Martin Schain, professor of politics, New York University, opened the first panel, “A Survey of the Current Economic, Social, Cultural, and Political Landscape,” by providing a general survey that drew on the conference’s background paper.
Muslim communities in the West are today the largest source of Western European population growth and a growing minority in the United States as well. The Muslim population in the European Union is expected to more than double in next several years. Europe has both a short—and a long—term need for more immigrants to meet its labor needs and face its demographic challenges.
Europe’s Muslim immigrants are arriving from the Mediterranean basin but also increasingly from sub–Saharan Africa. European Muslims tend increasingly to be citizens rather than merely immigrants or guest workers and are on average younger than Europe’s population as a whole. They provide a much–needed economic contribution to Europe’s welfare states, but also place demands on these states in terms of the welfare services they consume.
Mr. Schain identified three problems that Europe’s Muslims face–problems of which conference participants are already aware: failures of integration, issues of security, and questions of national and European identity.
He suggested that the first thing to note about the problem of integration is the disagreement over the meaning of the term itself. This relates to the question of how immigrants have negotiated the boundaries they find in Europe: first, the boundaries between “the ins” and “the outs,” between those already in Europe and those arriving, and second, the relative permeability or rigidity of those boundaries. These differ from place to place. In France, the boundaries are fairly firm; in The Netherlands and the United States, conditions permit overlapping memberships that make inclusion easier. However, this also allows them to opt out and not integrate if they so choose. Debates over women’s dress codes are offered as evidence of the failure of integration masking immigrant women’s strides in education and the workplace, which often surpass those of men. As for violence, if we take the November 2005 French rioters as an example, most were French–born, but most were also unemployed youth faced with poor job prospects. In Europe, unemployment rates among Muslims are twice as high or higher than in the general population.
Integration failures play into the second problem–security issues–particularly in terms of the threat of radicalized Islam. The struggle against radicalism must be aided by governments’ cooperation with Muslim minority communities. Policy makers often draw links between domestic security and external threats. Today, they link “militant Islam,” and the growing number of alienated young men in the Muslim world, to unrest in Britain, France, and Germany–Britain and France, because of periodic urban unrest in areas of high concentration of populations of Muslim origin; Germany, because of the role of the Hamburg group in the attacks of September 11, 2001.4 Also troubling are the links between those who are born and raised in Europe (or at least Western–educated men) and the terrorist attacks of recent years. 5
Regarding the third problem–Muslims and a national or European “identity crisis–the reaction to Europe’s Muslim presence has been politicized. Europe’s extreme right–wing parties have shifted from their anti–immigrant stance of previous years to a specifically anti–Muslim stance. This new strategy has already proven successful for extreme right–wing groups in Austria, Belgium, and The Netherlands.
In closing, Mr. Schain restated the need to focus on youth because of their sheer number and the fact that the success or failure of integration will hinge on the resolution of challenges that these young people face, i.e., in terms of employment and education. Likewise, the success or failure of security programs, and their ability to isolate radicals, may well depend on policy makers’ ability to deal with Muslim youth.
Zsolt Nyiri, regional research director for Europe, the Gallup Organization, followed with a discussion of the findings of six Gallup surveys: three conducted in Berlin, London, and Paris and three general surveys. He noted that the three cities were chosen because they represent Muslims from different backgrounds: many of Berlin’s Muslims are of Turkish origin; many British Muslims came from the Indian continent; and many French Muslims are of North African origin. Furthermore, there are notable differences between these host countries in terms of their policies toward immigrants.
The first part of the survey dealt with identity, or identities. Identities are often seen as if they are mutually exclusive, and questions about identity are often phrased in ways that force respondents to choose a primary identity either religion or nationality. Gallup considers identities to be complementary, Mr. Nyiri explained, and measures them independently. Its surveys found that Muslims in these three cities closely associate with their religion, their country, and their ethnic background. There needs to be greater recognition that Muslim identity in Europe is a mixture of these three subidentities. Interestingly, Muslims answered that “European” is an identity with which they are least likely to identify. Non–Muslim citizens— perceptions of Muslims— loyalty to their country, however, are very different. The dangerous gap between what the public thinks Muslims think and what Muslims actually think must be addressed.
