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Euro-Turks in the Contemporary European Imaginary

Do perceptions of Muslim communities differ among receiving European societies? Are attitudes towards Euro-Turks more critical than other groups? Do Euro-Turks feel marginalized and recognize social distance from the majority? This paper presents data from cross-national research projects to assess the social distance between national majority and Muslim minorities, in particular Euro-Turks. It also considers the extent to which religion, ethnicity, and culture help shape Islamophobia and anti-Turkish attitudes. Social distance is not treated as a proxy variable for discrimination or exclusion, but it serves as an indicator of the possible marginalization of Euro-Turks. Further, increasing social distance between majority and minority Muslim groups may also serve as a reliable indicator of a Europe in crisis, confronting its multiple conflicting identities.

Euro-Turks in the Contemporary European Imaginary
Turkish woman wearing a headscarf holds a European flag during a Turkish cultural event in Düsseldorf, Germany. AFP

The case for the resilience of Turkophobia rests on the impact of two factors: deep structures of antipathy anchored by history and religion, exemplified by Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont in 1095 reducing Muslims to “base and bastard Turks”; and the circulation of modern stereotypes based on superficial, anodyne, and even anecdotally negative images.1 By definition, deep structures change glacially, but the shelf life of stereotypes is fickle and typically short. As such, this article examines stereotypes and their offshoots – the social distance separating insider and outsider groups reinforced by superficial impressions of one another.

Social distance can serve as a proxy for other processes: marginalization, ghettoization, exclusion, discrimination, and fear. While not synonymous with these terms, neither can social distance be easily separated from them. Accordingly, I employ the concept as an umbrella term for these phenomena and apply this conceptualization to assay a set of questions about the status of Euro-Turks in European receiving societies. As a result, certain questions arise: Do national perceptions of Muslim immigrants differ from one European receiving society to another? How has the acceptance of immigrants differed from country to country and between Muslim migrant communities, especially Turkish communities? Is there evidence that they are perceived more critically than other Muslim communities, thereby suggesting a perseverance of Turkophobia? Do Euro-Turks themselves feel marginalized and targeted by discrimination? In turn, have Euro-Turks developed a robust sense of identity to the extent that they now perceive other European Muslim groups as outsiders?2

Anti-Turkish attitudes may be nested in Islamophobia, though they can also evoke ethnic essentialism

Anti-Turkish attitudes may be nested in Islamophobia, though they can also evoke ethnic essentialism. This distinction requires elaboration. Because approximately 98% of the Turkish population is Muslim, it is plausible that Turkophobia reflects religious differences. Islamophobia, however – and Turkophobia as well – typically involves fears of and antipathy towards Muslims that go beyond “mere” religion and invoke cultural sensibilities. Olivier Roy, a French specialist on Islam, has argued that, “Religions are more and more disconnected from the cultures in which they have been embedded.” As a result, he has proposed decoupling religion from culture and ethnicity. What follows is that we should “deal with religions as ‘mere’ religions, not as the expressions of cultures or ethnic groups.”3 

For Roy, then, Turkophobia sensu stricto would involve an explicitly religious bias against Turks. In turn, inferring from this statement, anti-Turkish attitudes would represent the targeting of Turks primarily in terms of ethnicity and culture. This distinction is difficult to sustain empirically, and decoupling religion from culture – and culture from race4 – can prove futile exercises. Thus, Euro-Turks have a strong sense of identity and refer more often to their Turkishness than to Islam, as the data presented below indicate. Nevertheless, it would be premature to conclude that Turkish identity is self-standing and has no religious component. 

Some studies about the status of Muslims in Europe – including Turks – offer reassuring news. Europeans do not generally dislike Muslims, and primarily object to the fanatical elements among them. Another argument indicates that although antipathy towards Islam has a long history, it is not as severe as it used to be. Positing a deep structural divide - a civilizational clash - raises the question for many Europeans of whether Islamic civilization was ever well disposed towards quintessentially “European” values, such as freedom of thought, tolerance, religious pluralism, and gender equality. We might also be comforted by reports highlighting that Islamophobic attitudes, though having spread, are confined to supporters of disreputable rightwing extremist movements removed from mainstream politics. A further suggestion is that, although anti-Muslim attitudes have become commonplace, they have little bearing on domestic or European politics, let alone global politics.

