Elisabeth Ivarsflaten is a professor of political science and scientific director of the Digital Social Science Core Facility at the University of Bergen, Norway. Paul Sniderman is the Fairleigh S. Dickinson Jr., Professor of Public Policy at Stanford University. They are the authors of The Struggle for Inclusion: Muslim Minorities and the Democratic Ethos.
If you’re actually a real person and you’re living your life and you’re going into stores and you’re riding on a bus or your kids are going to school, what matters is that you be treated with respect. That you have a dignity. And that, I think, at every point that matters most to us is what the book has wound up being about. It’s an essay on respect as a condition of a liberal democracy.
- Western societies show greater openness towards Muslim immigrants than previously recognized
- Where are there opportunities for real inclusion for Muslim immigrants
- How innovative research designs led to unexpected results
- The difference between recognition respect and appraisal respect
- The limits to inclusion for liberal societies that remain today
Far too often I hear about a fundamental tension between liberalism and democracy. The argument assumes democracy is shorthand for majority rule. But democracy refers to a government of the people, not just the majority. So, liberal values like tolerance and inclusion are not optional in a democracy. They are its foundations.
Today’s guests, Elisabeth Ivarsflaten and Paul Sniderman, have studied the willingness of Western democracies to embrace inclusion. Their research shows many people are willing to go further towards inclusion than political leaders and even intellectuals realized. Their new book is The Struggle for Inclusion: Muslim Minorities and the Democratic Ethos. Elisabeth is a professor of political science and scientific director of the Digital Social Science Core Facility at the University of Bergen, Norway. Paul is the Fairleigh S. Dickinson Jr., Professor of Public Policy at Stanford University.
Elisabeth and Paul are real political scientists so we talk about some of their studies. But what struck me the most was how personal this subject was to them. So, I hope that part of our conversation really comes through.
Before we start, I want to thank Democracy Nerd for a recent review where they said the podcast was “essential listening.” Democracy Nerd is a podcast hosted by Jefferson Smith. I highly recommend taking a look. I also want to welcome the Village Squarecast to the Democracy Group. It features many different perspectives that inject humor and fun into complex ideas. So check out Village Squarecast. But for now… this is my conversation with Elisabeth Ivarsflaten and Paul Sniderman….
Elisabeth Ivarsflaten and Paul Sniderman, welcome to the Democracy Paradox.
Glad to be with you
So, Elisabeth and Paul, how has immigration changed the societies in Europe?
Well, societies in Western Europe and I’m speaking to you from Norway right now, so from one of them. They, of course, are a product of let’s say influences from the outside, including immigration, and of how those influences have been met and processed in the societies of Western Europe through the ages. The focus of our book, it’s on the way that societies in Western Europe, such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands the UK, and also some others, how they nowadays deal with citizens who are Muslims and the extent to which they are prepared to include.
So, inclusion as we put it in the book requires two things at the same time, acceptance into the national community as one of us. But not only that because acceptance into the national community on its own tends towards assimilation. And we’ve learned that through history. Inclusion also requires respect for Muslim culture and traditions, but not on its own because respect for difference alone tends towards segregation as we’ve also learned through history. So, inclusion requires both simultaneously. So, recognizing the persistence of intolerance and hatred and all the challenges that that poses for societies in Western Europe and for the inclusion of Muslims presently. Nevertheless, the central argument of our book and supported by lots of new evidence is that there are openings to more fully and more truly inclusive societies in Western Europe today.
I think that what sets this research apart is that for some thirty years now, there’s been just first-class research, on the darkness in liberal democracies, on the force of intolerance and much has been learned about it. And what’s different about what we’re trying to bring into the open is that there’s a willingness, there’s an openness to inclusion and to try and understand what that’s about. And I think that that is what sets this work apart.
So, would you say that the approach to inclusion has actually changed over time as Europeans and even Americans have experienced immigration and different types of immigrants coming into their countries? Has the notions of what it means to be inclusive, what it means to be tolerant actually changed as they’ve learned to live alongside different communities?
