Convergence or Divergence? Religious Pluralization and Integration Policies in Western Nation States

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This article attempts to analyze the relationship between religious legacies of receiving countries of immigration and the politics of integration, or multiculturalism. It aims to discuss the issues of continuity and change, of convergence and divergences in these policy areas in light of arguments of cultural path-dependency as they are used, for example, in secularization theory. At a conceptual level, the author will examine the relationship between religion and democracy, with regard to 19 Western democracies, a group of countries characterized by a certain size, high levels of socio-economic development, stable democratic systems and a (Latin) Christian religious legacy. The general point in this article is that national legacies are still an important constraint for real convergence of policies across countries, despite the pluralization of the international order after 1989, despite globalization, EU-integration and also 9/111.

Key Words

Multiculturalism, immigration policies, integration policies, religiousplurality, 9/11


Since the end of the Cold War some 30 years ago, many Western nations have experienced a significant growth in religious diversity, which largely stems from an uptake of immigration after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This trend signals a need to include religion and religious legacies in the analysis of immigration and integration policies, especially in the light of the fact that immigration and integration debates focus increasingly on the religious, i.e. non-Christian, or even more specifically Muslim backgrounds of immigrant. Often, the issue of immigrants’ integration is contextualized by a more fundamental debate on the compatibility of modern democracy and Islam (see Huntington 1996). The renewed interest in religion as a political force also in Western or largely secularized societies is not very surprising (see Minkenberg/Willems 2003; Norris/Inglehart 2004). What is surprising is the relative lack of an effort to relate the religious legacies of the host societies (and not just the immigrants’ religious backgrounds) with the analysis of immigration and integration policies.

This article attempts a more systematic analysis of the relationship between religious legacies of receiving countries of immigration and the politics of integration, or multiculturalism. It aims to discuss the issues of continuity and change, of convergence and divergences in these policy areas in light of arguments of cultural path-dependency as they are used, for example, in secularization theory. Hence, one of the central questions of this paper is: does variation in the politics of multiculturalism correlate with cultural and religious variations, and to what extent can it be attributed to these differences within the world of Western democracies? Especially when it comes to the issue of integration of some religious “others” into a society historically shaped by one or the other Christian denomination, one might hypothesize that religio-cultural heritage in Western democracies (i.e. Catholicism vs. Protestantism, high vs. low levels of religiosity) can account for variation in immigration and integration policies, as has been found for other policy areas as well (F. Castles 1998, see also below). This is the argument of divergence. Or alternatively, one might predict that in the face of Muslim immigration these differences pale in light of a “Western” response against the perception of an “anti-Western threat”. This is the argument of convergence.

Religious legacies, however, should not be confined to the issue of denominations. Rather other dimensions of the religious factor should be considered as well, in particular the institutional arrangement of church-state relationship and official recognition of organized religion, the degree of secularization and also the existence and importance of religiously oriented political parties. For example, one recent study on state accommodation of Muslim religious practices in three Western European countries (UK, France, Germany) argues that the inherited particularities of church-state relations can better explain a nation’s approach to Islam and the type of religious demands that Muslims have made than can the political resources of the Muslim communities, the political opportunity structures available to them or ideological factors such as a nation’s ideas on citizenship and nationality (Fetzer/Soper 2005). Other studies emphasize the importance of a Christian Democratic model of politics and policies (van Kersbergen 1995) which, by implication, means that a vigorous role of Christian Democratic parties in a nation’s politics should also affect the politics of multiculturalism.  The general point in this article is that national legacies (or path dependence) are still an important constraint for real convergence of policies across countries, despite the pluralization of the international order after 1989, despite globalization, EU-integration and also 9/11. The paper is built on the conceptual framework developed elsewhere with regard to 19 Western democracies, a group of countries characterized by a certain size, high levels of socio-economic development, stable democratic systems and a (Latin) Christian religious legacy (Minkenberg 2002, 2003, 2008).

