Islamophobia in Western Europe: Opposing Muslims or the Muslim headscarf?

Open to the Public
Nador u. 9, Monument Building
Popper Room
Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 5:30pm
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Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 5:30pm to 7:10pm


Marc Helbling is head of the Emmy-Noether research group ‘Immigration Policies in Comparison’ (IMPIC) at the Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB). He was a guest lecturer at Princeton University and a visiting fellow at Harvard University. His research fields include, among others, immigration and citizenship politics, nationalism as well as xenophobia and Islamophobia.
Mr. Helbling's articles were published among others in Electoral Studies, European Journal of Political Research, Ethnic and Racial Studies, and West European Politics. 


This paper reveals that while Muslims have a surprisingly good reputation in Western Europe, the headscarf is opposed by a large majority. Several arguments are developed in this paper to investigate why people make a difference between Muslims as a group and their religious practices. While attitudes towards Muslims hardly vary across countries there is a lot of variation of resentment against the head- scarf. It appears that the more state and church are separated in a country the more negative are attitudes towards new religious practices. At the individual level it will be tested to what extent general xenophobic attitudes, liberal values and religiosity help us understand why attitudes differ. It will be shown, among others, that reli- gious people are opposed towards Muslims but not towards their religious practices. On other hand, people with liberal values are tolerant towards Muslims as a group but feel torn when it comes to religious practices such as wearing the headscarf that for some people stands for the illiberal values of Islam. Data from a survey in six Western European countries will be analyzed. Despite all the controversial political debates this is one of the first studies that analyzes attitudes towards Muslim immi- grants across several countries, and for the first time attitudes towards Muslims as a group and the Muslim headscarf are compared.