How attitudes about immigration, race and religion contributed to Trump victory

The story of President Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton has been analyzed and reanalyzed, told and retold since November. Is there more to add? The short answer, based on four reports released recently, is yes, and what the reports say is provocative.

The reports debunk some of the assertions of why Trump won — his criticism of free-trade agreements apparently was not as big a factor as some have suggested — while focusing on the specific role that race, religion, immigration and national identity played in the outcome and particularly how those issues may have influenced voters who switched to Trump after supporting President Barack Obama in 2012.

The reports are the first produced by the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, which comprises 20 analysts from think tanks or other institutions across the ideological spectrum.

New Study of Post-Migrant Germany asks: “Do you love Germany?” [PDF DOWNLOAD]

"Naika Foroutan (pictured above) headed the interdisciplinary research group at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin that conducted the "Post-migrant Germany" study, which exposed ambivalent attitudes towards migration." (Photo:
“Naika Foroutan (pictured above) headed the interdisciplinary research group at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin that conducted the “Post-migrant Germany” study, which exposed ambivalent attitudes towards migration.” (Photo:

“A new study entitled “Post-migrant Germany” set out to investigate attitudes on national identity in Germany. According to the results, these attitudes are ambivalent: people in Germany are open-minded, yet many in mainstream society have major reservations with respect to Muslim immigrants.” Claudia Mende reports for

[Click for Qantara’s Summary of the Report in English]

[Copy of Report – Only Available German]

A book review of The French Intifada: The Long War between France and its Arabs by Andrew Hussey

February 28, 2014

French Intifada


A book review of The French Intifada: The Long War between France and its Arabs by Andrew Hussey (publication date March 6, 2014)


‘’ Going well beyond news reports, the book shows just how hot and fierce a vein of hatred for France runs through the Muslim populations that have experienced French rule. More than half a century after the North African states achieved independence, France remains an object of deep loathing for many of their citizens, who often associate the former imperial overlord with oppressive French-speaking elites. Even the Moroccans who carried out the 2004 train bombings in Madrid, Hussey argues, ultimately linked Spain with these elites, and thus with “the hated nation of France”. Meanwhile, in the book’s striking opening scene, Hussey describes how young Muslims he encountered at a riot at Paris’s Gare du Nord in 2007, most presumably born on French soil, broke into a chant in colloquial Arabic: “Na’al abouk la France” – “Fuck France!”

MPI Report Examines the Concept of National Identity in France and Its Impact on Integration Efforts

WASHINGTON — France has long faced a contentious debate of crucial importance for immigrants and their descendents — defining what it means to “be French,” a debate that flared in its recent presidential election in which a significant percentage of voters supported a platform critical of immigration and its effects on society. Though countries with rich histories of immigration such as the United States and Canada accept “dual belonging” at least in practice, this concept has been criticized and perceived as at odds with a person’s commitment to French identity.

Recent surveys of French immigrants, however, have shown the opposite to be true. These findings demonstrate that multiple allegiances are not an impediment to integration; it is possible to “feel French” and maintain links with one’s country of origin. However, because of external perceptions, native French citizens are far less likely to accept this adoption of French identity.

In /*French National Identity and Integration: Who Belongs to the National Community*/, sociodemographer Patrick Simon examines perceptions of national identity and the rejection of plural belongings in French society, which have created conditions for the marginalization of visible minorities. Simon, Director of Research at the Institut National d’Etudes Démographiques (INED) and a researcher at the Center for European Studies at Institut d’Études Politiques (Sciences Po), draws from the 2008-09 /Trajectories and Origins/ survey of 22,000 respondents in refuting the notion that the foreign born will weaken social cohesion in France.

While France is increasingly diverse, recent identity debates show little room for inclusion of ethnic minorities. This was again evident in the 2012 presidential elections, with 18 percent of the first round vote going to Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate whose platform espouses an anti-immigration platform, and outgoing French President Nicolas Sarkozy adopting similar rhetoric in his campaign.

Simon points to the need to create a new framework for equality, which includes updating the French concept of immigrant integration. Such changes remain a challenge, as newly appointed President Francois Hollande has pledged to keep the burqa ban, enforcing the idea that aspects of minority culture are incompatible with being French.

“For a majority of immigrants, embracing one’s ethnicity as part of one’s identity and being invested in and rooted to your host country are not mutually exclusive,” said MPI President Demetrios Papademetriou. “But as we see elsewhere, full integration efforts are hampered when the majority is unwilling to accept immigrants of diverse backgrounds as equal members of society.”

