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 theWZB 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.”
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.