Such a study of Islamophobia should also include an assessment of whether Europeans’ fears of and possible animosity towards Muslims originates in a perceived security dilemma stemming from expanding Muslim communities at home. Concerns about the radicalization of Muslim groups reacting against profiling, surveillance, and harassment in receiving societies – and against certain Western countries’ military interventions in Muslim-majority countries – factor into securitization of Muslim migrants. Though significant, this assessment is not considered in this article.5 The focus instead is on cross-national differences in perceptions of Muslim groups in Europe, with special attention being given to the largest community, Euro-Turks. The empirics are based on relevant survey research employing differing conceptual frameworks. 



National Differences in Attitudes towards Muslims

European societies have varying responses to immigration, the phenomenon by which the Muslim population of Europe has expanded rapidly over the past half-century. Survey research indicates, for example, that ceteris paribus ethnically diverse societies oppose immigration more than homogeneous societies, largely because they object to greater ethnically-based economic competition. Therefore, diversity in a society does not invariably lead to welcoming attitudes. 

European countries have also been evenly split on the issue of religious diversity. Of twenty European Union (EU) member-states surveyed, the majority of respondents in France favored religious diversity, but those in Poland and Greece were more likely to support religious homogeneity. By contrast, most of the countries surveyed endorsed cultural homogeneity. Respondents in eastern (the Czech Republic and Poland) and southern (primarily Greece, but also Portugal) Europe were especially firm about maintaining cultural homogeneity.6

Normative fault lines in Europe are apparent in other survey results as well. Country wealth of migrants also differentiates European public attitudes towards immigration. Results of the European Social Survey (ESS) carried out in 2002 indicated that “people coming from wealthy countries are more warmly welcomed than those coming from poor countries,” although the degree of support varied from 43% in Portugal to 79% in Sweden. Correspondingly, there was a sweeping decrease in support when immigrants came from countries that were poorer than the receiving society. The continuum once again extended from Portugal (at just 39% support) to Sweden (at 87%). Swedes proved to be an anomaly, approving of in-migration of poorer Europeans more frequently than of richer Europeans.7

The ESS survey noted that the characteristic most valued by European respondents was a willingness to adapt to the way of life in the new society. The next important had to do with practicality, evaluating if immigrants had the work skills needed in the country. By contrast, one of the least important qualities was immigration from Christian countries.8 Again, significant differences were found across European nations: citizens in Germany and Sweden attached particular importance to immigrants’ disposition to adapt to the way of life in their countries. A sense of civic – perhaps even civilizational pride – may have shaped respondents’ attitudes in these states. An unkinder alternative explanation is that normative and moral smugness might have swayed German and Swedish respondents to expect outsiders to adapt to their “prized” way of life.

Another cleavage worth noting is the dissonance between citizens’ expressed attitudes towards immigrants and elite-driven policies. Survey respondents in two predominantly Catholic societies, Italy and Spain, paid little importance to the religious background (Christian or otherwise) of immigrants. In terms of government policy, however, Italy has established a generous quota for Filipino migrants, who are mostly Roman Catholics; prospective immigrants from Albania, Morocco, and Tunisia, on the other hand, have to compete for a limited number of residency permits. Similarly, the Spanish state has adopted admission policies favoring people from largely Roman Catholic countries: Filipinos can apply for Spanish citizenship after living in the country for just two years, whereas Moroccans are required to fulfill a ten-year residency period before being able to apply for citizenship.9 It is within this context, then, that in recent years Muslim (and above all Turkish) organizations have sought to influence immigration policies in Germany and several other states.



