May 7, 2009 / 12:38 PM / 9 years ago

Global survey finds European Muslims "isolated"

LONDON (Reuters) - Muslims living in European countries feel far more isolated than those living in the United States, according to a survey on coexistence, with a lack of access to education and jobs reinforcing a sense of ostracism.

<p>A man gestures in front of the newly built Ahmadiya mosque in the Heinersdorf district of Berlin October 15, 2008. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski</p>

At the same time, Muslims in France, Britain and Germany feel far more loyalty to their country than they are perceived to feel, and express a strong willingness to integrate.

The findings by pollsters Gallup tend to suggest that a longer period of migration to the United States and economic growth there has helped foster integration. Meanwhile, Muslims in Europe are working hard to fit in and say it is important, but they are not always seen to be succeeding.

“This research shows that many of the assumptions about Muslims and integration are wide of the mark,” said Dalia Mogahed, the executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies and co-author of a report based on the findings.

“European Muslims want to be part of the wider community and contribute even more to society.”

The survey, described as the first of its kind, polled at least 500 Muslims in June and July of last year to generate its findings on European Muslim integration. At least 1,000 members of the general public in each country were also randomly surveyed to create comparisons on specific issues.

While 38 percent of Muslims in Germany, 35 percent of those in the United Kingdom and 29 percent of those in France were found to be “isolated” in their countries, that figure stood at just 15 percent in the United States and 20 percent in Canada.

“This can be explained by the historical importance of immigration in the development of Canada and the United States as modern nations,” said Mogahed, adding that better access to higher education and work in North America had helped over decades to create more integration and social advancement.

“PERCEPTION GAP”

One of the starkest findings of the surveys was the gap in perception between European Muslims and the general public.

While nearly half of French Muslims (46 percent) said they felt integrated, only 22 percent of the French public said they felt the same about the Muslims living in their country.

In Germany, 35 percent of Muslims saw themselves as integrated, but the broader public put it at 13 percent. And in Britain, while 20 percent of the public thought Muslims were integrated, only 10 percent of Muslims thought they were.

Mogahed and co-author Mohamed Younis said the findings showed how hard it was to draw broad conclusions about Muslim integration across Europe or develop policy as a result.

They suggested that country of origin -- many Muslims in France are originally from North Africa, many in Germany are originally from Turkey, and in Britain from Pakistan or Bangladesh -- affected integration and/or its perception.

That certainly appears to be the case when the surveys examined the importance of certain moral issues to Muslims and compared it to the general public in each country.

In France, 78 percent of the public said homosexual acts were “morally acceptable,” while 35 percent of Muslims agreed. In Germany, the ratio was 68 percent of the public and 19 percent of Muslims. In Britain, it was 58 percent to zero. The margin of error was five percentage points in all cases.

Similar dissonance was found on issues such as viewing pornography, extramarital sex, suicide and the death penalty.

The authors suggested that a combination of more rigid views and religious practices by Muslims in certain countries had contributed to a misperception about their degree of integration, even while those Muslims were keen to integrate.

”Since 9/11 and the terrorist attacks in Madrid and London, mistrust toward European Muslims has become palpable,“ the authors wrote. ”Significant segments of European societies openly express doubt that Muslim fellow nationals are loyal citizens.

“The integration debate has to widen its frame, moving beyond the confines of security and religion, and focus more on the socioeconomic struggles of citizens of all faiths.”

Editing by Jon Hemming

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