Colliding Diasporas

As Europe's immigrant communities assume a more significant role in national life, their respective religious views will also become more consequential. On many issues, Christians and Muslims have a great deal in common—churches and mosques can potentially agree on common struggles against moral and sexual decadence, with homosexuality as a uniquely sensitive issue.

In other ways, though, Christian and Muslim diasporas threaten to come into conflict, especially over issues arising from home countries. We often see the importance of churches and church leaders from nations such as Nigeria, Congo, and Uganda, all of which face the real prospect of internecine struggles between the two faiths. Nigeria, above all, is a source of special concern with its current political uncertainty and the likelihood of a transfer of power in the executive branch from a Christian to a Muslim leader. It is not fanciful to imagine such violence spilling over into the streets of London or Rome. Something of the sort has already occurred, though not by design. During the London subway bombings of 2005, Muslim terrorists targeted civilians regardless of their race or religion. Given the city's multi-ethnic character, though, it is not surprising that some were immigrant Christians, from Nigeria and elsewhere. African Christians were murdered by Asian Muslims, in the European religious theater.28

Even setting aside the possibility of violence and retaliation, disagreements between immigrant Muslims and Christians also take political and partisan forms. Migrant politics often intersect with exile politics, with the potential for stirring unrest. In the Muslim instance, official repression drives activists and dissidents to seek exile beyond the reach of the state apparatus. Commonly, those driven from their homelands are religious leaders and exiles, and such exile communities can serve many functions. They are notoriously vulnerable to the machinations of rival governments and intelligence services, which might even find in them the nucleus of an alternative government for the persecuting nation. An exile center—be it a cleric's retreat, a place of worship, or a school—can also become a center for conspiracy and intelligence in its own right, not to mention sources of fund-raising. Also, exiles are free of the need to compromise with the practical realities of their homelands and commonly drift to the most radical and extreme positions, violently opposed to the nations that drive them away.29

Now, all these themes are familiar in the context of the radical Muslim networks; but to a lesser extent, they also apply in some Christian settings. For Africans especially, London and other European cities become leading centers of political and politico-religious organization, and this role grows as conflicts in home nations define themselves increasingly in interfaith terms. The Nigerian Christian diaspora especially can be expected to play a critical role in that country's politics over the next decade.

But for all the scenarios that might be imagined, the main issue is the presence of not one but several diasporic faith communities in the emerging polychrome Europe. And an exclusive focus on one of these, however significant, threatens to neglect others of critical importance.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment