The Impact of Social Structure, Discrimination and Violence on the German Muslim Community

Research question/goal: 

The religiosity and religious identity of Western European Muslims has received increasing attention in academic research and public discourse. Yet, despite extensive research over the past decade, Muslims’ strong preservation of religious traditions remains an unsolved pattern in Western European immigration societies. A dominant explanation for this is the discrimination or exclusion of Muslim immigrants by the majority population. However, beyond the often individually experienced discrimination in everyday situations, Muslim individuals are subject to a more severe and increasingly visible form of xenophobia: violence and acts of terror, which explicitly target Muslims indiscriminately. Moreover, radical Islamic terror organizations try to fuel this vicious cycle. Caught between a faction of radicalized Muslims and hostile, Islamophobic elements of the majority population, secular segments of the Muslim population are in an awkward position, in which they feel resentment and pressure from different sides.

Surprisingly, however, we have very little empirical research on how this two-pronged threat of violence affects Muslims in Germany. The proposed research project addresses core questions within this research gap: How does religiously motivated violence alter religious identity? How does identity, discrimination, and violence affect civic or political behaviour? And how do these reactions vary with the social position that individuals occupy? After all, social mobility has fundamentally altered and diversified the German society, including the largest Muslim-origin immigrant group, the so-called guest workers of Turkish origin and their descendants. Today, many Muslim-origin immigrants of all generations hold a wide range of positions in politics, economy, and society, with the result that religion cross-cuts many other dimensions that are potentially relevant to individuals’ social identity.

We build on the theoretical framework of the overarching research unit "Reconfiguration and Internalization of Social Structure" (RISS) and expand it by illuminating how exogenous events, such as Islamist and anti-Muslim violence, perturb the association between social structure, identity, and behaviour. The proposed project examines these questions using an original survey of German Muslims, which we will collect as part of the RISS Internalization Survey. We apply an innovative measurement strategy using a conjoint experiment to estimate the importance of religion within individuals’ multidimensional social identity. Furthermore, our proposed empirical analysis employs an experimental design to evaluate how social identity as well as political preferences and behaviour are linked to perceptions of violence and discrimination.

Current stage: 

The project team has completed an extensive literature review and is currently pretesting the questionnaire design and the planned survey experiments on Muslim identity and violent threat perception. In addition, we are finalizing the documents for ethical review and preparing a preregistered analysis plan.

Fact sheet

2021 to 2025
Data Sources: 
Survey data, experimental evidence
Geographic Space: