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The Muslim Population of Western Europe

It is a well-nigh impossible task to come up with accurate figures for the Muslim populations of European countries. On the one hand, many of these countries, such as France, are home to a large number of illegal immigrants and, on the other hand, statistics are marred by distortions caused by political motives; on occasion, there are differences of fifty to sixty percent between official, semi-official and unofficial figures. Therefore, any discussion of the subject must be carried out with a great deal of caution, owing to the paucity of any scientifically accurate statistics. With this in mind, it may be concluded that there exist some two million Muslims in Britain, i.e. England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, most of whom are from India, with a small minority from Arabic countries, Iran and Southern Sahara. France is home to the largest Muslim population in Europe, whose number is estimated to stand at five to eight million. Most of these Muslims hail from North Africa, with small numbers from Lebanon, Syria and former French colonies in black Africa. There are two and a half to three million Muslims in Germany, with Turks as the predominant majority, followed by Bosnians and Kurds, as well as small Arab and Iranian populations. Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden and Italy each have a Muslim population of half a million people. The figure for other European countries stands at two to three hundred thousand. Spain is the only country with an ambiguous situation, since apart from its three hundred thousand Muslim immigrants, there are considerable numbers of people in the southern region of Andalus who, after the passage of several centuries, are returning to the Islamic fold and whose numbers remain impossible to determine. The Spanish parliament has passed the strongest legislations, as compared to any other European country, in terms of protection of the rights of Muslims, and there has even been established an Islamic university in Cordoba. 

Apart from their Muslim immigrant populations, all western European countries have their own share of native converts to Islam, who are mostly from the educated classes and who are mainly attracted to Islam through its mystical dimension, i.e. Sufism. These include well-known writers and artists who have a good knowledge of the philosophical, theological and mystical foundations of the Islamic religion, with some as professional academics specializing in the study of the faith. All in all, in the past few decades, Islam has acquired a stronger appeal among the westerners with higher levels of education, rather than those from less enlightened classes

* source: Nasr , Seied Hossein "Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 , pp.582

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