New minorities, such as Muslims, pose a novel challenge for western countries, which have to decide on policies concerning the incorporation of migrant populations into their societies. European societies have genuinely become multireligious societies, something that was neither expected nor desired. On the face of this sudden and unwanted change in the religious landscape of Europe, one can only ask what challenges European countries face when dealing with non-Christian religious communities in their territory.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of recent years in the United States and in Western Europe, Islam has become almost solely associated in the public eye with conflict and with violence; it is seen as a threat to the national security of western countries. In addition to being a threat, Islam is often viewed as a religion which is incompatible with the fundamental principles of European society such a democracy, secularism, human rights and above all religious freedom. At the same time, however, there is a growing awareness, if not acceptance, that Islam is and will be in the foreseeable future a part and parcel of western societies.
The transnational reality of many migrants has brought new questions and complexities to existing models and concepts around immigrant integration. Transnational connectedness may influence ethnic, religious, and national identity construction and related practices in complex ways. Often transnational networks of migrants have been regarded as a resource, but there is an increasing concern for “unhealthy transnationalism” which entails engagement in the country-of-origin issues, dual political loyalties, and the import of previous religious or political conflicts into receiving countries.
Even though minority governance is strongly tied to specific national, cultural, social, and political traditions, the role of interstate organizations, international law, global media, and transnational mobility is increasing. The unexpected juncture of heightened transnationalism, concerns of immigrant integration, and the threat of Islamic terrorism have led to pressures on existing welfare state structures and policies. The implications of these processes have received increasing attention, but the scope of these changes is still open. This research project will map some of these changes in relation to the three country-specific examples of Finland, Ireland, and Canada.