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Gütersloh, 26/09/2008

Muslims in Germany are very religious, and faith plays a central role in their day-to-day lives

A high level of religious tolerance – Little influence on the political sphere – Considerable diversity in terms of denominations and countries of origin

Young Muslime

Berlin-Gütersloh, September  26, 2008 – Across all age groups, the Muslims who live in Germany are highly religious, which clearly differentiates them from the overall German population. But their religious faith is not characterized by rigid dogmatism or fundamentalism. On the contrary, Muslims in Germany tend to be very accepting of religious pluralism and take a relatively pragmatic approach to religion in their day-to-day lives. These are among the conclusions reached by the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s special study "Religion Monitor 2008: Muslim religiosity in Germany," which was unveiled today in Berlin. The study is based on a representative survey of more than 2,000 Muslims over the age of 18.

According to the study, 90 percent of the Muslims who live in Germany are religious, and of that group 41 percent can be classified as highly religious. Five percent are nonreligious. By comparison, 70 percent of the German population as a whole are religious (18 percent of them highly religious), while 28 percent are nonreligious. However, the level of religiosity differs markedly between members of the various Muslim denominations and according to national origin as well as ethnic and cultural background. For example, Sunnis in Germany are characterized by a particularly high level of religiosity; 92 percent consider themselves to be religious, and of that group 47 percent are highly religious. Among Shiites, 90 percent are religious (29 percent highly religious), while 77 percent of Alevites regard themselves as religious (with 12 percent of that group highly religious). By comparison, a look at the Christian denominations in Germany shows that 84 percent of Catholics and 79 percent of Protestants are religious, with the highly religious making up 27 percent and 14 percent of those groups, respectively. Among language groups, the highest level of religiosity – 91 percent – is found among speakers of Turkish and Arabic. The relevant figures are somewhat lower for people of Bosnian descent and speakers of Farsi: 85 percent and 84 percent, respectively. The largest share of highly religious individuals, 44 percent, is found among Muslims of Turkish origin.

The picture is mixed when we look at the results by age and gender. The intensity of religious faith appears to decline with increasing age. However, since this study is a snapshot of one moment in time, it is impossible to draw conclusions about trends. A comparison of age groups, for example, can only describe the current level of religiosity of the respondents in this representative survey. Eighty percent of individuals under the age of 30 have a strong belief in a God or an afterlife; for those over 60 the relevant figure is 66 percent. Muslim women have a more intense relationship with their religion than men do (54 percent versus 38 percent). Compared with men, women also attach more importance to personal prayer (79 percent versus 59 percent). Men, however, are more likely to practice their religion in a public setting; 51 percent of Muslim men regard participation in communal prayer as very important, while this holds true for only 21 percent of Muslim women.

Thirty-four percent of Muslims take part in communal or Friday prayers at least once a month. Among Germany’s Christian population, 33 percent of Catholics and 18 percent of Protestants attend church services at least on a monthly basis. Sixty percent of Muslims engage in daily personal prayer; 28 percent strictly follow the rule of praying five times each day. By comparison, 36 percent of Catholics and 21 percent of Protestants pray at least once a day.

As for the practical effects of religiosity on everyday life, there are striking differences in the degree to which religious precepts are followed. Eighty-six percent of respondents report that they comply with the ban on eating pork. Fifty-eight percent never drink alcohol. While two-thirds of all Muslims attach some or a great deal of importance to fasting during Ramadan, as well as to the Hajj, the Zakat, dietary laws and ritual purity, only 36 percent consider rules regarding clothing to be of similar importance. A majority of 53 percent oppose wearing headscarves, while 33 percent are in favor. There is more support for wearing headscarves among women than men (38 percent as opposed to 28 percent) and among 18- to 29-year olds than those over the age of 60 (34 percent versus 27 percent). Even among nonreligious Muslims, moreover, some 20 percent consider dietary and purity laws to be somewhat or very important.

For many Muslims, personal faith also has a direct effect on their attitudes toward certain aspects of their lives. This applies in most cases particularly to childrearing practices as well as to the environment, illness, crises in their lives and important life events within their families. However, only a minority report that religion plays a significant role in their choice of a spouse or in questions of partnership, sexuality, work or leisure time activities. Political attitudes in particular appear to be relatively unaffected by religiosity; only 16 percent of respondents report that their faith has a significant effect on their political views, and 65 percent reject the idea of an Islamic party.

The Bertelsmann Stiftung study shows that on the whole, the high level of religiosity found among Muslims in Germany is coupled with very pluralistic and tolerant attitudes: Sixty-seven percent of Muslims feel that every religion has a kernel of truth, and an even greater proportion – 71 percent – of the highly religious hold this view. Eighty-six percent believe that people should be open to all religions, with only 6 percent dissenting. These results hold true regardless of age, gender, immigrant background or denomination. Twenty-four percent of all Muslims are of the opinion that their own religion is generally right and other religions are wrong, while 52 percent disagree with that statement. Only a minority (31 percent) of Muslims living in Germany believe that salvation is reserved primarily for Muslims.

Rita Süssmuth, (former president of the German Bundestag and former chairwoman of the Expert Council for Immigration and Integration): "These new findings from the Religion Monitor fly in the face of a number of clichés. For example, in the past Muslim religiosity has been perceived as very political, but in fact politics and political attitudes play only a very subordinate role for Muslims." 

As Dr. Martin Rieger, head of the "Spiritual Orientation" program, observes, "The Religion Monitor has shown the high level of intensity of religious attitudes and practices among Germany’s Muslims. In general, we can conclude that for the overwhelming majority, a high level of personal religiosity is associated with a great deal of tolerance toward other religions. The results of the study also indicate that religiosity is a resource for civil society that might be utilized more fully to promote integration. This is also relevant to the issue of religion classes in the schools."

About the Religion Monitor: The Religion Monitor is a new, interdisciplinary and interreligious survey conducted by the Bertelsmann Stiftung. In an initial stage last year, over 21,000 people in 21 countries were asked more than 100 questions about the role of religion and spirituality in their lives. The study focused on six core dimensions of religion and faith: intellectual aspects (interest in religious topics), faith, public practice, private practice, religious experiences and religion’s relevance to everyday life (effects). The results were summarized in a centrality index, in which respondents were classified as highly religious, religious or nonreligious. The data make it possible to draw far-reaching conclusions about the significance of religiosity for individuals and the various spheres of their lives as well as about social dynamics. Moreover, the results offer important information about different religions. Among other goals, the Religion Monitor seeks to provide scientific data as a foundation for a sustained dialogue among the world’s religions. The special study "Muslim religiosity in Germany" is based on a representative survey conducted in the summer of 2008, which interviewed 2,007 Muslims over the age of 18 who were living in Germany.

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