Puppinck is the director general of the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) and has a PhD in legal theory. He is the author of numerous books and legal articles, his most recent being Conscientious Objection and Human Rights, A Systematic Analysis (Brill, 2017).
In his lecture, Puppinck said that Muslim communities represent a major problem from the point of view of integration into European constitutional frameworks. He said Islamic law is fundamentally different from European legal systems as it links every human right to Sharia law.
Additionally, legal concepts in Africa – where migrants come from in the largest numbers – is also fundamentally different from European concepts, emphasizing community views as opposed to individual ones.
This contradiction is all the more relevant because the perception of religions has changed significantly in Europe since the Cold War. While at that time religion was “good” as it stood for opposition against the “bad” state, by now it has become “bad” and the state “good”. The French concept of laïcité (laicism) is about the exclusion of religion from social life as the predominant rationalist thinking deems religiousness as negative.
Millions of migrants who wish to freely exercise their religion enter this conceptual framework. For centuries, predominantly Christian Europe only had to coexist with sporadic Jewish communities, so it is not prepared for the phenomenon.
Additionally, Islam cannot be regarded a religion in the traditional sense, as it is primarily a force of social organization. Also, the Muslims arriving to Europe want complete freedom in exercising their religion – but at the same time reject the European interpretation of human rights.
“Europe is not equipped to solve this contradiction,” Puppinck concluded.