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Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
ISSN: 1369-183X (Print) 1469-9451 (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cjms20
What factors best explain national identification
among Muslim adolescents? Evidence from four
Lars Leszczensky, Rahsaan Maxwell & Erik Bleich
To cite this article: Lars Leszczensky, Rahsaan Maxwell & Erik Bleich (2020) What factors best
explain national identification among Muslim adolescents? Evidence from four European countries,
Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 46:1, 260-276, DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2019.1578203
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/1369183X.2019.1578203
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Published online: 12 Feb 2019.
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What factors best explain national identiﬁcation among
Muslim adolescents? Evidence from four European countries
, Rahsaan Maxwell
and Erik Bleich
Research Fellow, Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES), University of Mannheim,
Department of Political Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill,
Department of Political Science, Middlebury College, Middlebury, United States
An important public debate in contemporary Europe is whether
immigrant-origin Muslims will successfully integrate into
mainstream society. We engage those debates by analysing
national identiﬁcation among immigrant-origin Muslim
adolescents in England, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden. A
common argument is that the Islamic religion prevents Muslims
from integrating because its practices are incompatible with
mainstream European culture. However, we ﬁnd that religiosity is
not the most important predictor of Muslim identiﬁcation. Instead,
citizenship, contact with the native majority, and perceived
discrimination are all as important as religiosity for predicting
Muslim national identiﬁcation. In addition, we ﬁnd the same
relationships between these variables and national identiﬁcation
among Muslim and non-Muslim immigrant-origin adolescents.
Country of birth, host language proﬁciency, and socio-economic
status, by contrast, are less important predictors of national
identiﬁcation of both groups. In sum, our ﬁndings suggest that
Muslims are not necessarily a uniquely problematic population, as
their national identiﬁcation is best understood through dynamics
that aﬀect immigrants more broadly rather than Muslims
speciﬁcally, though more research is necessary to identify speciﬁc
Received 20 April 2018
Accepted 10 January 2019
The integration of Muslims is a topic of ongoing debates Europe (Statham and Tillie
2016). In the public discourse and in some scholarly work, Muslims are often considered
a challenge to established cultural traditions and are among the most stigmatised minority
groups in Europe (cf. Cesari 2013; Foner and Alba 2008; Helbling 2012; Sniderman and
Hagendoorn 2007). Integrating Muslims is a crucial task for European societies but, unfor-
tunately, evidence suggests there is a sub-optimal cycle of Muslims being stigmatised by
mainstream European society for not assimilating and Muslims withdrawing from main-
stream European society because they feel rejected (Adida, Laitin, and Valfort 2016). This
© 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
CONTACT Lars Leszczensky Lars.Leszczensky@mzes.uni-mannheim.de Research Fellow, Mannheim Centre for
European Social Research (MZES), University of Mannheim, 68131 Mannheim, Germany
Supplemental data for this article can be accessed https://doi.org/10.1080/1369183X.2019.1578203.
JOURNAL OF ETHNIC AND MIGRATION STUDIES
2020, VOL. 46, NO. 1, 260–276
cycle may lead to ongoing Muslim alienation and does not bode well for the future of
social cohesion across ethno-religious lines in Europe.
In this article, we explore the issue of Muslim integration in Europe through the lens of
national identiﬁcation. National identiﬁcation is a key aspect of social identity (Tajfel and
Turner 1986), and indicates a sense of belonging to the country. Shared national identiﬁ-
cation is important for social cohesion as it promotes bonds across ethnic or religious
divides and helps draw distinctions between those who are in and outside of the national
community (Verkuyten and Martinovic 2012). National identiﬁcation is also a key com-
ponent of minorities’integration because it indicates the level of psychological attachment
to mainstream society (Berry 1997; Statham and Tillie 2016). While many Muslims are
well-integrated members of their societies who strongly identify with their European
nations, in many European countries Muslims are less likely than non-Muslims to identify
strongly with the nation (Fleischmann and Phalet 2018; Reeskens and Wright 2014; Schulz
and Leszczensky 2016). Therefore, the question of what factors facilitate Muslim national
identiﬁcation is of urgent importance.
Understanding what drives the identiﬁcation of young Muslims with their European
nations is especially important, because adolescence is a crucial stage for the formation
of identiﬁcation with ethnic and religious groups (Umaña-Taylor et al. 2014). In addition,
(dis-)identiﬁcation of adolescent Muslims is a particular concern in Europe because of the
growth in radicalisation among young Muslims (Bigo et al. 2014). Yet, even though there
is growing interest in young European Muslims (Leiken 2011; Voas and Fleischmann
2012), we know surprisingly little about what makes them identify (or not) with their
European nations. Many existing studies stress the importance of particular factors
such as discrimination or exclusion (e.g. Hopkins 2011; Karlsen and Nazroo 2013).
