Multiculturalism in Europe and the Immigrants Challenge

By Samira R. Mavi 

*This blog post is part of the Jean Monnet Chair of European Media Governance and Integration series



The dramatic influx of refugees from the Middle East in Europe has become a source of instability for many people, and the debate about Europeanization and integration is entering a new phase. Although the European Union is immersed concurrently in intensely contested debates about the roles of culture, religion, ethnicity, and identity but the ‘home-grown’ element of international terrorism, the fear of civil clashes, labor market threads, and nationalism have resulted in hostility to Muslims and harassment across Europe. In addition, the evidence over the last years illustrates that EU member states have also adopted double standards (Denmark and Sweden criteria regarding the Anti-Muslim cartoon in the name of freedom of expression) in terms of domestic legitimacy (Aggestam, Hill, Aggestam, & Hill, 2017). So one may ask the question whether diversity literally supports the integration and protection of  minorities. The answer of some scholars like Robert Putnam to this question is negative (Delanty, 2008) .

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Photo by photog_at

The following section is a review of European opinions in 10 European countries about refugees and immigrant harassment by European governments that has been released by Pew research.

European opinions about refugees

  • A median of 59% across 10 EU countries voiced concern about the prospect of increased terrorism. Many Europeans are concerned that the influx of refugees will increase the likelihood of terrorism and impose a burden on their countries.
  • The refugee crisis concerns many people across Europe, but the threat assessment varies across the continent. Majorities in Poland, Hungary, Greece and Italy say that a large number of refugees leaving places like Iraq and Syria are a major threat to their countries, compared with only about a third or less of people in Germany and Sweden, both of which have taken in a large number of migrants.
  • Negative views of refugees are tied to negative views about Muslims. For example, in the UK, 80% of those who have an unfavourable opinion of Muslims say refugees leaving Iraq and Syria are a major threat to their country.
  • Europeans do not see growing diversity as making their countries better. In no EU country surveyed did more than four-in-ten say that having an increasing number of people from many different races, ethnic groups and nationalities makes their country a better place to live.
  • Regardless of whether they see refugees as a threat, or whether they think they increase terrorism, crime or take jobs, Europeans overwhelmingly believe that the European Union is doing a poor job of handling the refugee crisis. Majorities in every country surveyed say they disapprove of how the EU is handling refugees, including a staggering 94% of Greeks and 88% of Swedes.


Government harassment, use of force against religious groups increased sharply in Europe in 2015

According to a new Pew Research Center study on global religious restrictions, government harassment and use of force against members of religious groups surged around the world in 2015. But nowhere was this trend more pronounced than in Europe, where over half of countries (53%) saw an increase from the previous year. While this rate in Americas reached 37 % and in the Asia-Pacific 26 %.

In total, 32 European governments (71%) specifically harassed Muslims during 2015, up from 27 governments (60%) the year before.

More specifically, governments of 38 European countries (84%) harassed religious groups in limited or widespread ways in 2015.

Many European governments also used force against religious groups, including damaging religious property such as mosques or arresting, displacing or assaulting members of these groups.

There was a large increase in the number of countries where governments harassed Muslims in 2015, from 80 in 2014 to 106 in 2015. The governments of 32 countries in Europe harassed Muslims in 2015 – up from 27 in 2014.



The European project in multiculturalism related to immigrants is in question. The EU has not succeeded in developing a collective European identity that is in any way an alternative to national identity. Adding the immigrants and refugees to the issue is practically in disarray. European societies have widely differing attitudes towards the project of multiculturalism, and diverse degrees of multiculturality. Furthermore, European member states are pursuing a double standards policy which has led to the social exclusion of Muslims in terms of equality of opportunity.

To make non-Muslims feel comfortable, European Muslims must constantly prove their adherence to European values and norms, which can become tiresome and a source of indignation in future (Maxwell, 2016). The only  way is for the EU to focus on universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality, and solidarity’. However, the sublime international goal of true equality among diverse people is not likely to be reached, since key social boundaries will remain in place. A new Europe is on the horizon, but it will be as complicated as ever.


Aggestam, L., Hill, C., Aggestam, L., & Hill, C. (2017). The Challenge of Multiculturalism in European Foreign Policy Linked references are available on JSTOR for this article : The challenge of multiculturalism in European foreign policy, 84(1), 97–114.

Delanty, G. (2008). Fear of others: Social exclusion and the European crisis of solidarity. Social Policy and Administration, 42(6), 676–690.

Maxwell, R. (2016). Cultural diversity and its limits in Western Europe. Current History, 115(779), 95–101.



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