Well, I think, primarily what we’re arguing, what has changed is the idea of what it means to be democratic in a small D kind of sense and like a liberal Democrat, somebody who believes in democracy. Because it’s not as if the idea of what a democracy is was there in the first place and then we’ve just sort of implemented it. So, it’s, much more complicated than that.
So, the idea of democracy that we’re, in a way, fundamentally exploring, it expands over the years and what our argument is that in this day and age, it also has expanded to encompass the notion that you have an obligation to be inclusive as a majority population towards members of minority groups. And then we’re exploring what that really means in practice in everyday life and questions that citizens have to think about. And so, of course, immigration matters for this development, but it’s also an internal and historical development and then development of ideas that transcends the actual experiences of immigration concretely happening in various countries.
So, I guess the thought that’s on my mind is traditionally Americans have thought of inclusion and including immigrants as being more of a melting pot where people who are immigrants eventually become like us. They adopt not just our values, but our customs and they become more or less indistinguishable from the rest of the population. But you had just brought up the fact that there’s a new sense of inclusion as well, which is a respect for culture that has become very much something that began, I think, probably when I was a child is when we started emphasizing the need to respect cultural diversity on a much wider scale.
But you also mentioned the fact that if you do that and you push that line of thought too far, it segregates those cultures apart from one another. So, I can imagine that the idea, the way that we think about inclusion, both of people in cultures is constantly changing back and forth between the idea of how do we bring them in to be like us. But at the same time, how do we respect who they are? And it sounds like that’s part of the journey, not just of the idea of inclusion, but the journey of what exactly it is to be liberal and what it is to be a democracy at the same time.
So, all of the results are results from studies of, well, almost entirely studies in Western Europe. But in a curious way, it really is a book about America. And it’s not easy to identify for me, to be able to get out what it is that’s distinctive about what we found. But if you think about multiculturalism, that’s the issue on which we can impale ourselves here. And the terms in which it’s put is, ‘Are you for or are you against,’ and what we are saying is that that’s a question, but not a politically instructive question. If we’re going to work our way through this, the issue is on what terms is it okay, is it acceptable, and that is what we, have as our central concern to show.
That, yes, folks are not as ready to go as far as some would like, but that there’s a permissive consensus. There’s a permissive coalition and this really comes out of Elisabeth’s previous work on internal motivation to control prejudice that a larger idea of tolerance is taking hold and openness. And if you can find the terms on which there is already now a willingness to go along, to accept, not to press, but to accept, then you can see pathways forward.
So, in the book, it definitely feels that the reason why Islam poses a real challenge for liberal democracy is because traditional Islamic culture is effectively illiberal. In the book you write, “There are features of traditional Muslim culture— hierarchy, patriarchy, religiosity— that are at odds with the ethos of a liberal democracy; they are not incidental.” But does the immersion in Western culture change those core ideas or beliefs? Does it change the way that they interpret Islam by just living in a Western culture over time?
It’s a large question and the key word in the quote that you referred to, of course, is the word traditional. So, if we were to use that sort of description of all tenets of Islam and all Muslims that would just be a negative stereotype. It would be prejudice. But it’s a matter of fact that hierarchy, patriarchy, and religiosity are components of traditional Muslim culture, traditional Islam, as it is of conservative, traditional Christian culture for that matter. So, in the first empirical chapter of our book, in chapter two, is concerned with what we call demonization of Muslims and Islamophobia. And we find ample examples of both of those, and we put it in the book, both in the writings of far-right activists and party politicians across Europe who are represented in parliaments.
But also, when we asked ordinary citizens in surveys to state their associations with the word Muslim and the view that all Muslims are stuck in the past is a common form of prejudice that we then see. We also find prejudice and other kinds of forms such as Muslim seen as dangerous terrorists without any distinctions that are perceived, like that’s a prejudice, example of demonization and also, we pay a lot of attention to various forms of bad faith, which is also a very pernicious form of prejudice where Muslims are seen as not speaking the truth when they say they want to become part of democratic society. So, all of these sorts of forms of prejudice hinder inclusion, but it’s also important.