Muslims’ Experience of Discrimination

The migration and settlement of Muslims in Europe since the 1960s has irreversibly transformed the social, cultural, religious, and demographic landscape of the continent. It is an open question whether the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States represented a tipping point that turned European societies against further Muslim immigration, but Talip Küçükcan suggests a “culturalist trend” perpetuating negative stereotypes of Muslims as a result. Citing data from the 2009 European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey (EU-MIDIS), it appeared that 69% of Turks in Belgium, 61% in the Netherlands, and 58% in Denmark believed that discrimination on ethnic grounds was very or fairly widespread. Turkish respondents in Belgium (71%), the Netherlands (61%), Denmark (52%) and Germany (48%) were also concerned about discrimination on the basis of religion.10 As such, ethnicity and religion both served as sources of discrimination against Turks in Western Europe.

The EU-MIDIS report also examined the attitudes of self-identifying Muslims living in European countries. One in three Muslim respondents from the fourteen EU states surveyed claimed to have experienced discrimination in the previous twelve months. Muslims between sixteen and twenty-four reported a higher degree of discrimination, while, somewhat unexpectedly, Muslims wearing traditional or religious clothing reported no more discrimination than the general sample. Having EU citizenship or residing in an EU state for a longer period was also positively tied to lower levels of discrimination experienced.11

Race and religion were not treated distinctly in the survey, making it difficult to evaluate explanatory variables. One in ten Muslims claimed to have been a victim of a personal, racially motivated crime (assault, serious harassment) at least once in the past year. Of these respondents, 72% ascribed the crime to a member of the ethnic majority. Furthermore, it was not solely ordinary citizens who discriminated against Muslims. One in four Muslims claimed that they had been stopped by police, and 40% believed this was attributable to their minority or immigrant status. There was, therefore, “a growing perception among Muslim leaders and communities that they are being stopped, questioned, and searched not on the basis of evidence and reasonable suspicion but on the basis of ‘looking Muslim.’”12 Perpetrator profiling appeared to account in large part for discriminatory practices.

Discrimination against Muslim minorities was also examined in terms of respondents’ ethnic origin and their European country of residence. Of all possible combinations, Muslims from both North and sub-Saharan Africa living in Malta cited discrimination most frequently (64%; see Table 1). Malta’s small sample makes it an unreliable indicator of wider trends, however. As such, Muslims of North African origin residing in Italy experienced the highest level of discrimination - and of repeat discrimination - in almost every area identified.13 North African Muslims living in Spain and Belgium also experienced higher-than-average discrimination.

Table 1. Discrimination Rate by Ethnic Origin and Host Country (for the preceding twelve months across nine different areas)

Source: Data in Focus Report 2: Muslims (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, 2009), Figure 3, at

By contrast, just 25% of North and sub-Saharan Muslims living in France reported experiencing discrimination. Discrimination reported by Muslims of different ethnic origins was higher in the Netherlands and Denmark where “being Muslim” was viewed as the basis for discrimination, rather than racial or ethnic background.

When examining specifically Turkish minorities, it was in Denmark, somewhat surprisingly, that they felt most discriminated against. They felt much less so in Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium, and rarely in Austria and Bulgaria. Nevertheless, Turks reported higher levels of discrimination in these areas, due to other characteristics. Among immigrants searching for work or in the workplace, Muslims North African origin in Italy experienced the worst discrimination, followed by Turks in Germany and Denmark. In matters of employment, Turkish minorities may have become incidental targets due to general European skepticism about Turkey’s membership in the EU. After all, the campaign slogan of the right-wing Austrian Freedom Party had once been “Turkey into the EU? Not with me!”14

Other EU-MIDIS findings underscored differing levels and types of discrimination in EU states. Sweden’s discriminatory practices appeared relatively minor, but they varied from one Muslim community to another. 33% of Muslim sub-Saharan Africans claimed to have experienced discrimination, but only 10% of Iraqis did. Despite strident official denials, racism did seem to be present in Sweden.

