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Muslims in Germany increasingly segregated

As their numbers grow, Muslims are becoming more religious and only 15 percent of German Turks feel at home in Germany

By Felix Strüning | Dispatch International | 10 Sep 2012

As their numbers grow, Muslims are becoming more religious and only 15 percent of German Turks feel at home in Germany

Since the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, there has been a massively growing interest in Muslims living in the West. The German book market in particular is overflowing with more or less competent publications on the theme. Facts, however, are hard to come by as most official statistics are based on a census that does not register religion. As for Muslims, their number is mostly estimated on the basis of the Muslim share of the population of the immigrants' home countries. A few studies, however, have targeted the opinions of Muslims, their socio-economic status and other relevant parameters.

According to the most recent study by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, which came out in 2009, approximately 4.3 million Muslims live in Germany corresponding to 5.2 percent of the total population. 45 percent of them have German citizenship. On the basis of German statistics, the American Pew Research Center estimates that by the beginning of 2011, Germany's Muslim population was approximately 4.1 million (5 percent of the total population). The number of Muslims is estimated to increase to approximately 5.55 million by 2030, corresponding to 7 percent of Germany's total population. Most of the increase is due to a higher Muslim birth rate. Over the period 2005-2010, the average Muslim birth rate was 1.8 children per woman, whereas it was only 1.3 percent among non-Muslim woman. Over the next 20 years, the Muslim birth rate is predicted to decrease slightly to 1.7 children per woman.

The State of North Rhine-Westphalia has the largest share of German Muslims (33.1 percent) due to the fact that it is the most populous of all federal states and because of its concentration of heavy industry that attracted most of the so-called guest workers during the 1960s. Two other large States, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, have 16.6 and 13.2 percent, respectively, of Muslims living in Germany.

Practically all German Muslims (98.4 percent) live in the so-called old Federal States and in Berlin, i.e. in the areas that made up the former Federal Republic of Germany.

Numbering approximately 2.6 million, Muslims of Turkish descent constitute the largest group of German Muslims. The Turkish Muslims have been the subject of a number of studies, most recently a study conducted by Info GmbH entitled Deutsch-Türkischen Lebens- und Wertwelten. The following observations concentrate on Turkish Muslims due their large number and the fact that they may be considered the most representative of the total Muslim population.

The number of Turks in Germany is estimated to be approximately 2.7 million, of which 88 percent report that they adhere to the Muslim confession (Sunnis: 74 percent, Shiites: 2 percent, Alevites: 11 percent, Sufis: 1 percent). On a scale of 1 to 11, 37 percent of the Turkish Muslims describe themselves as strictly religious and 23 percent report that they are very religious. The tendency towards becoming more religious has strengthened since 2009, particularly among women.

This high degree of religiousness is accompanied by clear signs of a growing tendency towards Islamization. An increasing number of Turks want more mosques in Germany (2010: 49 percent, 2012: 55 percent) and among young people aged 15-29 it is as much as 70 percent. Almost half of the respondents hope that there may soon be a Muslim majority in Germany (2010: 33 percent, 2012: 46 percent). 72 percent consider Islam to be the only true religion.

Non-Muslim life styles are increasingly rejected as inferior. Almost one-fifth of the Turks think that atheists are inferior human beings. Among the young it is as high as 30 percent. Over the span of two years, anti-Semitism has increased from 14 to 18 percent. Close to one-tenth think that Christians are inferior. The rejection of gays and lesbians is holding steady. More than half of the Turks in Germany consider homosexuality to be a disease.  

Despite these numbers, 78 percent of the respondents (2010: 70 percent) wish to integrate into German society "completely and unreservedly". At the same time, 95 percent of the Turks consider it important to preserve their culture. 87 percent (2010: 83 percent) think that Germans ought to show greater consideration for Turkish particularities.

62 percent – almost half again as many as in 2010 – indicate that they would prefer to mix with other Turks exclusively. A further indicator of a low motivation to integrate is the fact that 46 percent say they would leave Germany if they became unemployed and couldn't collect public assistance (2010: 31 percent).

When asked why they have even come to Germany, only 3 percent respond that they have come to study and 22 percent that they have come looking for work. One-third came as children or youngsters with their parents. 38 percent (women: 56 percent) came to get married. Slightly more than half of those aged 15-29 came when they were little with their parents and the rest as a result of marriage immigration.

39 percent feel most at home in Turkey and only 15 consider Germany their home. Only 23 percent have German citizenship. Approximately half want to stay in Germany but a slightly growing number consider returning to Turkey. 29 percent report that they have experienced discrimination in the shape of verbal abuse (2010: 42 percent) and 16 percent say they have been victims of physical assaults due to their appearance (2010: 8 percent).

Compared to the German population, Turks living in Germany are very poorly educated. 57 percent haven't finished school or have only attended primary school. The corresponding figure for the total population is 40 percent. The fact that among younger Turks, only 45 percent leave school without a diploma is reason for some optimism.

40 percent of the Turks in Germany have no vocational training, which is a prerequisite for a successful participation in the labor market, compared to 27 percent among the general population. More then two-thirds say they speak better Turkish than German and among Turkish women it is almost three quarters. 47 percent of the Turkish respondents (men: 56 percent, women: 39 percent) are professionally active on a full-time or part-time basis. Among the German population it is 58 percent.

Felix Strüning works as a journalist and political adviser in Berlin.


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