Home Featured Let’s be a bit more honest about what a ‘European identity’ looks like – POLITICO
Let’s be a bit more honest about what a ‘European identity’ looks like – POLITICO

Let’s be a bit more honest about what a ‘European identity’ looks like – POLITICO

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Then there’s the fact that “Judeo-Christian” as a definition is also problematic for the religion it leaves out: Islam.

Muslims are as native to Europe as Christians and have been an influential force across the Continent for centuries. In Iberia, Muslims developed a syncretic culture where Jews, Christians and Muslims lived in relative harmony. They introduced oranges, lemons, cotton and rice — the key ingredient in paella. But when the Christians took control of the peninsula, millions of Muslim Europeans were either killed, expelled or forced to convert.

Still, even after their expulsion, Muslims left a profound influence on Spanish and Portuguese languages, cultural artifacts and architectural treasures — the Alhambra, the Cordoba Mosque, the Alcazaba (from the Arabic Qasbah) of Malaga — which millions still visit today.

Discomfort at acknowledging Islam as a part of Europe is also true in the Continent’s southeast, where the Ottomans ruled for centuries. Hungarian baths, Serbian burek, Mostar Bridge — all European heritage — owe their existence to Islamic medicine, culinary traditions and architecture. And ignoring that history does a disservice to historical truth, as well as to millions of Muslim Europeans made to feel like they don’t really belong.

Moreover, skipping straight to Ancient Greece is oddly selective. Putting aside the nature of ancient Athenian democracy — no slaves or women allowed, orgies before and after voting — looking at a timeline of how long Europe has been a democracy since the Athenians, one would have to skip over quite a few emperors, Lord Protectors, popes, First Consuls, czars and Führers before getting to free elections with universal suffrage.

Even today, democracy remains a tiny blip, very much an exception, to how Europe has been ruled throughout most of its history, with many European countries having authoritarian rule until well after World War II — including Greece itself. While democracy may have been invented in Europe, just as prominent have been its other inventions: fascism and communism. The Roman Empire gave us the word “senator” — but it also gave us the word “dictator.”

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