European poll: An Islamic threat?

A new poll conducted in France and Germany indicates that a notable portion of participants consider Islam a “threat”.

Muslims Rally Against France''s Ban On Religious Headscarves
In a recent poll conducted by IFOP on behalf of Le Monde, the majority of respondents surveyed think that  Muslims fail to integrate into society [Getty]

Islam is considered a “threat” by millions of French and Germans, with the vast majority believing Muslims have “not integrated properly”, a devastating new poll reveals today.

The Le Monde/IFOP poll sampled 1600 adults – 800 in France and 800 in Germany – on issues relating to Muslim integration, during a single day last month.

Le Monde newspaper runs the results under a headline which brands efforts to get different religious and cultural communities to live side-by-side as a “failure”.

It will be viewed with particular dismay in France and Germany, as the two countries have the biggest Muslim communities in Europe. Britain also has a sizable Muslim presence, with members often complaining of discrimination and prejudice.

“Islam and integration: French and Germans admit failure,” writes Le Monde, the most famous newspaper in Paris.

According to its poll carried out with marketing firm IFOP, 68 per cent of French and 75 per cent of Germans believe Muslims are “not well integrated into society”.

Just as crucially, 42 per cent of French and 40 per cent of Germans consider the presence of Muslim communities a “threat” to their national identities.

An editorial in Le Monde adds, “As Islam becomes a permanent and increasingly conspicuous fixture of European societies, public opinion is clearly tensing up, though disparities do appear between young and old and between left- and right-wing.”

Jerome Fourquet, of IFOP, said the results “go beyond linking immigration with security or immigration with unemployment, to linking Islam with a threat to identity”.

Fourquet said he would like to extend the research to countries like the UK, where he believed the results would be pretty much the same.

The threat of terrorism has increasingly been linked with Muslim communities in all European countries, including Britain, since the 9/11 attacks on the US in 2001 and the 7/7 atrocities in central London in 2005.

In France, president Nicolas Sarkozy’s government has displayed an increasingly hard line stance towards what he perceives as religious extremism, recently banning Islamic veils. This has been accompanied by a highly publicised national identity debate, in which thousands have complained about the increasing influence of Muslim communities within France.

Meanwhile, Sarkozy has courted the voters of hard-right parties like the National Front as he tries to reassert traditional values.

France is a secular society, but the vast majority of its inhabitants are Roman Catholics. No official figures are available, but the country is estimated to be home to around six million Muslims (approximately between 8 – 10% of the French population), many from its former North African colonies.

German federal authorities estimate their own Muslim population to be around 4.5 million, many of them Turks who emigrated in the 1960s.

Germany itself has had tensions with Islam, such as reoccurring run-ins with their Turkish populace or occasional opposition to religious traditions of Islam, such as a the construction in Cologne of a large mosque that caused a furor.

Current German Chancellor Angela Merkel, fuelling the right wing in Germany, addressed the debate about immigration from “foreign cultures” for her party – the Christian Democratic Union – by saying, “We don’t have too much Islam, we have too little Christianity. We have too few discussions about the Christian view of mankind.”

With European emphasis increasing on preserving Judeo-Christian tradition whilst maintaining a generally hostile posture towards Muslims, it is no wonder why many perceive Islam as not integrating into Western society properly.

Nabila Ramdani is a French journalist and academic of Algerian descent. She is a winner of the inaugural European Muslim Woman of Influence 2010 award.

Source: Al Jazeera