The majority of Muslims in Europe believe Islamic Sharia law should take precedence over the secular constitutions and laws of their European host countries, according to a new study, which warns that Islamic fundamentalism is widespread and rising sharply in Western Europe.
The "Six Country Immigrant Integration Comparative Survey"—a five-year study of Moroccan and Turkish immigrants in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Holland and Sweden—was published on December 11 by the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, one of the largest social science research institutes in Europe.
According to the study (German and English), which was funded by the German government, two thirds (65%) of the Muslims interviewed say Islamic Sharia law is more important to them than the laws of the country in which they live.
Three quarters (75%) of the respondents hold the opinion that there is only one legitimate interpretation of the Koran, which should apply to all Muslims, and nearly 60% of Muslims believe their community should return to "Islamic roots."
The survey shows that 44% of the Moroccans and Turks interviewed agree with all three of the above statements, which makes them "consistent fundamentalists," and fundamentalist attitudes are just as widespread among younger Muslims as they are among older Muslims.
According to the study, Islamic fundamentalism is most pronounced in Austria, where 73% of Muslims interviewed say Sharia law is more important than the secular laws of the state; 79% say there is only one correct interpretation of the Koran that should apply to all, and 65% believe Muslims should return to their Islamic roots. In Austria, 55% of the Muslims surveyed say they agree with all three of the above statements.
The author of the study, the Dutch sociologist Ruud Koopmans, says that "comparisons with other German studies reveal remarkably similar patterns. For instance, in the 2007 Muslime in Deutschland study, 47% of German Muslims agreed with the statement that following the rules of one's religion is more important than democracy, almost identical to the 47% in our survey that finds the rules of the Koran more important than the laws of Germany."
The survey also shows considerable Muslim hostility towards so-called out-groups, which are viewed as threatening the religious in-group. For example, nearly 60% of the Muslims interviewed reject homosexuals as friends and 45% say Jews cannot be trusted.
Here too, Muslims in Austria appear to be more fundamentalist than in other European countries: 69% of Muslims in Austria say they reject homosexuals as friends, 63% say Jews cannot be trusted, and 66% believe the West seeks to destroy Islam.
By way of comparison, among European non-Muslim natives interviewed for the study in the six countries, 8% express mistrust against Jews, 10% against homosexuals, 21% against Muslims, and 1.4% against all three.
According to Koopmans, Muslim fundamentalism "is not an innocent form of strict religiosity...While about one in five native Europeans can be considered as Islamophobic, the level of phobia against the West among Muslims—for which oddly enough there is no word; one might call it 'Occidentophobia'—is much higher still, with 54% believing that the West is out to destroy Islam."
According to Koopmans:
"These findings clearly contradict the often-heard claim that Islamic religious fundamentalism is a marginal phenomenon in Western Europe or that it does not differ from the extent of fundamentalism among the Christian majority. Both claims are blatantly false, as almost half of European Muslims agree that Muslims should return to the roots of Islam, that there is only one interpretation of the Koran, and that the rules laid down in it are more important than secular laws. Among native Christians, less than one in 25 can be characterized as fundamentalist in this sense. Religious fundamentalism is moreover not an innocent form of strict religiosity, as its strong relationship—among both Christians and Muslims—to hostility towards out-groups demonstrates.
"Both the extent of Islamic religious fundamentalism and its correlates—homophobia, anti-Semitism and "Occidentophobia"—should be serious causes of concern for policy makers as well as Muslim community leaders. Of course, religious fundamentalism should not be equated with the willingness to support, or even to engage in religiously motivated violence. But given its strong relationship to out-group hostility, religious fundamentalism is very likely to provide a nourishing environment for radicalization."
In a commentary on the study, the German newspaper Die Welt says the findings cast serious doubt upon the unbridled optimism of European multiculturalists, who argue that Muslim citizens will eventually internalize the liberal democratic mindset of Western society.
"The data are not suitable for simple conclusions," the paper writes. "But it must be recognized: democracies must beware of those who believe a free society is something that needs to be vanquished."
Separately, a discussion paper (German and English) published by the Germany-based Gustav Stresemann Foundation—a think tank dedicated to the preservation and advancement of liberal democracy in Europe—warns that national and international Islamic organizations are increasingly putting pressure on Western politicians gradually to criminalize any critique of Islam.
