Project 6

​The Impact of Social Structure, Discrimination and Violence on the German Muslim Community (FOR5173)

Despite extensive research over the past decade, Muslims’ strong preservation of religious traditions remains an unsolved puzzle in Western European immigration societies. A dominant explanation of religious identity 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 as well as hostile, Islamophobic elements of the majority population, secular segments of the Muslim population are in an awkward position, where 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 behavior? And how do these reactions vary with the social position which individuals occupy? After all, social mobility has fundamentally altered and diversified German society, including the largest Muslim-origin immigrant group, the Turkish guestworker communities.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 which are potentially relevant to individuals’ social identity.

We build on the theoretical framework of the overarching RISS research and expand it by illuminating how exogenous events, such as Islamist and anti-Muslim violence, perturb the association between social structure, identity and behavior. 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 rely on innovative measurement strategy using a conjoint experiment to estimate the importance of religion within individuals’ multidimensional social identity. Furthermore, our proposed empirical analysis uses an experimental design to evaluate how social identity as well as political preferences and behavior are linked to perceptions of violence and discrimination.