Sunday, December 19, 2021

Emily Greble's "Muslims and the Making of Modern Europe"

Emily Greble is Associate Professor of History and Russian and East European Studies at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of Sarajevo, 1941-1945: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Hitler's Europe.

Greble applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Muslims and the Making of Modern Europe, and reported the following:
Readers who open to page 99 of Muslims and the Making of Modern Europe will find themselves in the Balkans in the middle of World War I. The page opens with some of the insults, injuries, and pernicious prejudices that Muslim Europeans experienced during World War I and closes with a discussion of how some Muslim leaders in the Habsburg empire wrestled with what loyalty, citizenship and homeland meant. The page begins midway into a discussion about Muslim soldiers in the Serbian, Austro-Hungarian, and Montenegrin armies, describing how some commanders and institutions treated Muslims with suspicion, loyalty tests, and discrimination, while others saw Muslims as an important part of the citizenry. The middle of the page focuses on a particularly heinous episode in which Bosnian Muslim citizens of Austria-Hungary were imprisoned as traitors in the notorious Habsburg military prison, Arad, and were forced to eat pork and lard and were denied the right to practice their religious duties. Those who died were buried in Christian cemeteries with crosses erected on the graves. Furious, Muslim leaders in Bosnia questioned their place and their security in what had been their homeland for generations. Was feeding Muslim prisoners pork and burying them in Christian cemeteries a sign of Islamophobia, proselytization, or ignorance? This is a question that Muslim leaders are grappling with as readers turn the page and continue into the next part of the book. And it’s a question that Muslim activists, religious leaders, and citizens across Europe would continue to ask through the twentieth century.

The Page 99 test works!

The book asks readers to abandon their assumptions about Muslims in Europe by analyzing European history through the experiences and stories of indigenous Muslim communities. So many conversations about Muslims in Europe begin with the false idea that Muslims, categorically, are foreigners, migrants, guest workers, or refugees in Europe. These attitudes ignore the many Muslims living, working in, fighting for, and participating in European societies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This passage reminds us that Muslim citizens have a long history in Europe. It also draws attention to some of the difficulties and challenges Muslims faced. They fought in European armies and lived in European societies, but they were consistently treated as second- or third-class citizens who needed to prove their loyalty. To this end, it shows how Europe’s Christian identity was (and is) continually imposed on different confessional communities, often in offensive ways. What page 99 doesn’t capture is the extraordinary change over time from 1878 to the post-World War II era, when Muslim leaders and civil lawmakers negotiated a whole set of questions on how law and society would operate in formerly Ottoman Europe. But it nevertheless gives readers a glimpse of the balance between loyalty, service, betrayal, patriotism, fidelity, secular and religious community building, law and legal rights that characterized the Muslim experience of Europe not only during the First World War but throughout the modern period.
Follow Emily Greble on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue