Values Questions Set European Muslims Apart

by Zsolt Nyiri, Ph.D.
Regional Research Director for Europe, Gallup World Poll

Muslims living in London, Paris, and Berlin socially conservative on issues such as homosexuality, abortion


PRINCETON, NJ -- Muslims living in the relatively secular environments of London, Paris, and Berlin see little inherent contradiction between their religious and national identities -- but that does not imply that their attitudes always conform to those of the general public in their respective countries.

The point of difference that has proven the most controversial -- perhaps because of its visual nature -- is that of religious symbols. According to recent Gallup surveys, Muslims in Paris and Berlin are less likely than the general public in their countries to think the removal of such symbols, including large, visible Christian crosses, the Sikh turban, or the Jewish yarmulke, is necessary for the integration of ethnic and religious minorities in their countries. London Muslims are essentially as likely as Britons in general to say removal is necessary.

Of all the religious symbols asked about, the face veil is the most controversial. Majorities of the general public in France (64%) and the United Kingdom (55%) think successful integration requires removing the veil; only 13% of London's Muslims and 18% of Paris' Muslims agree. In Germany, the numbers are closer: 49% of the general public versus 43% of Berlin's Muslims say this is necessary.

Perspectives on Morality Diverge

More substantively, Muslims in London, Paris, and Berlin tend to be more socially conservative than the general public on questions of morality. For example, at least two-thirds of the general public in France (81%), Germany (68%), and the United Kingdom (66%) say homosexual acts are morally acceptable; among Muslims in the countries' capitals, the corresponding figures are just 18%, 26%, and 4%, respectively.

Similarly, there are sizable differences regarding views on abortion. Among the general public in each country, majorities say abortion is morally acceptable (though just barely in Germany). Muslims in London are least likely to agree at just 10%, but those in Paris and Berlin are also far less likely than the general public to say abortion is morally acceptable.

The trend is clear: Though Muslims in these three cities may express their faith on an individualized basis, most retain a core values orientation that sets them apart from the public at large. In other words, integration typically doesn't mean complete assimilation. In cases where the prevailing values run counter to central tenets of their faith, differences will persist -- and smooth integration will rely at least to some degree on the surrounding society's willingness to accept them.

Survey Methods

Surveys of Muslims in London, Paris, and Berlin were all conducted between November 2006 and February 2007. In London and Paris, probability samples were used in neighborhoods where Muslim penetration was 5% to 10% or more. All interviews in London and Paris were conducted face-to-face in respondents' homes. In Berlin, random-digit dialing was used with a sample that used first names and family names to increase the probability of reaching a Muslim household. Sample sizes were 512 in London, 502 in Paris, and 504 in Berlin. The associated sampling error is ±5 percentage points for each survey.

General public surveys were all conducted between December 2006 and January 2007, using random-digit dialing in each country to reach representative sample of the total 15+ adult population. Sample sizes were 1,204 in the United Kingdom, 1,220 in France, and 1,221 in Germany. The associated sampling error is ±3 percentage points for each survey.

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