Thesis: Muslims must embrace our values: a critical analysis of the debate on Muslim integration in France, Germany, and the UK
Supervisors: Lilie Chouliaraki and Jennifer Jackson-Preece
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My primary research interest is the analysis of political debate on immigrant integration; in particular my empirical work investigates those discursive strategies deployed to legitimize social and political cohesion through claims to universal and moral values, which characterize the cultural attributes of the majority. The main thrust of my PhD thesis centres on the continuing difficulty of integrating immigrants, especially Muslims, which in turn has led many European political leaders to question the merits of multiculturalism and to promote more commitment towards common values and social cohesion.
By observing Sarkozy, Merkel and Cameron’s political statements on multiculturalism, which received wide coverage across Europe, I reconstruct, through a critical discourse analysis, how these political actors defend and implement civic integration policies through a common political strategy, which is not specific to one national context and point to a similar construction of a European identity. Successively, I investigate, through content analysis, how press coverage has amplified and reinforced this debate across Europe through reciprocal references.
The findings demonstrate a shared European concern for how multicultural policies have passively tolerated and encouraged Muslim immigrants to live in self-segregated and isolated communities. This nexus between securitisation and multiculturalism targets first and second generation of Muslims who are assumed, because of their religious and cultural identity, to have authoritarian customs and illiberal values. Conversely, embracing those secular and liberal values that characterise the European civic identity is exemplified as the best practice to deal with correct and safe integration.
Consequently, moral and universal norms seem more central in addressing public debate on immigration of Muslims than national integration policies and public conceptions of citizenship. This conclusion makes a crucial contribution to literature on immigration in comparative sociology and political science (Koopmans et al. 2005; Bertossi and Dyvendak 2009; Helbling 2013), as it rejects the assumption that citizenship models (Brubaker 1992; Favel 2001) have a significant impact on how political actors debate immigration issues.
Having completed my PhD, my next step is to strengthen both the theoretical and empirical development of my thesis by investigating how a moral-universal commitment to social cohesion has framed the debate on immigration during the economic crisis. One possible outcome could be a public discourse claiming for a more exclusive model of integration, justified by an economic argument that immigration is fuelling native unemployment and undermining the solidarity inherent in national social models.
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