9th Conference European Sociological Association

RS04 Europe and Immigration

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Muslim Immigration in Comparative Perspective Building I, 1E9

Identifications of Second Generation Muslim "Immigrants" in European Societies - a Comparative Case Study of Berlin, Paris and London

National identities play an important part in the discussions about social cohesion and issues of belonging. In this paper I analyse the self-perceptions of collective identities regarding nationality, ethnicity and faith of young male European Muslims based on interviews with 117 young Muslims in Berlin, Paris and London conducted from 2005 - 2007.

Most interviewees are born in the country they live in and hold the respective nationality. However, many have a disparate feeling of belonging, either because they do not feel fully accepted as German, French or British or because they are more attached to other collective identities, or a combination of both. The interviews show evidence for a relation between these two reasons in some cases: some interviewees expressed the feeling that they are not perceived by the majority society as German, French or British nationals but that they are seen as members of other ethnic groups and thus feel as such. However, most interviewees endorse a collective identity relating to ethnic backgrounds - in opposition, or addition to, or in combination with the national identity of the "receiving society".

Despite the diverging perceptions, the tendency for interviewees in Germany is to see their ethnic identity opposing the German national identity. In France, interviewees largely perceive themselves French and also Algerian, Moroccan, Tunisian etc. In Britain, many consider themselves as British-Asians. Three interdependent factors for a non-identification with the respective nationality are identified:
The extent to which the interviewees feel accepted as nationals by the majority society.
The interviewees' perception of ethnic, cultural or religious heritage and identity in relation to a national identities.
The concept of national identity within their social circles, i.e. with friends, in school, within their family and in the district they live in.

For many interviewees, the religious identity plays an important role in the issue of belonging to the "receiving society" as some feel that it is incompatible with a national identification with the countries they live in. However, only few have a strong perception of cross-national unity of a Muslim community (Ummah).