The Challenge of Pluralization and Globalization: State and Religion in Flux

For a long time, the so-called “Western world” has been interpreted as undergoing a long-term process of secularization or decline of religion, the replacement of religious values by secular values. However, there is sufficient empirical evidence to demonstrate that religion, even in the Western world, is a power that does not want to vanish. For example, many Western and non-Western countries alike experience an increasing public role of established and non-mainline churches – a process, which José Casanova (1994) calls the “deprivatization of religion”. Also, one of the effects of 9/11 was to bring back religion as a marker for violent global conflicts, almost a self-fulfilling prophecy of Huntington’s scenario of civilizational clashes around the world in which “the West” is posited againt “the rest” (1996).

In Europe, more than anywhere else, many signs have pointed at a receding political impact of organized religion since the 1960s, such as church attendance rates, the number of priests per population, the participation of the young, the knowledge of the faiths (see Bruce 2002; Davie 2000). But even here, the pluralization and increasing heterogeneity of the religious map leads to a growing number and intensity of conflicts at the intersection of politics and religion, with first and foremost the most visible examples being the immigration and growth of non-Christian minorities, in particular Muslims, and non-mainline Christian denominations. One should also not forget the increasing number of atheists or unaffiliated. For example, in Germany, with the accession of the GDR in 1990, the percentage of officially counted non-religious, or those not affiliated with any church jumped from a few in the old Federal Republic to about almost 30% today. They prompt new public debates on the regulation of the relationship between religion and politics, not always with results in their favour. An overview of the current religious complexity of Western societies is given in table 1.

Most importantly, in 14 of 19 Western democracies Islam is the third or even second largest religious community (countries in shaded cells, see Table 1). The countries where Islam is second are among those which are traditionally very homogenous in denominational terms, two Lutheran cases in Scandinavia (DK, N) and two Catholic cases (B, F) located in the West of Europe. In Spain, as in Austria, Muslims are on the verge of leaving Protestants behind. Somewhat mirroring this pattern, it is in particular the group of Protestant immigrant countries Australia, Canada and the United States, plus Finland, in which the Orthodox church takes third or second place. Moreover, the data in Table 1 demonstrate that from around 1980 until around 2000, religious pluralism has increased in all Western democracies, except for Sweden and the United States. In traditional immigration countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand – along with the Netherlands – religious pluralism has increased from an already high level. In other countries like Austria, France, Italy and Spain – all Catholic – the jump started from a much lower level and has been particularly pronounced, thus challenging the dominant religion and its actor, the Catholic Church, and the established mechanisms in the relationship between the church and the state in a fundamental way. Some argue that within Western democracies religious traditions, in particular Protestantism or Catholicism, assume a particular role in shaping politics and policies, such as social policies or policies of immigration and integration, that there are so-called “families of nations” shaped, in part, by particular Christian legacies (e.g. F. Castles 1993, 1998; Martin 1978; van Kersbergen 1995).

All these developments push in the same direction: the established institutional and political arrangements to regulate the relationship between religion and politics in the framework of liberal democracies, long seen to have been solved once and for all, are challenged fundamentally and require new justifications. Even without 9/11 did the multicultural facts of modern Western society raise new (and very old) questions about the political regulation of religion. Accordingly, we see some major shifts in the debate in two groups of Western democracies, the ones with a more or less established church structure, and those with a more or less clear separation between church and state (see Minkenberg 2003).

The first group comprises countries like Great Britain or the Federal Republic of Germany as well as the Scandinavian countries. Here, we witness increasingly conflictual processes of realigning religion in the public sphere, for example with regard to the role of religious education (an increasingly controversial topic in Germany), the presence of headscarves and Christian symbols in the public space (see the Crucifix-sentence of the German Constitutional Court of 1996or the current wave of legislation banning the headscarf from public offices), the fight for religious freedom for non-Christian churches, for example the debate in Great Britain regarding the recognition of Muslim communities and the torn position of the established Church of England, or the steps towards disestablishment of the state church in Sweden in 2000 (see Gustafsson 2003; Modood 1997). But also in the second group, the countries with a more separationist regime, such as the US and France (or Turkey), the established role of religion experiences increasing pressures from actors who interpret the neutrality and indifference of the state in religious matters particular political positions at the expense of religion. Secularism is seen not as a guarantee for state neutrality and a balance between all religious forces, but as a political program equivalent to a secularist state religion (see Kymlicka/Norman 2000; Wald 2003; Watson 1997).

