Most Bavarians have negative attitude toward Muslims in Germany – poll

 © Michaela Rehle
More than four in five people in the German state of Bavaria have a negative attitude toward Muslims, a new study has found, also reporting that refugees, the long-term unemployed and Roma community are generally perceived negatively.

More than half of the population of Bavaria demonstrated either “moderate” or “strong” antipathy towards Muslims living in Germany, a study conducted by the Social Studies Institute of the Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) in Munich said. It also reported that another 34 percent of Bavarians said they had “slight” dislike for followers of Islam.

Only 11 percent of respondents said they had no bad feelings about Muslims living in Germany, the research published on Monday added.

The study was based on a comprehensive survey that examined people’s attitudes towards eight different “distinct” groups of society – Muslims, refugees, Jews, Roma, foreigners in general, as well as people of a different race, homosexuals and the long-term unemployed.

It featured from three to 10 questions that varied depending on each group in focus and that were presented in the form of statements that the respondents had to agree or disagree with.

The study particularly featured such statements as: “There are too many Muslims in Germany,” “Foreigners/refugees endanger my financial situation/personal way of living,” and “Many long-time unemployed people systematically shy away from work.”

The research was conducted between April and June 2016 and relied on surveying people from more than 1,700 households across Bavaria.

Of all the groups in question, Muslims were the only one that stirred up “strong” negative feelings among more than 20 percent of the Bavarian population, while in all other cases it never exceeded 10 percent, and was between 3 and 6 percent on average.

However, Muslims were not the only group that was perceived mostly negatively by Bavarians. The second most negatively perceived group was actually the long-time unemployed, as more than 80 percent of Bavarians had at least “slightly” negative attitude towards them, although only 4 percent had a “strong” animosity towards this section of society.

Refugees and the Roma (gypsy) community were also among the groups that were viewed least favourably, as only 27 percent of Bavarians had no negative feelings towards each of these groups. Ten percent of Bavarians said they had a “strong” negative attitude towards Roma – the second highest figure among all the groups in focus.

In the case of refugees, about a third of Bavarians held either “moderate” or “strong” antipathy towards them.

At the same time, the study showed that people of Bavaria have no negative attitude towards foreigners living in Germany in general as 56 percent of respondents said they had no bad feelings towards foreigners and only 10 percent of those questioned demonstrated “moderate” or “high” level of animosity towards them.

Bavarians were also almost equally tolerant towards gay people as 54 percent of respondents showed no antipathy towards them. They were also even less prone to what the study called “classic racism” that consists in viewing white people more positively than the people of other races. About three quarters of respondents showed no signs of racism at all, while only about 10 percent of them had “moderate” or “strong” racist views.

The study also showed that men are more prone to various forms of negative attitude towards the distinct groups in focus than women as well as that people having higher level of education tend to be more tolerant and less prejudged towards all these groups.

The research also stressed people that have a strong national identity or have low level of trust to the political institutions are also inclined to have a negative attitude towards the distinct groups mentioned in the study.

However, the results of the study provoked significant concerns among social scientists, activists and even some churchmen. “In general, there is already a clear negative attitude [towards various distinct groups],” Christian Ganser, a social scientist from the LMU, told German media, adding that “group-focused hostility is a widespread phenomenon in Bavaria.”

The present social developments that concern negative attitudes towards various groups of society do not fit into the classic conception of right wing extremism, Miriam Heigl, an expert from the Center for Democracy of Munich, told dpa news agency.

Animosity towards distinct groups is no more a phenomenon linked only to some fringe extremist groups, Ganser, who is a co-author of the study, stressed, adding that it is now “a phenomenon [related to] the average people.”

“To harbor a pejorative attitude towards others out of fear to lose own identity is no Christian way,” Martin Schneider, a member of the Catholic township council of Munich, told German KNA news agency, commenting on the results of the study. He added that “those, who ostracize outsiders, go against Jesus” Christ.

At the same time, the issue is not limited to Bavaria, as sentiments similar to those presented in the study are common across the whole of Germany, Ralf Melzer, who works for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, told dpa.

On October 22, two days before the study was published, German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested that any Germans concerned about Islam should combat the perceived Islamization of Germany with flute-playing and Christmas carols.

“I know there are concerns about Islam,” she said at a congress of her party, the Christian Democratic Union, in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, while calling on people to rely on their Christian values and traditions to tackle this challenge.

On October 3, the German finance minister and close Merkel ally, Wolfgang Schaeuble, called for the creation of “German Islam” that would combine traditional Islamic norms with the principles of tolerance and European liberalism to help integrate millions of refugees from the Middle East into European and particularly German society.

Meanwhile, the anti-Muslim and anti-migrant sentiments in Germany are on the rise as the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party gains strong support at the expense of Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

German ‘anti-Islamization’ movement Pegida (which stands for ‘Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West’) staged a massive rally in Dresden on October 16 to mark the group’s second anniversary. The event drew thousands of supporters who demonstrated against the chancellor’s refugee policy.