Since most such studies deal only with Muslims, however, it is diﬃcult to assess
whether related processes are speciﬁc to Muslims or part of more general patterns of
the integration of ethnic and religious minorities. Large-scale survey research that com-
pares the factors driving young Muslim and non-Muslims national identiﬁcation,
however, still is quite rare (see Fleischmann and Phalet 2018 for a recent exception).
We address this lacuna by analysing the national identiﬁcation of immigrant-origin
Muslim youth in four European countries. We exploit rich survey data on nationally
representative samples of 15-year old second-generation immigrants in England,
Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands, provided by the Children of Immigrants Longi-
tudinal Survey in Four European Countries (CILS4EU) project (Kalter et al. 2016).
Our main goal is to determine what factors are most strongly associated with national
identiﬁcation among European Muslim youth. Existing research suggests six main expla-
nations for why Muslims are more (or less) likely to identify with European nations. First,
Muslim religiosity is often described as a key barrier to identifying strongly with European
nations. One reason for this is that Islam supposedly clashes with key European norms and
values, especially among more fundamentalist adherents (Koopmans 2015; Sniderman
and Hagendoorn 2007). Second, immigrant integration factors, such as having citizenship
and being born in the country of destination, have been found to matter for immigrants’
national identiﬁcation (Diehl and Schnell 2006; Karlsen and Nazroo 2013; Maxwell and
Bleich 2014). Third, host language proﬁciency is another key determinant of ethnic and
religious minorities’national identity, as it increases feelings of similarity and cultural
exchange (Hochman and Davidov 2014). Fourth, Muslims are often segregated into
JOURNAL OF ETHNIC AND MIGRATION STUDIES 261
religious or ethnic minority networks with other non-European-origin minorities (Leszc-
zensky and Pink 2017), and this resulting lack of contact with natives may make them less
likely to identify with the nation (De Vroome, Verkuyten, and Martinovic 2014; Fleisch-
mann and Phalet 2018). Fifth, there is a considerable degree of anti-Muslim sentiments in
many European societies (Helbling 2014; Savelkoul et al. 2011; Strabac and Listhaug 2008).
Perceived discrimination and rejection from the survey country is an important barrier to
national identiﬁcation among minorities, because it indicates feelings of rejection and
exclusion by mainstream society (De Vroome, Verkuyten, and Martinovic 2014;
Karlsen and Nazroo 2013; Schulz and Leszczensky 2016). Finally, socio-economic status
may be important, because many Muslims in Europe are socio-economically disadvan-
taged (Heath, Rothon, and Kilpi 2014), and this lack of structural integration could
hamper their national identiﬁcation (Alba and Nee 1997; Leiken 2011).
Each of these explanations has diﬀerent implications for the future of Muslim inte-
gration in Europe. For example, if religiosity or discrimination are critical and distinctive
barriers to Muslim national identiﬁcation, then there may be a fundamental enduring
barrier between Muslims and mainstream European society. However, if the country of
birth, citizenship, language proﬁciency, or contact with the native majority are the key
for both Muslim and non-Muslim youth’national identiﬁcation, then Muslim integration
may be best understood as a subset of broader immigrant and minority dynamics. Finally,
if socio-economic status is the best predictor of Muslim identiﬁcation, that would suggest
the importance of structural factors that extend beyond any one ethnic, religious, or
Our ﬁndings indicate that the strongest predictors of Muslim identiﬁcation are religi-
osity, citizenship, contact with the native majority, and perceived discrimination. Our
results are therefore consistent with the logic that religiosity poses a challenge for
Muslim integration, but we place that ﬁnding in a broader context by suggesting that
other factors are equally important. Moreover, we ﬁnd similar relationships among
non-Muslim immigrant-origin adolescents. For example, there is also a negative relation-
ship between religiosity and national identiﬁcation among non-Muslim immigrant-origin
adolescents. Likewise, majority group contact and perceived discrimination are equally
important for Muslim and non-Muslim youth’national identiﬁcation, as is having citizen-
ship. Finally, the country of birth, host language proﬁciency and socio-economic status
were not strongly related to either Muslim or non-Muslim youth’national identiﬁcation.