Moreover, these developments in various parts of the world are accelerated by and interwoven with economic and cultural globalization processes (see Haynes 1998; Robertson 1991, 2003). As a result of the processes, state institutions and national identities are weakened, leaving an ideological vacuum. This provides an opportunity for religions traditions, or their “re-inventions”, to gel into cores of cultural identities, projects of transnational unities and loyalties – it is this scenario where Huntington’s argument of a “clash of civilization” unfolds its most persuasive power (Huntington 1996; see also Barber 1996).

Towards a comparative-analytical framework of integration policies

In general, the current state of the research reveals two types of comparative policy analysis, as far as the inclusion of religion is concerned: On the one hand, a broad comparative scope is coupled with a weak operationalization of the religious factor (see Esping-Andersen 1990; F. Castles 1993, 1998). On the other hand, a more nuanced treatment of religion, usually focusing on the confessional patterns and the interaction between churches and other political actors, is coupled with a narrow scope of comparison (see van Kersbergen 1995; Fetzer/Soper 2005). And in only very few comparative studies of public policy, immigration and integration policies figure as prominent examples (see Koopmans et al. 2005). An obvious problem for a cross-country comparative study of integration policies lies in the absence of any systematic and comparable data. Some might argue that on a global scale, differences in integration policies are fading, at least among Western democracies, due to processes of globalization and the emergence of transnational actors and approaches, particularly in the context of European integration and harmonization (see Soysal 1994; Geddes 1999). This would render such a comparative analysis obsolete. But the article holds that despite some processes of convergence and like reactions of Western nations to new waves of immigration and despite the influence of the EU on member states regulations, nation states still remain the principal actors in establishing boundaries of territory and citizenship and controlling access and managing ethnic relations within (Hollifield 1997, 1998; Joppke 1999; Thränhardt 2003). So far, only a few projects have attempted to collect in a systematic manner data on these policies or aspects thereof on a large or even world-wide scale, which are useful for such comparisons. For the analysis at hand, the data collection in the “Comparative Citizen Project” provides an excellent resource (Aleinikoff/Klusmeyer 2001; Weil 2001). More data can be found in a five-country study by Koopmans et al. (2005; see also Koopmans/Statham 2000a) which includes a variety of measures and indicators for the comparative analysis of the politics of citizenship and ethnic relations in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom.

For the remainder of the nineteen countries of interest in this study, data had to be collected case by case following the approach by Ruud Koopmans and Paul Statham (2000b, 2005). They distinguish two dimensions of integration, one based on individual rights, such as access to citizenship and benefits, voting rights, another based on cultural group rights such as the recognition of religious communities, education, and political representation (see also Entzinger 2000). Following this distinction, the subsequent analysis in this article addresses measures of cultural integration in order to determine the approaches prevalent in each of the 19 countries and to discuss the role of religious legacies and other (political) factors for them. For a measure of policies of cultural integration, the logic of Koopmans et al. (2005: 55-64) is applied by considering cultural and religious rights outside of and in public institutions.

The selection of criteria for group rights is guided by the reasoning, that in many countries Muslims constitute the largest non-Christian religious minority (see above table 1) and that they are therefore not only more visible as a distinct cultural group but that their distinctiveness as “cultural others” provides a particular challenge to Western societies’ integration policies. Hence there is a particular focus on Islamic practices in assessing cultural group rights although in theory they would apply to other groups as well. These rights belong to two of the five dimensions analyzed by Koopmans et al.: religious rights outside of public institutions (ritual slaughter, Islamic calls to prayer, provisions for Muslim burials) and cultural rights in public institutions (state recognition and funding of Islamic schools, Islamic religious classes  in state schools, right of female teacher to wear the Islamic headscarf, programs in immigrant languages in public broadcasting, Islamic religious programs in public broadcasting; for details see appendix). The other three dimensions (political representation rights, affirmative action and cultural requirements for naturalization) are not considered here because they touch upon other policy concerns such as political integration and formal citizenship requirements. The table in the appendix shows these values for the five countries in Koopmans et al. (the average of the 1990 and 2002 scores) and adds the other countries with the help of data on these indicators in the comparative literature and in primary sources.

