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Under the influx of migration from primarily Muslim countries, the place of Islam has become a central issue in contemporary European politics. In this context, European political discourse, especially but not necessarily on the extreme right wing of the ideological spectrum, has framed the question of Islam in term of religious and cultural borders to be defended against a dangerous threat. The mobilization against the Islamization of Europe has become thus part of a larger quest for European identity. This essay places current political discourse and the search for European identity within the longue durée of European history and its symbolic borders and considers ancient and medieval periods as forerunners to contemporary forms of discourse. The claim here is that the religious-cultural borders shaped by the long history of Europe have remained alive in discursive patterns, representations, political language, and in EU policies – including those towards refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants. Thus, such borders have resisted the secularization process and still slumber at the bottom of European self-understanding, functioning as a condition of possibility for the definition of Europe through the Other. In times of crisis – such as a flood of primarily Muslim refugees and illegal immigrants – the old religious borders of Europe have arisen from the slumber.


Institute for Religion, Politics, and Society

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Book Chapter

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