Taken together, our ﬁndings therefore suggest that national identiﬁcation is best under-
stood as part of dynamics that aﬀect immigrants and minorities more broadly rather
than Muslims speciﬁcally.
2. What best explains Muslim national identiﬁcation?
Religion is an important source of group identity, as it consists of norms, beliefs and values
that organise how people understand their place in the world (Ysseldyk, Matheson, and
Anisman 2010). In the past decades, however, Europeans have become less likely to prac-
tice religion and increasingly likely to identify as secular or agnostic. By contrast, Muslim
Europeans are much more likely than non-Muslim Europeans to be very attached to their
religion (Foner and Alba 2008). Since Muslim parents are highly eﬀective in transmitting
their religious identities to their children (e.g. Jacob and Kalter 2013; Malipaard and
262 L. LESZCZENSKY ET AL.
Lubbers 2013; Soehl 2017), religiosity remains high for the descendants of Muslim immi-
grants as well (Voas and Fleischmann 2012). These higher levels of religiosity may reduce
the likelihood that Muslims identify with European nation-states, because it sets them
apart from societies that are largely secular.
Beyond levels of religiosity, Islam is also purported to be a barrier to national identiﬁ-
cation in Europe because of the way it is practiced. Among religiously observant Eur-
opeans, Muslims are more likely than Christians to hold fundamentalist and extremist
views that separate them from the rest of society (Koopmans 2015; Sniderman 2014). Pro-
minent examples are key social issues like gay rights and women’s rights, on which reli-
gious Muslims often have views that conﬂict with contemporary European norms
(Hansen 2011; Joppke 2009; Sniderman and Hagendoorn 2007). These diﬀering values
may lead religious Muslims to consider themselves distinct from mainstream European
society and therefore less likely to feel attached to the national identity.
In short, adhering to and practicing Islam is often seen as the crucial barrier to
Muslims’integration in West European societies:
H1: Muslims with higher levels of religiosity have lower levels of national identiﬁcation in
Yet, a growing strand of literature questions whether religion is the best way of under-
standing Muslim integration in Europe (Fleischmann and Phalet 2018). Being a Muslim in
Europe is highly correlated with being an immigrant or a descendant of recent immi-
grants, with being less ﬂuent in the host language, with being segregated in ethnic minority
friendship networks and neighbourhoods, and, last but not least, with socioeconomic dis-
advantages. Therefore, it is not clear whether religion or one of these other aspects is most
crucial for understanding Muslim identity formation (Maxwell and Bleich 2014).
The country of birth and citizenship status may be crucial for understanding identity
dynamics because they create cultural and personal connections to multiple countries
and raise the possibility of competing for national allegiances (Maxwell and Bleich
2014; Phinney et al. 2006; Schulz and Leszczensky 2016). Country of birth is important
because people who are born in a country tend to be more familiar with its customs
and feel stronger attachment to its national identity (Diehl and Schnell 2006). Citizenship
is a formal legal connection to the host society and is often associated with a greater sense
of belonging and more positive identiﬁcation with the host society (Ersanilli and Saharso
2011; Hainmueller, Hanggartner, and Pietrantuono 2015; Street 2017). These variables
therefore may be crucial for predicting national identiﬁcation among Muslims in Europe:
H2: Foreign-born Muslims have lower levels of national identiﬁcation in Europe.
H3: Muslims with citizenship in European countries have higher levels of national identiﬁ-
cation in Europe.
Language is another key ingredient of national identity because a shared language
increases feelings of similarity and cultural transmission (Phinney et al. 2006). Language
may be especially important for minorities who have cultural origins outside the nation
(e.g. most Muslims in Europe) because it is a practical way of connecting to and establish-
ing similarities with mainstream society (Alba and Nee 1997). Moreover, having more
proﬁciency in the host country language increases ethnic minority members’similarity
JOURNAL OF ETHNIC AND MIGRATION STUDIES 263
with the native-origin population, which should result in stronger attachment to the
society. Existing research has documented these connections between linguistic and
broader cultural similarities across a range of groups and countries (De Vroome, Verkuy-
ten, and Martinovic 2014; Hochman and Davidov 2014; Phinney et al. 2006; Schulz and
Leszczensky 2016). This generates the following hypothesis:
H4: Muslims who are proﬁcient in the host country language have higher levels of national
identiﬁcation in Europe.