A first glance at the distribution shown in table 2 suggests a Catholic “bias” against the recognition of cultural group rights: among those countries with a high recognition, none belongs to the family of Catholic countries, among those with low recognition three out of four are Catholic (with Switzerland being a “mixed” country; see also below). A closer look at cultural group rights at separate data points in 1990 and 2002 – where these data are available – reveals a general shift away from policies of “cultural monism” towards “cultural pluralism” in most countries but no signs of convergence (see appendix; Koopmans et al. 2005: 73). The biggest shifts occurred in Switzerland, Germany and Denmark (starting at a lower level of – 0.90, – 0.47 and 0.00, respectively, in 1990) and in Sweden and the Netherlands (at a higher level of 0.33 and 0.63, respectively). Great Britain and France experienced little, Belgium and Italy no change in this period, whereas in Australia a reverse shift away from cultural pluralism could be observed.

It could be argued that integration policies are a function of a country’s immigration policy. After all, if a country pursues an open immigration policy it could be expected to make an effort to accommodate the various new migrants groups in politics and culture. Table 3 presents an overview of these two policy areas; in fact we can see that where immigration policies are open, cultural group rights are highly respected at the policy level – and vice versa. But both policy areas can be link to longer-ranging traditions in these countries, and these shall be discussed in the following.

As shown elsewhere (Minkenberg 2008), standard explanatory models of comparative policy research have not yielded clear results with regard to immigration policies, although some patterns could be identified. In the following, the religious dimension will be introduced and it will be discussed in particular whether F. Castles’ model of “family of nations” (F. Castles 1993, 1998) is appropriate in analyzing variations in immigration policy. Unlike in Castles’ studies, however, religion will not be reduced to the confessional heritage or role of Catholic parties. Instead, following earlier analyses the religious factor is decomposed into a historico-cultural dimension, i.e. the role of confessional patterns, and a socio-cultural dimension of religiosity, as measured in church-going rates, further an institutional dimension of patterns of church-state relations (see Minkenberg 2002, 2003). Moreover, a more political dimension is introduced by looking at religious parties and movements separately and at type of democracy.

The first step involves the cultural legacy of religion. In order to measure this legacy, two dimensions are considered: the confessional composition of a country which, if at all, is the standard variable of religion’s input in comparative public policy research, and the level of religiosity as a measure of a country’s “embeddedness” in religious practice (see Bruce 2000: 3). In terms of the secularization argument, the first might be seen as an indicator of a country’s cultural differentiation, or cultural pluralism, whereas the second points to the country’s path of secularization as disenchantment. Most texts that emphasize the role of confessions in a nation’s history classify countries as Catholic, Protestant, or confessionally mixed, and most of them, as well as some of the public policy literature (see above), assert a long-lasting influence of these cultural patterns on current policy and politics (see Martin, 1978; Bruce, 1996; Inglehart 1997; Inglehart/Baker 2000). Following David Martin, three categories will be used for the countries under consideration: (1) cultures with a Protestant dominance, resulting either from a lack of Catholics (the Scandinavian countries) or because Catholic minorities arrived after the pattern had been set (England, the United States); (2) cultures with a historical Protestant majority and substantial Catholic minorities (the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland) where a cultural rather than a mere political bipolarity has emerged along with subcultural segregation; (3) cultures with a Catholic dominance and democratic or democratizing regimes (France, Italy, Belgium, Austria, Ireland) that are characterized by large political and social fissures, organic opposition, and secularist dogmas (Martin 1978: 119).

