Don't Fear Muslim Immigrants

They Aren't the Real Problem

A man shops for traditional sweets for Iftar, or breaking of fast, during the Muslim month of Ramadan in Paris, July 2013. Youssef Boudlal / Reuters

In the wake of the San Bernardino attack last December, U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a ban on all Muslims entering the country. In an interview with Fox Business shortly after the attack, Trump explicitly connected the failed assimilation of Muslim immigrants to terrorism: “Go to Brussels. Go to Paris. Go to different places. There is something going on and it’s not good, where they want Shariah law, where they want this, where they want things that—you know, there has to be some assimilation. There is no assimilation.” Although most politicians, in both the U.S. Democratic and Republican parties and abroad, condemned Trump’s proposal for a ban on Muslim immigration, more than one-third of Americans and over half of Republicans support it.

Trump is tapping into a deep-rooted fear. It is the same fear that sustains the popularity of many extreme right-wing parties throughout Europe, from France’s National Front to Greece’s Golden Dawn. It is thus legitimate to ask whether the recent wave of immigration into Europe and the United States from Muslim-majority countries is compromising the safety of host populations. But the evidence suggests that the fears are misguided: Liberal democracies are not opening their doors to terrorism when they let in Muslim immigrants.


Over the past year, unprecedented numbers of immigrants have left Muslim-majority countries to come to Europe, fleeing the carnage in Syria and the turmoil across North Africa. But these immigrants are not integrating well. In our book, Why Muslim Integration Fails in Christian-Heritage Societies (Harvard University Press 2016), we document the failure of Muslim immigrant integration in France and across Europe more broadly. Two immigrants who are alike in every single way except for their religious identity will integrate very differently within their host societies.

Migrants pray at a makeshift mosque in "The New Jungle" camp in Calais, France, August 2015.
Migrants pray at a makeshift mosque in "The New Jungle" camp in Calais, France, August 2015. Peter Nicholls / Reuters

By studying a population of Senegalese Christian and Muslim immigrants from the Serer and

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