Ethnic and religious segregation of social and residential networks and a respective lack
of contact with native majority group members is another potential lens for understanding
Muslim identiﬁcation in Europe. Research has shown that adolescent Muslims tend to
have religiously and ethnically segregated friendship networks (Leszczensky and Pink
2017). In addition, many Muslims in Europe live in neighbourhoods with low shares of
non-Muslim and non-co-ethnic residents (Phillips 2010; Semyonov and Glikman 2009).
Segregation may inhibit Muslim national identiﬁcation by limiting Muslims’exposure
and connection to mainstream society (Ersanilli and Saharso 2011; Schulz and Leszc-
zensky 2016), or by exacerbating Muslims’feelings of exclusion (De Vroome, Verkuyten,
and Martinovic 2014; Leszczensky 2013; Phinney et al. 2006). Therefore, the extent to
which Muslims are enmeshed in ethnically and religiously segregated social and residential
networks and lack contact with the native majority group may aﬀect the strength of their
H5: Muslims with less contact with native majority group members have lower levels of
national identiﬁcation in Europe.
A considerable degree of Europeans holds negative attitudes towards Muslims (Hel-
bling 2014; Savelkoul et al. 2011; Strabac and Listhaug 2008). Many studies have shown
that minority group members who perceived discrimination identify less strongly with
their nations (Badea et al. 2011; Jasinskaja-Lahti, Liebkind, and Solheim 2009; Maxwell
2009; Verkuyten and Yildiz 2007). Accordingly, European Muslims national identiﬁcation
might be hampered by perceived discrimination:
H6: Muslims who perceive discrimination have lower levels of national identiﬁcation in
Finally, the development of Muslim youths’national identiﬁcation might be hampered
by low socio-economic status. This line of thinking builds on the fact that Muslims are
overrepresented among Europe’s socio-economically disadvantaged residents, in large
part because they arrived as low-skilled guest-workers or immigrants in search of low-
skilled jobs (Otterbeck and Nielsen 2016). This unfavourable socioeconomic background
also explains most of the ethnic and religious inequalities that children of immigrants face
in European educational systems and labour markets (Heath, Rothon, and Kilpi 2014).
Socioeconomic success is often considered as a crucial condition for feeling included in
society (Alba and Nee 1997), and socio-economic disadvantages can lead to alienation
from mainstream society and therefore lower levels of national identiﬁcation (De
Vroome, Verkuyten, and Martinovic 2014). This generates the following hypothesis:
H7: Muslims with worse socio-economic outcomes have lower levels of national identiﬁ-
cation in Europe.
264 L. LESZCZENSKY ET AL.
3. Data and measures
We use data from the project Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Survey in Four Euro-
pean Countries (CILS4EU; Kalter et al. 2016). The CILS4EU data are nationally represen-
tative samples of immigrant-origin children as well as native-origin reference groups in
England, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden. We use the ﬁrst wave of the
CILS4EU data, which was collected during the academic year 2010–2011 and surveyed
15-year old adolescents.
In the ﬁrst wave of CILS4EU the youth completed a written questionnaire in high
schools; students who were ill or otherwise absent received a questionnaire at home. Cog-
nitive pretests and pilot studies in all four countries were conducted to develop standar-
dised and comparable measures. To achieve a large sample of adolescents with an
immigration background, schools with higher proportions of immigrant-origin students
were oversampled. Within these schools, at least two school classes were randomly
selected and all students in these classes were surveyed. Students’parents were also inter-
viewed, and parental questionnaires were available in nonnative languages as well. If
parents did not respond, reminders were sent and parents were contacted via phone. In
total, 18,716 students in 958 classes completed the survey. A total of 11,700 parents
returned a completed questionnaire or participated via phone.
Our analysis focuses on Muslim youth who were born abroad or had at least one parent
born abroad. We focus on immigrant-origin Muslim youth because the overwhelming
majority of Muslims in Europe (97 percent of our sample) are either immigrants or chil-
dren of immigrants. Excluding students with missing information on our key variables
deﬁned below results in 2,133 immigrant-origin Muslim adolescents.
Our dependent variable national identiﬁcation is captured by students’answer to the ques-
tion ‘How strongly do you feel British/German/Dutch/Swedish’. Students ranked them-
selves on a four-point scale, ranging from ‘not at all strongly’to ‘very strongly’. Similar
measurements were used in earlier large-scale studies on national identiﬁcation (Fleisch-
mann and Phalet 2018; Leszczensky 2013; Maxwell and Bleich 2014).
