This briefing is provided by a friend of RZIM.
Key Data (Mostly Pew Data unless otherwise stated)
- Muslims constituted 6.9% of the Total European population in 2016
- Highest population of Muslims as a percentage in Western Europe is France with 8.8% Muslim population followed by Sweden with 8.1%.
- The Low Countries are next highest: Belgium – 7.6% and the Netherlands at 7.1%.
- The UK is next with 6.3% and Germany is just behind at 6.1%
- The country in Western Europe with the lowest Muslim population is Portugal at 0.4% and its neighbour, Spain has only a 2.6% Muslim population.
- Medium population projections to 2050 have the Muslim population growing to 11.2% of the total population. High population projections have the total Muslim population at 14%.
- A poll by the international relations think tank Chatham House (based in London) in 2017 asked participants from all over Europe the question: ‘If you could stop Muslim immigration to Europe tomorrow, would you do so?’. An average of over 55% respondents across all countries said ‘Yes’. (Godwin, Raines and Cutts, 2017)
- A Majority of Europeans hold negative views of Muslims (59%). (Wike, Stokes and Simmons, 2016)
- A 2019 survey of French Muslims, all of whom had been born in France, found that 46% felt that Shari’a should be applied in the country. (Anon, 2019)
- A poll in 2017 across Germany, France, UK, Austria and Switzerland found that 41% of European Muslims described themselves as ‘very religious’ (Vopel, 2017)
It seems clear that Islam and the presence of Muslims is increasingly been seen as an existential threat by Europeans, even though surveys amongst Muslims in Europe appear to indicate that there is growing integration. (Vopel, 2017) Surveys on non-Muslim attitudes towards Muslims across Europe consistently show two trends: firstly, that the size of the Muslim populations in a given European state are generally overestimated by non-Muslims, sometime by quite significant margins. (Anon, 2017) It is therefore unsurprising that the perception of the growth and fear of the impact on, what is often described as ‘Islamic culture’, (which is not defined) has lead an increasing percentage of the non-Muslim population into a state of worry. This worry of the general populous is beginning to transfer itself to national and EU government institutions in a way which would not have been thought of even a decade ago. The most visible manifestation of this has been in the election, and rhetoric, of Victor Orban, President of Hungary as well as that of the Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico. But the general swing to the political right across the continent (with one or two exceptions) has been as a result of the twin concerns about the impact of immigration, with Muslim population growth and Islamic terrorism as the key drivers of that concern. As well as the broader growth of identity politics, which has manifested itself as a desire for the EU and other European governments to make more explicit statements about identity and belonging than had been the case before. This has been developing for some time. Its earlier manifestations really came in the rejection of ‘multiculturalism’ as an ideology in the early ‘10s. This in itself has deepened into the concerns about Islam and Muslims more openly as a result both of the ongoing terrorist attacks, the ‘foreign fighter’ phenomenon and the growing number of officially commissioned reports, such as the Casey Review in the UK, which showed a lack of integration amongst a number of Muslim communities. (Casey, 2016: 25)
Such is the level of alarm at the institutional level that even comparatively liberal, even socialist orientated governments (which have traditionally been allies of, or sympathetic too, the agendas of Salafis) such as those in Scandinavia have become alarmed to the point that they are exploring ways of limiting migration. A sense of the alarm felt in Europe at the moment is epitomised by the fascinating observation of Knud Jesperson in his book A History of Denmark (2011) in which he observes that even in Denmark’s secular society, alarm at the presence of Muslims in the state have manifested in a sense that, whilst the Christian faith itself is might not be under attack, that there is an attack on the entire basis of Danish society taking place. (2011, 112)
In essence therefore, the sense of alarm at the presence of large Muslim populations, and the activities of the terrorists have brought the European institutions, along with National Governments, into seeking to ask questions about European identity in which Christianity has become, once again, a part of the conversation. In that context therefore, the publication of Tom Holland’s book Dominion (2019) about the Christian roots of Europe has spoken into a populous which was eager to hear it: as sales of his book show.
It is in that context that the EU itself has commissioned a study to report to the President of the Commission herself, about seeking ways in which the EU as an institution can say more about its European identity and the values which come with that. This alarm and the change of government culture across Europe which it has invoked was captured in the words of Mark Leonard, (Director of the
European Council on Foreign Relations) who, in 2016 wrote:
“The EU proved over the last few decades that it could be a force for globalization—tearing down barriers between peoples and nations. But today its survival depends on showing that it can protect citizens from the very forces it has promoted” (Leonard, 2016)
It seems therefore that the advent of significant Muslim migration into Europe over the past six decades, and especially over the past two decades, might have had the long-term effect of calling Europe back once again to its Christian heritage and, in the process, turned its back upon the post-modernism and aggressive secularism which had been normative stance since the nineteen-sixties at least. One signal of this at popular level, other than the shifting politics has been the surge in visits to Cathedrals around Europe. (Gilchrist, 2020) For, whilst they are a historical monument for many people, bound within them is the connection between the religious affiliation of their ancestors and the idea of ‘Christendom’, which the European Union is desperate to avoid any talk of, but which is becoming quietly revived once again.
Anon, (2017) ‘Europe’s Growing Muslim Population’ www.pewforum.org 29th November.
Anon, (2019) ‘Large minority of French Muslims want Sharia’ www.i24news.tv 19th September
Casey, Louise, (2016) The Casey Review: A Review into Opportunity and Integration London: HM
Gilchrist, Roberta, (2020) Sacred Heritage: Monastic Archaeology, Identities and Beliefs Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Godwin, Matthew, Thomas Raines and David Cutts (2017) ‘What do Europeans think about Muslim Immigration?’ www.chathamhouse.org 7th February.
Holland, Tom (2019) Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind London: Little Brown
Jesperson, Knud (2011) A History of Denmark London: Palgrave.
Leonard, Mark, (2016) ‘Playing Defence in Europe’ Project Syndicate 1st September
Wike, Richard, Bruce Stokes and Katie Simmons (2016), ‘Negative views of minorities, refugees common in EU.’ www.pewresearch.org 11th July.
Vopel, Stephen, (2017), ‘European Muslim Integration’ Bertelsmann Stiftung, 24th August.