1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Germans support democracy, but are concerned about Islam

July 11, 2019

A study by the Bertelsmann Foundation found 89% of respondents, across all religions, consider democracy to be a good form of government. But half of respondents expressed concern over Islam.

Woman with headscarf holding up placard reading 'peace be with you'
Image: imago images/IPON

The latest edition of the Bertelsmann Foundation's bi-annual "Religion Monitor" interview survey published on Thursday found religious tolerance in Germany to be sustained but Islam to be having a hard time, perceived by many to be negative.

As a result of immigration and globalization, religious diversity in Germany has increased. However, the study found this had no influence on attitudes towards democracy: "Members of any religion can be good democrats," study author and religious sociologist Gert Pickel said.

Across three groups defined in the survey, all were heavily in favor of democracy: among Christians, 93% were in favor, among Muslims 91% and among those without a religion 83% spoke up for democracy.

An estimated 5 million Muslims live in Germany
An estimated 5 million Muslims live in GermanyImage: imago images/P. Endig

Read moreGermany's Protestant and Catholic churches predicted to lose millions of members

50% see Islam as threat

However, the study did find that dogmatic, rigid beliefs and intolerance of other religions could be harmful to democracy in the long run. The authors expressed a cause for concern in that half of the interviewees perceived Islam as a threat.

In eastern parts of Germany, where few Muslims live, there were stronger reservations towards people following Islam. According to the Bertelsmann survey, 30% of people interviewed in the east said they did not want Muslims as neighbors, compared to 16% who expressed the same preference in western German states.

'I expected worse'

Aiman Mazyek, of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, told DW that a big part of the problem was how "the propaganda of right-wing extremists and populists," who are more prevalent in the east, "say that Islam is not a religion, but an ideology," and present it as in contrast to the ideology behind western insitutions.

However, Mazyek said, he had "expected worse" from the study. "Despite the unending presence" of an anti-Islam narrative in media and politics, "50% do not see Islam negatively."

Read moreGlobalization benefits everyone, but gains unevenly distributed: study

There are an estimated 5 million Muslims living in Germany, 1.5 million of them in the western and most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia.

However, the skepticism expressed by respondents to the survey did not amount to Islamophobia, according to Bertelsmann's Yasemin El-Menouar. She said this was indicated by the fact that only 13% of the respondents wanted to stop immigration.

The Bertelsmann Foundation is funded by the eponymous media company, one of the world's largest, based in the western city of Gütersloh. Run independently, the foundation promotes reform processes and the principles of entrepreneurial activity. 

The German Basic Law: freedom of religion

jm/ng (dpa, epd)

Every evening, DW sends out a selection of the day's news and features. Sign up here.