‘A threat to the Occident’? Comparing human values of Muslim immigrants, Christian and non-religious natives in Western Europe

Christian S. Czymara & Marcus Eisentraut

APA citation: Czymara, C. S., & Eisentraut, M. (2020). A threat to the occident? Comparing human values of Muslim immigrants, Christian, and non-religious natives in Western Europe. Frontiers in Sociology, 5, 538926.


With a growing Muslim population, many European countries need to integrate Muslims into their societies. One aspect that can hinder successful integration are substantial differences in human values. This is because such values are consequential for attitudes as well as behavior. We compare basic human values between Muslim immigrants and non-Muslim natives in four European countries with distinct immigration histories and integration politics: Belgium, France, Germany, and Sweden. For most insightful comparisons, we contrast values of Muslim immigrants with those of Christian natives as well as those of non-religious natives. We employ data of more than 50,000 individuals based on the first eight waves of the European Social Survey. Our findings reveal significant differences in value priorities between Muslims, Christians and non-religious individuals in all four countries. Amongst other things, Muslim immigrants score particularly high in conservation values (security and tradition/conformity). At the same time, they also score higher in self-transcendence values (benevolence as well as universalism). While many of these findings are in line with theory and previous research, the higher score in universalism is unexpected. A potential explanation is the combination of religious traditionalism and discrimination experiences. In other words, religious traditions are associated with more conservative views, but being subject to marginalization can still result in an appreciation of equal opportunities. We find only limited support for differences in hedonism. Religiosity correlates with values of tradition/conformity for Muslim immigrants as well as for Christian natives. Thus, accounting for religiosity renders differences in these values between Muslims and other groups statistically insignificant. While most of these findings hold in all countries, differences are most pronounced in Sweden and lower in the other three countries, which is also true after accounting for differences in socio-economic status and religiosity between the three groups. This suggests that a combination of a country’s history of diversity and national integration policies either encourages the convergence of values or leads to a solidification of value differences between groups. We discuss these political and social implications of our findings.

Media coverage

The study was discussed in the English and Turkish version of Yeni Şafak, which was also picked up by various other websites such as Republika (Indonesia), The Frontier Post (Pakistan), or Haksöz (Turkey). While Yeni Şafak praises the “substantially objective information” of our study, it ends rather critically (“We see how science is inclined to take an ideological position.”). Besides some conceptual misunderstandings, the background of this newspaper is quite interesting and puts the criticism into perspective: “Yeni Şafak (“New Dawn”) is a conservative Turkish daily newspaper. The newspaper is known for its hardline support of president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AK Parti and has a very close relationship with the Turkish government. It, together with other media organizations in Turkey, has been accused of using hate speech to target minorities and opposition groups.” Wikipedia


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