The second component of the cultural legacy is the actual degree of individual attachment to established religion. This is important because high levels of religiosity assure churches high legitimacy as political actors. Moreover, religiosity may be a better predictor for public policy than confessional composition alone if the question whether a country is Catholic or Protestant is held to be less important than whether Catholics or Protestants actually attend church or believe the teachings of the church. In this analysis, religiosity is measured by frequency of churchgoing rather than by religious beliefs because it ties religiosity to existing institutions instead of more abstract religious concepts and values. Data on churchgoing in the 19 countries analyzed here are taken from the 1980s and 1990s waves of the World Values Survey (see Inglehart/Baker, 2000; Inglehart/Minkenberg, 2000; Norris/Inglehart 2004). The data for the 1980s and 1990s are then averaged and  the countries are grouped according to the frequency of church-going with ranging from low (less than 20% who go at least once a month), to medium (20 – 40%), to high (above 40%) (see Minkenberg 2002: 238).

The relationship between the religious legacies of the 19 countries and their integration policies is presented in table 4. The overall picture suggests a denominational effect on integration policies. Predominantly Protestant countries exhibit moderate-to-high levels of cultural group rights recognitions whereas Catholic countries fall in the range of low-to-moderate levels. In this regard, it is noteworthy that the shifts towards cultural pluralism from 1990 to 2002 occurred mostly in Protestant countries – regardless of their “starting point” – whereas Catholic countries remained more static in his period (see appendix).

The suggestion to identify a special Southern or Mediterranean group of countries with regard to their policies (see Castles 1998: 8f.; Baldwin-Edwards 1992) is not supported by the distribution in table 6. In part, this misconception results from mixing up immigration rates and immigration policies (e.g. Faist 1998: 152). While Mediterranean countries share the common fate of being latecomers as receiving countries, their approach to integration is shared by other, non-Mediterranean countries as well (Belgium, Austria). Our analysis suggests that what this group has in common is their religiosity, not their geography. This is also true with regard to the growing proportion of Muslims in these countries. All four countries where Islam is the second religion (see table 1), employ a restrictive-to-moderate integration policy; moreover, they are  Catholic countries (with Denmark having closed ranks recently, after data collection). Secularization measured in church-going rates underscores this trend. With the exception of Canada, all countries with high church attendance, show low-to-moderate recognition of group rights. On the other hand, again with a notable exception (France) countries with low church-going rates are more ready for such an integration policy. Finally, when looking for a common religious denominator for the group with open immigration policies, one must go beyond confessions and church-going rates. As shown in other analyses, the regime of church-state relations can also claim a certain explanatory power for variations in particular public policies (Minkenberg 2002, 2003 and Fetzer/Soper 2005).

This institutional dimension of religious legacies is measured by the degree of deregulation of churches in financial, political and legal respects. This procedure applies a six-point scale developed by Chaves and Cann (1992) and adds two more criteria related to public support for religious education (Minkenberg 2003). Chaves and Cann argue with de Tocqueville that the theoretical focus of state-church relations needs to be adjusted toward political aspects: “Like Smith, [de Tocqueville] focused on the separation of church and state, but he highlighted the political rather than the economic aspect of that separation: the advantage that religion enjoys when it is not identified with a particular set of political interests” (Chaves/Cann, 1992: 275; emphasis in original). Moreover, they suggest that regardless of the official relationship between church and state, Catholic societies are by definition much less pluralistic in religious terms than Protestant societies and that different dynamics are at work. But as the data in table 1 have demonstrated, this historical inequality is already in the process of revision. For the purpose of the analysis here, the church-state scale is summarized into a three-fold typology: countries with full establishment (such as the Scandinavian countries), countries with partial establishment (such as Germany but also Italy and Great Britain), and countries with a clear separation of church and state (such as the US and France) (for details, see Minkenberg 2002, 2003).

