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Religiosity of Muslims in Germany

There is frequent speculation about the religiosity of Muslim migrants and its implications for integration. The study on "Muslim life in Germany" by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees has established a comprehensive foundation for further discussion. Published in June 2009, the study highlights the expressions of religiosity in the different branches of the Muslim faith. The importance of Islam in the everyday life of Muslim migrants is also examined.


Muslims are not much more religious than society as a whole

Compared to German society as a whole, Muslim migrants are not distinctly more religious. The study "Muslim life in Germany" reveals that 50 percent of Muslims describe themselves as "quite religious" and 36 percent as "very religious". According to the Religion Monitor 2008 from the Bertelsmann Foundation, 52 percent of the entire population are "averagely religious" and 18 percent "highly religious". People with no religious affiliation were also questioned in this study. If one considers only people from society as a whole who belong to a religious community, the number of religious people roughly corresponds to that of Muslims.

A further finding of the study on "Muslim life in Germany" is that being very religious is not peculiar to Muslim migrants. The proportion of religious and highly religious people is comparatively high among the non-Muslim migrants who come from the same predominantly Muslim-influenced countries of origin.

Comparison of religiosity among Muslims

More than two thirds of Muslims in Germany are Sunnis. The Alevis and Shiites also constitute large groups. Only five percent of Muslim migrants belong to other denominations.

In a comparison of these three branches, it is striking that Sunnis are the most frequently religious: 42 percent see themselves as very religious. Among the Alevis and the Shiites, on the other hand, only a good 20 percent describe themselves as very religious. The differences particularly stand out when one looks at Muslims who consider themselves not to be religious at all: this figure is two percent among Sunnis, whereas over ten percent of Shiites and Alevis make this statement.

The comparatively low expression of religiosity among Shiite Muslims is not to be regarded as something specifically Shiite. The explanation is to be found far more in the specific composition of Shiite groups in Germany: the majority is constituted by people from Iran, who often fled as opponents of the Islamic regime. The Sunni group, on the other hand, consists predominantly of Muslims of Turkish origin, who mostly came to Germany as guest workers and come from religious, rural families.

This observation is also borne out by the findings of the survey on religiosity, divided by region of origin. Only ten percent of Muslims from an Iranian migrant background describe themselves as very religious. This figure is 40 percent among Muslims of Turkish origin. The proportion of Muslims from Iran who are not at all religious is also significantly higher in comparison with other regions of origin.

Big differences can be identified when studying the other regions of origin. Muslims from south-east Europe and central Asia and from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) are more rarely very religious. In contrast, a high level of religiosity is to be found among Muslims from Africa and south/south-east Asia. At one quarter, the proportion of Muslims from the Near East is somewhat lower.

Religious practice has a bearing on many areas of everyday life. The role it plays in terms of rules relating to food, mosque attendance, frequency of prayer and religious festivals is shown below.

Observation of Muslim food rules

The observation of religious rules relating to food and drink is very important for many Muslims living in Germany. Between 65 and 86 percent of Muslims from most regions of origin state that they adhere to these rules – including abstinence from pork and alcohol. Muslims from Iran and Central Asia/CIS are an exception: the figure is less than one third here. A similar picture emerges for the observation of Islamic fasting rules, such as fasting in Ramadan.

Anne Kuhl, Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, 06.08.2009

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