40 per cent of Germans believe that the country is being ‘infiltrated’ by Islam

Overall group prejudices on the decline

The SPD-linked Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence at the University of Bielefeld have conducted a representative sociological survey of 1,896 Germans to probe how widespread right-wing populist attitudes are among the population. According to the authors, the results draw “the picture of a divided society.”((Zick, Andreas, Beate Küpper, and Daniela Krause (2016). Gespaltene Mitte, Feindselige Zustände: Rechtsextreme Einstellungen in Deutschland 2016. The entire study is available at https://www.fes.de/de/index.php?eID=dumpFile&t=f&f=11000&token=63d1583c0c01b940d67518cf250f334b87bf5fdb; an executive summary at https://www.fes.de/de/index.php?eID=dumpFile&t=f&f=10999&token=d27af43a8d36326af8cf0964a25a57f3b95f8ba4 ))

Overall, patterns of rejection social minorities has continued to decline since the first comparable study was published in 2002: negative attitudes towards people with disability, homosexuals, immigrants, and Sinti and Roma are down, as is prejudice based on sex or race.

Islamophobia and hostility against asylum-seekers bucking the trend

However, Islamophobia and rejection of asylum-seekers are on the rise, being voiced by 19 and 50 per cent of respondents, respectively. Negative views of asylum-seekers therefore overtake the stubbornly high levels of prejudice against the unemployed, shared by 49 per cent of the population, as the most widespread form of group-based stereotype.

The authors note further interesting trends: since a similar study was conducted in 2014, the polarisation of opinions has increased, with more people either categorically rejecting or absolutely upholding stereotypes. Moreover, prejudice against immigrants, Muslims, Sinti and Roma, asylum-seekers, or against the homeless are significantly more widespread in the Eastern part of the formerly divided country, and among social classes with lower income and education.

Politically, it is the partisans of the Alternative für Deutschland Party (AfD) that most often exhibit a comprehensive worldview marked by the denigration of others. They express dislike of immigrants (68 per cent), Muslims (64 per cent), Sinti and Roma (59 per cent), asylum-seekers (88 per cent), and the unemployed (68 per cent).

Views on immigration

A majority of 56 per cent of respondents nevertheless continues to support the intake of refugees. 24 per cent see negative side-effects of recent immigration but are optimistic that these can be overcome. 20 per cent explicitly denounce the fact that Germany has taken in refugees.

38 per cent unequivocally support an upper limit to the number of refugees accepted in any given year – a measure frequently proposed by Angela Merkel’s sister party, the Bavarian CSU – while 21 per cent strictly reject it.

While only single-digit percentages feel culturally or financially threatened by refugees, around a quarter of respondents fear a drop in living standards. 35 per cent believe that the German state is more concerned with helping refugees than ethnic Germans in dire socioeconomic straits, while 50 per cent reject this statement.

Right-wing extremist attitudes

The study thus asserts that – perhaps in the media frenzy surrounding the rise of populist forces – the German population’s fundamentally positive attitude towards refugees is being “underestimated”. The tolerant majority is lodged against “a not unsubstantial and loud minority” that “does not just reject refugees but also denigrates other social groups and has a penchant for right-wing extremist views.”

Overall, such right-wing extremist attitudes (captured in the study by the relativisation of National-Socialist crimes, a belief in German racial supremacy, national-chauvinist attitudes, and anti-immigrant sentiment) remain at stable and relatively low levels of 5.9 per cent in East Germany and 2.3 per cent in the West.

However, the percentage of East Germans professing such views doubled between 2014 and 2016, mainly due to rising right-wing extremism among the elderly, the uneducated, and the poor. During this time, the east of the country also witnessed an increased incidence of right-wing violence and terrorism.((For bomb attacks in Dresden shortly before the German National Day, see http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/10/17/german-national-day-celebrations-dresden-overshadowed-bomb-blasts-right-wing-agitation/))

The rise of right-wing populism

Beyond such far-right views with a neo-Nazi edge, a more diffuse set of opinions associated with “right-wing populist orientations” has slightly risen since 2014, now observable among 20 per cent of the population, as well as 80 percent of AfD voters.

The study’s authors conclude that “classical right-wing extremist attitudes are increasingly replaced by the modernised variant of new right-wing attitudes”. This outlook carries “nationalist-völkisch ideologies in more subtle form and in a more intellectual garb”.

