Perhaps it's obvious, yet it bears repeating: people in the Arabic countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa where currently revolutions are taking place see the desired end point of their struggle for freedom differently than we in the West do. In terms of notions of state and society, history has dealt them a different hand. In any case, I had intended to chime in with an off-the-cuff remark amplifying (or "riffing on") Richard's opening point. But then a translation from German into English turned out to be involved, so my comment grew into a diary.
Europe was once racked by religious wars. Who or what councils today could help pacify relations between Sunni and Shia and other communities, I wondered. Does the Organization of the Islamic Conference have a role to play? I don't have answers, only questions. But more below the fold.
Europe's concept of nation-state emerged in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia. That series of treaties ended the Thirty Years' War, a series of religious wars of Catholic against Protestant.
For the first time it was established that a country (sovereign state) was something different than its sovereign (ruling family or government). A ruler could be Catholic or Protestant, without binding the country and people. Wikipedia:
The power taken by Ferdinand III in contravention of the Holy Roman Empire's constitution was stripped and returned to the rulers of the Imperial States. This rectification allowed the rulers of the Imperial States to independently decide their religious worship. Protestants and Catholics were redefined as equal before the law, and Calvinism was given legal recognition. 
The Holy See was very displeased at the settlement, with Pope Innocent X reportedly calling it "null, void, invalid, iniquitous, unjust, damnable, reprobate, inane, empty of meaning and effect for all time".
The main tenets of the Peace of Westphalia were:
• All parties would recognize the Peace of Augsburg of 1555, in which each prince would have the right to determine the religion of his own state, the options being Catholicism, Lutheranism, and now Calvinism (the principle of cuius regio, eius religio).
• Christians living in principalities where their denomination was not the established church were guaranteed the right to practice their faith in public during allotted hours and in private at their will.
How does this compare to the historic evolution of the nation-state concept in predominantly Muslim countries? The German Wikipedia article (but oddly, not the English one) on the Arabic language says that in Arabic "there is no relatively precise equivalent of the European word 'nation'":
Der Wortschatz ist zwar extrem reich, aber oft nicht klar normiert und mit Bedeutungen aus der Vergangenheit überfrachtet. So gibt es zum Beispiel kein Wort, das dem europäischen Wort „Nation“ relativ genau entspricht. Das dafür gebrauchte Wort (أمة, Umma) bedeutete ursprünglich und im religiösen Kontext bis heute „Gemeinschaft der Gläubigen (Muslime)“; oder z. B. „Nationalität“ (جنسية, ǧinsiyya) eigentlich „Geschlechtszugehörigkeit“ im Sinne von „Sippenzugehörigkeit“ – „Geschlechtsleben“ z. B. heißt (الحياة الجنسية, al-ḥayāt al-ǧinsiyya), wobei al-ḥayāt „das Leben“ heißt. Das Wort für „Nationalismus“ (قومية, qawmiyya) bezieht sich ursprünglich auf die Rivalität von „(Nomaden-)Stämmen“ und kommt von qawm, was ursprünglich und bis heute oft noch „Stamm“ im Sinne von „Nomadenstamm“ bedeutet. So überlagern sich oft in einem Wort sehr alte und sehr moderne Konzepte, ohne dass das eine über das andere obsiegen würde. „Umma“ z. B. gewinnt wieder mehr seine alte religiöse Bedeutung zurück.
The vocabulary [of the Arabic language] is extremely rich, but it often is not clearly standardized and is weighed down with "loaded" meanings from the past. For example, there is no relatively precise equivalent of the European word "nation." Originally, and even today in religious contexts, Umma (أمة), the word used for "nation", actually means "community of [Muslim] believers". Or to take another example, "nationality" (جنسية, ǧinsiyya) actually means "kinship ties" (clan or tribal affiliation); whereas the same word combined with al-ḥayāt "life" (الحياة الجنسية, al-ḥayāt al-ǧinsiyya) means "sex life". The word for "nationalism" (قومية, qawmiyya) actually refers to the rivalry between "(nomadic) tribes" and comes from qawm, which originally meant "tribe" in the sense of "nomadic tribe" and often still means that today. Thus a single word often displays very old and very modern meanings interlayered with each other, with neither clearly winning out. "Umma", for example, has been lately regaining more of its old religious meaning.
It's an interesting and informative passage, if accurate. But one also wonders if the anonymous editor of German Wikipedia has completely innocent motives in bringing this up. Clash of
cultures civilizations? Or helpful bridge building?