From Cross to Crescent:
Islam triples in Europe
Posted on Nov 4, 2008 | by Don Graham
Droves of faithful Muslims — including a few French converts — partake in Friday prayers outside a Paris mosque, this one located just minutes from Notre Dame. Africans and Turks comprise the bulk of France’s Islamic population. Photo courtesy of the IMB.
As dusk falls in Paris, an illuminated Eiffel Tower stands watch over the city. Nearby, construction workers cast a spiritual shadow over a suburb as they raise an image of Islam’s growing appeal — the dome and minarets of a new mosque. Â Photo courtesy of the IMB.
PARIS (BP)–It’s a sight that would shatter most Americans’ romanticized image of Paris.
Just a 15-minute metro ride from the trendy shops and quaint cafÃ©s of the Champs-Elysees, a virtual sea of North and West African Muslims spills out the gates of a neighborhood mosque. Like waves breaking on a beach, their bodies bend in unison as hundreds of men prostrate themselves before Allah. Their prayers are guided by an imam’s Arabic incantations.
The crowd’s prayer rugs cover a city block’s worth of sidewalk. Tourists point and take pictures. Some French pedestrians are visibly uncomfortable as they negotiate their way around the assembly.
But the scene isn’t an aberration. Instead, it’s evidence of a trend that’s changing the way Southern Baptists view the international mission field: Islam is expanding across Europe.
FROM CROSS TO CRESCENT
Fueled by immigration and high birthrates, the number of Muslims on the continent has tripled in the past 30 years, making Islam Europe’s fastest growing religion. While European Muslims build mosques and win converts, European Christians (excluding evangelicals) are witnessing what’s been called a near free-fall decline in church attendance.
Tourists make up the overwhelming majority of those crowding Notre Dame in Paris, snapping photos during Mass as if the cathedral was more museum than place of worship. Even more alarming are statistics that only 5 percent of the French own a Bible and 80 percent have never even touched one. The shift is so dramatic that many demographers now believe more people in Europe practice Islam than Christianity.
No one knows exactly how many Muslims call Europe home since most European nations don’t track ethnicity or religious affiliation in census data. Guesses put the number around 20 million.
France accounts for the highest concentration of Muslims in the European Union — 5 to 6 million, or about 8 percent of the population. Many entered the country as immigrants in guest-worker programs following World War II, but untold numbers have flooded France and other European nations illegally. [Continue…]