Muslims in Europe: different communities, one discourse? Adding the Central and Eastern European perspective
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There is an old Polish saying, “każda pliszka swój ogonek chwali”1 meaning that everyone emphasizes their good points. Being a representative of a country of approximately 40 thousand Muslims (for around 38 million citizens) puts the author in a difficult position. The European academia may not be expected to pay equal attention to Muslims in Poland as in France, UK or Germany. Almost all countries of the old EU have either bigger Muslim populations or a larger proportion of Muslims in the society (usually both). On the other hand, Bosnia and Herzegovina or Albania have a far higher percentage of Muslims in the population, and they also seem to be on the periphery of the European discourse on Islam. This chapter aims to discuss why Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) is absent or represented marginally in the European debate about Islam and Muslims. It starts with a brief presentation of the ethnic structure of CEE countries and its impact on perception of Others, in particular Muslims. Then it explores possible linking points between different Muslim communities across Europe. Finally, it tackles the issue of research on Muslims in CEE – its limitation and challenges. The concept of CEE is used both in a narrow and wider sense. In the first case it refers primarily to the Vyšehrad Group countries (i.e. Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia). For a wider background it will also embrace the wider CEE, which includes Slavic and FinnoUgric countries of the former Soviet bloc.