Opus22 Research Project (2022-2025)

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  • Project ID: 541992
  • Title: Civic Responses and Cultural Identity Dilemmas of the Second Generation of Balkan Muslims in Time of Illiberal Democracy
  • Research Period: 03/10/2022 – 02/10/2025
  • Finding Institution: National Science Centre in Krakow (Poland)
  • Hosting Institution: Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun (Poland)

This research project explores the experiences, perceptions and sensibilities of the second generation of Balkan Muslims from émigré families in a time of illiberal democracy. After a series of terrorist attacks that occurred in France and Austria in 2020, an anti-Muslim atmosphere re-emerged from the depths of the European societies. The epidemiological crisis has also acted as a great accelerator of pre-existing major concerns, consolidating illiberal politics and reopening ubiquitous histories of ethno-nationalism. Therefore, this research project will investigate the civic practices and responses of the second generation of Balkan Muslims vis-à-vis the rise of illiberalism. It will explore how this generation conceives their personal and collective religious identities in Germany, Belgium, Italy and Poland.

Working Hypotheses

  1. This second generation of Balkan Muslims is keenly aware of its ‘Westernisation’. Born or raised in post-1989 Europe, they are more likely than older generations to confess to have lost their faith (Harris and Nawaz 2015:73). Yet they fall constantly under the pressure of the European wider public. Many have founded mosques for women, praised more progressive forms of Islam, included female theologians and imams (Khankan 2018; Barlas 2002), stood for liberal ideals, promoted feminist philosophies, protected LGBTQI+ rights and even criticised old-fashioned Islamic organisations (Makram 2017). Their heterogeneity is nonetheless essentialised along (implicitly monolithic) images of Muslim communities rather than properly addressed through its intersectional aspects.
  2. In light of a normative paradox of equal belonging (Canan and Foroutan 2016), young Balkan Muslims undertake personal actions for solving practical problems and their identity dilemmas. Others engage in civic forms of activism and reformist movements on a local and transnational level, performing a much more different civic actorness if compared with that of the older generations (Khankan 2018:91).
  3. Outside Southeast Europe, the second generation of Balkan Muslims understands how Islam and their ‘Muslim-ness’ remain historically foreign to Europe, especially if compared with Judaism and/or Christianity. This generation faces a spatio-temporal paradox: the further away the actual moment/movement of their parents’ settling is, the stronger their feeling of “otherness” and “not-belonging” holds a traction among them (El-Tayeb 2017).

Research Questions

How does the second generation of Balkan Muslims from émigré families hold, care, protect and nurture practices of civic responsibility and active citizenship in a time of illiberal democracy? How do they perceive themselves vis-à-vis a rampant democratic backslidings in Europe?

How does the second generation of European Muslims respond to the shrinking framework of democracy in which multicultural dialogue is hijacked by nativist discourse and intolerance? To what extent they experience “otherness” in their place of residence?

Specific Research Goals

In order to advance the state-of-the-art research, this study investigates how, and to what extent, the evolution/crisis of political institutions of liberal democracy in Europe, reflects any potential development/change of practices and values of the second generation of European Muslims from Balkan émigré families. As follows:

  • venturing the parapet of the hegemonic, anti-colonial and post-colonialist discourse on European demos by shedding a new light on youngest European Muslims and other demois constituting the base of the present and future of the European demoicracy (Schmidt 2006);
  • exploring the potential evolution/backsliding of the civic practices and responses of the second generation of European Muslims through the lens of daily identity dilemmas and horizontal relations of continuous cultural negotiation on a civic level (Bruter 2005:2-3);
  • investigating wide-ranging practices excavating counter-historical family memory, contest and re-articulate personal and collective identities;
  • providing a glimpse of Europe’s political and cultural landscapes by comparing three different locations; looking at how disenfranchised European Muslim youth claims stake in their localities while constructing connection of solidarity and respect.


This research proposal is based on a mix-method research, whose approach bears upon a Qualitative Comparative Analysis (Ragin 2003) employed through a semi-structured, theme-guided questionnaire. An ‘ethnographic sensibility’ will be also adopted (Simmon and Smith 2016). QCA shall enable a comparison of a rather small number of individuals, from whom venturing often hidden and causal relationships on a micro-level. It shall also allow to explore synchronic and similar cases of inequalities and pull beyond the limits of one’s own taken-for-granted world (McGranahan 2018:3-7).

All respondents will be given a Participation Information Sheet (PIS) and an Interview Consent Form (ICF). During in-depth interviews, recording devices will be used. Data minimisation will be conducted through codification and pseudonymisation forms. Encryption will be done to protect data as well as information and identity of all interviewees.

Main References 

  • Barlas, Asma (2002) “Believing Women” in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur’an. Austin: University of Texas Press.
  • Bruter, Michael (2005) Citizenship of Europe? The emergence of a Mass European Identity. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Canan, Coskun, Foroutan, Naika (2016) The Paradox of Equal Belonging of Muslims, Islamophobia Studies Journal, Vol. 3 (2):160-176.
  • E-Tayeb, Fatima (2017) European Others, Eurozine, accessible here.
  • Harris, Sam, Nawaz, Maajid (2015) Islam and the Future of Tolerance. A Dialogue. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
  • Khankan, Sherin (2018) Women Are the Future of Islam. A Memoir of Hope. London: Penguin.
  • Makram, Oman (2017) Islam in the West and Cognitive Dissonance, accessible here.
  • McGranahan, Carole (2018) Ethnography Beyond Method: The Importance of an Ethnographic Sensibility. Sites: New Series 15 (1):3-7.
  • Ragin, Charles (2003) Making Comparative Analysis Count. COMPASS Working paper Series 2003-10. Published online 10 September 2003.
  • Schmidt, Vivien (2006) Democracy in Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Simmons, Erica and Smith, Rush (2017) Comparison with an Ethnographic Sensibility. American Political Science. Cambridge University Press. 126-130.


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