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Legislative Approaches to Islam: A Review of State Policies in Ten European Countries

Atlanta Neudorf, March 2022

This short introduction to Islam in Europe provides an overview of recent legislation and policy approaches to Islam across 10 European countries. It outlines legislation and regulation on the wearing of Islamic headwear, halal slaughter, Islamic religious marriages (and divorces), Islamic education (such as madrasas), and Acts which have had a demonstrable effect upon Islamic practices.

This book is intended to provide the reader with a short overview of policy and legislation across 10 countries: Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

Some of Europe’s most populous nations such as France have passed a remarkable number of Islam-targeted laws, while others – including the UK – have to a large extent not specifically done so at a national level. By comparison, nations such as Switzerland, Austria and Denmark have been particularly active in legislating against specific Islamic customs.

In this comparative analysis:

  • Five of the countries considered in this report have enacted legislation specifically affecting the wearing of Muslim headwear at a national level – yet Poland and the UK do not have any national bans on head or face coverings.
  • Nine of the 10 countries under consideration for this report do not have any specific laws targeting religious (or Islamic) marriages and divorces – aside from the requirement that marriages and divorces must be registered with the civil authorities.
  • All 10 countries covered here permit the operation of denominational private schooling by all religious groups, but most require they continue to follow a national curriculum, which is usually devoted to that country’s fundamental values – these have often focused on tolerance and openness, for example in Sweden, Austria, Denmark or Germany.
  • Some of the recent European legislation regarding religious extremism – and thus Islamism – has had an effect upon regular Muslims’ lives and religious practices in Europe.

This introductory text looks at specific European country’s policies towards Islam and its practices, as well as legislation that has affected Muslims. Each chapter is divided into the five specific areas above with a snapshot of recent legislation and policy. The author, Atlanta Neudorf, uncovers a wide range of stances taken by European governments towards Islam, and the differing methods by which they have enshrined their approaches in law.

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