Then in chapter two, we demonstrate that though there are also a lot of other ways that people who are not Muslim view Muslims today in Western Europe. But the opposite of prejudice is not to say love or having a very uniform, positive view of all Muslims being people that we want to have as many as possible at in our countries. Instead, it’s to differentiate. To see difference. To see that all Muslims are not the same. Some are traditional. Some are not. Some adapt. Some do not. Some have closer connections to where they came from than to where they have come to. Others have not. And that’s the complicated reality of life. That it’s a very differentiated picture.
And in Europe today a lot of Muslims either have immigrated themselves or have parents who have immigrated. So, they have fairly recent experiences of living in the various Western European societies. Not all, but for the most part. And that has to do with unrest in the Middle East and Europe being the closest safe haven for people who are searching for a place that is safe for their families. So, it’s an extremely complex picture, if we are trying to understand the situation with Muslims in Europe today. And because Europe and the Middle East and North Africa is so closely knit together, it’s a bigger issue in Europe in many ways than it is in the U.S.
We, of course, don’t have any studies that we’ve done on Muslims, but Elisabeth has spent a good deal of time meeting with community leaders, Muslim and non-Muslim. And early in the project, there was an encounter she told me about that stuck in my mind. She went and presented some of our findings and then afterwards, an imam came up and said he had no idea that the larger society saw Muslims not of all being one kind.
That there were Muslims like this and Muslims like that. Muslims that are old and Muslims that are young and forget all of our fancy results that just had an enormous impact on him. Reality matters. And if I were to be in their shoes, it would make a great difference to me to know that there were folks that thought that they could see me. And I never thought I’d do anything that was important, but this part of it I do think is important.
So, what’s keeping people from seeing them for who they are? Is it simply prejudice or is there something else? Because as an American, I mean, my gut says it’s just prejudice.
So, think for a moment that you are a Muslim and new to a country. How do you form your ideas of what it’s like? Well, if you look at what’s happening on the street or for God’s sakes, if you were to make the mistake of reading all the research, then you’d take away this picture of a society that really wants to spit you out. Because evil just attracts a hell of a lot of attention. And it’s real and the intolerance and the prejudice and meanness and the violence and they suck up all the oxygen in the room. And the stereotypes go two ways.
And so, one of the things that matter to Elizabeth and to me is that if someone were to read and be persuaded, they’d see there’s a whole constituency, a big one, that is open to the idea of a different society. One that includes them as well. You know, I guess in some ways, what the book is really about is respect.
And I know that most stuff in political science is about, you know, whether or not folks are willing to vote for a party or support a policy that will help folks with better housing or some training for jobs, but if you’re actually a real person and you’re living your life and you’re going into stores and you’re riding on a bus or your kids are going to school, what matters is that you be treated with respect. That you have a dignity and that, I think, at every point that matters most to us is what the book has wound up being about. It’s an essay on respect as a condition of a liberal democracy.
If I can add to that, that’s also one of the things that has stood out to me. When I’ve done meetings and lectures to Muslim community leaders, some religious, some, secular, is how much it matters to them to see that they are recognized. That a large share of the population see and believe that their way of life is worthy of their respect. And they have no problem understanding that they are not going to want to become like us or admire our culture, but to fundamentally see it as worthy of their respect. Because it matters to them as something that I think maybe those of us who are fortunate enough to not have to worry so much about being respected we take that for granted and we don’t really understand how important it is. But they really understand that.
And so, when writing that chapter, we’ve been really trying to bring that out and have been encouraged by the feedback that we’ve been getting from these communities. That this is something that matters to them even if it may not seem obvious or seems always to those of us who are assured of respect that it is such an important thing.
