As Muslim immigration into Europe and the West continues we should expect to see certain changes to take place over time in regard to a variety of important social and cultural factors. First off, we have to recognize that this ethnic and religious shift in Europe is unprecedented. France for example went from being 1% Muslim in 1990 to 7.5% in 2010 and by 2030 is projected to be 10.3% Muslims and Europe as a whole is expected to rise from 6% Muslim in 2010 to 8% by 2030 . What happens to a secular Western country when it becomes twenty or thirty percent Muslim? We can’t know for certain, but as I’ll explain, there is good reason to believe that it probably won’t be good for the native inhabitants of Europe.
The future of an increasingly Muslim Europe depends not just on the amount of Muslims, but also the character of the Muslims that immigrate and their decedents. On a global level there are vast cultural differences between Muslims and Europeans. In 2013 Pew Research conducted a large worldwide survey asking Muslims questions on a variety of socially-relevant topics .
If large numbers of Muslims are immigrating into Europe from these countries then it is important to understand the cultural background that they are coming from. Unsurprisingly, large majorities of Muslims in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia consider homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, and drinking alcohol to be morally wrong as well agreeing with the statement that a wife must always obey her husband. These attitudes are obviously in conflict with the secular and progressive values of Europeans. Perhaps more surprising, when researchers asked Muslims about their opinions on topics such as suicide bombing, stoning as a punishment for adultery and apostasy, and honor killings, a very troubling trend emerged. Among Muslims in South Asian, North African, and Middle Eastern countries surveyed 22% agree that attacks against civilians in defense of Islam can be often/sometimes justified, 60% favor stoning as a punishment for adultery, 53% favor the death penalty for leaving Islam, and 62% believe that killing a female family member who has engaged in premarital sex or adultery can be justified to protect the family’s honor. Such views are not only incompatible with Western values; many Europeans would consider them highly offensive and morally abhorrent. As European countries are populated more and more by immigrants from these countries we can expect the prevalence of these beliefs and attitudes to increase as well.
Polling data reveals that, in fact, these cultural differences are already manifesting themselves in European society. On a basic level Muslims in Europe identify much more strongly with their religion than with their country. A poll conducted by Pew Research in 2006 asked Muslim in the UK what they considered themselves first and foremost. The study found that only 7% of Muslims said they considered themselves a citizen of their country first while 81% considered themselves Muslim first . Similarly in Spain, just 3%, and in Germany 13% of Muslims responding said that they considered themselves a citizen of their country first. Obviously, if Muslims are to assimilate into European secular society identifying with your country rather than your religion is an important first step. Not only do Muslims have a strong sense of Islamic identity in European countries, the majority of Muslims in France, Germany, Spain, and the UK believe that Islamic identity is growing in their country and this growth is a good thing. Considering that Muslims in Europe identify strongly with their religion and see growing Islamic identity as a good thing it shouldn’t be surprising that they also have negative views of Westerners. A poll conducted by Pew Research in 2007 found that distrust and negativity towards Westerners to be widespread among Muslims in Europe while Westerners had most positive views of Muslims . In France, Germany, and Spain, at least a majority of Muslims in each county characterized Westerners as selfish and at least 40% characterized Westerners as being arrogant. In the UK, where the government makes a wide range accommodations for Muslim immigrants, over 60% of Muslims characterized Westerners as being selfish and greedy. Further concerns over a more fractionalized Europe as a result of Muslim immigration come from an online poll conducted by YouGov in 2005 . It found that 31% of the internet using Muslim population of the UK agreed with the statement, “Western society is decadent and immoral, and Muslims should seek to bring it to an end…” while only 1% of respondents would be willing to use violence as a means to this end.
Unfortunately, cross-cultural tensions are not the only thing Muslims bring into Europe. Muslim immigrants and their decedents also have a much higher rate of criminality than non-Muslims in the countries to which they’ve immigrated. In France, despite Muslims making up 7.5% of the population they represent up to 70% of the prison population . This indicates an extraordinarily high rate of criminality among Muslims in France. They are nine times more likely to be incarcerated than a non-Muslim. We see a similar picture in other European countries were Muslims make up a disproportionate number of those in prison. For instance, in the UK Muslims are nearly three times more likely to be in prison than a non-Muslim . And in Spain they are six times more likely to be in prison. We can also see from data collected by Denmark’s statistics bureau that what it categorizes as first generation non-Western immigrants (Denmark’s six largest non-Western immigrant populations are from majority Muslim countries) not only have a higher rate of criminality than native Danes, but their offspring, second generation non-Western immigrants, have an even higher rate of criminality – two and a half times greater than native Danes even after controlling for age . Thus it doesn’t seem that the integration of Muslim immigrants reduces their criminality.
