"What is Islamophobia? Disentangling Citizens’ Feelings Toward Ethnicity, Religion and Religiosity Using a Survey Experiment"
What citizens think about Muslim immigrants is of great importance for some of the most pressing challenges facing Western democracies. To advance our understanding of what “Islamophobia” really is – i.e. whether it is a dislike based on immigrants` ethnic background, their religious identity or their specific religious behaviour – we fielded a representative online survey experiment in the UK in the summer 2015. Our results suggest that in general Muslims are not viewed more negatively than Christian immigrants. Instead, we provide evidence that citizens’ uneasiness with Muslim immigration is first and foremost the result of a rejection of fundamentalist forms of religiosity. This suggests that common explanations, which are based on simple dichotomies between liberal supporters and conservative critics of immigration need to be re-evaluated. While the politically left and culturally liberal have more positive attitudes towards immigrants than right leaning and conservatives, they are also far more critical towards religious groups. We conclude that a large part of the current political controversy over Muslim immigration has to do with this double opposition. Importantly, the current political conflict over Muslim immigration is not so much about immigrants versus natives or even Muslim versus Christians as it is about political liberalism versus religious fundamentalism.
Marc Helbling is full professor in political sociology[uni-bamberg.de] at the Department of Political Science at the University of Bamberg and a Research Fellow at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center. He was a visiting lecturer at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and a visiting scholar at the Centres for European Studies at Harvard University and New York University. He spent shorter research stays at the European University Institute in Florence, at Oxford University, the University of Sydney and at McGill University. He was an elected member of The Young Academy [diejungeakademie.de]at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. He works on immigration and citizenship policies, nationalism, national identities, xenophobia/islamophobia, and right-wing populism. His research was awarded the Young Scholar Research Award from the Mayor of Berlin, the Best Article Award (Honorable Mention) by APSA’s Section on Migration and Citizenship and the Best Paper Award by the Immigration Research Network of the Council for European Studies. His work has appeared in political science journals (e.g., British Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, European Journal of Political Research), sociology journals (e.g., European Sociological Review, Social Forces) and migration journals (e.g., International Migration Review, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies). He has edited a volume on “Islamophobia in the West”[routledge.com] (Routledge) and co-authored a book on “Political Conflict in Western Europe”[cambridge.org] (Cambridge UP).