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EU survey finds Muslims willing to embrace non-Muslims

Nine out of 10 of those surveyed reported having non-Muslim friends

Image Credit: New York Times News Service
Pedestrians along a street in Norrebro, a multicultural neighbourhood in the Danish capital.
Gulf News

VIENNA: A survey of Muslims in 15 European Union countries finds most are willing to embrace non-Muslims, but they often feel rebuffed by the majority populations of the places they live.

The findings released Thursday by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights reflect the views of 10,527 Muslim immigrants and children of immigrants who were interviewed between October 2015 and July 2016.

Nine out of 10 of those surveyed reported having non-Muslim friends and 92 per cent said they tended to feel comfortable with neighbours of a different religious background.

But more than half — 53 per cent — said they had felt discriminated against when they looked for housing because of their names. On the employment front, 35 per cent of the women who had looked for work felt discriminated against because of their clothing, compared to 4 per cent for men.

Read more: Europe's Muslims more integrated than we think

The people surveyed were over age 16 and had been living for at least a year in Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, Denmark, Greece, Spain, Finland, France, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Sweden, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.

Other findings from the survey included:

— Nearly half of the respondents did not find interfaith marriage objectionable, with 48 per cent reporting they would feel “totally comfortable” with a family member marrying a non-Muslim.

While 17 per cent said they would feel uncomfortable in that situation, the authors of the report summarising the survey results said that compares with 30 per cent of non-Muslims who said they would be uncomfortable if their child had a romantic relationship with a Muslim.

— Outreach is often met with rejection and hostility. At the time of their survey interviews, 27 per cent of respondents said they had experienced harassment because of their Muslim backgrounds during the previous 12 months. Another 2 per cent reported being physically assaulted.

— Of the Muslim women who wore headscarves or face veils, 31 per cent reported harassment. Inappropriate staring or offensive gestures were reported by 39 per cent of the women who wore the coverings, while 22 per cent said they were targets of offensive comments and 2 per cent said they were physically attacked.

For women who did not wear veils or headscarves, harassment was experienced by 23 per cent.

The survey participants came from or had at least one parent originally from Turkey, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Asia.

In two countries, respondents also included Muslims from other countries outside Europe who had immigrated within the previous 10 years.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights said the survey had “multiple margins of error” since results were calculated differently for each ethnic group and country and because Muslims living in areas with fewer immigrants may not have been reached.