So, I like how you bring up the idea of respect and the need that marginalized communities or really just anybody in a democracy wants to be respected. That that’s almost a condition to being part of the community. And one of the ways that you examine that is in the idea of how we portray our history. And you found that there was an important difference between the idea of writing a history and rewriting it. Can you help us understand what’s the difference between writing history and rewriting it and what does it say about us when we see a difference between the two?
Well, maybe this is the moment to really talk about our methodology a little bit. I know this may not be of general interest to most readers, but it’s kind of important. So, we do these public opinion surveys in a very special way that Paul Sniderman who’s sitting here with us actually invented and pioneered in the early eighties and that has really taken off as the way to do these kinds of things nowadays. And it’s like controlled randomized trials, when you administer a drug and then you have a placebo and you see if the drug works and the placebo doesn’t, then that’s an effect. So, it’s a little bit like that only not as invasive. We don’t have any drugs. We don’t administer anything like that.
But what we do is we use the power of randomization, which is like magic, because what it does is it assures you that you have full control of what it Is that you see and how what you see came about. And that’s very rare. It doesn’t happen actually in real life. So, to have this kind of power of control over your observation is extremely valuable. And it’s an extraordinary accomplishment of the social sciences that we’ve seen over the years that we’ve found this way of doing it.
And the reason why I wanted to make this methodological point, when you bring up the distinction between to write and rewrite a school textbook, which is the question that we posed, is that we find that inserting these two letters, it’s actually two letters in Norwegian as well and in a number of countries, we find that that makes the difference of having a majority of the population on board embracing a national identity that includes the notion of diversity or not and having a broad majority the way that Paul just talked about in political terms. One that includes people on the right and on the left, et cetera, which is what you want if you want an issue to be a sort of general consensus in society, more or less barring the fringes.
So, we randomize who we ask this question and we ask one ‘Do you think school books should be written to reflect contemporary diversity?’ and the other group ‘Do you think the school textbook should be rewritten?’ Only those two letters are the difference and they make all the difference very powerfully. And then you ask the right question which is why. And we actually spent quite a lot of time and administer a lot more of these kinds of studies to find out what was really going on. And what we’re finding is that the reaction to rewriting school textbooks is not a reaction to diversity as such. So, for many of the Western European countries that we study diversity is a change in ethnic, religious diversity and the extent of it is a change from the past.
And so, in lots of theories of national identity that’s a problem. Identity is a sort of stable thing that you inherit and they come from the past. But what we discover is that most citizens are actually open to this notion that their national identity is constructed. It’s not given from some primordial time by nature or something that has to be maintained and cannot change and all kinds of change is a threat to them and who they are, et cetera. That’s not the reaction that they’re having. They’re accepting that their national identity is constructed. But those who do, and most people do, they accept that diversity is now part of their national identity and that should be reflected in school textbooks in the stories that we tell our children about who we are and what we are now.
And that’s, I must say, really extraordinary. If you think about Europe and European history, that’s an extraordinary finding. So, we’re finding that people are on board with this idea which opens the door we think to inclusion, to real inclusion. But then It’s not inclusion on any terms. So, those who are on board with textbooks reflecting contemporary diversity, we lose, not all of them, but a significant share of them if we ask them to also accept that their school textbooks be rewritten to do exactly the same thing. And what they’re reacting to we found through a whole series of studies are interruptions in the process of construction.
So, as long as the process of constructing the national identity is continuous that you weave together past present future like that example of Sir John stockings that we have. That Sir John had these stockings that were made out of silk and as he mended them, he only had woolen thread and then after he’d mended and mended and mended it the socks were all wool. But they were nevertheless recognized as the same pair of stockings, the same socks. So, how could that be? Well, it’s because the process of change had assured everybody that they were still the same socks even if they’d gone from silk to wool.
And so, this is how we propose that the idea of diversity and a diverse national identity becomes acceptable to the large share of the people. Through having these processes of continuous change that allow you to recognize that what you’re having now is the same thing as you had before even if it’s completely different.