Italy also scored poorly on the experienced discrimination scale, and repeat discrimination was particularly endemic. North Africans reported they had suffered an average of 20 incidents in twelve months, double the number for the next most targeted group (sub-Saharan Muslims in Finland, with ten cases per year). The next five highest rates of repeat discrimination also involved Black Africans in Western European states. Turks in Germany ranked eighth overall (an average of six reported incidents of discrimination in the previous twelve months).

This pattern of responses by self-identifying Muslims suggests that the specific characteristics of Islamophobia are nationally differentiated. I will now turn to the findings of a major comparative research project that sheds further light on Islamophobia.



Attitudes on Muslims’ Place in Europe

A new wave of quantitative research has furnished additional information about European attitudes towards Muslims and Turks. Between 2009 and 2012, a consortium of six European universities conducted a project to investigate the socio-cultural integration of four different Muslim communities - Turks, Moroccans, ex-Yugoslavs (Bosniaks) and Pakistanis - in six European states - Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.15 The project inquired into four areas of Muslim activity:

1. Citizenship. The six countries differed in the degree to which individual and cultural rights of Muslims are institutionalized in national law. The UK, the Netherlands, France, and Belgium have significantly more inclusive individual rights, bearing on citizenship and anti-discrimination, than Germany and Switzerland. By contrast, the cultural rights of Muslims are better legally protected in the Netherlands and the UK than in France, Germany, and Switzerland. The pattern across the six countries is of increasing convergence in individual rights regimes for Muslims, but increasing divergence in cultural rights.

2. Media. The media have frequently been accused of disseminating negative images of Muslims.16 Elisabeth Eide, a Norwegian media specialist, identified six patronizing discourses about minorities prevalent in European media: (1) the image of migrants as a “colorful community;” (2) “queen bee” stories glorifying overachieving minority members; (3) expressions of satisfaction that a migrant community was becoming normalized into the receiving society; (4) attention to “superintegrated heroes” such as sports stars; (5) Muslims as a problem for “us”; and (6) “us” as a problem for Muslims.17 In surveying media coverage, EURISLAM also found that the participation rates of Muslim actors in public debates differed considerably, from only 16% in Germany and the Netherlands (lowest) to 32% in the UK (highest). The tone of the debate also varied: it was more negative in Germany and Switzerland than elsewhere. 

3. Organizations. Representatives of Turkish, Moroccan, Pakistani, and ex-Yugoslav groups typically describe the organizations they establish as Muslim (69%), rather than ethnic (14%). Nevertheless, organization activities promote religious as well as social practices considered of importance to members. While leaders of the organizations exhibit stronger religious convictions than those interviewed in the survey, they tend to be more liberal and embrace an Islam that is more integrated into Western societies than average respondents do.

4. Survey data. The most detailed data on Muslim groups found in the EURISLAM project come from attitudinal surveys. In order to evaluate social and normative distances between groups, the surveys asked the majority and Muslim minority samples a series of questions on particular subjects. I have combined the data around four thematic issues that indicate the attitudinal distance between majority and Muslim groups.

a) The role of children’s education and the place of religion in producing distance. Perceptions of distance can be measured along a number of axes. One is the values children are taught in school. When “very” and “quite” similar responses were combined, ex-Yugoslavs displayed the least distance between themselves and the majority population with regard to values concerning children’s education. By contrast Turks in Belgium displayed the greatest distance. When it came to educational values, Turks in the UK, Germany, and Switzerland demonstrated the greatest distance from the majority view.

