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Regular version of the site

Conference ‘Islamic Migrants in Russia, Europe and America’

On December 15, 2011, the HSE Laboratory for Comparative Social Research (LCSR) held a conference 'Islamic Migrants in Russia, Europe and America' in St. Petersburg.

The lectures were given by the well-known researchers - Mark Tessler and Kenneth Kollman. This was their first visit to to Russia, where they presented their latest research, hosted in collaboration with scientists of HSE.

Kenneth Kollman
Kenneth Kollman
Kenneth Kollman, professor at University of Michigan, presented a report “Studying Muslims in Europe”.

Professor Kollman and his colleagues carried out several separate research projects on Muslim migrants in London (and Manchester), Madrid and Berlin. The first pilot study was conducted in these cities in 2004. In each city different sampling schemes were used, as the question of finding appropriate respondents was not clear. Moreover, two different methods of surveying were used. A telephone survey was held in the Great Britain, while in Madrid and Berlin researchers used face-to-face interviews. During the pilot stage, both qualitative and quantitative approaches were applied. There were 141 telephone interviews with Bangladesh migrants in London, 205 face-to-face interviews of Moroccan migrants in Madrid and 235 interviews with Turkish migrants in Berlin. In Madrid and Berlin, interviews were segregated by sex: male interviewers asked men and female interviewers spoke to women. Professor Kollman admits that the pilot stage cannot be considered as a cross-national study as different methodology and different samples were used. So these are different studies and it is not possible to make a comparison of the results from London, Madrid and Berlin.

Compared to the survey of 2004, the one in 2010 was shorter, simpler and more formal. The questionnaire consisted of 6 sections, including questions on basic personal information, self-identification, political attitudes, immigration experience, health and previous experience of being interviewed. In addition to this, other methods of sampling were used. For example, random route sampling schemes were used in Madrid. Inevitably certain problems arose during this research; For example, one of the main problems in the research conducted in Madrid was differences in the Spanish dialects used by Moroccan migrants. Professor Kollman emphasized that the researcher should be aware that certain words have different meanings in different languages. 

One of the main aims of Professor Kollman’s study is a comparison between immigrants in the U.S.A and in Europe. It has been found out that religion helps Christian immigrants to feel comfortable in the U.S.A. The question is if religion is a barrier for migrants in Europe or not. The questionnaire included sections dedicated to the belief system and religious practices of migrants in the host country.

The research concluded that religion can influence people’s life strategies. The stronger the religious attitudes, the less respondents felt at home at the host country. Also gender is a part of the story: women attend mosques more rarely than men do. In Germany there is an effect of religiosity on discrimination. Religiosity matters least in Germany and most in Britain, according to the results of Professor Kollman’s study.


Mark Tessler
Mark Tessler
Mark Tessler, professor at University of Michigan, gave a public lecture “What do ordinary citizens in the Arabs World want: secular democracy or democracy with Islam?”

Mark Tessler claims that the recent uprising in the Arab world clearly shows that ordinary citizens in the Muslim Middle East have strong views about the way their societies should be governed. They are trying to take charge of their societies and to chart their own course and define their own destiny. Therefore, they want governments that are accountable, and democracy is a central concept for the vast majority of people. The major question which arises is how important do people consider the role of Islam in the political process.

14 Arab countries were studied by Mark Tessler. He uses the data from 2 phases of the Arab Barometer (2006 and 2011) covering about 25000 respondents. According to these results, 36.6% Arabs want democracy with Islam, 47.8 prefer a secular democracy, 8.2% would like to live in a country with a secular authoritarian regime and 7.4% want Islamic authoritarianism. Support for democracy is higher in the first wave (41%) in comparison with the second wave (33%). Support for democracy with Islam have also declined.

Regime evaluation, cultural values and respondents’ educational level were selected as the main drivers and predictors of whether Islam should have an important role in democracy or not. Cultural values imply attitudes to gender equality in this case. According to the results of the study, those people who are more traditional are more likely to favor Islam in the political process. In regimes where there is strong connection with Islam, people would like to have an Islamic government. Men and older women in secular regimes such as Egypt and Tunisia prefer Islamic democracy. Moreover, the more educated people are, the lower support for democracy is across countries. A low educational level provides a lower support for democracy among older people in secular regimes.

Mark Tessler emphasized that these are only the preliminary results of his work. He is planning to make further steps in the development of his project. Specifically, he is going to conduct a  separate analysis for each survey, perform a 2-level analysis to identify the conditioning effects of a country and the temporal characteristics, as well as testing additional individual-level hypotheses and new independent variables (e.g. level of tolerance, economic situation, civic engagement) and aims to expand the database by including non-Arab countries.

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