20 pct of Western Europeans don’t want Muslim neighbor, survey says

Published 28.08.2017 11:07
Updated 28.08.2017 11:10
A woman wearing a hijab passes by several election banners for the upcoming September general elections in Berlin, Germany, Aug. 23, 2017. (AFP Photo)
A woman wearing a hijab passes by several election banners for the upcoming September general elections in Berlin, Germany, Aug. 23, 2017. (AFP Photo)

One in every five Europeans does not want to have a Muslim neighbor, despite the fact that followers of the faith are well-integrated in Western Europe, a recent study said.

The German foundation Bertelsmann Stiftung examined "language competence, education, working life and interreligious contacts of Muslims in France, the U.K., Austria, Germany and Switzerlan," and published the results in a study.

The study was conducted in order to find how well Muslims, particularly practicing ones, were integrated into Western European society.

"Islam is not an obstacle to integration. Muslims, even the highly religious, learn the new language and strive for higher education levels just as much as other immigrants," Bertelsmann Stiftung's expert on social cohesion Stephan Vopel said.

Vopel added that if integration was somehow hindered, "state framework conditions are usually the reason."

The study found that Muslims also attached great importance to education, as very few Muslim children left school before the age of 18.

However, the study revealed that Muslims face trouble when looking for a job, despite having proper qualifications and skills. This was especially evident amongst practicing Muslims.

"Everywhere except in the UK, highly religious Muslims – and 41 percent of Muslims can be identified as such – have more difficulty than less devout Muslims finding a job that corresponds to their qualifications," the research said.

According to Bertelsmann Stiftung's Islam expert Yasemin El-Menouar, "no country in Western Europe has found a convincing strategy that addresses both equal opportunity as well as respect for religious diversity."

The study also found that 20 percent of Europeans questioned did not want to live next door to a Muslim. In this regard, French have the lowest "wariness of Islam" at 14 percent, while Austrians have the highest – 28 percent.

Half of Muslim immigrants learned the national language during childhood as their first language, the research said, adding that 75 percent of Muslims regularly spent their free time with non-Muslims, another indication of successful integration.

Bertelsmann Stiftung concluded its study by suggesting three strategies for advancing integration and cohesion in Western European societies, including improving opportunities for participation in employment and educational systems, according Islam the same legal status as other institutional religious groups, and promoting intercultural contacts and interreligious discussion.

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