The central research question of this project is:

How have different traditions of national identity, citizenship, and church-state relations affected European immigration countries’ incorporation of Islam, and what are the consequences of these approaches for patterns of cultural distance and interaction between Muslim immigrants and their descendants, and the receiving society?

Differences across European countries have been an important factor hampering the emergence of a common European approach to immigration and integration. Although the need for such a common approach is widely endorsed, there is equally wide disagreement on what such a common approach should look like. The proposed research aims to contribute to resolving this issue by providing a systematic analysis of cross-national differences and similarities in countries’ approaches to the cultural integration of immigrants, and of Muslims in particular, and by relating these policy differences to cross-national variation in cultural distance and interaction between Muslims and the receiving society population.

We elaborate our core research question into three more specific questions and research methods:

I. What are the differences between European immigration countries in how they deal with cultural and religious differences of immigrant groups in general, and of Muslims in particular?

This question has two aspects. First, the more formal aspect of legislation and jurisprudence, which we will address by way of gathering a systematic set of cross-national indicators using secondary sources (work package 1). Secondly, in addition to formal law and jurisprudence, cultural relations are also affected importantly by how conceptions of national identity, citizenship, church-state relations, and the position of Islam in relation to these, are framed and contested in the public sphere. These more informal understandings of national and European identity and ways of dealing with cultural differences will be investigated by way of a content analysis of debates in the mass media on Islam and the integration of Muslim immigrants (work package 2).

II. To what extent do we find differences across immigration countries in cultural distance and patterns of interaction between various Muslim immigrant groups and the receiving society population?

On the one hand, we will focus here on attitudes, norms, and values, particularly those relating to democratic norms, gender relations and family values, ethnic, religious, and receiving society identification, and attitudes towards relations across ethnic and religious boundaries. On the other hand, we will look at cultural and religious resources and practices, such as language proficiency, adherence to various religious practices (e.g., attendance of religious services or wearing of a headscarf), interethnic and interreligious partnerships and marriages, the frequency and quality of interethnic and interreligious relationships with neighbours, friends, and colleagues, and memberships in social and political organisations of the own ethnic and religious group as well as of the receiving society. Both types of questions will also be asked – of course where relevant in an adapted format – with regard to members of the dominant ethnic group of the receiving society, because, obviously, cultural distance and interactions are determined by the perceptions, attitude, and practices at both ends of the relationship. All these variables will be gathered by way of a survey in each of the countries of a number of selected Muslim immigrant groups, as well as a sample of receiving society ethnics (work package 3).

III. To what extent can cross-national differences in cultural distance and patterns of interethnic and interreligious interaction be explained by the different approaches that immigration countries have followed towards the management of cultural difference in general, and Islam in particular?

This crucial question about the causal mechanisms linking policies to outcomes will be addressed from different angles, triangulating a variety of methods. First, multivariate analyses of the survey data will establish to what extent cross-national differences on our various socio-cultural variables (see above under point II) persist when controlling for individual-level background characteristics, such as gender, age, level of education, labour market position, and timing of immigration (work package 4). Moreover, these analyses can establish to what extent these cross-national differences are stable across Muslim groups from various countries of origin, or whether there are specific interaction effects between destination and source countries of immigration. The survey data will also be used to analyse the issue of the relation between cultural and socio-economic integration.

In addition to these analyses of our survey data, we will address the question of causal mechanisms in a more detailed, fine-grained way by organising focus groups with members of transnational immigrant families, whose members live in two or more of the immigration countries included in our study. This part of our research can be seen as a quasi-experiment, in which groups of people who are from a very similar background but who have ended up in different immigration contexts are systematically compared (work package 5). Finally, we want to get further purchase on the causal linkages between policies and outcomes by conducting semi-structured interviews with two crucial groups of stakeholders: policy-makers and leaders of Muslim organisations. This also includes an in-depth analysis of the policy processes, which result in specific policy outcomes (work package 6). In addition to being part of our data gathering effort, these interviews will also serve as a part of our dissemination strategy.