Germany: Image of Islam 'Devastating' by Soeren Kern

December 10, 2012
The most sobering finding is that 46% of Turks say they hope that one day Germany will have more Muslims than Christians.

Germans are overwhelmingly mistrustful of Islam and Muslim immigration, according to a new research survey, which concludes that the image of Islam in Germany is "devastating."

The findings -- which corroborate the conclusions of other recent studies -- show a growing divide between ordinary Germans, who are concerned about the consequences of mass immigration from Muslim countries, and Germany's political elites, who are determined to build a "multicultural" society at any cost.

The 28-page study, "Fear of the East in the West" [Die Furcht vor dem Morgenland im Abendland], was produced by the Allensbach Institute for Public Opinion Research, and was published by the center-right German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on November 21.

Those who participated in the survey were asked to choose which of 21 statements about Islam most closely reflect their own views.

The research shows that more than half of the German population believes that Islam is prone to violence (64%); has a tendency toward revenge and retaliation (60%); is obsessed with proselytizing others (56%); and strives for political influence (56%).

More than 80% of Germans believe that Islam deprives women of their rights, and 70% say Islam is associated with religious fanaticism and radicalism.

By contrast, only 13% of Germans associate Islam with love for neighbors, 12% with charity and 7% with openness and tolerance.

The high level of mistrust of Islam in Germany is also reflected in other questions. For example, 44% of those surveyed answered "yes" to the question, "Do you think there will be serious conflict between the Western Christian culture and the Arab Muslim culture in the future?" In addition, one quarter of respondents say they believe that such conflict already exists at the current time.

Another question concerns the term "Clash of Civilizations," a concept which states that cultural and religious identity will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world.

The survey shows that 43% of Germans say they believe such a clash is taking place. According to the authors of the report, this represents a majority because only 34% of Germans explicitly disagree with the theory.

In addition, only 36% of Germans believe that Christianity and Islam can live together peacefully side-by-side. Moreover, 53% think that there will always be serious conflicts between these two religions.

As for relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in Germany, respondents are highly pessimistic. In response to the question, "Do you think tensions in relations with Muslims will grow in Germany in the near future and should we be worried about it," nearly half of all Germans (48%) answered "yes" to the question; only 29% of Germans say they see no threat.

The majority of Germans are also firmly opposed to appeasing Muslims and Islam. Only 27% of Germans say there should be a ban on speech that could insult or provoke Muslims. A clear majority of Germans (52%) are explicitly opposed to such restrictions on free speech.

By contrast, 39% of Germans say they believe there should be a ban on the construction of minarets, similar to the ban in Switzerland.

Nearly half of Germans (47%) agree with the statement, "Although it is a personal choice, I do not like to see a woman wearing a scarf on her head."

The survey shows that Germans are overwhelmingly opposed to recent attempts by politicians to describe Islam as an integral part of German culture.

Only 22% of Germans say they agree with the statement, "Islam and Christianity are equally German," while two-thirds (64%) say they completely disagree.

Even when this question is reformulated (as German President Joachim Gauck has recently done) to read, "The Muslims who live here are part of Germany," only 29% of Germans say they agree. A relative majority, 47% of Germans, explicitly reject the idea that Muslims are part of Germany.

Although German elites have worked hard to portray all critics of Islam as belonging to the "far right," this survey and many others provide ample empirical evidence that voters from across the political spectrum are concerned about the spread of Islam in Germany.

An opinion survey, for example, called "Perception and Acceptance of Religious Diversity," conducted by the University of Münster in partnership with the TNS Emnid political polling firm, shows that only 34% of the West Germans and 26% of the East Germans have a positive view of Muslims. Fewer than 5% of the Germans think Islam is a tolerant religion, and only 30% say they approve of the building of mosques. The number of Germans who approve of the building of minarets or the introduction of Muslim holidays is even lower.

Fewer than 10% of the West Germans and 5% of the East Germans say that Islam is a peaceful religion. More than 40% of Germans believe that the practice of Islam should be restricted.

Only 20% of Germans believe that Islam is suitable for the Western world. Significantly, more than 80% of Germans agree with the statement, "Muslims must adapt to our culture." (More than one million immigrants living permanently in Germany cannot speak German.)

Another survey, "Global Views on Immigration," conducted by the London-based Ipsos global research firm, found that more than half the Germans believe "there are too many immigrants" in their country.

In response to the polling question, "Would you say that immigration has generally had a positive or negative impact," 54% of Germans said the impact has been negative. Nearly 60% of Germans agree with the survey statement "Immigration has placed too much pressure on public services."

Another report, "Muslim-Western Tensions Persist," published by the Washington, DC-based Pew Research Center, shows that 61% of Germans believe their relations with Muslims are bad. The poll also says that 72% of Germans believe Muslims in their countries do not want to integrate; and that 79% of Germans believe Islam is "the most violent" religion. More than two-thirds of Germans are worried about Islamic extremists in their country.

A separate poll conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project states that 71% of Germans believe Islamic veils should be banned in public, including in schools, hospitals and government offices.

Another survey, published by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, a think-tank linked to the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), found that 55% of Germans believe that Arabs are "unpleasant," and over 33% believe the country is being "overrun" by immigrants. The study also noted that "far-right attitudes" are not isolated at the extremes of German society, but to a large degree are "at the center of it."

Although these surveys clearly and consistently show that most Germans are worried about the impact that unrestricted Muslim immigration is having on their daily lives, German politicians continue to promote the rise of Islam in Germany.

Hamburg, for instance, the second-largest city in Germany, concluded on November 13 a "historic treaty" with its Muslim communities that grants Muslims broad new rights and privileges but does little to encourage their integration into German society.

The agreement, signed by Hamburg's Socialist Mayor Olaf Scholz and the leaders of four Muslim umbrella groups, has been praised by the proponents of multiculturalism for putting the northern port city's estimated 200,000 Muslims on an equal footing with Christian residents.

On November 30, the northern German city of Bremen followed Hamburg's lead by concluding its own treaty [Staatsvertrag] with the local Muslim community. The Socialist mayor of Bremen, Jens Böhrnsen, said the treaty reflects "mutual recognition and respect of mutual values."

Critics, however, say the agreements, the first of their kind in Germany, will boost the growing influence of Islam in the country by encouraging the perpetuation of a Muslim parallel society.

These fears have been substantiated by a recent report which found that nearly half of all Turks living in Germany say they hope there will be more Muslims than Christians in Germany in the future. (Germany has Western Europe's second-biggest Muslim population after France, with Turks comprising the single biggest minority.)

The 103-page study, "German-Turkish Life and Values" (abridged version in German here), was jointly produced by the Berlin-based INFO polling institute and the Antalya, Turkey-based Liljeberg research firm, and was released to the general public in August 2012.

The study found that Islam is becoming an increasingly important component of the value structure of Turks in Germany, especially among the younger generation of Turkish-Germans, who hold religious views that are more radical than those held by their parents.

Almost all Turks surveyed (95%) said it is absolutely necessary for them to preserve their Turkish identity, and 62% said they would rather be around Turks than around Germans. Only 39% of Turks said that Germans are trustworthy.

At the same time, 87% of those surveyed said they believe that German society should make a greater effort to be considerate of the customs and traditions of Turkish immigrants.

Of those Turks surveyed, 72% believe that Islam is the only true religion; 18% say Jews are inferior people and 10% say Christians are inferior. Most Turks (55%) believe that Germany should build more mosques.

Arguably the most sobering finding of the study is that 46% of Turks say they hope that Germany will one day have more Muslims than Christians.

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.