The CILS4EU data provide a rich range of indicators for our hypotheses. To simplify
the comparisons across hypotheses we use factor analysis to construct latent variables
for religiosity, and contact with natives, as we have several indicators for each of these
factors. Being foreign-born and holding citizenship are dummy variables that indicate
whether students were born outside of the survey country and, respectively, hold citizen-
ship of the survey country. Language, perceived discrimination, and socio-economic status
are captured by metric scales (described below) that capture the respective latent con-
struct. We recode all factor variables to values between 0 and 1. Details on all variables
are found in section A of the appendix.
Students’religiosity is captured by the questions ‘How important is religion to you?’and
‘How often do you pray?’
Language proﬁciency is measured by a language ability test that
captured verbal competencies in the language of the survey country, by using synonym- or
antonym-tests (CILS4EU 2016, 40f.). Majority contact is captured by the self-assessed
JOURNAL OF ETHNIC AND MIGRATION STUDIES 265
share of native-origin friends and neighbours. Perceived discrimination is measured by
how often the respondent felt discriminated against or treated unfairly in four contexts:
in school, in trains/buses/trams/subway, in shops/stores/cafes/restaurants/nightclubs, or
by police or security guards. Finally, socio-economic status is based on the highest parental
value of the interval-scale ISEI-08 occupational status (Ganzeboom 2010). Students pro-
vided information on the occupation of both parents, and this has been found to be a
reliable measure (Engzell and Jonsson 2015).
Higher values on the 0–1 scale for each variable indicate higher religiosity, more inte-
gration, better language proﬁciency, more contact with natives, and higher socio-econ-
omic status. In addition, country dummies indicate the country of settlement. Table B1
in the appendix provides mean values and standard deviations for all variables pooled
over the four countries as well as for the individual countries.
4.1 Putting Muslim national identiﬁcation into context
Figure 1 displays weighted mean values of national identiﬁcation of immigrant-origin
Muslims in the pooled sample of all four survey countries as well as across each of the
four individual countries. For sake of comparison, native-origin youth and immigrant-
origin non-Muslims with a religious aﬃliation are also displayed. The former ones are
deﬁned as students who were born in the survey country to two parents born in the
country and who did not identify themselves as Muslims, the latter ones as immigrant-
origin youth with a religious aﬃliation other than Muslim.
In the pooled sample of all four countries, immigrant-origin youth national identiﬁ-
cation is considerably weaker than those of their native peers. This pattern holds in
Figure 1. Mean Values of National Identiﬁcation among Youth in England, Germany, the Netherlands,
Source: CILS4EU, wave 1, weighted, full sample.
266 L. LESZCZENSKY ET AL.
each of the four countries. Averaged across all four countries, Muslim youth also identify
less strongly with their countries of residence than their non-Muslim immigrant-origin
peers. As the country-speciﬁc bars show, this pattern holds in all countries but England.
4.2 What are the most important predictors of immigrant-origin Muslim youth
To assess the relative importance of religiosity, being foreign-born, holding citizenship,
language, majority contact, perceived discrimination, and socioeconomic status, we esti-
mate a series of linear OLS regression models predicting national identiﬁcation of immi-
grant-origin Muslim youth. Each model includes one of these factors as well as country
dummies for the country of settlement; a ﬁnal model includes all ﬁve factors. We estimate
the model for the pooled sample of all four countries, using sampling weights and clus-
tered standard errors.
Table 1 shows the results.
M1 in Table 1 shows that in line with hypothesis 1, religiosity is negatively related to
Muslim youth national identiﬁcation. M2 and M7 further support hypotheses 2, 3, 4,
and 6, showing that Muslim youth who were born in the settlement country, who are citi-
zens, who have many native friends and neighbours, and who perceive discrimination less
often identify more strongly with their European nations. By contrast, M4 and M7 show
that contrary to hypotheses 4 and 7, Muslim youth who are more ﬂuent in the host
language and who have a higher socio-economic status (SES) do not have higher levels
of national identiﬁcation than those who are less ﬂuent and have a lower SES.
M8 shows that considering all factors within a single model does not considerably
change their respective coeﬃcients obtained from the individual models. Substantively,
the full model indicates that Muslims with the highest possible religiosity score identiﬁed
more than third a scale-point less with their European nations than those with the lowest
possible religiosity score. However, religiosity is neither uniquely powerful, nor the most
powerful predictor of national identiﬁcation. The association between holding citizenship,
majority contact, and perceived discrimination and national identiﬁcation are similar to
the relationship between religiosity and identiﬁcation. In fact, Muslim youth who have
the most contact with native majority group members or who perceive the least
amount of discrimination identify about half a scale-point more with their European
nation than those with the least contact with natives or the highest amount of perceived
discrimination, making both factors the single largest predictors.