The most widespread belief in this category (held by 40 per cent of respondents) is the conspiracy theory that German society is being “infiltrated by Islam”. Beyond that, 28 per cent accuse the ruling elites of “committing treachery of the people”, and assert that the German state today prevents dissenters from uttering their views and opinions freely. 29 per cent assert that “it is time to show more resistance” to contemporary political decision-making.

Populist suspicion towards Islam

Indeed, especially the high incidence of the belief that Islam and Muslims were subversive actors seeking to infiltrate the country is jarring. It demonstrates the extent to which suspicion against Islam as an alien force has become the cornerstone of right-wing populists’ appeal to the population.

This widespread suspicion also resonates with a wealth of other empirical findings, including a study published earlier this year that had highlighted the stark divergence in perceptions of Islam between German Turks and ethnic Germans.((http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/07/14/religiosity-integration-participation-new-survey-attitudes-experiences-citizens-turkish-descent-germany/))

Politically, this sentiment echoes the AfD’s assertion that Islam is “not compatible” with the German constitution.((http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/04/24/islam-not-compatible-with-german-constitution-says-far-right-afd-party/)) Of all the populist tropes the AfD relies upon – such as the defamation of elites, disparaging of the press, and the call for resistance – the fear of Islam is the belief most widely held in the population. This fact showcases the incentives for the party to continue to free-ride on and exacerbate these fears.

In the wake of the recent American election, the study also highlights trends in Germany that are similar to those that brought Donald Trump to power in the US. Most notably, it captures a widespread feeling of disaffection among white Germans that can be found disproportionately in some regions of the country (the former East) and that are often poorly educated as well as concentrated on the lower ladders of the income distribution.

BOOK REVIEW: The Myth of the Muslim Tide: Do Immigrants Threaten the West?

myth of muslim tide

The Myth of the Muslim Tide is a timely, sober and exhaustively researched book. British-Canadian Globe and Mail journalist Doug Saunders clearly and effectively debunks a number of irrational yet widely circulated demographic and historical claims by drawing on popular political literature, quantitative data and opinion polls. The short book is a useful tool with which to counteract the heightened post-9/11 notion of an imminent avalanche of Muslim immigrants bent on taking over Western countries from within, a goal parallel with that of the Euro-Islam network.

These ideas matter because they are not solely the fodder of extremists. Saunders frames the book around his experience of reading Anders Breivik’s manifesto, but we know these beliefs are foundational for political leaders like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, parties that have anti-Muslim-immigration agendas in Scandinavia, the National Front in France and so on.

My own anthropologically-based work with Muslims outside of Paris,in the Greater Toronto Area and in St. John’s, Newfoundland has led me to findings similar to Saunders’: that public debate and, at times, governmental and legal policies are marked by misinformation about the population, birth rates and lack of extremism among the majority of Western Muslims.

While my work is qualitative, Saunders’ data are dryly and dispassionately accurate and say a great deal about disparities between influential conservatives’ claims and the realities of European and North American Muslims (who I find he sweeps together a bit too easily). Saunders’ claims that, “The truth about Muslim communities is not found in scripture but in action” (7) is on the mark and one with which many social scientists would agree.

To my mind the book’s strengths lie in the latter half of the book where he shows how Catholics in the US in the 18th and 19th Centuries and Jews in Europe in the early 20th Century were perceived with some of the same tone and racist scaremongering as Muslims today. There is, in sum, precedence for this discourse and history is a useful tool to show these trends.

 

Lastly, while Saunders’ overview of the privatization of religion is a bit too facile, his observation of how “Muslimness” is increasingly used as a trumping marker and identifier of peoples who have a number of other identifiers (as parents, immigrants, workers, siblings, of specific ethnic groups) is accurate . “The Muslim People” or ummah are catchalls that are also increasingly used by Muslims who find them politically unifying and theologically expedient. Saunders makes clear that the sheer variety of Islamic ways of life escape easy categorization.

There are two elements of the book I felt could have been further developed. Firstly, I wished Saunders had further developed the emotional quotient of these “tides.” He alludes to this feature in the opening of the book when he describes his visceral response to the changing so-called ethnic shops in his London neighborhood, his babysitter’s religious conversion and in a short section on “Self-Hating Westerners” that suggests that some Europeans see themselves at fault for this “tide” in becoming spiritually and morally bankrupt (20).

