Dilemmas of Inclusion: Muslims in European Politics

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Dilemmas of Inclusion: Muslims in European Politics
By Rafaela M. Dancygier
Princeton University Press, 2017
264 pp.
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The participation of Muslims in European politics has spawned a heated debate often dominated by anti-immigrant prophets of doom. Dancygier sheds a cooling light on the issue. With a sophisticated analysis of thousands of elections in Austria, Belgium, Germany, and the United Kingdom, she shows that European political parties have been ruthlessly pragmatic in attracting Muslim votes. As soon as a pool of Muslim voters reaches a significant size, parties select candidates who can best appeal to them. Yet this poses difficult political dilemmas. The easiest Muslims for a party to attract, and those who will offer the most electoral advantage, tend to be those who are geographically concentrated—and thus also the least assimilated and most conservative. Often, the traditional bases of European parties hold different views on gender, religion, and sexuality than the typical Muslim in such enclaves. So tailoring messages to new Muslim voters can fragment parties and ultimately undermine their electoral success. Meanwhile, such tactics tend to degrade solidarity in society as a whole—blocking inclusion, fostering anti-Muslim sentiment, empowering conservative religious leaders, and undermining the influence of Muslim women. In the long term, the best way to resolve these dilemmas may be to dilute ethnic enclaves and challenge traditional social structures.

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