 Table 2. Subjective perception of distance to outgroup with regard to role of
religion (combined per cent of “quite similar” and “very similar” answers)

Source: EURISLAM Work Package 4, “Integrated Report on Survey Analysis” (December 15,
2011), Table 61, at

Table 2 provides data on whether Muslim respondents shared quite or very similar views with the majority with regard to the role of religion in society. Here, the greatest distance between Turks and majority groups was recorded in in Belgium, France, Germany, and Switzerland, while ex-Yugoslavs observed the least distance.. In general, there was less distance between minority and majority opinions in France and the Netherlands than in the other four states.

b) The importance of strong leadership and of democracy. A substantial portion of all respondents believed that strong leadership was more important than representative democracy, and ethnic minority group members generally favored strong leadership more frequently than national majority members did (Table 3). Turkish respondents were the majority in only two countries – Belgium and Germany – indicating that their support for strong leadership was situational and circumscribed.

Table 3: Call for strong leadership (combined per cent of “very good” and “fairly good” responses)

Table 4: Democracy as not good for keeping order (combined per cent of “agree” and “strongly agree” responses)

Source: EURISLAM Work Package 4, “Integrated Report on Survey Analysis,” Table 96, at


The results gleaned from Table 4 are troubling. A substantial section of the population in all six countries believed that democracy was not well suited for keeping order in society. Ethnic minority groups favored this position more than ethnic majority groups did, which to some degree fed the stereotype of Muslims as prizing order over democracy. A majority of ex-Yugoslav respondents in the UK and Switzerland, along with a Turkish majority in France, expressed skepticism about democracy. Predictably, very few British respondents living in what is regarded as a venerated democracy thought similarly, nor did they call for strong leadership in any great numbers.

c) Identification with, pride in, and acceptance by the country of residence. A key study suggesting the extent of social distance was the effect of a Muslim’s European country of residence on his or her sense of identity and inclusion. Muslims in the Netherlands identified most closely with their country of residence, while those in the UK identified least. A feeling of being recognized as a fellow citizen was highest in France and the Netherlands, and again lowest in the UK.18 Turks did not generally self-identify as Belgian, German, or Swiss, though half of Turks in the Netherlands did identify as Dutch. It was in France that Turkish self-identification was the weakest of any community (at only 38%).

Some general trends are also noteworthy. Male respondents identified more strongly with their country of residence than women, as did those with jobs and higher levels of education. Not unexpectedly, first-generation Muslim immigrants identified less with their new country than did the second generation.

A related question concerned levels of interaction between Muslim minorities and the majority population. The greatest contact took place between groups in the Netherlands, while the UK (again) displayed the least. Generally, the distance of separation from the majority perceived by Muslim groups was less than that the majority population claimed separated it from Muslims.

When asked whether they were proud to be members of the national community of their country of residence, about one-quarter of Turkish respondents in Belgium replied negatively, higher than any other group in the country. The figure for Turks was even higher in the UK (60%) and Germany (70%). Conversely, all minority group members exhibited very low rates of expressing pride to be English: Pakistanis topped the list at only 14%. Even more remarkable is that only 4% of Turks in Germany were at all proud of being German, a strong indicator of alienation as well as social distance.

The EURISLAM survey also examined Muslims’ feelings of acceptance by the majority group. French respondents were most disposed, and British, Belgian, German, Swiss, and Dutch respondents less inclined, to accept Muslims as fellow citizens. Consistent with and possibly helping to explain the finding that few minority group members felt proud to be English, no minority group in the UK generally believed that the majority regarded them as English; Pakistani respondents came closest, with about one-third of them believing so. There was a much stronger feeling of being accepted by minority respondents who resided in Belgium, Germany, Holland, France, and Switzerland, with proportions often exceeding 50%. To be sure, only 14% of Turks asserted that people of German origin regarded them as German, compared to 40% claiming the Dutch and Swiss included them in their national communities. For Turkish respondents, therefore, Germany ranked worst in terms of social distance.

The migration and settlement of Muslims in Europe transformed the social, cultural, religious, and demographic landscape of the continent

In general and somewhat counterintuitively, then, Muslims sensed less social distance than majority groups in the six EURISLAM country surveys. This may be related to the frequency of contact between Muslims and majority group members, which was lowest in the UK and highest in the Netherlands. Paradoxically, both states ardently pursued multicultural policies for a considerable period, yet these policies have proven to be unreliable indicators of the degree of contact between Muslims and non-Muslims. British multiculturalism does not appear to promote contact between groups, and perceptions of social distance are strongest in the UK. Among Muslim groups, Turks sense the greatest distance in the UK, and ex-Yugoslavs the least. This implies that Turks subjectively feel that they experience more ghettoization than other Muslim groups.

