BU Professor Peter Doerschler Lectures on Muslim Integration into Germany

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Peter Doerschler, assistant professor of political science at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, spoke to BU students and faculty regarding Muslim integration and trust in public institutions in Germany on Wednesday evening, Nov. 16, as part of the ICS Lecture Series.

Associate Professor of English, Christina Francis, provided the introduction to Doerschler’s lecture, “Do Muslims in Germany Really Fail to Integrate? Muslim Integration and Trust in Public Institutions.”  The lecture was originally planned to be presented on Tuesday, Sept. 13 but was postponed due to the flooding in Bloomsburg early in the fall semester.Doerschler

The issue of Muslim immigration gained a much greater awareness due to what Doerschler describes as the “9/11 Effect.”  Due to the terrorist attacks on the United States’ twin towers and later, the London bombings, American and European society became suspicious of the general Muslim public and their migration into other countries.

Despite the attitudes surrounding Muslims, many economic, political, and social push-pull factors influenced them to migrate to Germany during the post-war era.  Doerschler stated that Europe significantly needed young workers in the workforce to rebuild its broken economy and Muslims fulfilled the gap by being contracted as “guest workers.”   Originally, the guest service recruitment followed a rotation strategy that recycled workers in a two-year cycle; however, many immigrant workers stayed longer than expected and integrated into German society.  In addition, Muslims also sought greater rights as citizens, politically.  As more Muslim immigrants became settled in Germany, Doerschler stated that family members began to migrate as well, integration developed, and ethnic and religious minorities developed.

Although difficult to determine as a result of data lacking in the census regarding religion and ethnicity, there are approximately four million Muslim citizens in Germany.  Doerschler specified that a significant percentage of the Muslim immigrants are native to the Middle East and North Africa region and aged between 15-29 years old.

The European Parliament defines integration as “a society’s ability to integrate all its members into new arrangements of active citizenship that ensure the long-term well-being of all in a diverse society.”  Similar to the push-pull factors, Doerschler stated that the integration of Muslims into Germany can be analyzed at three different levels: economic, political, and social.  Economically, income and employment disparities between Muslim immigrants and native German citizens exist.  A colored photo, comparable to a passport identification picture, must be presented during the application process for job interviews, which can lead to discrimination. Politically, integration is measured by the relationship to the political system.  Educational gaps are present at the social level, in which Muslim immigrants are overwhelmingly sorted into the lower academic tracks.  Doerschler believes that integration acts as a two-way street.

The state of Germany can assume either an active or passive role in the integration process, stated Doerschler.  The strategies implemented by the state can determine success or failure as a result.  Native German citizens may fear a move to an Islamic state due to the immigration of Muslims.  Doerschler believes Muslim extremism and links to terrorism create low trust, which in turn, could lower legitimacy and   generate a crisis of democracy.

Three major interpretations regarding Muslims trust in Germany’s democratic political system exist that Doerschler analyzes to determine the outcome of success or failure of Muslim integration into Germany.  The first hypothesis states that Muslims exhibit less political trust in democracy.  Sam Huntington’s “Class of Civilizations” emphasizes this perspective, expressing that conflict of different views of religion, culture, and basic beliefs will result in the divide of nation states.  In addition, Huntington believes Islam and democracy to be incompatible.  The greater religious identity and Danish cartoons provide evidence to this interpretation.

The second hypothesis Doerschler explored states that Muslims exhibit the same political trust in democracy.  However, the true clash comes down to core differences in views of women’s role in society.  Failure at integration results from discrimination or socioeconomic inequality.

Lastly, Doerschler stated the third interpretation: Muslims exhibit more political trust in democracy.  The key component expressed in this hypothesis asserts that declining trust exists in many Western democracies.  In sum, people distrust the native government and desire change from it.

Data analysis conducted from Doerschler, such as the German General Social Survey, found that the level of satisfaction of democracy as an idea was about equal between both non-Muslims and Muslims.  However, the data showed that Muslims are more satisfied than non-Muslims with democracy in practice.

Evidence from the data analysis concludes that Muslims have a higher trust in public institutions and political parties despite some disparities resulting from possible discrimination.  Muslims are underrepresented in the German government and are sorted into the lowest section of education.  Muslims who are more religiously devout do not trust the political system less.  In the data analysis, Muslims accounted for only 96 out of 3,469 respondents; therefore, possible biasness of the data must be recognized.  In sum, Doerschler rejected Huntington’s interpretation and believes that for integration of Muslims into Germany to be more successful, focus must be shifted to non-Muslims as a result of integration acting as a two-ways street.

Photo credit: Google Images

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