So, Elisabeth brought up methodology and randomized experiments have been around for a good while now. What’s different about what we do is that the process is iterative. So, we started off with this expression of curiosity. The difference between writing and rewriting and, okay, so we see a difference. Why? And we thought we had an idea why and we designed a new experiment to test that. And we’re pretty sure that that confirmed everything. It certainly replicated the results we had before. And then we did it again and we thought we were in pretty good shape. And then we sat down one night and figured out, well, actually there was another way of understanding it. Our results were robust, but they could be explained in a different way.
And so, we did another one and another one and another one. I think it went seven deep there. And we arrived at what we think is a coherent account with a good deal of evidence, but it really is a matter of learning as you go. We certainly didn’t have any idea of what the answer was going to be in this case, because it turned out that we got the right results for the wrong reason for the first three trials. And that is a way of thinking about doing empirical research.
It’s really quite different from the idea that’s practiced now where the idea is you think the whole thing through, you have a theory, and then deduce what your predictions and hypotheses are and that you pre-register and then you gather the empirical study to see if whether or not it will show that everything you thought was right in the first place is right. And this is very much a matter of thinking about research as sequential. You learn something. You take advantage of what you just learned to take another step. You learn what you learned on that step to figure out what the next step is and that was possible only because Elisabeth had created the Norwegian Citizen Panel which is a quite extraordinary innovation in survey research.
And in the simplest terms that means that we could do three studies a year, four now, and we do very focused studies, three to five experiments. So, they don’t take a lot of time and survey research is all about time. But if the book were to be able to have the success that I would hope for it, it would be to show others that this is the kind of research infrastructure that you need and it would transform the world of research opportunities for all kinds of folks out there.
Paul, I definitely felt that the approach that you took did shape the conclusions that you made and the insights that you were able to find. It really struck me how often in the book, it was probably only two or three times, that you said that the results of a survey did not match what you expected going into it. It’s uncommon to find researchers to write into their book that the results of the study do not match their expectations, completely confound them and force them to go back to the drawing board and dig deeper into the subject matter. Typically, like you said, you write out a lit review. You describe what you expect based on other research and it proves what you expected.
It is very deductive. But it was remarkable how quite a few times in the book you were noting how you were surprised at the findings that you came across. What was the most surprising finding that you had through the research that you did for this book?
Oh, Elizabeth, this was my mistake. So, the most pernicious stereotype of Muslims is they have divided loyalties or even that their primary allegiance is to the country that they came from, not the country that they’ve decided now to live in. And then the question would be, well, how do I understand that bad faith, how to overcome it. And we designed a study and an experiment where the idea was there was going to be a public gathering, a newspaper story of a public gathering, and there was going to be a big deal meeting and symbolic declaration of loyalty. We are proud to be Swedes now and we believe in all the values of Sweden. Words to that effect.
And then, of course, for experiments, you have to have a control condition. So, in the control condition, it was that they all got together. They’re going to make a budget. But there’s nothing, no description of what the budget’s for. It was content-free. And then I got an opportunity to give a talk at the University of South Denmark and we didn’t have the results back yet. But I mentioned it as a kind of fun thing we had done. And then two colleagues there said, ‘You just completely got it wrong. That control condition’s not neutral. It’s a story about citizens being active in their community.’ And lo and behold, when we looked at the results they were right. So, that was… that was great. That was fun, because we’d started with this idea about the importance of symbolic politics, of the politics of theater.
And what then Elizabeth and I after chewing on this, decided that actually the real clue there was the potency of Muslims acting as citizens concerned about the affairs of their community, working together with others to try and make the place a little bit better place to live. And so, we then designed these experiments, the asylum seeker experiments, and discovered that just being active in local affairs and community affairs evoked as positive a response as having a job, learning the language of the country, which are the two primary signals of integration previous research had shown and persuaded us that there was something to be said for participatory democracy.