It is useful to compare EURISLAM’s cross-national results on social distance with national survey findings in two member-states situated on the periphery of the EU. A 2010 Swedish study found that on a scale from 1 (least social distance) to 6 (greatest), Swedish respondents predictably scored the other three Nordic nations as under 2. Northern Europeans, which included English and Germans, were also distinguishable as an in-group from “foreign” nations. Outer concentric circles, representing greater distance from the Swedish center, were occupied by Poles, Croatians, Russians, Bosnians, and Serbs (in that order). These ranked between 4 and 5 on the scale. Finally, respondents estimated that Turks, Kurds, Iranians, Iraqis, Roma, and Somalis (all but Roma being Muslim-majority groups) had a social distance score above 5. For a country proud of its integration and inclusion efforts towards immigrants, this apparent attitudinal marginalization of foreigners is somewhat unexpected and problematic.19

This pattern is not very different in Poland, a more recent EU member. In a 2011 survey of Poles’ favorite nations, 23 of the top 25 were European, and the remaining two were Japanese and Chinese. By contrast, the least liked were (in descending order) Jews, Vietnamese, Turks, Chechens, Armenians, Serbs, Romanians, Arabs, and Roma.20 This survey did not explicitly measure social distance or discrimination, but the hierarchy of nations revealed and the place of Muslims within it are not unsurprising. 

The development of anti-Muslim prejudice is a complicated phenomenon; the unmaking of it presents a daunting challenge

d) Attitudes towards intergroup contact. Majority group attitudes towards the four Muslim minority groups were evaluated by surveying respondents on their feelings about having a neighbor, boss, and marriage partner from one of the minorities.21 In all six states, large majorities of respondents answered that it would not make a difference whether a member of a Muslim minority was a neighbor or a boss. As marriage partner, however, opinion was much harsher about Muslims. 30% of Belgians found the idea unpleasant and 44% of them described having a Turkish marriage partner, in particular, as unpleasant. Similar proportions of respondents in Germany (30%) and France (25%) indicated that marriage to a Muslim was undesirable, while disapproval for marriage with a Turk was also about 30% in both countries. By contrast, in Britain only 19% regarded a Turkish spouse as an unpleasant proposition; this contrasted with a 43% negative score for a Moroccan marriage partner.

In 2013, an ambitious research project published a study of Turkish attitudes in Europe. The Euro-Turks Barometer, loosely modeled on the European Commission’s Eurobarometer based in Brussels, was established at Hacettepe University’s Migration and Politics Research Center (HUGO). Its rationale was that it had become important to examine the opinions of the approximately five million Turks residing in Europe, of whom about 91% were born or have lived in a European state for more than eleven years, and half of whom are citizens of the country in which they reside. Specifically, the study focused on how this demographic view identity, integration, social distance, and discrimination. 

The Euro-Turks Barometer’s first results were released in April 2013 and were based on surveys carried out in all European countries with populations of Turkish origin exceeding 100,000. In this category are nine EU states (Germany, France, the Netherlands, England, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland) plus Norway and Switzerland. Given the levels of experienced discrimination and social distance reported above, it is surprising that 83% of Turkish respondents claimed that they felt integrated into the society in which they lived. Moreover, close to 70% of Turks in the eleven countries regarded the countries they lived in as their permanent home.22

At the same time, the “diasporization” of this group was reflected in its continued attachment to Turkey, and to Turkishness as their identity. 34% of respondents saw themselves as Turkish Muslim, 22% as Turk, 19% as European Turkish Muslim, and 7% as Turkish and German – a total of 82% invoking at least a partial Turkish identity. Only 2% identified exclusively as European and 1% exclusively as German, although 91% were born in or had longtime residence in Europe. If Germany (since 2000) has been characterized by an assimilationist ethnic regime as Şener Aktürk has claimed,23 these survey results provide scant evidence that it has succeeded.

