“Religious fundamentalism is not a marginal phenomenon in Western Europe,” concluded a December 9, 2013, press release of the Berlin Social Science Center (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung or WZB) with respect to European Muslims in particular. The social survey results from six West European countries supporting WZB’s conclusion present troubling questions concerning Muslim immigrant integration into free societies in Europe and beyond.
As a WZB Discussion Paper explained, the WZB-funded Six Country Immigrant Integration Comparative Survey (SCIICS) involved a 2008 “large-scale telephone survey.” Respondents were “Turkish origin” and “Moroccan origin” people “who came during the guest-worker era” pre-1975 or their descendants. SCIICS surveyed both groups in Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, while insignificant Moroccan populations limited the survey to Turkish-descent individuals in Austria and Sweden. SCIICS sought 500 respondents from each group in each country as well as from a control group of non-immigrant descended country citizens, with the exception of Belgium with its “high degree of federalism.” Here SCIICS surveyed 300 individuals from each group in both Flanders and Wallonia provinces. Almost 9,000 completed surveys or 3,373 native, 3,344 Turkish, and 2,204 Moroccan origin, resulted.
For WZB study author Ruud Koopmans the results revealed unsettling aspects of Islamic belief in Western Europe as discussed in his article “Fundamentalism and Out-Group Hostility: Muslim Immigrants and Christian Natives in Western Europe.” Among other issues, SCIICS sought to remedy the deficiency that “very little is known about the extent of religious fundamentalism among Muslim immigrants” in Europe. A “large number of studies” on American Protestant fundamentalism, meanwhile, “have shown that it is strongly and consistently associated with prejudices and hostility against racial and religious out-groups, as well as ‘deviant’ groups such as homosexuals.”
For a comparative religious fundamentalism survey, SCIICS employed Bob Altermeyer and Bruce Hunsberger’s “widely accepted definition of fundamentalism” with “three key elements.” These are (1) “that believers should return to the eternal and unchangeable rules laid down in the past;” (2) “that these rules allow only one interpretation and are binding for all believers;” and (3) “that religious rules have priority over secular laws.” Accordingly, “native respondents who indicated” being Christian (70%) and “Turkish and Moroccan origin” respondents who professed being Muslim (96%) received three questions. These were (1) “Christians [Muslims] should return to the roots of Christianity [Islam];” (2) “There is only one interpretation of the Bible [the Koran] and every Christian [Muslim] must stick to that;” and (3) “The rules of the Bible [the Koran] are more important to me than the laws of [survey country].”
These questions revealed that “religious fundamentalism is not a marginal phenomenon within West European Muslim communities.” Almost 60% of surveyed Muslims advocated a “return to the roots of Islam,” 75% accepted following “only one interpretation of the Koran,” and 65% considered “religious rules…more important” than domestic laws. “Consistent fundamentalist beliefs, with agreement to all three statements,” existed among 44% of the Muslim survey respondents.
“Fundamentalist attitudes are slightly less prevalent among Sunni Muslims with a Turkish (45% agreement to all three statements) compared to a Moroccan (50%) background,” Koopmans noted. In contrast, only 15% of Alevi, a “Turkish minority current within Islam,” were similarly fundamentalist. The “lowest levels of fundamentalism” among the individually surveyed Muslim communities appeared in Germany, where a nonetheless “widespread” 30% affirmed all three statements. This result opposed the “idea that fundamentalism is a reaction to exclusion by the host society” given that German Muslims had the least legal recognition as a religious community among all the surveyed countries. Koopmans discerned “remarkably similar patterns” in other studies of West European Muslims such that 47% of German Muslims prioritized religious rules over democracy in both his and the 2007 Federal Ministry of the Interior Muslime in Deutschland study.
By contrast, only 13-21% of Christian survey respondents agreed to the individual statements, with fewer than 4% accepting all three as “consistent fundamentalists.” Corresponding “with what is known about Christian fundamentalism,” fundamentalism rates were low among Catholics (3%) and “mainstream Protestants” (4%). A “most pronounced” high of 12% occurred “among the adherents of smaller Protestant groups such as Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Pentecostal believers.” Thus Christian “support for fundamentalist attitudes remains much below the levels found among Sunni Muslims.”