These results suggest that while higher religiosity scores correlate with lower national
identiﬁcation, national identiﬁcation dynamics among Muslims adolescents are also
explained by broader processes of majority group contact, perceived discrimination,
country of birth, and citizenship aﬀecting minorities and immigrants more generally
rather than by challenges unique to religious Muslims.
4.3 Comparison with non-Muslim immigrant-origin youth
To place Muslim identiﬁcation dynamics in a broader perspective, we now turn to the pre-
dictors of non-Muslim national identiﬁcation. We re-estimate the full regression model
(M8) from Table 1 for immigrant-origin youth with a non-Muslim religious aﬃliation.
If Muslim and non-Muslim youth have similar relationships between religiosity, being
JOURNAL OF ETHNIC AND MIGRATION STUDIES 267
Table 1. OLS Regression Models of National Identiﬁcation of Immigrant-Origin Muslims in Four European Countries.
M1 M3 M3 M4 M5 M6 M7 M8
Religiosity Foreign-born Citizenship Language Majority Contact Perceived Discrimination SES All
Majority Contact 0.569***
N 2133 2133 2133 2133 2133 2133 2133 2133
r2 0.088 0.072 0.082 0.070 0.093 0.077 0.069 0.127
Source: CILS4EU, wave 1, pooled sample across all four countries using sampling weights and robust standard errors + p< .10, *p< 0.05, **p< 0.01, ***p< 0.001.
268 L. LESZCZENSKY ET AL.
foreign-born, holding citizenship, language, majority contact, perceived discrimination,
and socio-economic status, that would be further evidence that Muslim national identiﬁ-
cation dynamics are best understood as part of broader processes aﬀecting immigrants and
minorities rather than factors speciﬁc to Islam and Muslims. Figure 2 compares the
average marginal eﬀects obtained from this model with those obtained for Muslim
youth in Table 1. The full model is found in Table C1 in the appendix.
Figure 2 indicates that most associations are very similar for Muslim and non-Muslim
immigrant-origin youth. In fact, only the coeﬃcients for citizenship and language statisti-
cally diﬀer between both groups. Citizenship is positively associated with both Muslim and
non-Muslim youth’national identiﬁcation, but this relationship is slightly more pro-
nounced for non-Muslims (p< 0.05). By contrast, while host language proﬁciency is not
related to Muslim youth identiﬁcation, it is positively related to that of non-Muslims,
although the diﬀerence between the two coeﬃcients is statistically signiﬁcant only at the
ten percent level (p< 0.1).
In sum, these relationships suggest that Muslim national identiﬁcation is not a unique
dynamic. In fact, the basic patterns thus are remarkably similar for both groups: religiosity,
holding citizenship, majority contact, and perceived discrimination seem to be the most
important predictors of national identiﬁcation, and socio-economic status the least impor-
tant one. Signiﬁcantly, the religiosity variable has a similar magnitude and direction for
both Muslim and non-Muslim youth. This oﬀers strong support to the argument that
national identiﬁcation is primarily a function of general factors aﬀecting immigrants
and minorities, rather than of factors speciﬁc to practicing Muslims.
This argument is further supported by additional analyses regarding the diﬀerence in
the strength of national identiﬁcation between Muslim and non-Muslim immigrant-
origin youth showed in Figure 1. As shown in Table D1 in the appendix, and mirroring
Figure 1, Muslim youth identiﬁed less strongly than non-Muslim immigrant-origin
youth with their European nations. A series of regression models each including a
Figure 2. Average Marginal Eﬀects on Muslim and Non-Muslim Immigrants-Origin Youth’National
Source: CILS4EU, wave 1, weighted, 95% conﬁdence interval. Prediction based on full model in the pooled sample.
JOURNAL OF ETHNIC AND MIGRATION STUDIES 269
single predictor shows that no single predictor alone accounts for this gap in identiﬁcation
(also see Fleischmann and Phalet 2018). Consistent with the results presented above, reli-
giosity, citizenship, majority and perceived discrimination turned out not only to be the
most important predictors for explaining immigrant-origin youth’national identiﬁcation
but also for explaining the diﬀerence in identiﬁcation between Muslim and non-Muslim
4.4 Heterogeneity among Muslims?
Our previous analyses analysed all Muslims together but European Muslims are far from a
homogenous group. One important source of heterogeneity is region of origins, as Euro-
pean and non-European origin Muslim immigrants may face diﬀerent identiﬁcation
dynamics. To address this, we restimated the full model (M8) from Table 1 for
Muslims of European and non-European descent separately. The result in Figure E1 in
the appendix shows that the general associations observed earlier are remarkably
similar for both kinds of Muslims. Another important source of heterogeneity is
whether or not Muslims are the dominant Muslim group in the host country. For
example, much of the debate around Islam in Germany is dominated by issues related
to Turkish Muslims but dynamics may be diﬀerent for non-Turkish-origin Muslims.
