French and German policy-makers, this study draws attention to the gap between normative legal rights reserved for Muslims and their implementation in practice. While the existing literature provides mixed conclusions with respect to the accommodation of Muslim religious rights in France and Germany, I argue that the Turkish Islamic organizations are more critical of host state policies in Germany than in France. First, even though the constitutional setting demands a strict separation of state and religion in France, in reality, rules are relaxed in a way to provide benefits to Muslim groups. In contrast, while the constitution is more liberal in Germany, this flexibility has not led to accommodating policies in practice. Moreover, for Turkish Muslims in both France and Germany, the French Council for the Muslim Faith is regarded as a more legitimate and democratic institution. The German Islam Conference, on the other hand, is criticized for excluding important Islamic organizations, creating a distinction between “good Muslims” and “bad Muslims,” and placing more emphasis on security and terrorism in its working groups. Germany’s federal system, and its excessive state intervention in theology institutes and Islamic religious courses are other factors that shape how Turkish Muslims respond to, and interact with policy-makers in their host countries.