The distributions in tables 4 show that in contrast to the relevance of church-state relations for immigration policies (see Minkenberg 2008) and also somewhat contrary to the argument by Fetzer and Soper (2005) about the significance of church-state legacies for the accommodation of Muslims, there is hardly any overall effect of this particular institutional arrangement on the degree of cultural integration policies. Rather there seems to be a polarization, with only the USA taking a middle position. Per se, a separationist regime does not lead to a low recognition of cultural group rights but on the basis of the data in this table, one can detect such an effect in combination with Catholicism. Among Protestant countries, there appears an effect in the opposite direction, with Sweden as a prominent outlier. Based on table 6, the general argument to be made here is that religious and cultural groups (in particular Muslims) get higher recognition in those Protestant countries where there is a clear separation of church and state. Protestant countries with partial and full establishment are less accepting of such cultural group differences. That is, Fetzer and Soper’s conclusion about the non-accomodating effects of separationst church-state regimes hold only for France, and possibly Ireland, but cannot be generalized. Moreover, as has been shown elsewhere (see Kastoryano 2002; Laurence 2008), one has to distinguish the type of Muslim group organizations when analyzing the effects of state-church relations: “European governments have evolved from a laissez-faire policy of ‘outsourcing’ state-Islam relations to Muslim diplomats (1974-1989) toward a proactive policy of ‘incorporation’ (1989-2004). The goal of incorporation is to co-opt the competing representatives of both ‘official’ and ‘political’ Islam.” (Lawrence 2008: 242).

Partisan Effects? The Role of Christian Democracy

The last step in the analysis of in variation of integration policies concerns the role of religiously oriented parties. In analogy to the studies of strong left-wing parties and generous welfare states, one might expect a relationship between the presence of these parties and a restrictive output in immigration policies. In fact, the most direct link between religion and politics at the intersection of the electoral and policy-making levels exists where explicitly religious parties, most notably Christian Democratic ones, play a role in the party system. Moreover, the persistent relevance of religious cleavages in the contemporary Western world has been demonstrated by a variety of election studies. While the class cleavage has undergone a steady decline in significance, the religious cleavage in terms of the relationship between religiosity (as measured by church attendance; see above) and left-right voting behavior has stayed rather stable. In the US, there was even a slight but steady increase of religious voting in the United States, which can be attributed to the growing mobilization efforts of the New Christian Right (see Dalton, 1996: 176-185; see also Minkenberg, 1990; Inglehart, 1997).

In order to arrive at a measure that captures a religious (Christian) instead of a merely Catholic partisan impact, the countries are classified according to the role of religion in particular parties’ identity and programme and their relationship to religious groups, the salience of the religious cleavage in voting behavior and the length of these parties’ participation in national governments (for details, see Minkenberg 2002).  The resulting 6-points-scale was summarized in three categories, ranging from low to medium to high religious impact. Table 5 depicts an interesting role of these parties and confirms what has been shown with regard to other social policies. A strong Christian Democracy corresponds not just with a moderate abortion ruling and family policies (see Minkenberg 2003) but also with moderate integration policies. It thus reflects a particular policy profile of Christian Democracy in association with a larger and distinct vision of society (see van Kersbergen, 1995). This effect disappeared with regard to the openness of immigration policies, i.e. the question how to control access to the country (Minkenberg 2008) but it is clearly reinforced with regard to the accommodation of non-Christian minorities, with only the Netherlands straying from the “centrist” Christian-Democratic group.

Overall, however, a comparison of tables 6 and 7 suggests that religious partisan effects are less significant than those of religious legacies.

Conclusions: Convergence vs. Divergence in Light of Cultural Legacies

This article raised the issue how the growing complexity and cultural diversity of Western countries in the face of new immigration waves affects the functioning of democracies and in particular the politics of multiculturalism. The paper showed a considerable diversity in such policies in the West, not just between the “settler countries” and the European countries but also within these categories. It also demonstrated that a modified “families of nations” concept (F. Castles 1998) may be a better frame of analysis than standard models of explanation. This concept should adjust for the interplay of nation-building, religious traditions, and institutional management of cultural diversity. It also needs to pay attention to the role of parties, in particular the policy characteristics of Christian Democracy (van Kersbergen 1995).