/*French National Identity and Integration: Who Belongs to the National Community*/ is the latest report produced by MPI’s Transatlantic Council on Migration that examines the current political and public debates over national identity and social cohesion. The Council is a unique deliberative and advisory body that examines vital policy issues and informs migration policymaking processes across the Atlantic community. A recently released Council statement, /Rethinking National Identity in the Age of Migration/, examines the roots of society’s anxiety over immigration and outlines 10 steps for fostering greater cohesiveness.

Today’s report and the Council’s earlier research on this and other topics are available for download at:

Study About Islam on The Internet


According to preliminary results of a study currently conducted at the University of Münster, young Muslims in Germany increasingly use online forums to discuss issues related to religion, with questions of how to be an obedient Muslim in Western society taking centre-stage. The study relies on material gathered in more than 1,000 online debates on social networking sites such as facebook over the last three years; approximately 2,500 young Muslims in Germany contributed to debates about, for instance, “national identity and Islam”, “Euro-Islam”, or “Theocracy vs. Laicism”. Extremist and anti-constitutional tendencies were rare and also stopped by the networking sites. The final results of the study are expected to be released towards the end of 2011.

French CFCM critiques French national debate on identity

Mohammed Moussaoui, president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), has critiqued the recent French national identity debate and its “political instrumentalization of the Muslim faith”. Moussaoui suggests that greater investigation into the “social and political roots” of assimilation in France would be more appropriate.

Banning Full-Face Coverings in France

By Jennifer Selby

Earlier this week, a 32-member French parliamentary panel recommended that several limitations be placed on niqab and burqa-wearing Muslim women. Led by André Gerin, former mayor of the city of Venissieux, the 130-page report suggests barring fully-covered Muslim women from citizenship, social benefits and from access to the country’s public sphere. The six-month 32-multi-party-membered commission considered, among others, the Qur’anic legitimacy of full-face coverings, women’s rights, and secularism in France.

For many outside of France, a possible law banning niqabs and burqas stemming from this commission and its recommendations is surprising. And also that, firstly, a recent opinion poll suggests that 57% of the population fully support an outright ban, and secondly, according to a report last August in Le Monde, fewer than a thousand women in France wear full-face coverings. It is clearly the symbolic value of these garments that is at stake. In this short commentary, I suggest that the proposals from the Gerin Commission are not at all surprising. A likely full-face covering ban later this year in France is the result of a centuries-long concern with the visibility of religion in the public sphere and more recent concern for the protection of women’s rights from religiosity, and namely Islam.

French secularism or laïcité has been at the heart of legal and social debates in France since before the Revolution in 1789. Until the beginning of the 20th century most protests and legislation dealt with the power and prevalence of Catholicism. By 1905 the separation of church and state was fully legalized. By 1946, likely in an effort to reassert French identity following the German Occupation of WWII, the principle of laïcité was enshrined in the French constitution, becoming one of the major characteristics of the Republican state alongside liberté, egalité, and fraternité. In short, unlike in other Western contexts, French laïcité entails a radical separation and removal of what is deemed the religious or the private spaces of morality from domains considered public or political. The removal of all things religious from the public sphere is understood to guarantee equality and to foster shared nationalist citizenship. For the French, celebrating religious heterogeneity or multiculturalism reinforces difference and social stratification. For these reasons, the public visibility of the “private” religion of Islam is perceived as threatening to secularism and national identity. In a speech on national identity in November last year, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s announcement that “France is a country where there is no place for the burqa” was not negatively characterized by French media.

Differing from the previous Catholic-secular debates at the beginning of the 20th century, however, Islam in France is more than a religious identifier. It also characterizes ethnic and cultural identities. Alongside legal shifts securing secularism since the Revolution, the French have kindled deep ties with North African Muslims. Since France’s colonialism of Algeria in the 1830s, headscarf-wearing Muslim women have been at the center of debates about religion in the public sphere, gender politics and, as hundreds of thousands of North African Muslims migrated to the outskirts of industrial cities to work in factories, immigration. The Muslim population in France today is largely of North African origin and is between 8-20% of the population; the actual percentage is unknown as the secular French state does not, in the spirit of laïcité, gather statistical information regarding religious participation or affiliation. Tellingly, data is approximated through figures published on the ethnicity of residents.