While criminality is a problem that all societies face, Muslim immigration into Europe poses a unique issue that needs to be addressed. That is risk of terrorism and extremism within society. Using polling data from a 2006 survey conducted by Pew Research we can see that terrorism, at least in concept, receives widespread support from Muslims in Europe. In the UK 24% of Muslims believe that violence against civilians in the defense of Islam is justifiable, in France 35% hold this view, in Germany it is 13%, and in Spain it is 25% . Furthermore, in 2005 YouGov conducted an online survey just weeks following the brutal July 7th London bombings that killed 52 civilians and found that 6% of Muslims believed that the attacks were justified and 24% of Muslims said that they had a little/lot of sympathy with the feelings and motives of those who carried out the attack . Assuming that the internet using demographic of Muslims in the UK is representative of the Muslims population overall this would mean that are at least 150,000 Muslims living in British society who believe that the July 7th bombings were justified. As with criminality, it appears that second and third generation Muslims are actually more radical than first generation immigrants. In 2007 a study by the Policy Exchange, a UK think-tank, found that younger Muslims were more likely than older Muslims to be more radical on issues such woman’s rights, apostasy, homosexuality, and interpretations of sharia law . For instance, 71% of Muslims aged 16-24 agree that homosexuality should be illegal versus only 50% of Muslims aged 55 and older. The same story for apostasy, 36% of Muslims aged 16-24 agree that apostasy is punishable by death versus 19% by Muslims aged 55 and older. Thus, we cannot assume that these views will diminish overtime and so are a persistent problem of Muslim immigration. Besides cross-cultural tensions, the major risk presented by the prevalence of such views is that they likely increase the viability of future terrorist attacks by providing a safe haven for would-be attackers since it will be easier for radicalized immigrants and Muslim youth find large groups of like-minded people in Europe.
The numbers of Muslims who support and sympathize with terrorists is alarming on its own, but thanks to investigative journalism such as the 2007 documentary Undercover Mosque we can gain insight into the inner workings of this culture of radicalism in the British Muslims community . The documentary presents footage of Mosques and meetings with imams gathered through secret investigation. What was captured on tape is disturbing: mainstream Mosques run by large Islamic organizations that claim to be centers of interfaith communication preaching hatred and intolerance for non-Muslims. For example, in a large Mosque in Birmingham that was described by a Muslim member of the British House of Lords as his favorite spiritual place in the country, the imam Abu Usamah can be heard saying “We love the people of Islam and we hate the people of kufr [meaning non-Muslim], we hate the kuffaar.” Another troubling example is found in the UK Islamic Mission, otherwise known as UKIM, a large and mainstream organization that was founded in 1962 to serve the Muslim community and has since expanded to 45 branches. It was described by British Prime Minister Tony Blair as being “extremely valued by the government.” But despite its praise and mainstay in British society, behind closed doors and away from the eyes and ears of the kaffir a different picture emerges. Dr. Ijaz Mian is a Muslim preacher who was educated in Saudi Arabia and who advocates for the overthrown of the British government and the establishment of an Islamic state in its place. The undercover reporter captured him expressing these plans, “You are in a situation in which you have to live like a state within a state, until you take over. But until this happens, you have to preach, until you become such a force that the people they just submit to you, hands up, until you become strong enough to take over.” But despite Dr. Mian’s radical stance he works closely with UKIM giving talks and attending events. On a more comprehensive level, in 2006 and 2007 the Policy Exchange, a UK think tank, launched a massive investigation of Islamic religious institutions in the UK. The teams visited a large number of locations across the country to determine the prevalence of literature inculcating Muslim separatism and hatred of non-believers . The results were that 25% of institutions investigated were found to be harboring radical material. Despite it only being a minority, the report concluded that those institutions carrying radical Islamic literature were among the most well funded in Britain, often being held up as mainstream organizations.
As previously discussed, polling data reveals that cultural differences and tensions appear to be a downside to Islamic immigration. One limitation of using such data is although we can say objectively how a representative portion of the population answered a given question, determining what implication this has in the real world is another matter entirely. Pollsters have noted that even small wording differences can substantially effect what answers people provide . It is also not always obvious how respondents exactly interpret the questions they’re asked or the answers they give.
In light of such limitations we can look to other sources of data to gain insight into the effects of Islamic immigration into Europe that are more comprehensive. In 2007 political scientist Robert Putnam published his results from a study that looked at 41 different communities across the United States to access the influence that ethnic diversity had on various aspects of life . What he found was that even after controlling for relevant socioeconomic variables ethnic diversity was negatively related with social trust, community participation, and perceived quality of life. To quote from the study: “in terms of the effect on neighborly trust, the difference between living in an area as homogeneous as Bismarck, North Dakota, and one as diverse as Los Angeles is roughly as great as the difference between an area with a poverty rate of 7 percent and one with a poverty rate of 23 percent, or between an area with 36 percent college graduates and one with none. Even holding constant affluence and poverty, diversity per se has a major effect.” A reasonable objection would be that the United States has a unique history in regards to race and that this finding might not apply to European society. To test this, researchers from the European University Institute attempted to replicate Putnam’s findings by analyzing data from the Netherlands . They concluded that the same relationship between ethnic diversity and social trust found in the US is also found in Europe. Thus we can see that the hostilities and cultural differences between Muslims and native Europeans demonstrated by polling data does indeed translate to reduced social trust.
In conclusion, continued Muslim immigration should be expected to incur a wide range of negative social costs onto Europe’s native inhabitants. Along with increasing crime rates and decreasing social trust European’s will likely have to deal with rising cultural tensions, an increasing presence of extremism in society as well as greater risks of terrorism, and perhaps in the more distant future, should immigration reach a critical point, political instability. The future is hard to predict and this uncertainty is, in my opinion, one of the biggest concerns about the large demographic shifts taking place in Europe.