Sufism in Europe (Part 2): Mapping the future in the face of the far right
Sufism is awaiting a year or perhaps years of carrying official and societal European hopes to improve the status quo that impairs Muslims and Islam in general, at a time of increased pressure due to the rise of the far right in Europe.
It is not possible to say for sure what can be done on the ground, but the role that Sufism can play in changing the negative image of Islam in the West may contribute a lot to the lives of European Muslims. However, this role must be according to social determinants and not be exploited politically.
In his research paper entitled ‘The Contribution of Sufism to the Construction of Contemporary Europe's Islam’, published in the book “Modern Islamic Thinking and Activism”, Eric Geoffroy noted that the freedom of belief enjoyed by European countries has contributed to the spread of Sufism, which flowed to the West with the mixing of cultures as a result of European expansion and colonization of Andalusia and the Maghreb, in addition to a similarity between Islamic and Christian mysticism that prevailed in some Christian countries at that time.
The Sufi community, which wanted Sufism to be a "universal wisdom", contributed to the spread of new Sufi groups in Europe with universal spirituality as a vision of the essence of all religions and philosophies, presenting Sufism without an Islamic face. This explains the success of Sufism without Islam in Europe.
From this background, Geoffroy believes that the roles that the Sufis could play in Europe, despite the presence of some fundamentalist Salafi groups, are a great way to introduce its universality.
The author said that in the current context of globalization, religion and spirituality need to have a comprehensive view that takes into account the interrelationship between man and the universe, as the world’s institutional religions face great challenges. The 21st century will either spiritual or it will not be. During the past few decades, the West has become a huge marketplace for spirituality, which has given rise to new forms of its expression.
Geoffroy added that it is quite clear that Sufism nowadays is a "link" and acts as a necessary interface between Islam and the West. Being the living heart of Islam, Sufism has always been able to adapt to new contexts and absorb the ancient spiritual classes along with the sudden new diversity.
Leaders and politicians in the Islamic and European world realized that the peaceful Islam of Sufism is the best antidote to the rigidity of the Salafist idea of Islam, which prompted Geoffroy to urge that Sufism not be separated from Islam but instead used to market it.
In an analysis by the Oasis International Foundation, which specializes in the study of mutual understanding between Muslims and Christians, Felice Dassetto said that the rise of Salafism in recent years has made Muslims themselves more explicitly announce their stance against violent extremism being linked to Islam and against political or Salafist visions that are directly or indirectly responsible for violence.
“More than a decade ago, I said that building mosques is not most urgent, but the formation of minds is. This means that there is a need to promote the emergence of a mature and well-trained Islamic leadership, and this is a very complex and time-consuming task,” Dassetto said.
However, the attempt to correct the prevalent European misperceptions of Islam faces the growing popularity of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant nationalist parties in European societies, so it is therefore necessary to create conditions for calm discussion.