It seems to me that the emotional element in encountering difference is far more complex than charting fertility trends and speaks to why, for instance, autobiographies of Muslim women experiencing intimate partner violence are bestsellers in Western Europe and North America when we know that women of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds experience abuse. As a side note, when Saunders says in his introduction that he aligns himself with popular “Enlightenment fundamentalist” Ayaan Hirsi Ali, I became worried. Social scientists like Saba Mahmood and Sherene Razack have effectively shown how Infidel (2007) does more damage in presenting an Orientalist homogenized patriarchal package than some of the authors Saunders critiques like Orianna Falacci or Mark Steyn. Fortunately this early appreciation does not lead Saunders to adopt Hirsi Ali’s neo-Orientalist positions.

Getting back to the emotional equation, I wished Saunders had more clearly articulated and considered the language of encounter. In my own work I have critiqued the French policy and legal arms of the Sarkozy government’s treatment of hijabs (2011), but I appreciate that a significant portion of the 2010 644-page government report that prefaced the so-called “burqa ban” treats the emotional experience of engaging with someone whose face is covered and who has different eating habits, beliefs and sexual politics.

Saunders recognizes the anxiety of the “politics of the neighbor” but his purely logical analytical response does not capture how one might feel if one’s child’s kindergarten teacher wears a niqab in the classroom. Granted, there are few niqabis in Canada – there are an estimated 25 in the province of Quebec where a bill has been recommended to ban them from public services  –  but while I might know that she is not intent on promoting Sharia in the criminal code, I might still wonder how I should address this teacher. This book does not deal with this pervasive affective issue, which is essential.

Secondly, I think it’s worth thinking about the intended audience for the book.  Saunders reflexively shares his own anxieties and fears, questioning his own responses, imagining his readers to be in the same boat. This tone allows for an openness and lack of judgment. Readers, like Saunders, might have major concerns when their babysitter converts (or reverts) to Islam but don’t want to be bigoted or racist in their responses.

However, his appeasement-filled language on the one hand and extensive use of “us” (the readers) and “them” (the Muslim immigrants) on the other is confusing. It effectively maintains “them” as outsiders, which appears to counter his primary goal. We must also consider the possible effects of focusing on a lack of threat  from Muslims in particular. Can reading this book actually shift a discursive stratagem away from the notion of Islamic threat or does this book participate in the construction of a global and decontextualized Muslim other by insisting that Muslims are largely benign?

In sum, as Saunders himself noted at a Big Thinkers’ Event at the University of Victoria in June 2013, “I wrote this book for that uncle”. The book is intended for a wide general audience. Academics may find it a useful reference for undergraduate students; policy makers and journalists will find the data in this well-researched book useful and compelling.

2030: The year Britain will cease to be a Christian nation with the march of secularism

The march of secularism means Britain may no longer be a Christian country in just 20 years, a report said yesterday.

If trends continue, the number of non-believers is set to overtake the number of Christians by 2030. Research by the House of Commons Library found that while Christianity  has declined, other religions have seen sharp increases.
In the last six years, the number of Muslims has surged by 37 per cent to 2.6million; Hindus by 43 per cent and Buddhists by 74 per cent. But the number of Sikhs and Jewish believers fell slightly.

The researchers said the number of Christians had only held up to the extent it has because of high levels of immigration over the last decade.

Secularists argue that Christians should no longer have privileged access in Parliament when the number who believe in God is declining so sharply.

Researchers came to their conclusion after studying the Labour Force Survey, which is carried out every year by the Office for National Statistics. It is the most authoritative survey because of its regularity and its large sample size of 50,000.

It found that in 2010 there were around 41.1million Christians in Britain – down 7.6 per cent over the past six years. There were around 13.4million non-believers, up 49 per cent over the same period.

The study, Religion in Great Britain, concludes: ‘Between the fourth quarter of 2004 and the fourth quarter of 2010, the Christian  population fell from 78.0 per cent of the population to 69.4 per cent, while the group of people with no religion grew from 15.7 per cent to 22.4 per cent.

‘If these populations continue to shrink and grow by the same number of people each year, the number of people with no religion will overtake the number of Christians in Great Britain in 20 years, on this measure of religious affiliation.’

UK Parliamentary Committee Releases Report on “Roots of Violent Radicalisation

The Home Affairs Committee of the British House of Commons released its
long awaited report on “The Roots of Violent Radicalisation” earlier
today. Based on nine months of hearings, site visits and numerous
written submissions, the report provides a comprehensive overview of
recent developments and trends.

It highlights, in particular, the increasing role of the internet, the
emergence of “lone wolf” terrorists, and the potential threat from
far-right extremists. It also assesses the UK government’s revised
Prevent strategy.

