A study by the Bertelsmann Foundation found 89% of respondents, across all religions, consider democracy to be a good form of government. But half of respondents expressed concern over Islam.
The latest edition of the Bertelsmann Foundation’s bi-annual “Religion Monitor” interview survey published on Thursday found religious tolerance in Germany to be sustained but Islam to be having a hard time, perceived by many to be negative.
As a result of immigration and globalization, religious diversity in Germany has increased. However, the study found this had no influence on attitudes towards democracy: “Members of any religion can be good democrats,” study author and religious sociologist Gert Pickel said.
Across three groups defined in the survey, all were heavily in favor of democracy: among Christians, 93% were in favor, among Muslims 91% and among those without a religion 83% spoke up for democracy.
The Bertelsmann Foundation is funded by the eponymous media company, one of the world’s largest, based in the western city of Gütersloh. Run independently, the foundation promotes reform processes and the principles of entrepreneurial activity.
50% see Islam as threat
However, the study did find that dogmatic, rigid beliefs and intolerance of other religions could be harmful to democracy in the long run. The authors expressed a cause for concern in that half of the interviewees perceived Islam as a threat.
In eastern parts of Germany, where few Muslims live, there were stronger reservations towards people following Islam. According to the Bertelsmann survey, 30% of people interviewed in the east said they did not want Muslims as neighbors, compared to 16% who expressed the same preference in western German states.
There are an estimated 5 million Muslims living in Germany, 1.5 million of them in the western and most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia.
However, the expressed skeptism found in the survey does not equate with Islamophobia, according to Bertelsmann’s Yasemin El-Menouar. She said this was indicated by the fact that only 13% of the respondents wanted to stop immigration.