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Reducing disparities and polarizations

This highly topical book aims to undermine unsubstantiated myths by examining Muslim integration in Germany, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, states which dominate the debate on minority integration and the practice of Muslim religious traditions. These nations have a range of alternative relationships between religion and the state, as well as strategies for coordinating individuals’ ethnic and state identities. Using the European Parliament’s benchmarking guidelines, surveys and other non-official data, the authors find that in some areas Muslims are in fact more integrated than popularly assumed and suggest that, instead of failing to integrate, Muslims find their access to integration blocked in ways that reduce their life chances in the societies in which they are now permanent residents.

The book will have an impact on research and policy especially with the commencement of the EU-wide integration benchmarking effort and will be an excellent resource for researchers, academics and policy makers.

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The Independent Review of England’s agri-food systems, commonly known as the National Food Strategy (NFS), was commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in 2019. The NFS report, published in two stages in 2020 and 2021, outlines a range of interventions and policy proposals to achieve better agri-food outcomes in terms of public health and environmental sustainability. This commentary focuses on the challenges associated with incorporating a diversity of voices within the NFS’s evidence base. To achieve this, the NFS mobilised a series of public dialogue events to capture lay perspectives. Led by professional facilitators, these events sought to open a deliberative space to explore the workings of agri-food systems, leading to the publication of a public engagement report in late 2021. While diverse views were recorded, the report found ‘a strong appetite for change’ among the participants, eager to address the problems associated with current agri-food systems. In commenting on the dialogue process, we identify three distinct problematics which arise from the NFS’s public engagement strategy. Firstly, we consider the array of subject positions at play in the report. Secondly, we discuss the ‘epistemologies of engagement’, reflecting on the different forms of knowledge that are enrolled through the process of public engagement. Thirdly, we consider the under-acknowledged politics that are at play in these kinds of public engagement exercises and the limits of ‘co-production’ as a methodological principle. We conclude by drawing out the wider (national and international) implications of this particular form of public engagement which aims to incorporate lay perspectives into policy development processes.

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The sources of information that enable examination of both the structural and legal barriers to Muslims’ achievement in European states are discussed, and the changes required for the cohesion sought by the framework of integration envisioned by the European Commission. Data sources include: the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, the European Commission for Racism and Intolerance, the European Social Survey, the UK Office of National Statistics and the UK Home Office, the Survey of Muslim Life in Germany, the German General Social Survey (ALLBUS), and Statistics Netherlands. The chapter provides a foundation for the following extensive quantitative examination of the well-being of Muslims in Europe and the mechanisms through which their access to legitimate opportunities is blocked by bureaucratic regulations, public policy, discrimination and prejudice.

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This chapter clarifies differences in the national role on key questions of the relationship between the individual and the civil society, and between religion and the state. At the end of the chapter, information is provided on each state’s Muslim population. Change in states’ conceptualization of the national model of integration is reflected in the shifting mechanisms of their accommodations to the requirements of Muslim well-being. Britain moved from a race-based to a faith-based policy; the Netherlands from a consociational rights-based policy, to a policy based on individual responsibilities; France from a laicite policy ignoring individuals’ religion, to one penalizing displays of religious identity in public institutions; and Germany from a policy based on the assumption that non-German difference has no place in German society, to a policy establishing a minimum threshold of commonality between those “foreigners” who will remain and German citizens (placing on Muslims the burden to conform to the majority). Efforts to prevent examination of the extent to which life chances are limited through institutional discrimination and prejudice are sanitized by reference to the immutability of “national models of integration”. The authors seek to demonstrate the utility of expanding national and supra-national well-being projects to provide for the greater well-being of Muslim Europeans.

