4 in 10 Germans Want Muslims to Stay Out

A new study shows a surge in Islamophobia among Germans since last year.

DRESDEN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 15 : Supporters of the Pegida (Patriotische Europaeer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes) movement stage protest with banners and German flags at the Theaterplatz Square in Dresden, Germany on January 25, 2015. (Photo by )
DRESDEN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 15 : Supporters of the Pegida (Patriotische Europaeer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes) movement stage protest with banners and German flags at the Theaterplatz Square in Dresden, Germany on January 25, 2015. (Photo by )
DRESDEN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 15 : Supporters of the Pegida (Patriotische Europaeer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes) movement stage protest with banners and German flags at the Theaterplatz Square in Dresden, Germany on January 25, 2015. (Photo by )

More than 1.1 million people -- half of whom came from Syria -- fled to Germany last year, seeking shelter in a nation widely believed to have one of the most liberal asylum policies in the West. But it turns out Germans are not as welcoming as initially thought.

A new study released by the University of Leipzig reveals a dramatic rise in Islamophobia among Germans since last year. More than 40 percent of the public thinks the government should forbid Muslims from immigrating to Germany -- double the number of whom believed so in 2009.

The study, released Wednesday, also revealed deep skepticism of Berlin’s liberal stance on migrants, and of the humanitarian grounds for its asylum policy.

More than 1.1 million people — half of whom came from Syria — fled to Germany last year, seeking shelter in a nation widely believed to have one of the most liberal asylum policies in the West. But it turns out Germans are not as welcoming as initially thought.

A new study released by the University of Leipzig reveals a dramatic rise in Islamophobia among Germans since last year. More than 40 percent of the public thinks the government should forbid Muslims from immigrating to Germany — double the number of whom believed so in 2009.

The study, released Wednesday, also revealed deep skepticism of Berlin’s liberal stance on migrants, and of the humanitarian grounds for its asylum policy.

Roughly four-fifths of the nearly 2,500 respondents said the country should pursue a less generous refugee policy. Nearly 60 percent said they believed asylum seekers “are not really at risk of any persecution in their home country,” according to AFP.

Native Germans are also feeling increasingly alienated: Half of those interviewed said they sometimes felt like a foreigner in their own country due to the presence of Muslim immigrants, up from 43 percent two years ago.

The findings may portend well for the anti-Islam Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party. Over the past year, the party has made swift gains in regional elections and national polls on a platform that calls for banning mosque minarets, veils for women, and the Muslim call to prayer. A poll from May showed support for the party hovering at 15 percent, making it the third most popular party in Germany.

The xenophobia that has fueled the AfD’s rise has a darker side as well. As of this past April, authorities estimated that right-wing Germans were responsible for 319 attacks on refugee homes since 2015.

Such attacks show no signs of abating. In the first four months of 2016, police reported 37 arson attacks, and the study found that far-right fanatics are more willing to use violence to uphold their beliefs.

Perhaps wary of further blowback to her immigration policies, German Chancellor Angela Merkel led the EU’s negotiations with Turkey to drastically limit the number of migrants allowed into the continent. Under the terms of the agreement, all migrants who have arrived in Europe after March 20 will be deported to Turkey if their claim for asylum is rejected. For each Syrian migrant turned back to Turkey, the EU must take in another whose claim to asylum it deems as legitimate.

Image credit: MEHMET KAMAN/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Henry Johnson is a fellow at Foreign Policy. He graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a degree in history and previously wrote for LobeLog. Twitter: @HenryJohnsoon

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