Such “differences are due to class rather than religion,” a critical observer might object. The “demographic and socio-economic profiles of Muslim immigrants and native Christians differ strongly,” Koopmans recognized. Moreover, “marginalized, lowerclass individuals are more strongly attracted to fundamentalist movements.” Yet “regression analyses controlling for education, labor market status, age, gender, and marital status” refuted this theory. Such “variables explain variation…within both religious groups,” but “do not at all explain or even diminish the difference between Muslims and Christians.” Particularly troubling, while Christian “religious fundamentalism is much less widespread among younger people, fundamentalist attitudes are as widespread among young as among older Muslims.”
Given that American Christian fundamentalism research “has demonstrated a strong association with hostility towards out-groups…seen as threatening the religious in-group,” SCIICS investigated “this linkage…in the European context.” Here SCIICS utilized “three statements that measure rejection of homosexuals and Jews” along with the perception of being “threatened by outside enemies.” Religious respondents received the statements “I don’t want to have homosexuals as friends” and “Jews cannot be trusted.” “Muslims aim to destroy Western culture” and “Western countries are out to destroy Islam” were, respectively, the third question for Christian natives and Turkish/Moroccan-descent Muslims.
Such “out-group hostility is far from negligible among native Christians.” The offered statements revealed that 9% of these respondents were “overtly anti-Semitic” (11% in Germany) and 13% (10% in Germany) rejected homosexual friends. “Not surprisingly,” the Muslim out-group attracted the “highest level of hostility” from 23% (17% in Germany) who feared Muslims as the West’s destroyers. Hostility towards all three groups united only 1.6% native Christians. Inclusion of all natives, secular or religious, slightly lowered the “out-group hostility” to respective rates of 8%, 10%, 21%, and 1.4%.
Although “worrisome enough,” these native figures “are dwarfed by the levels of out-group hostility among European Muslims.” Their hostility towards homosexuals and Jews reach levels of almost 60% and 45%, respectively. Compared with “Islamophobic” natives, Muslim “phobia against the West” is “much higher still;” 54% of Muslim respondents fearing a Western destruction of Islam. Koopmans suggested the term “Occidentophobia” for this fear “for which oddly enough there is no word.”
A little more than a quarter of surveyed Muslims were hostile towards all three groups, with Turkish (30% agreeing with all three statements) outscoring in this metric Moroccan Muslims (17%). Alevi (13% agreeing to all three statements) were significantly less hostile than Turkish Sunni Muslims (31%). Once again “worrying,” Muslim respondents do not replicate the native trend that “out-group hostility is significantly lower among younger generations.” Likewise once again, “controlling for socio-economic variables hardly reduces group differences.” In all, “religious fundamentalism…turns out to be by far the most important predictor of out-group hostility” as differences between surveyed Christians and Muslims indicated.
SCIICS’ “findings clearly contradict…often-heard” assertions that “Islamic religious fundamentalism is a marginal phenomenon in Western Europe” similar to the “extent of fundamentalism among the Christian majority.” “Both claims are blatantly false,” Koopmans concluded. Not only the “extent of Islamic religious fundamentalism,” but also its hostile “correlates” are “serious causes of concern for policy makers as well as Muslim community leaders.” While “religious fundamentalism should not be equated with the willingness to support, or even to engage, in religiously motivated violence,” fundamentalism’s “strong relationship to out-group hostility” could “very likely…provide a nourishing environment for radicalization.”
Contrary to politically correct nostrums about Islam’s practical equivalence to all other faiths, WZB has soberly assessed disturbing facts. WZB’s analysis is even more disturbing given traditional Islamic understandings of aggressive and authoritarian jihad/sharia norms belonging to Islam’s fundamentals, a canonical core apparently ignored by Koopmans but not by devout German Muslims-turned-violent. Europe and the rest of the world ignore these facts at their peril.
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