We used to call it ‘Why Muslims’ because in the context of contemporary immigration in Western Europe religion and Islam are hardly distinguishable. This analysis of data from the SOM project now published at Acta Politica asks when politicians focus on immigrants as Muslims — rather than say national or cultural-ethnic groups.
Joost Berkhout and I find that Muslim-related claims-making is associated with the parliamentary presence of anti-immigrant parties and the policy topic under discussion. Yes, while work by Sieglinde Rosenberger and Sarah Meyer using the same data as we do, generally find a limited role of anti-immigrant parties in politicizing immigration, when it comes to Muslims, they seem to play an important role. By contrast, the evidence for policy-oriented and socio-structural explanations is inconclusive for claims-making highlighting the religion of immigrants.
This is something someone could examine empirically. I think we can use the argument developed by Dan Olson in “Why Do Small Religious Groups Have More Committed Members” (Review of Religious Research. 49(4): 353-378.) and apply it to political parties (or any organization). The argument that (religious) groups located in areas where their members are a smaller proportion of the population have more committed members. If we translate this to political parties, this means member commitment in relatively small parties should be stronger. Dan Olson argues that these groups have higher rates of leaving and joining, processes that select for more committed members. Congregations with higher membership turnover rates have current members that are more committed (they attend service, they give money). If we translate this to political parties, member commitment should be higher in parties with higher membership turnover.
Our paper on Muslim immigrants as objects of political claims on immigration is finally available online. It started as an exercise to get to know the data from the SOM project and grew from there. In the paper, Joost Berkhout and I examine under which circumstances politicians differentiate among immigrants, and specifically when they in focus on Muslim immigrants rather than national or other groups in some countries. We draw on a political claims analysis 1995 to 2009 in 7 Western European countries. We find that Muslim-related claims-making is associated with the parliamentary presence of anti-immigrant parties and the policy topic under discussion.
There is supplementary material on Dataverse, where we examine claims on asylum seekers (alternative specification) and present the main actors and positions towards Muslim immigrants.
Berkhout, Joost, and Didier Ruedin. 2016. “Why Religion? Immigrant Groups as Objects of Political Claims on Immigration and Civic Integration in Western Europe, 1995–2009.” Acta Politica. doi:10.1057/ap.2016.1.