Muslims in the EU don′t feel accepted, prefer to live in mixed society | Europe | News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 27.01.2010

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Europe

Muslims in the EU don't feel accepted, prefer to live in mixed society

A new survey of 11 cities in Europe finds that the majority of Muslim immigrants feel well-integrated in their new homes but still feel discriminated against.

Turkish women with two German friends chat outside

Many Muslims in the EU feel integrated, says a new study

Debates over Muslim integration in Europe - from Switzerland's minaret ban to France's attack on face-covering veils to Germany's citizenship test - have ignited passionate opinions among Muslims. They have heightened fears, fueled anger, and provoked questions of national identity. Integration is a contentious issue that just keeps re-emerging, in one form or another, across the continent.

Today, an estimated 15 to 20 million Muslims live in the EU, and that number is expected to double by 2025.

Now, a new Europe-wide study aims to dispel some of the "myths" that have been promulgated about Muslim immigrants.

Immigrants would like to integrate

"The very common media populist view that Muslims don't want to integrate, that they don't want to live in societies which are composed of people from different backgrounds, is absolutely not true. The majority of people that we interviewed wanted to live in very mixed and diverse neighborhoods," Nazia Hussain, director of the Cities Monitoring Project at the Open Society Institute in London, told Deutsche Welle.

Researchers surveyed 2,200 Muslims and non-Muslims in 11 European cities, including Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Berlin, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Marseille, Paris, Stockholm, Leicester and Waltham Forest in London.

Among the report's many findings was that Muslims feel well-integrated but not necessarily accepted.

"It was very clear that a lot of people actually feel very integrated in terms of where they live - especially in the city and in a neighborhood - and [they feel] quite a strong sense of identification as well, across the countries that we covered," said Nazia Hussain. "But there was also quite a disjoint in terms of how people then felt they were seen in terms of belonging."

"Discrimination is one of the biggest issues that came out of the report," she added.

Case study: Berlin

The Berlin neighborhood of Kreuzberg was cited as one example.

"In Berlin, what we found [in Kreuzberg] is that people did get on with each other extremely well. Essentially what we had was a strong identification with the district," said Hussain. "With Berlin, for example, we had 80 percent of the Muslim respondents who positively identified with their particular district."

However, only 11 percent of people with immigrant backgrounds in Germany believed they would ever be perceived by their fellow countrymen and women as German, even if they had German citizenship. The average for all European cities surveyed was 25 percent.

Muslims in Berlin hold an open mosque day

Muslims in Berlin hold an open mosque day

"A growing number of Muslims in Germany feel they have been put on the sidelines, no matter how much effort is put in to improving integration," said Berlin's integration commissioner, Guenter Piening, who presented the report in Germany's capital on Monday.

The comparative report initially came out in mid-December, but more details on the findings of the German cities profiled - Hamburg and Berlin - are expected to become available in March.

Germany's growing diversity

Meanwhile, new data released by Germany's Federal Statistical Office on Tuesday found that 19 percent of Germany's population - totaling around 80 million - comes from an immigrant background. In 2005 that figure was 18.3 percent. This rise is due in part to the fact that immigrants typically have more children than non-immigrants in Germany.

The two most prominent minority groups are Turks and people born in the former Soviet bloc, according to the data compiled from 2008 figures.

"I think one of the biggest challenges really for policymakers is how do they create an environment in which members of ethnic minority groups actually feel like they belong in the city - that they are German or that they are French," said Hussain.

"Unequal treatment and discrimination have a corrosive effect on people's sense of belonging."

Author: Vanessa Johnston
Editor: Michael Lawton

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