Controlling the Borders of “Borderless” Europe in the Age of Migration

Recent international developments and the flow of people towards Europe made borders again a strong component of the European integration. Different reactions by European Institutions and EU member states showed that the classical idea of borders being marker of a territory and special identity became underlined through series of systematic implementations. The idea of European integration and its very basic principle “free movement” is facing a massive challenge amid the crisis of refugees and the flow of migration from the Middle East towards Western Europe. During the summer of 2015, Dublin convention and the way it was implemented by different member states, created new discussions on the shared responsibility of the free movement in Europe. While Eastern European countries were accused with discrimination and being hostile towards refugees, Western European countries tried to accept them while pushing for certain conditions and quotas. Nevertheless, distribution of refugees among the EU member states resulted with the disintegration of European solidarity in difficult times. Eventually, the initial stress was on the external borders of the EU and the role of agencies such as FRONTEX which were created to protect the borders of EU. “Controlling the borders” or “border management” became the common ground for the discussion of migrant crisis. Dr. Tahir discusses the refugee flow towards European Union along with EU’s “border management” policies by examining the situation in the Greek-Turkish border, where the flow of refugees from Syria is the highest. He shares his fieldwork experiences from the Aegean Coast of Turkey and the Greek-Turkish land border in Trace where the flow of irregular migrants is still going on. Having observed the situation before and after signing the acceptance agreement between Turkey and the EU in March 2016, Dr. Tahir also discusses the immediate results of the implementation of this agreement.

Jeremy Walton

Times and Spaces of Islam across Turkey, the Balkans, and Southeast Europe

In his presentation, Jeremy Walton forges a panoramic perspective on Islam across the variegated geography of Turkey and southeast Europe. Rather than a direct focus on questions of Muslim politics or theology, he is concerned with the distinctive histories, temporalities, places and spatial practices that situate and saturate Islam across this geography. Five specific sites together constitute my kaleidoscopic purview. In Ankara, the author discusses a contentious project to create an integrated space of worship for Alevi and Sunni Muslims—a “mosque-cem house”— that has sparked anxieties of spatial and political assimilation on the part of many Alevi critics. In Istanbul, is visited the theme park Miniatürk in order to plumb the “miniaturized” image of Ottoman Islamic history that the park curates. Walton’s itinerary then takes him to Thessaloniki, where the abandoned, converted mosque of the dönme community—Muslim followers of the failed Jewish messiah Sabbatai Zevi—mutely enunciates the city’s repudiated Ottoman, Muslim, and Jewish pasts. From there, he proceeds to Rijeka in order to trace the ambivalence of a new, monumental mosque dedicated to the city’s Bosniak Muslim community—as the author argues, the mosque’s public visibility belies the ultimate marginality of Islam within the city and nation as a whole. Finally, Walton makes a pilgrimage to the tomb of the Bektashi saint Gül Baba in Budapest, where the predominantly Turkish commentary in a visitors’ log registers both nostalgia for faded Ottoman politico-religious glory and aspirations to a European future for Turkish Islam that integrates the lessons of the Ottoman past. Rather than a single, straightforward argument, his presentation unfolds across these multiple spaces and national contexts with the ambition to complicate both monolithic images of Islam and simplistic renderings of “public religion” generally.