Therefore, we restimated the full model separately for Muslims from the dominant and
non-dominant countries of origin within the four countries. Figure E2 in the appendix
indicates that this distinction does not matter as the relationships for both groups of
Muslims again are very similar.
4.5 Do the results hold for all four countries?
We have presented results for the pooled sample of England, Germany, the Netherlands,
and Sweden. However, Muslim identiﬁcation dynamics may vary across these four
countries, because national contexts of immigrant integration and religious institutions
shape the political and social integration of Muslims in Europe (e.g. Ersanilli and
Saharso 2011; Fleischmann and Phalet 2018; Koopmans et al. 2005). Figure 1 shows
that Muslims in Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden have lower levels of national
identiﬁcation than Muslims in England. In fact, it is well-established that British
Muslims report high levels of national identiﬁcation (Maxwell 2006; Nandi and Platt
2015), but that Muslims in several other Western European countries are less likely
than non-Muslims to identify strongly with the nation (Fleischmann and Phalet 2018;
Reeskens and Wright 2014; Schulz and Leszczensky 2016). Therefore, we again estimate
the full model (M8) from Table 1, but this time separately for Muslim immigrant-
origin youth in each of the four countries. The results are illustrated in Figure 3, which
shows the average marginal eﬀect of each factor for every country. The respective
country-speciﬁc regression tables are found in section F of the appendix.
The country-speciﬁc models support most of the conclusions of the earlier analysis
of the pooled sample. For the most part, each independent variable has similar
relationships with national identiﬁcation across the four countries.
contact with the native majority group has a strong positive relationship with national
identiﬁcation in each country but England, and perceived discrimination has a strong
270 L. LESZCZENSKY ET AL.
negative relationship with national identiﬁcation in each country but the Netherlands.
This suggests that Muslim adolescents have roughly similar identiﬁcation dynamics
across the four countries and in each country the national identiﬁcation dynamics
among Muslims adolescents may be best explained by broader processes related to
immigrants and minorities.
The integration of young Muslims will aﬀect Europe for decades to come. Public debates
often contend that Muslim-speciﬁc factors such as high religiosity are a key barrier to their
identiﬁcation with their European nations. If true, the persistence of high religiosity
among Muslims would be a serious hurdle to the social coherence in European societies.
This would be even more problematic if adolescents’religiosity were a decisive factor, as
adolescents are an especially sensitive segment of the population because of their potential
to be alienated or even radicalised (Bigo et al. 2014; Leiken 2011).
Our study addresses these issues through the examination of national identiﬁcation
dynamics among Muslim and non-Muslim adolescents in England, Germany, the Nether-
lands, and Sweden. Our results reveal that the factors that aﬀect Muslim national identiﬁ-
cation are very similar to those that aﬀect non-Muslim immigrant-origin youth. Even
religiosity, which is commonly conceived as a variable posing speciﬁc challenges with
respect to Muslim integration, was also negatively related to non-Muslim youth national
identiﬁcation. Moreover, for both Muslim and non-Muslim immigrants, holding citizen-
ship and especially contact with the native majority group and perceived discrimination
are equally or more important than levels of religiosity. In contrast, the country of
birth, host language proﬁciency and socio-economic status are less important predictors
of Muslim and non-Muslim youth’national identiﬁcation under most circumstances.
These results are consistent with the analysis of France in Maxwell and Bleich (2014),
Figure 3. Average Marginal Eﬀects on Muslim Immigrants-Origin Youth’National Identiﬁcation Separ-
ated for Each Country.
Source: CILS4EU, wave 1, weighted, 95% conﬁdence interval. Predictions based on full model for each country.
JOURNAL OF ETHNIC AND MIGRATION STUDIES 271
although we broaden their ﬁndings to a wider range of countries and a diﬀerent (adoles-
cent) sample population.
