European Parliament Seminar “Islam in Central and Eastern Europe”

On 18 May, 2022, the EPP Working Group on Intercultural and Religious Dialogue hosted a meeting titled “Islam in Central and Eastern Europe”. The event was dedicated to the presentation and analysis of the role of Islam and Muslim communities in the past centuries and today in the Eastern and Central parts of Europe.

According to its public statement, one of the EPP Group’s goals is to “defend a united Europe that respects subsidiarity, without contradiction among European, national and local identities” and “to put people at the heart of the European project.” This purpose was exemplified in the meeting by putting forward the experiences and specificity of the European values represented by neglected Muslim communities from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine.

After a short opening speech by Mr György Hölvényi MEP, Co-Chairmen of the EPP Working Group on Intercultural and Religious Dialogue, Prof Marek Moroń, Lecturer at the Centre for Comparative Studies of Civilizations at the Jagellonian University, offered details on the situation of European Muslims, who have lived in the same places or countries for centuries already. Their integration is often not discussed or omitted in the institutions able to engage with these communities. The next speaker, Dr Dževada Šuško, Chief-of-Office International Relations for Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, pleaded for a continuation of mutual understanding at the level of religions and beliefs. She argued that, even during the previous wars, the difference in religious sides remained in place and there has been a sustained effort regarding the acceptance of coexistence of Muslim communities with other religions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She also brought forward the importance of continuous communication with the European institutions.

Dr Zorina Kanapatskaia, Islamic Studies scholar at the National Pedagogical University in Minsk, offered a historical perspective on the transformation of the Muslim community in Belarus (late 19th-beginning of the 20th century). According to her studies, the Tatars living in Polonia, Lithuania, and Belarus were essentially parts of the same ethnic group, with numerous common elements. The last expert, Dr Oleg Yarosh, Scholar at National Academy of Science of Ukraine, spoke through a video connection on the increased presence of Muslims in the Ukrainian public space. The presentations were followed by a series of questions and observations on the subject.

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