The author of the report, the German political scientist Felix Strüning, provides a meticulously detailed analysis of the Islamic lobbying effort—by means of a "human rights lawsuit"—to silence Thilo Sarrazin, a prominent German banker who has criticized the refusal of Muslim immigrants to integrate into German society.
"A large number of Arabs and Turks in this city [...] have no productive function except for the fruit and vegetable trade [...] The proportion of births among Arabs and Turks is two to three times higher than their corresponding proportion of the population. Large parts [of this population] are neither willing to integrate nor capable of integrating. The solution to this problem can only be to stop letting people in [...] except for highly qualified individuals and not provide social welfare for immigrants anymore [...]."
"Integration is an effort of people who integrate themselves. I do not have to accept someone who does nothing. I do not have to accept anyone who lives from the state, rejects this state, does not reasonably provide education for his children and constantly produces new little girls in headscarves. This applies to 70% of the Turkish and 90% of the Arab population in Berlin. Many of them do not want integration."
The Turkish Union in Berlin-Brandenburg (Türkischer Bund Berlin-Brandenburg, TBB) responded by pressing criminal charges against Sarrazin due to alleged incitement-to-hatred (Volksverhetzung). However, German prosecutors concluded that Sarrazin's statements were protected by the freedom of expression and they ceased their investigation.
The TBB then took its lawsuit to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which was tasked with determining whether Sarrazin's statements violated the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).
In February 2013, CERD decided that Sarrazin's statements "contain ideas of racial superiority, denying respect as human beings and depicting generalized negative characteristics of the Turkish population."
CERD also stated that Sarrazin's statements were "incitement to racial discrimination" because he favors refusing social welfare benefits for Turks and would (with the exception of highly qualified individuals) generally prohibit immigration.
More importantly, CERD criticized Paragraph 130 of the German Criminal Code, the so-called incitement-to-hatred paragraph (Volksverhetzungsparagraf), which protects the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression unless such speech is "capable of disturbing public peace."
By contrast, the ICERD has a far lower threshold for determining when speech becomes hate speech. For example, the UN convention does not include the stipulation that such speech must be "capable of disturbing public peace." As a result, Germany has come under pressure from CERN to change its domestic law in order to bring it into conformity with the UN convention.
According to Strüning, if Germany were to remove the legal threshold of "capable of disturbing public peace" from its domestic law, it would be possible to prohibit even fact-based statements about Islam or Muslims, which would amount to "an irreversible curtailment of the right to freedom of expression."
Although the German government has so far refused to reopen the Sarrazin case, Strüning argues that "CERD demonstrates yet again the imminent dangers to the freedom of expression and other fundamental rights in Europe and the US when representatives of states, which clearly have a completely different understanding of human rights, are allowed to make judgments in the United Nations." According to Strüning:
"Nation states obviously feel compelled to check whether existing laws have absolute validity or if an adjustment is needed...Dealing with the Muslim immigrant group very clearly presents a completely new political challenge because many Muslims very effectively preserve and hand down their cultural and religious values internally and represent them confidently outwardly."
Strüning writes that German political authorities are increasingly bending to pressure from German Islamic organizations by adopting Muslim definitions of "Islamophobia" in public discourse, thus creating legal uncertainty as to "who can say what about Islam and Muslims in Germany."
For example, German authorities have officially confirmed that they are monitoring German-language Internet websites that are critical of Muslim immigration and the Islamization of Europe.
The Hamburg branch of the German domestic intelligence agency (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, BfV) is studying whether German citizens who criticize Muslims and Islam on the Internet are fomenting hate and are thus criminally guilty of "breaching" the German constitution. Meanwhile, the Bavarian branch of the BfV has warned Germans not to "equate Islamism with Islam."
"Critics of Islamic ideology and its organizations are constantly confronted with lawsuits and have to legally defend themselves against the accusations of blasphemy or incitement-to-hatred. Even if it does not come to a conviction, such processes cost a lot of time and money, which in many cases includes one's reputation and possibly even his or her job. Thus, also in the West, we are experiencing an increasing de facto application of Islamic law in matters of Islam."
Already today Germans can see that the so-called "spiral of silence" works in relation to Islam. "In a representative study in Germany, over half of the people surveyed admitted to not daring to criticize Islam or Muslims publicly," Strüning writes.
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook. Follow him on Twitter.