Our results have several implications for understanding the integration of young
Muslims in European societies. On the one hand, our ﬁnding of a strong positive relation-
ship between citizenship status and national identiﬁcation is a promising indication that
Muslim integration may be likely to improve over time as more immigrant-origin
Muslims become citizens of their European host countries. Admittedly, we cannot
control for the fact that Muslims with strong national identiﬁcation may be more likely
to receive host country citizenship. Future research should explore this more closely.
However, our results are consistent with other recent research suggesting that the negative
portrayals of Muslim integration may be biased by a focus on the dramatic outliers, and do
not capture the broader positive trends for Muslim youth in Europe (Kashyap and Lewis
2013). Moreover, to the extent that Muslim and non-Muslim identiﬁcation dynamics are
similar, it suggests that Muslim integration may not be as uniquely problematic as some
On the other hand, our results also provide clear evidence of a negative association
between immigrant-origin youth religiosity and national identiﬁcation. Yet, this relation-
ship was similar for Muslim and non-Muslim youth, which indicates that religiosity may
be a general brake to strong national identiﬁcation of minority youth in Europe instead of
a Muslim-speciﬁc factor. Echoing earlier research (Voas and Fleischmann 2012), however,
it is important to note that Muslim youth in the four countries were, on average, much
more religious than non-Muslim ones, and that unlike for Christians, this pattern of
high religiosity is remarkably constant across generations of European Muslims (Jacob
and Kalter 2013; Soehl 2017). Our ﬁndings suggest that this particularly high religiosity
among Muslims has important ramiﬁcations for their national identiﬁcation, even
though its role does not generally diﬀer from those for non-Muslims.
An important limitation of our study is that we are not able to identify speciﬁccausal
pathways. For example, high levels of religiosity might prevent Muslim youth from
befriending natives (Leszczensky and Pink 2017; Maliepaard and Phalet 2012), and
this lack of contact with natives may in turn hamper the development of national
identiﬁcation (Leszczensky 2013). On the other hand, Muslim youth who do not ident-
ify with their European nations may turn to their religion as a source of social identiﬁ-
cation, so that the causal link might run from identiﬁcation to religiosity rather than the
other way around. Similar challenges exist for specifying the relationship between per-
ceived discrimination and identiﬁcation. Unfortunately, disentangling causal relation-
ships is very diﬃcult, if not impossible, with observational data such as the CILS4EU
survey. Teasing out the diﬀerent causal pathways therefore is an important task for
In sum, our results address some of the most prominent scholarly debates and public
discussions in Europe today by suggesting that religiosity may not be the most distinctive
or important factor related to Muslim adolescents’lower attachment to European national
identities. In addition, we ﬁnd similar relationships aﬀecting national identiﬁcation for
Muslim and non-Muslim adolescents. This suggests both that Islam is not unique com-
pared to other immigrant religions, and that the degree to which Muslim youth identify
with their European nations will likely increase when integration along other dimensions
272 L. LESZCZENSKY ET AL.
1. We also conducted analyses with individual measures of each hypothesis, the results of which
2. We also reran the main analysis using separate measures of religiosity (importance of religion
and frequency of prayer). The results were very similar; we prefer the combined measure,
though, as it allows for more ﬁne-grained distinctions of, especially, Muslims religiosity.
The results also very robust to including a set of dummy variables rather than a score for
3. Sampling weights were provided by CILS4EU to correct for diﬀerent selection probabilities
and to obtain correct estimates of population characteristics (CILS4EU 2016, 33ﬀ.). We cal-
culated clustered standard errors to account for the fact that students were surveyed via, and
thus nested in, school classes. Taking into account that our four-point scale of national
identiﬁcation is not strictly metric, we also estimated ordered logistic regression models.
The conclusions were the same as with OLS, but the Brant test was violated. We therefore
present the OLS results, which are also easier to interpret, especially when comparing
diﬀerent groups or models.
4. England is the exception, where majority contact is not associated with national identiﬁ-
cation, and better socio-economic status and stronger ﬂuency in the host country language
are negatively so. It is beyond the scope of this article (and these data) to tease out a full expla-
nation for this divergence, but it is worthy of future study. In general, England is a special
case, given that unlike their co-religionists in Germany or the Netherlands, British
Muslims have high levels of British identiﬁcation (e.g., Karlsen and Nazroo 2015; Maxwell
2006; Nandi and Platt 2015). These high levels of national identiﬁcation may be due to
the fact that many Muslims are from countries that were part of the British empire and
have a long history of identifying with Britain. In addition, “British”is a broad imperial
multi-ethnic identity that does not have the same exclusive connotation as English,
German, or Swedish.
No potential conﬂict of interest was reported by the authors.
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