Muslims well-integrated in Europe, new study confirms

29th Sep 2017
Muslims well-integrated in Europe, new study confirms

Hamed Chapman

Muslims in Europe are well-integrated into mainstream society despite facing significant obstacles and resistance encountered along the way, a new study released by the Bertelsmann Foundation in Germany has found.

Religion Monitor 2017 disputes myths about claimed failures about Muslims to integrate, whether it be the language is spoken at home or everyday religious practices or even the supposed incompatibility of Islam to democracy and meritocracy which some right-wing groups espouse.

The representative survey carried out in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and the U.K. found that second and third-generation Muslims had a better command of the national language, were much better educated and, despite continued discrimination, were also successful in the labour market.

Bertelsmann Foundation Director and expert on social cohesion, Stephan Vopel, underlined that contrary to claims put out by far-right politicians, Islam was not an impediment to successful integration in Europe.

“Islam is not an obstacle to integration. Muslims, even the highly religious, learn the new language and strive for higher education levels just as much as other immigrants,” he said at the launch of findings of the survey. “When integration stalls, the state framework conditions are usually the reason.”

France proved to be the most successful country for linguistic integration, followed by the UK. Over 90 percent of immigrant children in France have grown up with French as their first language, and 80 percent of Muslims born in the UK learned English as children.

Among second generation Muslims, less and less Muslim children were found to be leaving school before their 18th birthday. Nearly 67 percent stayed in school past their 17th birthday. Germany and Switzerland were named as the countries where Muslims were the most successful at integrating into the job market.

“In both these countries, the rate of gainful employment among Muslims no longer differs from that of the total population,” the report said. But it also emphasised that Muslims were earning significantly less, especially in Germany, as they were more often employed in low-wage positions.

Successful integration was particularly notable in increased social contacts between Muslims and non-Muslims, according to the report. “Seventy-five percent of Muslims regularly spend their free time with non-Muslims. The interreligious contact also increases with each generation, as does identification with the receiving country.” Overall, nearly all of those surveyed (94 percent) felt connected to the country where they live.

Despite the progress made in integration, the report revealed that Muslims who profess their faith and practice their religion often encounter discrimination in labour market as indicated by the gross disparity often in wages.

“So far, no country in Western Europe has found a convincing balance of equal opportunity and respect for religious diversity,” said author of the report, Yasemin El-Menouar. She added that highly religious Muslims faced more difficulty finding a job that corresponded to their qualifications.

While European governments have taken various initiatives to promote participation of immigrants in social and economic life, Muslims continue to encounter open rejection from as many as around one-fifth of the population, the survey found. Nearly 20 percent of Europeans interviewed for the survey said they did not want to have Muslims as neighbours.

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

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