The next section of the survey tackled integration, asking respondents what they consider necessary for integration into society. Results suggested that both the general and the Muslim populations have similar priorities in terms of the specifics of integration. The most important task, everyone agreed, is mastering the national language. Finding a job was listed next, followed by general agreement among respondents that getting a better education aided integration. Celebrating national holidays was also considered a necessary task for national integration. The majority of respondents also agreed that participating in politics is necessary. Only a minority thought that toning down religious observances was necessary for integration.
The results showed a wider difference between Muslims and non–Muslims when it came to religiously observant clothing for Muslim women. Only a small percentage of Muslims thought that removing the headscarf and the niqab was necessary for integration–but a high percentage of the general public thought so. To be precise, only 14 percent of the Muslims in Paris thought that removing the headscarf was necessary for integration, but 61 percent of the general public that was surveyed believed it was necessary.
In an effort to gauge feelings of Islamophobia among the general public, Gallup measured whether Muslim religious symbols were considered more damaging to integration than those of other religions. The survey asked respondents about five religious indicators–headscarf, niqab, Sikh turban, kippe, and the cross–and whether it was necessary to remove them for integration. The results were surprising; in France, 61 percent of the general public thought that removing the headscarf is necessary, but 54 percent thought the same of the cross. Similar trends were apparent in the United Kingdom and Germany. Generally speaking, the French public was more opposed to any religious symbol than the United Kingdom, with Germany in between. Furthermore, Muslims in all three cities were not opposed to the public display of other faiths’ religious symbols. There is a stereotype that Muslims are intolerant of other faiths, but Gallup’s evidence suggests otherwise.
The next part of the survey addressed religion, starting with the question, is religion part of your daily life? There was a significant difference between Muslims and non–Muslims in all three cities. Muslims were much more likely to say that religion is a very important part of their daily life and were also more likely to say that they practice a religion and/or have attended a religious service or gone to a religious place of worship in the past seven days. There was a less pronounced gap in Germany, however. In all cases, the number of people that attended religious services is lower than the number of those who said that religion is important to them. In response to a question asking whether respondents consider religious practices other than theirs a threat, the overwhelming majority of Muslims and non–Muslims in all three cities said no. However, one in five Muslims in the United Kingdom and Germany did identify other religions as a threat.
The survey next probed respondents’ confidence in democratic institutions, asking whether religion is a substitute for democracy and whether the two conflict. Muslim respondents in all three cities had a high level of confidence in democratic institutions, including elections, the judicial system, the national government, and the media. In the United Kingdom, Muslims had more confidence in British democratic institutions than non–Muslims. In related questions, 65 percent of Muslims expressed confidence in the police, a percentage similar to that of non–Muslims. The majority of Muslims agreed that it is important for Muslims to be involved in politics, as did the majority of non–Muslims–except in Germany. The overwhelming majority of respondents, Muslim and non–Muslim, did not think that it is morally justifiable to use violence, even for a noble cause.
From these results, Gallup concluded that Muslims have higher levels of religiosity than the general population, but that this does not seem to contradict their high levels of national identity, loyalty, and confidence in national institutions. The difference lies in how the general public perceives Muslims’ views–particularly with respect to the finding that strong Muslim majorities in all three cities condemned violence.
Mr. Nyiri concluded by noting that the consensus that religious and national identity do not conflict is encouraging for better understanding between Muslims and non–Muslims. Muslims should recognize that in Western society, religious symbols are sometimes singled out because they are religious, not because they are Muslim. Regarding integration, European populations need to recognize the common ground identified by Muslims and non–Muslims alike, including learning the national language and increasing educational opportunities.
Ceri Peach, professor of social geography, Oxford University, followed with a presentation on “The Social Geography of Exclusion.” He began by noting that exclusion occurs on multiple levels rather than one side keeping another out. There is a lack of homogeneity within Muslim populations, with respect to ethnicity, class, and sect. Since 1950, the ethno–religious map of Europe has undergone significant changes. The post–World War II demand for labor in Europe brought in a great number of “guest workers,” a large percentage of which were Muslims. Today, 10 percent of Western Europe’s population was born outside its borders. These minorities are now more accurately described as settled populations than immigrant populations. Mr. Peach stated that the data on Muslims in Europe–in terms of total numbers as well as specific breakdowns–are imprecise and disputed. Roughly speaking, there were 200,000 European Muslims in 1950, and there are 13 to 14 million today. The Muslim population of Western Europe has nearly doubled from the early 1990s to the mid–2000s.
