Muslims are generally well integrated into Swiss society, an international research project reports. Most feel a strong connection to Switzerland, despite facing Islamophobia, with nearly one in five Swiss saying they would not want Muslim neighbours.
A new “Religion Monitor” surveyexternal link by the Germany-based Bertelsmann Foundation, published on Thursday, examined the language skills, level of education, employment and social engagement of Muslims in Switzerland, Germany, France, Austria and Britain. It found that 98% of Swiss Muslims - both of first and following generations - felt connected to Switzerland. The study did not cover refugees who arrived in Europe after 2010.
Around 350,000 and 400,000 Muslims live in Switzerland (population 8.3 million), around 12% of whom are Swiss citizens. They represent an extremely diverse community divided along ethnic and linguistic lines with around 80% originating from the Balkans region and Turkey.
The study found that Muslims were successful in integrating into the Swiss and German job markets. In both countries, the rate of gainful employment among Muslims no longer differs from that of the overall population.
School completion rates for Muslim children varied across Europe depending on the system, the report showed. In Switzerland, which has a selective system at an early age but many possibilities for vocational training, 74% of second-generation Muslim immigrants leave school before the age of 17.
The report’s authors said the social climate towards Muslims in Switzerland was generally ‘more positive’ than in the other countries studied. Swiss residents were more open to the idea of Muslim neighbours (17% oppose the idea). Some 87% of Muslims said they had regular contact with people from other religions during their free time.
Islamophobia appeared to be less of a problem in Switzerland than in the other countries surveyed, but 35% of Swiss Muslims said they had experienced discrimination in the past 12 months.
Overall, despite certain social tensions, the integration of Muslim immigrants in Switzerland, Germany, France Austria and Britain was ‘making clear progress’, the report’s authors said.
Summing up, they said integration and cohesion in western European societies could be advanced by improving opportunities for participation in employment and educational systems. Also, Islam should be accorded the same legal status as other institutional religious groups to encourage religious diversity. Contacts should be encouraged between different religions and cultures, for example in schools, neighbourhoods and in the media, they added.
There are estimated 4.5 million Muslims in Germany (5-6% of the population), 5.3 million in France (7-8%), 3 million in Britain (4%) and 500,000 in Austria (6-7%), according to 2015-2016 figures presented in the survey.
The third Religion Monitor survey (previous studies in 2007 and 2013), is based on a representative survey of more than 10,000 people in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Britain and Turkey at the end of 2016.