Around 50 percent of Germans are wary of Islam, a new study by Bertelsmann Foundation has found.
In a study on religious diversity conducted by the highly influential NGO, one-third of the respondents see Islam as “enriching” German society. At the same time, half of participants said they view it as a “threat.”
The pollsters blame the media for this state of affairs, as they found that tolerance of other major religions in the country is much higher.
The study found that the “majority” of respondents are fine with Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism.
However, the “widespread scepticism about Islam” is not “necessarily equated to Islamophobia,” Yasemin el-Menouar, a religion expert with the Bertelsmann Foundation, said.
“Apparently, many people currently see Islam as less of a religion but more of a political ideology and do not associate it with religious tolerance,” el-Menouar said, arguing that this attitude has been formed by news reports and political debates in recent years.
An imam at a Berlin mosque and Islamic theologist, Said Ahmed Arif, agrees that not everyone who is fearful of Islam is an Islamophobe. Negative sentiments are fuelled by the “bad image” Muslims have in the media because of radicals who commit crimes, he said in an interview.
The study was part of the Bertelsmann Foundation’s ‘religion monitor’ research first conducted in 2017 and was based on a survey of 1,000 people across Germany.
According to German media, the total number of Muslims living in the nation of 80 million people amounts to about five million.
Germany has witnessed a surge in anti-Islam and anti-migrant sentiment following the 2015 refugee crisis, when the nation took in more than a million refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from the Middle East and Africa.
Observers say terror attacks in Berlin two years ago and other European cities have also fuelled anti-Muslim sentiments. This has led to a rise in popular support for political groups such as the anti-immigrant PEGIDA, which claims to fight what it calls the “Islamization of Europe,” as well as the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has long been a critic of “radical Islam” and German immigration policies.