European Concerns Over Muslim Immigration Go Mainstream
A new opinion survey shows that more than half of all Europeans believe there are too many immigrants in their countries and that immigration is having a negative impact on their lives.
The findings – which come as Europeans are waking up to the consequences of decades of mass immigration from Muslim countries – point to a growing disconnect between European voters and their political masters regarding multicultural policies that encourage Muslim immigrants to remain segregated rather than become integrated into their host nations.
The survey results mirror the findings of dozens of other recent polls. Taken together, they provide ample empirical evidence that scepticism about Muslim immigration is not limited to a "right-wing" political fringe, as proponents of multiculturalism often assert. Mainstream voters across the entire political spectrum are now expressing concerns about the role of Islam in Europe.
The "Global Views on Immigration" survey was conducted by the London-based Ipsos global research firm and published on August 4. It polled citizens in nine European countries: Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden.
The poll shows a close correlation between the views the natives of a given country have about immigration and the number of, and level of, integration of Muslim immigrants in their countries.
For example, the poll finds that Belgians and Britons hold the most negative views on immigration; these countries also have some of the least integrated Muslim populations in Europe. The poll also shows that among Europeans, Poles have the most positive views on immigration and immigrants; Poland happens to have Europe's smallest Muslim community, which comprises less than 0.1% of that country's total population.
The Ipsos poll shows that as a whole, more than 56% of Europeans believe "there are too many immigrants" in their countries: Belgium (72%), Britain (71%), Italy (67%), Spain (67%), Germany (53%), France (52%), Hungary (50%), Sweden (46%) and Poland (29%).
In response to the polling question "Would you say that immigration has generally had a positive or negative impact?" majorities in all European countries except for Sweden and Poland say the impact has been negative: Belgium (72%), Britain (64%), Italy (56%), Spain (55%), France (54%), Germany (54%), Hungary (52%), Sweden (37%) and Poland (32%). As a whole, only 17.5% of Europeans say immigration has been positive.
Most Europeans also agree with the survey statement "Immigration has placed too much pressure on public services" in their country: Britain (76%), Spain (70%), Belgium (68%), Hungary (59%), Germany (58%), France (56%), Italy (56%), Sweden (40%) and Poland (27%).
The Ipsos survey mirrors the findings of a number of other recent polls which show that Europe's mainstream political parties are losing touch with public opinion on the issue of Muslim immigration.
A new report "Muslim-Western Tensions Persist" was published by the Washington, DC-based Pew Research Center on July 21. It shows that Europeans believe their relations with Muslims are bad: France (62%), Germany (61%), Spain (58%) and Britain (52%).
The poll also shows that most Europeans believe Muslims in their countries do not want to integrate: Germany (72%), Spain (69%), France (54%) and Britain (52%).
The Pew survey shows that almost 60% of Europeans believe Muslims are "fanatical," 50% believe they are "violent" and only 22% believe they are "respectful of women." In response to the question "Which religion is most violent?" 90% of French say Islam, as do 87% of Spaniards, 79% of Germans and 75% of Britons. The poll also shows that more than two-thirds of Germans (73%), Britons (70%), French (68%) and Spanish (61%) are worried about Islamic extremists in their countries.
A separate poll conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project shows widespread support in Europe for banning Islamic veils in public, including in schools, hospitals and government offices. The survey shows that 82% of French, 71% of Germans, 62% of Britons and 59% of Spaniards support such a ban.
Another pan-European survey, the "Guardian Euro Poll," shows that concern about Muslim immigration is widespread and not just limited to the political far right. The poll shows that although 62% of Europeans view themselves as "liberal" rather than "traditional" on social issues, pluralities in the four biggest countries (Britain, France, Germany and Spain) are opposed to immigration from outside the European Union. The survey also shows that unrestricted immigration is the first- or second-most serious problem a large number of Europeans face.
In Britain, a poll called the "Searchlight Fear and Hope Survey" shows that huge numbers of Britons would support an anti-immigration English nationalist party if it were not associated with violence and fascist imagery. The poll, conducted by London-based Populus, also shows that more than 50% of Britons agree with the proposition that "Muslims create problems in the UK."
In France, an Ifop poll published by the center-left Le Monde newspaper shows that 42% of French citizens consider the presence of a Muslim community in their country to be "a threat" to their national identity. Moreover, 68% of French say Muslims are "not well integrated in society." Out of these, 61% of the French blame this failure on the "refusal" by Muslims to integrate.
Recent polls also show that up to two-thirds of French voters believe that "multiculturalism" and the integration of Muslims into society have failed. A survey by Ifop for the France-Soir newspaper shows that nearly 40% of French voters believe that Muslim prayer in the streets of France resembles an occupation. An opinion poll published by Le Parisien newspaper shows that voters view Marine Le Pen, who leads the far right National Front party, as the candidate best suited to fix the problem of Muslim immigration.
In Germany, an opinion survey, "Perception and Acceptance of Religious Diversity," conducted by the sociology department of the University of Münster, in partnership with the prestigious TNS Emnid political polling firm, shows that the majority of Germans disagree with a statement by German President Christian Wulff that Islam "belongs in Germany."
The study shows that only 34% of West Germans and 26% of East Germans have a positive view of Muslims. Fewer than 5% of Germans think Islam is a tolerant religion, and only 30% say they approve of the building of mosques. The number of Germans who approve of the building of minarets or the introduction of Muslim holidays is even lower.
Fewer than 10% of West Germans and 5% of East Germans say that Islam is a peaceful religion. More than 40% of Germans believe that the practice of Islam should be vigorously restricted.
Only 20% of Germans and 30% of French believe that Islam is suitable for the Western world. Significantly, more than 80% of those surveyed in Germany, France, Denmark, Portugal and the Netherlands agree with the statement "that Muslims must adapt to our culture."
In the Netherlands, polls show that an overwhelming majority of Dutch voters are sceptical about multiculturalism. According to a Maurice de Hond poll published by the center-right newspaper Trouw on June 19, 74% of Dutch voters say immigrants should conform to Dutch values. Moreover, 83% of those polled say they support a ban on Islamic burqas in public spaces.
A separate Maurice de Hond poll published by the popular NU.nl news website on July 29 shows that 63% of Dutch are "worried about the fact that the influence of Islam in Western European countries is increasing."
Not surprisingly, the center-right government in Holland recently announced plans to abandon the long-standing model of multiculturalism that has encouraged Muslim immigrants to create a parallel society within the country.
In Denmark, a Gallup/Berlingske poll recently published by the center-right Berlingske newspaper shows that 92% of Danish citizens believe Muslim immigrants should "predominantly adopt local Danish customs."
The poll was conducted after the new integration minister, Søren Pind, publicly rejected the idea that Denmark should be a multicultural society. According to Pind, Denmark should welcome foreigners who are willing to adopt and respect Danish values, norms and traditions; those who do not should not be in Denmark at all. "The way I see it, when you choose Denmark, you choose Denmark because you want to become Danish," Pind said.
Considered as a whole, the recent surveys show that majorities of Europeans are now worried about the impact that Muslim immigration is having on their daily lives.
But an arguably more important conclusion to be gleaned from the polling data is that ordinary Europeans are becoming increasingly willing to express their opinions in public.
After decades of a "bread and circuses," European political culture in which the ruling class was able to appease the general public by means of the cradle-to-grave social welfare state, there is now a discernable shift in public discourse in many European countries on the topic of immigration..
If Europe's political class eventually bends to the public will and does an about-face on a social re-engineering project that is transforming the continent beyond recognition, the recent shift in public opinion on immigration may yet mark the beginning of the end of European multiculturalism. Or will it be too little too late?
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