In the post-WWI period, Maghrebian migrants were primarily men. With a shift in immigration policy in 1974 from single male workers to family reunification immigration policy, many more Maghrebian women began joining their husbands, and their children entered the public school system. With increased visibility in the public sphere, the question of Muslim immigration began to percolate, culminating in October 1989 with the “Headscarf Affair.” Since this debate about the appropriateness of headscarves in public schools, French secularism is increasingly articulated and defended vis-à-vis women’s rights. After a number of other incidents in French public schools, in 2004, following a similar six-month long commission to the Gerin Report, the government voted almost unanimously to bar “conspicuous” religious signs from public schools. While then-president of France Jacques Chirac claimed that that the law aimed to protect secularism, even a peripheral read of the 2003 68-page report and recommendations makes the hijab-focus and concern for young citoyennes’ rights evident. In the Stasi Report, women wearing headscarves are depicted as “submissive”, “dominated” and “subjugated” political pawns.

The perceived rise in women donning niqabs and burqas thus raised some alarm among French members of parliament. Last August when the Gerin Commission began, Secretary of State Fadela Amara, who elsewhere has called herself a secular Muslim, noted that “The burka represents not a piece of fabric, but the political manipulation of a religion that enslaves women and disputes the principle of equality between men and women – one of the founding principles of our republic.” Full-face covering is therefore not only about women’s rights and secularism, but also reflects a fear of political manipulation. If wearing a headscarf in shared spaces like government offices, on buses and in hospitals is depicted not as a religious choice which in the French laïque model could be relegated to the private sphere, but as political one, there are public implications.

To a great extent, these histories of French secularism, colonialism and Muslim immigration to France help to contextualize last week’s recommendations in the Gerin Report. Yet, beyond concerns of increased fear-mongering in Europe like that with the recent minaret ban in Switzerland, and of racism and Islamophobia, most worrisome to me with this recent news in France is how few religious women are themselves able to voice their choices and complexify the reasons why women choose certain forms of dress and adopt certain social comportments in keeping with their beliefs. While French politicians fight to keep religion and its symbols out of the public sphere, particularly “subjugated” full-face covered Muslim women, they ignore those they fight to protect. Commission reports like that released last week claim concern for women’s rights and their full participation in French public life, but few discuss how and why Muslim women remain the symbolic bearers of national identity in the Republic.

MRAP files complaint against Morano for comments about French Muslim youth

The Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Between Peoples (Mrap or Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples) has launched a complaint of racism against French Secretary of State for the Family, Nadine Morano, for comments she made about Muslim youth.

During a debate on national identity on 14 December 2009 at Charmes (Vosges), Morano called for young French Muslims to love France, to find work, to not speak verlan (slang) and not wear their baseball caps backwards.

More and more young Muslims call for an end on the debate on French national identity

The debate on national identity in France became more focused on young French Muslims following the comments of Nadine Morano at Charmes. The president of the CFCM (the French Council of the Muslim Faith), Mohamed Moussaoui, critiqued the stereotypical image promoted by Morano.

A spokesperson for the Union of French Jewish Students called the debate on national identity a “theatre for the expression of prejudicial racism”. Leftist parties in France have also pointed to how “dangerous” the debate is for cohesive national identity.

Along these lines, Dominique de Villepin called for the end of the “terrible” debate which should have never begun. The former prime minister stated, “In a period of crisis, we have more important matters to attend to than creating further division.”

Nadine Morano, Secretary of State for Family and Solidarity, asks French Muslims to no longer speak “Verlan”

In the context of the debate on French national identity in Charmes (Vosges), Nadine Morano, French secretary of State in charge of the family and of solidarity, declared to young French Muslims that they no longer use “verlan” slang when they speak.

Verlan is a popular suburban phenomenon of speaking, changing the order of words (i.e. bizarre becomes “zarbi”). Morano called for young Muslims to love their country, to find work, to no longer speak using verlan, to no longer wear their caps backwards.

Benoit Hamon of the Socialist Party responded with concern for Morano’s caricaturized portrayal of young people which looks very little like most young French Muslims today. The organization SOS Racisme echoed Hamon’s position.

According to a poll held by Nouvel Observateur, 40 percent of French people see the debate on National Identity by Nicolas Sarkozy to the necessary. 42 percent of respondents noted the negative ramifications of the debate.