Halal-Related Advertising Grows in France with the Start of Ramadan

News Agencies – August 6, 2010
It’s food advertising with a halal twist – billboard posters that go blank in daylight hours during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Halal food distributor “Isla Delice” has launched posters on August 10 which show an empty table by day. By night, thanks to a clever back-lighting system, the posters change to become replete with delicious traditional Muslim foods. Isla Delice’s advertising line is Fièrement halal (“Proud to be halal”). Some 6,000 other billboards promoting their meats are on display throughout France.
Halal is a huge industry in France, worth around 5.5 billion Euros in 2010 and growing by 15 percent each year. Some 90 percent of France’s five million Muslims eat Halal food. “Mainstream halal advertising campaigns have been about for barely a year,” says Abbas Bendali, head of Solis, an organization that observes ethnic marketing trends in France. “Halal advertising is accelerating.”

Annual report on integration by The Netherlands Institute for Social Research

The annual report on integration from the Netherlands’ Institute for Social Research (Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau) was released in December 2009.

This report is designed to track the trends in immigration in the country, providing demographic information and statistics. The Netherlands’ Moroccan and Turkish populations, and particularly their second-generations, feature prominently in the report, followed by populations of Surinamese, Somalian, and Chinese background.

The report provides information on language, living conditions, employment, criminality, and social/cultural status among the country’s many diverse immigrant communities. Special chapters address the position of women, and of youth from non-western backgrounds.

Report:

http://www.vrom.nl/Docs/Jaarrapport%20Integratie%202009.pdf

Homepage Netherlands Institute for Social Research:

www.scp.nl/english

Muslims in Europe: A Report on 11 EU Cities

The Open Society Institute Muslims in Europe report series constitutes the comparative analysis of data from 11 cities in seven European countries. It points out common trends and offers recommendations at the local, national, and international levels, including to the European Union and to international organizations. While not representative of the situation of all Muslims in these cities, this report does capture a snapshot of the experiences of Muslim communities in select neighborhoods in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, Antwerp, Berlin and Hamburg, Copenhagen, Leicester and Waltham Forest–London, Marseille and Paris, and Stockholm.

This body of work comes in response to major trends with regards to Muslims living in Europe: whether citizens or migrants, native born or newly-arrived, Muslims are a growing and varied population that presents Europe with one of its greatest challenges, namely how to ensure equal rights and opportunities for all in a climate of rapidly expanding diversity.

Muslims in Europe: A Report on 11 EU Cities, by Open Society Institute

The Open Society Institute Muslims in Europe report series constitutes the comparative analysis of data from 11 cities in seven European countries. It points out common trends and offers recommendations at the local, national, and international levels, including to the European Union and to international organizations. While not representative of the situation of all Muslims in these cities, this report does capture a snapshot of the experiences of Muslim communities in select neighborhoods in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, Antwerp, Berlin and Hamburg, Copenhagen, Leicester and Waltham Forest–London, Marseille and Paris, and Stockholm.

This body of work comes in response to major trends with regards to Muslims living in Europe: whether citizens or migrants, native born or newly-arrived, Muslims are a growing and varied population that presents Europe with one of its greatest challenges, namely how to ensure equal rights and opportunities for all in a climate of rapidly expanding diversity.

Arrests of Americans in Pakistan raise concerns about possible trends of homegrown terrorism and radicalization abroad

In the years since 9/11 no further terrorist attacks have occurred, and the American war on terror was partly predicated upon the idea that fighting terrorism abroad will prevent fighting it at home. But a recent string of terrorism arrests is challenging the idea that American soil is immune to homegrown radicalism. The Obama Administration this week conceded that the US now faces a rising threat of homegrown radicalism.

This raises a new question: are Muslims in the US really more assimilated and less prone to extremism than European Muslims?

Bruce Hoffman, Georgetown University terrorism expert says “it is myopic to believe we could insulate ourselves from the currents affecting Muslims everywhere else.”

CAIR report says US Muslims still face civil rights issues

The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) annual report on the status of civil rights for American Muslims has been released.

The findings indicate that while hate crimes against Muslims are down, reported complaints of discrimination and civil rights violations continue to rise. In fact, the numbers are the highest they have been since CAIR was founded.

“Hate crimes and vandalism are down but we are seeing more workplace and media bias,” says Dawud Walid, local CAIR executive director.

While discrimination issues at school and work are cause for concern, there is also room for optimism.

“At least we had someone like Colin Powell saying publicly ‘what if Obama was a Muslim,’ and we had a senator McCain rejecting the claim that Obama is a Muslim in a public forum,” says Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR Communications Director. “There are two competing trends, and we hope new emerging one wins up.”