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As burqa bans highlight conflicts over values in Europe, new MPI Europe report explores challenges and policy options facing European policymakers
Press Release
Tuesday, June 13, 2017

As burqa bans highlight conflicts over values in Europe, new MPI Europe report explores challenges and policy options facing European policymakers

BRUSSELS — The rapid arrival in 2015­–2016 of historic numbers of newcomers to Europe, a significant share of whom are Muslim, has once again placed under the microscope the roles of religion, culture and identity in liberal democratic societies. As different value systems have come into close contact, conflict has sometimes resulted. Burqa or burqini bans, for example, and public declarations by political leaders in Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere that newcomers should either adapt or leave have focused attention on the rights and obligations of visibly and religiously different members of a society.

Restrictions on Islamic Dress in Europe

This map displays restrictions on Islamic dress that have been proposed or passed, by country. Click on any of the countries highlighted in blue for a description of the proposed or enacted restriction, date and status, and possible penalty.

While recent public discussions have often centred on how newcomers and existing residents share physical space, language and resources, on a deeper level the integration of new arrivals also raises questions about the common set of rules and values governing society, and how to adjudicate differences seen as undermining this shared ethos. The rise of populist and far-right parties has further complicated the process of determining which values can realistically be shared in plural societies.

A new Migration Policy Institute Europe report, In search of common values amid large-scale immigrant integration pressures, explores a number of difficult questions European policymakers are facing in relation to values. Among them: how should government define values and adjudicate between competing values, as well as how to build a sense of common identity and values that is compelling yet not overly exclusive.

The authors, Natalia Banulescu-Bogdan and Meghan Benton, note that while immigration and social change are often painted as enemies of common values, it is not always clear exactly which values critics see as under threat. ‘Crucially, immigration is not the only force that causes values to be in flux’, they write. ‘It is important for policymakers to understand and communicate to those they serve that values are not fixed; most countries have a long and sometimes messy history of negotiating, adapting and adjudicating values in response to social change. Indeed, this is one of the hallmarks of liberal democracies’.

The report, which is the first publication from MPI Europe’s recently established Integration Futures Working Group, examines the ways in which European countries have sought to educate newcomers in their national ethos. It examines two sets of policies and initiatives: those seeking to proactively instil core national values in both newcomers and longer-term residents; and those that restrict minority practices perceived to conflict with national values or in other ways harm the nation.

The Integration Futures Working Group, supported by the Robert Bosch Stiftung, is seeking to develop a fresh agenda for integration policy in Europe by bringing together senior integration policymakers and experts, civil-society officials and private-sector leaders to create a platform for long-term strategic and creative thinking.

The report is accompanied by a data tool showing restrictions on Islamic dress that have been proposed or enacted across Europe. Read the report and access the data tool at: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/search-common-values-amid-large-scale-immigrant-integration-pressures.

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MPI Europe provides authoritative research and practical policy design to governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders who seek more effective management of immigration, immigrant integration and asylum systems, as well as better outcomes for newcomers, families of immigrant background and receiving communities throughout Europe. MPI Europe also provides a forum for the exchange of information on migration and immigrant integration practices within the European Union and Europe more generally. For more, visit www.mpieurope.org.