A STUDY of Muslim immigrants in Europe has concluded that
fundamentalism is far greater in this group than among Christians,
writes a staff reporter.
The results of the study by Professor Ruud Koopmans, of the Free
University, Amsterdam, appear in the January edition of the
Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (Routledge, Taylor
& Francis), in an article, "Religious Fundamentalism and
Hostility against Out-groups: A Comparison of Muslims and
Christians in Western Europe".
Research was carried out among immigrants from Turkey and
Morocco, who form the largest group of Muslim immigrants in Europe
(though not in the UK). Koopmans makes a distinction between
religiosity and fundamentalism: respondents (immigrant Muslims and
native Christians) were tested against three propositions:
• Christians [Muslims] should return to the roots of
• There is only one interpretation of the Bible [the Qur'an] and
every Christian [Muslim] must stick to that;
• The rules of the Bible [the Qur'an] are more important to me
than the laws of [survey country].
Among the sample, almost 60 per cent agreed that Muslims should
return to the roots of Islam, 75 per cent thought that there was
only one possible interpretation of the Qur'an, which is binding
for every Muslim, and 65 per cent said that religious rules were
more important to them than the laws of the country in which they
lived. A little less than half, 44 per cent, agreed with all three
By contrast, the respective figures for Christians were: 21, 17,
and 13 per cent; only eight per cent agreed with all three
Having defined and identified fundamentalists, Koopmans tested
their attitude to others, what he terms "out-group hostility", with
reference to three more propositions:
• I don't want to have homosexuals as friends;
• Jews cannot be trusted;
• Muslims aim to destroy Western culture [for natives]; or
• Western countries aim to destroy Islam [for persons of Turkish
or Moroccan origin].
Koopman writes: "Among Christians, rejection of homosexuals is
very limited among strongly religious people without fundamentalist
be- liefs, but among fundamentalist Christians, more than 30 per
cent reject homosexuals as friends. Anti-Semitism is also twice as
widespread among fundamentalist Christians, of whom almost 20 per
cent think that Jews cannot be trusted. Muslims are the main object
of Christian fundamentalist hostility: almost 60 per cent of
Christian fundamentalists adhere to the Islamophobic belief that
Muslims are out to destroy Western culture, against less than 25
per cent of other Christians.
Among Muslims, rejection of out-groups is generally higher, but
it is a minority position among those without fundamentalist
beliefs. Among fundamentalist Muslims by contrast, more than 70 per
cent reject homosexuals as friends, think that Jews cannot be
trusted, and feel that Western countries are out to destroy
Koopman suggests that economic marginalisation is a key factor
in these views: many of the respondents came from a poor rural area
of Turkey. But, whereas older Christians were more likely to hold
fundamentalist views, he found little difference between first- and
second-generation Muslim immigrants.
He remarks that the differences in Europe are more marked than
elsewhere in the world. In the United States, for example, 28 per
cent of US Christians and 37 per cent of Muslims affirm that "there
is only one true way to interpret the teachings of
[Islam/Christianity]" (Pew Research Center, 2011).
"In Europe, therefore, a strongly secularised native population
is confronted with a religiously conservative Muslim population,
resulting in a large gap in religious attitudes between Muslims and
natives. This is likely to be an important reason - next to the
larger numbers and lower socio-economic status of Muslims - why
Muslims and Islam have become much more politically contested in
Europe than in North America."
The article can be read online at:
Question of the week: Is a fundamentalist approach to
religion always wrong?