There are three main geographic areas feeding Europe’s Muslim populations: Turkey, the Maghreb, and South Asia. There are also three main corresponding areas of settlement: Germany, France, and Britain. However, there is considerable blurring of these categories; for instance, there are now many Turks in France and Pakistanis have moved into Norway. More recently, refugee populations like the Somalis have been added to the mix.
As for the total population of Muslims in Europe, estimated at roughly 22 million, approximately eight million of those are “old Muslims,” from the former Ottoman and/or Balkan areas of Eastern Europe. The 13 to 14 million mentioned above are “New Muslims,” most of whom arrived between 1950 and 1973, and their children. (Since 1973, growth of immigration has been mostly due to family reunification.) France now has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe, but also the least certain data. Due to insufficient research, estimates of the French Muslim community range from 3.7 million to 6 million. France is home to approximately 30 percent of the “New Muslim” population, while Germany has roughly 25 percent. Regardless of their ethnicity or countries of origin, “New Muslims” around the region share the same average working–class position.
Mr. Peach noted that different European countries have handled the question of citizenship differently. In Britain, a 1948 law gave citizenship to everyone in the former British empire, although few people used it initially. It was probably a shock to British immigration officials when people started arriving from former colonies. In 1962, the British clamped down on their immigration laws, but there was a huge influx just before the new laws took effect. The rush of people trying to get in before it was too late is one of the many examples of the unintended effects of immigration laws. Since then, the United Kingdom has been restricting citizenship, while its European neighbors are expanding it. In the United Kingdom, as in France, being born there entitles one to citizenship. Until 2000, being born in Germany was not sufficient grounds for citizenship. Still today, to become a German citizen, one must renounce other nationalities.
In Mr. Peach’s view, the British policy of encouraging groups to have their own cultural practices and celebrations is a good idea. However, this multiculturalism has come under attack since the events of September 11. The result has been a backpedaling on multiculturalism and more talk of social cohesion, with a subtext of xenophobia. The French model is likewise strongly conformist. In Germany, the school system splits students into tracks. The result has been a strong channeling of the Turkish population into vocational sectors, from which it is quite difficult to break into higher academic streams.
Taking Britain as a case study, Mr. Peach asked whether Islam is being judged on the actions of particular groups versus the religion itself. In the United Kingdom, there is a substantial Muslim population but also a substantial Indian population, including Sikhs and Hindus, which provides a way to compare groups of different religious but similar cultural backgrounds. As for Sikhs and Pakistani Muslims, these communities tend to see individuals as connected to larger family and social groupings, and marry accordingly. In Pakistani Muslim communities, marriages tend to be between people from the same village of origin. In England, prior to marriage, Pakistani Muslim girls are going to school with British boys, facing exposure to different morality codes and behaviors such as drinking alcohol. These cultural differences explain in part why little encouragement is being given to British Pakistani women to pursue higher education or enter the labor market. Because they are being pressured to marry younger, British Pakistanis are also having larger families. Conversely, Sikh communities in England are encouraging girls to pursue higher education and good jobs.
The result is that 40 percent of Muslim women in Britain have no educational qualifications, and, consequently, no access to good jobs. Muslim women in Britain are much more likely than non–Muslim women to be employed in the home, leaving the families with only one breadwinner. A strong cultural preference for keeping one’s family close further translates into finding nearby homes for grown children when they marry. Pakistani Muslim men exhibit a high percentage of marriage within their culture, unlike Caribbean men and Indian men, who are more likely to marry outside their ethnicity. Finally, an examination of British demographics shows that Muslims comprise 35 percent of the households living in the worst 10 percent of British housing and 22 percent of those living in the next worst 10 percent. These are far higher numbers than for any other group.
In conclusion, Mr. Peach noted that the second and third generations of Muslim Europeans are better educated than the first generation, but not as well–educated as the rest of the population or as other minority groups. Today, the political tide in Western Europe is moving against the permissiveness of multicultural policies, which makes it difficult to be optimistic in the short term.Back to the top.