The presence of a substantial minority of Muslims in the traditionally Christian-majority West is likely to lead to a thorough-going reassessment of Islamic texts and doctrines. In part, this results from the unfettered freedoms of expression for the first time available to Muslim thinkers; in part, it results from the radically different circumstances in which they find themselves.
Ramadan, a Swiss-born philosopher and specialist on Islam who teaches these subjects at the University of Fribourg (and the grandson of Hasan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brethren), has taken an important step toward this reassessment by writing a thoughtful and moderate analysis. To the vexed question, whether Europe should be seen as Dar al-Islam or Dar al-Harb (the traditional distinction between lands under Muslim rule and those not, with the implication that the latter should be taken by force), Ramadan replies that these concepts are seriously outdated; instead, he proposes seeing Europe as Dar ash-Shahada, a "space of testimony" within which "Muslims are sent back to the essential teachings of Islam" so that they can contribute to "promoting good and equity within and through human brotherhood" by bringing the strengths of the Islamic message to their mostly non-Muslim societies. (In other words, unlike some other authors,1 Ramadan is not calling for the conversion of the West to Islam.)
To the no less troublesome question of whether Muslims can be loyal citizens of Western countries, Ramadan replies that when Muslim immigrants sign a work contract or accept a visa, they also recognize the "binding character of the constitution or the laws of the country they enter into and then live in." Unless the government specifically contradicts Islamic ways (something that hardly ever happens), Muslims are obliged to be loyal citizens and to influence the polity in constructive ways. Their goal should be to be "in Europe but at home." To be a Muslim in Europe ideally "means to interact with the whole of society." Ultimately, a European Islam should emerge, much as there already exists an African or Asian Islam.