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Islamist fundamentalists 'have higher degree of intolerance'

09 January 2015

by a staff reporter


In the dark: cathedral authorities in Cologne turned off the illuminations on Monday in protest at an anti-Islamic rally in the German city

In the dark: cathedral authorities in Cologne turned off the illuminations on Monday in protest at an anti-Islamic rally in the German city

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 Christianity [Islam];

• 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 statements.

By contrast, the respective figures for Christians were: 21, 17, and 13 per cent; only eight per cent agreed with all three statements.

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 Islam.

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: www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1369183X.2014.935307

Leader comment

Question of the week: Is a fundamentalist approach to religion always wrong? 

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