Why religion? Immigrant groups as objects of political claims on immigration and civic integration in Western Europe, 1995–2009

Abstract

Under which circumstances do politicians differentiate among immigrants? When they do, why do they in some countries focus on Muslim immigrants rather than national or other groups? We use claims-making analysis to capture how immigrant groups are differentiated in seven Western European countries. As explanations for variation in claims-making about Muslim immigrants (1995–2009) we consider socio-structural and citizenship-regime differences across countries, the parliamentary presence of anti-immigrant parties, the 9/11 WTC attack and the direct political context in which claims-making occurs. We find that Muslim-related claims-making is associated with the parliamentary presence of anti-immigrant parties and the policy topic under discussion. By contrast, the evidence for policy-oriented and socio-structural explanations is inconclusive. There is a need for further theory development on the effects of the political debate (topics, arguments, actors) on (migrant-)group differentiation in particular and politicization in general.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We refer to race and ethnicity jointly to capture the different use of the terms in the countries covered.

  2. 2.

    Koopmans et al (2005, p. 116) also use a fifth ‘hybrid’ identity for ethnoreligious groups such as Jews and Sikhs, and a sixth ‘hyphened’ category in which any of the identities is combined with the country of residence such as African-American. For reasons of simplicity, (and problems of comparibility) we do not use these categories in our analysis. In the empirical analysis, categories other than country of origin were prioritized, thus Maroccan Muslims are classified as Muslim.

  3. 3.

    Koopmans et al identify citizenship configurations on the basis of ‘equality of individual access’ (civic versus ethnic) and ‘cultural differences and group rights’ (monism versus pluralism). We focus on the latter dimension because it includes rights associated with religious practices (religious education, religious public television, right to wear headscarf and so on) that are directly related to our religious category of interest.

  4. 4.

    Similar to Höglinger et al (2012, pp. 237–243), we derive the classification of arguments into instrumental, identity and principled arguments from Habermas’ (1993) differentiation of justifications. Instrumental frames present positions as a ‘rational choice of means in the light of fixed purposes or of the rational assessment of goals in the light of existing preferences’ (Habermas, 1993, p. 3). A political position is justified as a calculation of utility and may refer to management techniques, economic effects, or policy programmes. Identity frames refer to ‘the self-understanding of a person’ (Habermas, 1993, p. 5). They have a strong historical and cultural component and may refer to duties, cultural differences, norms and a particular conception of the collective ‘us’. Political actors can also invoke universal principles of justice such as equality, solidarity, fairness or the (universal) moral obligation to protect people in need.

  5. 5.

    In Austria: Der Standard, Neue Kronen Zeitung; Belgium: La Dernière Heure, Le Soir, De Standaard, Het Laatste Nieuws; Switzerland: Blick, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Le Matin, Le Temps (March 1998 onwards), Tribune de Genève (1995 to March 1998); Spain: El Pais, La Vanguardia; Ireland: Irish Daily Star, The Irish Times; The Netherlands: De Telegraaf, De Volkskrant; The United Kingdom: The Daily Mail, The Guardian. For the results presented in this article we find no significant differences between newspapers.

  6. 6.

    Anti-immigrant parties were identified on the basis of their immigration and integration policies, using both expert surveys and party manifestos (compare Ruedin, 2013). Seat shares are of national elections in the lower chamber. This approach lets us approach the role of anti-immigrant parties in a dynamic fashion (Van Spanje, 2011), catering to the fact that support for anti-immigrant parties varies across countries and time.

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Correspondence to Joost Berkhout.

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Supplementary information accompanies this article on the Website http://dx.doi.org/10.7910/DVN/ZDKBPW. This work was supported by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement number 225522 (SOM: Support and Opposition to Migration). An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Muslims and Political Participation in Britain conference in Edinburgh, 21 April 2012. Both authors contributed equally to the article and are listed in alphabetical order. We would like to thank Pieter de Wilde for feedback.

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Berkhout, J., Ruedin, D. Why religion? Immigrant groups as objects of political claims on immigration and civic integration in Western Europe, 1995–2009. Acta Polit 52, 156–178 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/ap.2016.1

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Keywords

  • Muslims
  • immigration
  • politicization
  • claims-making
  • Western Europe