Widespread endorsement of multiculturalism helps explain how respondents of Turkish origin squared their sense of being integrated in European states while simultaneously asserting their belonging to Turkey. 60% said they embraced multiculturality, while only 17% indicated they could not.

If generally optimistic about integration, this sample exhibits more mixed attitudes on subjects related to discrimination. On the question of whether they thought discrimination or injustice occurs to Muslims, 38% answered yes or definitely yes, 31% answered sometimes, and just 21% replied no. Significantly, respondents were less certain that Islamophobia exists in Europe: 45% agreed that it did, 24% said it did not, and 10% believed it sometimes does.

Let us compare these figures to aggregate data for the 27 EU states surveyed in the 2012 Eurobarometer survey on discrimination. 56% of the EU sample found overall discrimination based on ethnic origin to be widespread (down from 61% in 2009) while 39% said it was fairly or very rare. A smaller proportion (39%) believed that discrimination on the grounds of religion or beliefs was widespread compared to a significant 56% who thought it rare or non-existent. With regard to the economic crisis, 52% believed that ethnic-based discrimination in the labor market had increased and 40% said it had not. The respective figures for religiously based discrimination were, again, less striking than for ethnic discrimination, at 35% and 57% respectively.24

Islamophobia and Turkophobia involves fear of and antipathy towards Muslims that go beyond “mere” religion and invoke cultural sensibilities

While Eurobarometer and Euro-Turks Barometer data are not strictly comparable, we can infer that respondents of Turkish background were nevertheless more likely to recognize the existence of discrimination based on religious grounds with higher frequency than the EU sample. Still, a significant minority of the EU sample claimed that religious discrimination was widespread and had worsened after the economic crisis (39% and 35%, respectively). 

We may thus infer that European societies have created an environment characterized by limited, low-intensity prejudice against Muslims, but one that may be manageable rather than irreconcilable. Should we be appalled by the perceived levels of ethnic and religious discrimination as well as the sense of social distance appearing consistently in the large-N surveys examined? Passing judgment on prejudicial attitudes is easy, after all. What is more critical, however, is developing measures to eradicate negative understandings of difference.




The development of anti-Muslim prejudice is a complicated phenomenon; the unmaking of it presents a daunting challenge. The survey results presented here highlight the attitudinal gap between majority groups and Muslim communities, and the probable negative impact it has on social cohesion in European states. At a time when the management of diversity in Europe has reached a crossroads,25 an opportunity exists to introduce innovative policies that aim to reduce perceptions of social distance. A key objective should be to eliminate thinking in dyads – indigeneity-immigration, multiculturalism-republicanism, integration-assimilation – because they often become polarizing markers of allegiance to particular communities.

Social distance and its consequences are central to Europe’s crisis of multiple, conflicting identities. The sputtering Eurozone debacle was primarily framed as the product of a North-South cultural divide, itself conjuring up ethnic and religious prejudices and social distance. Still, we should not lose sight of the significance of persisting perceptions of distance within individual European societies and the corrosive effects they have on European attitudes. The reputed status of Euro-Muslims in individual states may serve as a gauge of how social distance is being resolved in a Europe affected by an identity crisis. Similarly, the social status of Euro-Turks, which few Europeans today would describe in terms as demeaning as Pope Urban II, can act as a barometer indicating how effectively Europe is overcoming its preoccupation with difference. 