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Given their implications for the degree of legitimacy with which the state and its institutions are viewed, and for trust in “the system”, this chapter focuses on Muslim Europeans’ perceptions of police and justice system fairness. Muslims’ degree of concern about criminal victimization and the level of crime in their neighbourhoods is also looked at. The focus here is on the sense of safety and security expressed by Muslims and the extent of their trust in justice agencies. Overall, the results indicate that Muslims are more integrated into their European homes than popularly recognized. In three of the four states, rather than distrusting the police and the legal system, Muslims are at least, if not more, willing than other Europeans to work with agencies of justice and rely on them for protection. In France, where state policy has mandated aggressive policing of those whose demographic characteristics are linked with undocumented immigrants, Muslims are significantly less likely to trust the police than are non-Muslims. But even while their distrust of the police appears to be based on facts documented by outside agencies, this distrust does not extend to the rest of the justice system: ESS data indicate that there is no significant difference between French Muslims and non-Muslims in trust in the legal system.

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The relationship between citizens and their political system raises fundamental questions about the nature of democracy, including government legitimacy and chances for equal representation. Amid growing fears that a radicalized Islam is spreading across Europe, the relationship between Muslims and European political systems has garnered special attention among scholars and government officials, especially as higher fertility rates will likely enhance Muslims’ future political power. Responding to concerns about the incompatibility between Islam and democracy, we combine a thorough review of previous scholarly literature with analyses of survey data to examine the relationship between Muslims and Europe’s democratic political systems. Attitudinally, we find that, counter to conventional wisdom, Muslims exhibit equal or greater levels of support and trust in democracy and most institutions of government than non-Muslims. This finding is consistent across the four states. Behaviourally, we find that Muslims are generally less well incorporated than non-Muslims in terms of their voter turnout and representation in public office. We discuss a number of reasons for this gap in representation, focusing in particular on closed institutional structures such as rigid integration policies and citizenship laws that limit greater political incorporation.

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Data on discrimination provided in this chapter underscore the picture of Muslims’ sense of relative unease in their European homes, and reflect an increase in the discrimination faced by Muslims in Europe during the first decade of the twenty-first century. Muslims experience multiple discrimination triggered by their religion, race and nationality. In three of the four states considered, citizenship is not a protective factor in reducing the impact of discrimination. This look at perceptions of discrimination within the Muslim population provides several important clues for policy-makers regarding the impact of state policy toward Muslims. Policies focused on keeping manifestation of religious identity out of the public arena, and the associated hostility toward those at whom such policies are targeted may serve to exclude Muslims from full membership in European states. To some extent, the impact that these policies have on non-Muslims may be the heart of the problem: such policies may send a signal that Muslims do not belong, making interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims more likely to reflect that attitude.

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In this chapter the life satisfaction and general happiness of Muslims in Europe is examined, along with their well-being in several specific key areas of life, including income, health, education, employment, awareness of political information, and access to information sources. Data from the European Social Survey and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights provide a new perspective on Muslims in France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, in demonstrating so many similarities between Muslims and other Europeans. While these data do not contradict the well-documented socio-economic marginalization of European Muslims, they demonstrate that Muslims are not isolated or dissatisfied with the major state institutions within which they conduct their lives. Their confidence in the educational, health and economic systems of their European state is not much different from that of their European neighbours, and in many areas is more positive. The data provide little, if any, support for the belief that Muslims are isolating themselves in Europe. Like their non-Muslim neighbours, Muslims support the institutions of the state, follow politics and the news, and utilize the internet. These attitudes and habits reflect their integration into Europe, not self-segregation into parallel societies.

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Whether or not a Europe-wide benchmarking system is actually put into place, states and European agencies are moving in this direction as they develop complex sets of indicators alternative to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The goals and strategies of the benchmarking concept are applied to the task of examining the well-being of Muslims in four European states, focusing on the eight key areas of life specified by the Council of Europe (2003). In these states, as in Europe as a whole, Muslims represent a significant and salient dimension of the population politically, socially, economically, culturally and demographically. Without a reconsideration of official data gathering strategies, steps toward benchmarking minority integration in Europe will founder. Efforts to improve the well-being of minorities will ignore the special problems of Muslims in many European states for lack of conceptualization of the religious group as a minority in need of protection, and the resulting absence of accurate information about them. These data are necessary to convince electorates to move in the direction of greater inclusion of the needs of European Muslims in the bureaucratic regulations and institutional processes of the state and its agencies. The talents and abilities of European Muslims, like those of other newcomers, will then accrue to the benefit of Europe and its member states.

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