How do Muslim immigrants feel about life in Italy?

The Local Italy
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How do Muslim immigrants feel about life in Italy?
Muslim men praying near Rome's Colosseum in 2016. Photo: Gabriel Buoys/AFP

Muslim immigrants living in Italy feel much less attached to the country than their counterparts in other EU nations.


That was one of the findings from a new study which looked at how Muslims in the EU feel about their countries, and the discrimination they face. 

The Vienna-based EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) created the report using survey answers from more than 10,500 people in the 15 member states which are home to around 94 percent of Muslims in the EU: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, Denmark, Greece, Spain, Finland, France, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Sweden, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.

Italy is home to around 2.2 million Muslims, one of the higher figures in the EU.

So how do they feel about their adopted country?

Low levels of attachment

Muslims living in Italy feel less attached to their country than in any other EU country.

Asked to rank their attachment on a five-point scale, the average score in Italy was 3.3, the lowest of the 15 countries.

The Netherlands (3.4), Austria (3.5), and Greece (3.6) also scored poorly, while at the opposite end of the scale, Muslims in Sweden and Finland felt the greatest attachment to their country, at 4.4 and 4.6 respectively.


The report looked at discrimination faced by Muslims over the past five years, and how it affected people differently depending on factors including region of origin and gender. 

Across the EU, nearly 40 percent of all those surveyed said that they had suffered discrimination or harassment because of their ethnic or immigration background, and on average respondents said they experienced such discrimination at least five times a year, showing it to be a recurring problem.

Of all those involved in the survey, Muslims from North Africa living in Italy and the Netherlands reported the highest level of discrimination based on religion, measured at 31 percent in both cases.

The survey noted a separate EU study which showed that almost one in four Italians (24 percent) said they would not like to have a Muslim as a neighbour, one of the highest figures in the EU.

Region of origin played a part in the kind of discrimination faced, and 39 percent of Muslims from Sub-Saharan Africa living in Italy said they had experienced discrimination based on skin colour, a figure almost double the average based on Muslims in Italy.

Muslims take part in an anti-hate protest in Milan. Photo: AFP

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Anti-discrimination awareness

On average, Muslim immigrants in the EU have high levels of awareness of the legislation that exists to combat discrimination - but there are differences across countries and demographics.

South-Asian Muslims living in Italy had one of the lowest levels of awareness of anti-discrimination measures, at just 21 percent, while Turkish Muslims in Sweden had the highest levels of awareness at 82 percent.

One reason for this could be the comparatively lower rates of discrimination and harassment this group reported facing in Italy. South Asian Muslims in Italy reported the lowest rates of violence due to their immigrant background in the 12 months before the survey, with a figure close to zero percent compared to an overall average of two percent.

Trust in police

In the 12 months prior to the survey, 16 percent of all respondents had been stopped by police, with a high number of police stops in Italy linked to migration flows and increased identity checks.

In Italy, Muslims had the lowest levels of trust in the country's police force of any EU country. That figure was particularly low among North African and Sub-Saharan African Muslims, who on average rated their trust in police as 5.3 on a ten-point scale, but was also low among South-Asian Muslims, with an average trust rating of 6.0.

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