  1. Raymond Taras, Xenophobia and Islamophobia in Europe (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012), 109-13.
  2. I am grateful to an anonymous reviewer of Insight Turkey for drawing my attention to this key issue.
  3. Olivier Roy, “The Mediterranean and its Metaphors,” Robert Schuman Center for Advanced Studies Distinguished Lecture 2009/02 (Montecatini Terme: European University Institute, 2009), 8-9.
  4. Raymond Taras, “‘Islamophobia Never Stands Still’: Race, Religion, and Culture,” Ethnic and Racial Studies, 36:3 (2013): 417-433.
  5. For an essential introduction, see Ayhan Kaya, Islam, Migration and Integration: The Age of Securitization (London: Palgrave, 2009). 
  6. Jack Citrin and John Sides, “Immigration and the Imagined Community in Europe and the United States,” Political Studies 56 (2008): 37.
  7. Enric Martínez-Herrera and Djaouida Moualhi, “Predispositions to Discriminatory Immigration Policies in Western Europe: An Exploration of Political Causes,” Portuguese Journal of Social Science5 (2007): 218–19.
  8. The European Social Survey only included Turkey in rounds 2 (2004) and 4 (2008), because national scientific funding bodies are responsible for covering the costs of fieldwork in their own country. For the background of respondents in these and other surveys cited in this article, see the cited web sites of each of the projects. For ESS, see
  9. Martínez-Herrera and Moualhi, “Predispositions,” 221-222.
  10. Talip Küçükcan, “Editor’s Note,” Insight Turkey 12:1 (2010): iv. Data are taken from the European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey (Vienna: European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, 2009),199. See also Küçükcan, “Bridging the European Union and Turkey: the Turkish Diaspora in Europe,” Insight Turkey 9: 4: 85-99.
  11. European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Data in Focus Report 2: Muslims (Vienna: 2009), at, accessed 5 February 2012.
  12. EU Accession Monitoring Program, Monitoring Minority Protection in EU Member States (New York: Open Society Institute, 2004), 53. See also Open Society Justice Initiative, Ethnic Profiling in the European Union.
  13. These were: (1) when looking for work, (2) at work, (3) when looking for a house or an apartment to rent or buy, (4) by healthcare personnel, (5) by social services personnel, (6) by school personnel, (7) at a café, restaurant or bar, (8) when entering or in a shop, and (9) when trying to open a bank account or get a loan.
  14. Matti Bunzl, Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: Hatreds Old and New in Europe (Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2007), 33.
  15. Manlio Canalli, Marco Giugni, Dirk Jacobs, Ruud Koopmans, Paul Statham, and Jean Tillie, “EURISLAM: Finding a place for Islam in Europe: cultural interactions between Muslim immigrants and receiving societies.” Questionnaire, data, and analysis are available at
  16. See Thomas Deltombe, L’Islam imaginaire: la construction médiatique de l’Islamophobie en France, 1975–2005 (Paris: La Découverte, 2005).
  17. Elisabeth Eide, “Suspect Foreigners? Media and Migration,” paper presented at the Conference on Integration and Immigrants’ Participation, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, November 14, 2011.
  18. EURISLAM Work Package 4, “Integrated Report on Survey Analysis” (December 15, 2011), at
  19. Den Mångtydiga Intoleransen (Stockholm: Forum för Levande Historia, 2010). For an earlier study, see Anders Lang, Diskriminering, Integration och Etniska Relationer (Norrköping: Integrationsverket, 2000). 
  20. Centrum Badania Opinii Społecznej, “Stosunek polaków do innych narodów” (Warsaw: CBOS, February 2011), BS/13/2011, at
  21. The German national survey ALLBUS has asked similar questions.
  22. HUGO Avrupa Kamuoyu Araştirmalari, “Euro-Turks Barometre 2013, at; see also “People of Turkish Descent integrated in Europe, survey says,” Hürriyet Daily News (April 11, 2013). 
  23. Şener Aktürk, Regimes of Ethnicity and Nationhood in Germany, Russia, and Turkey (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), Chapter 3.
  24. European Commission, “Discrimination in the EU in 2012,” Special Eurobarometer 393(Brussels November, 2012), at
  25. See Raymond Taras (ed.), Challenging Multiculturalism: European Models of Diversity (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013).

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