In the 1980s, Tomas Hammar observed that the politics of multiculturalism seemed to diverge more among the 19 democracies than did the immigration policies (Hammar 1985: 294). The post-9/11 debates about headscarves, the securitization of immigration and immigrant policies and other examples indicate some convergence in Europe. Some authors argue that even prior to 9/11, there has been a trend of convergence in European countries with regard to control of immigration and conceptions of citizenship (see Brochmann/Hammar 1999; Groenedijk/Guild 2001; Koslowski 2000). But the issue of convergence depends on the measurement and interpretation of magnitudes and directions. Evaluating their results for the five West European countries in their study and the three data points of 1980, 1990 and 2002, Koopmans and others state that “there is convergence in the sense that all five countries have – to smaller or greater extents – moved in the same direction.  All countries – with the exception of the United Kingdom, which was already close to the civic pole – have shifted toward a more civic-territorial conception of citizenship, although the ranges have been quite marginal in the case of Switzerland. Similarly, all countries have moved away from the assimilationist pole toward a stronger recognition of cultural rights and differences. Again, the strength of this trend varies greatly among the countries; it is weak in France, and even more so in Switzerland” (Koopmans et al. 2005: 72). This finding is even less uniform in the expanded sample of this paper: some countries like Belgium and Italy have not experienced any significant shifts while Australia has reversed some of its multicultural approaches (see appendix; see also Manne 2004).

But seen from another angle, i.e. the range of variation of countries, there is no real convergence. Instead, some signs of divergence can be observed with the Netherlands, Britain, Sweden and even Denmark (until shortly after 2000) following the path of multiculturalism and Belgium, France and Switzerland making only very modest progress. Hence, by the beginning of the new millennium the differences between cultural monist and cultural pluralist approaches to integration of immigrants was more pronounced than at the end of the  Cold War (see Koopmans et al. 2005: 72f., see also Boyle/Sheen 1997; Escudier 2003). The question arises whether any of this has changed after 9/11 and if so, to what extent are these changes shaped by a country’s religious legacies?

Koopmans et al. themselves state a reversal in the trend towards differential citizenship in the wake of September 11, 2001 (2005: 73), but their data, which cover only the period up to 2002 do not provide empirical evidence for such a general claim. In fact, where such reversals can be substantiated, like in Australia, they started prior to 9/11 and can be related to the rise of a religiously oriented conservative government and the integration policies are still more pluralist than the average (see Maddox 2005; Manne 2004; see also appendix). And also in France, the modesty of changes and the slowdown of reforms after 2002 may have more to do with the hegemonic political tradition of Republicanism and the interplay between the Front national and the dominant political forces than with the effects of 9/11 (see Minkenberg 2005). An analysis by Martin Schain (2008) underscores the point. He finds that there is less change in Europe than generally assumed and that convergence between the United States and Europe occurred mostly in the area of security measures such as surveillance and related actions directed against immigrant populations.

Moreover, there are discrepancies within and between Western publics and policies. On the one hand, survey data demonstrate a weakening public support for cultural pluralist policies (see Fetzer/Soper 2005: 143f.). On the other hand, a survey analysis of the European Monitory Centre on Racism and Xenophobia shows that with the exception of Greece, resistance to multicultural society has not increased in EU member states between 2000 and 2003, rather it has decreased in many countries during that period (EUMC 2003: 42f.). The levels were particularly low in the Nordic countries where, apparently, the Protestant legacies described above constrain such reversals. A modestly increasing resistance to multicultural policies could be observed in the Mediterranean countries and in those with high levels of and long experience with multiculturalism (GB, NL). In a similar vein, the reactions to the Madrid and London bomb attacks in 2004 and 2005 and their impact on Muslim communities in the EU have resulted in triggering new or reinforcing existing initiatives to reach out to the Muslim community rather than in a reversal of such policies (EUMC 2005). These outreach efforts clash, however, with the growing securitization of immigration (rather than integration) policies as well as domestic policies in general and the effects on civil liberties for both citizens and migrants alike (see Bigo 2008).


A slightly different version of this article titled “Religious Legacies and the Politics of Multiculturalism: a Comparative Analysis of Integration Policies in Western Democracies” originally appeared in Ariane Chebel d’Appollonia and Simon Reich, eds. Immigration, Integration and Security. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008, pp. 44-67.

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