I thought that finding was possibly the most remarkable of the book and it came up time and time again. You’ve got a quote in the book where you write, “Being accepted as a citizen is a matter of behaving like a citizen, not playing a part in political theater, but taking an active part in local community affairs.” I felt like lines like that came out of this finding that you didn’t initially expect. Elisabeth, what does it mean for how we think about citizenship, how we think about even inclusion of others when participatory actions like this evoke such a strong, positive feeling within us?
Well, that’s a difficult question to answer, but I’ll dodge it a little bit. I’ll tell you a story as to how I came to believe also outside of our data and our findings that there is something for real going on here. And that’s actually the other strain that we modeled this asylum seeker experiment on that Paul was just talking about.
So, in Norway at the time, just before we designed this experiment, there was a big discussion about children who’d come with their parents who’d chosen to seek refuge in Norway and then had applied for asylum. And some of them, their applications were rejected, but only after a quite lengthy procedure and after the children had lived for a while in Norway and maybe gone to school and got friends, et cetera. But then their applications were rejected, found that the claim wasn’t right. They didn’t need protection. And then the procedure is that they’re supposed to leave. And there’s a procedure for that as well. But a big campaign started to say, ‘Well, we want these children and their families to be allowed to stay and what I noted in those campaigns is how they portrayed, , the families.
Because these were campaigns that were made to engender sympathy in an extremely difficult position. Because Norway is not immigrant friendly in the sense of we want our borders to be open. Our borders are very closed. So, we accept that we have obligations under human rights, et cetera, to accept asylum applicants and treat them in a proper way that a democracy should. But there is not a welcoming sort of please come to us type of attitude. That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about treating people who have come and become citizens in an inclusive manner. So, here you have a situation where everything’s against you. You’ve gone through the procedure and the legal authorities. That people have big, great trust in it in Scandinavia have found that this was a claim to asylum that wasn’t right.
And so, you’re being deported. And so, how could you generate sympathy for, you know, getting to stay regardless? And what was noticeable in that campaign and all the reporting about it was, of course they noted that they had learned the language, that they had friends and attachments, et cetera, but really how much they emphasized that, you know, it’d been the coach of the soccer team, had done dinners for the community center, had participated in school as a parental board type of activities, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
So, I was like this is fascinating that they’re, you know, it’s not based on any science or anything, but they have this sense that by emphasizing that these people have done that that’s going to open our eyes to see them more as fellow human beings, rather than somebody who we should be sending out of our country and who is a different outgroup type of thing.
And so, of course, the jury is still out on whether this is especially strong as a finding in Scandinavia, because there is a lot of emphasis in Scandinavian societies on civic participation, local community organization, et cetera, or whether it’s a worldwide phenomenon in democracy. But even still, even if I’d seen this, I was still surprised to see that the, reaction is as strong as if you’d learn the language or that you had gotten a job which really are the two sort of big, big markers as we said.
So, the idea of inclusion though we’re finding that it’s not really about whether or not somebody is Muslim, whether or not they’re from another country at the end of the day, it’s wrapped up into what we think their ideas are really about. And it’s a problem that we see in the United States with the significant polarization that we’re dealing with where people on the left that talk about inclusion oftentimes have a hard time actually including people who they vehemently disagree with on the right.
And so, the whole conversation about Muslims in a lot of ways is wrapped up into our stereotypes that they have traditional values that conflict with their liberal values, but we can take the whole identity of Muslim away from that and simply just say, ‘Are people who have liberal values willing to be tolerant of people who have illiberal values?’ I mean, whether they’re Muslim, whether they’re people who are born in your country, whether there are people that look just like you. So, tell me a little bit about how does the idea of inclusion change when we’re dealing with people that disagree with us? How does that affect how we think about inclusion when we know that we disagree with what the people are standing for?
That’s an excellent question. The really big contribution that, if we were to name one contribution that this book makes, it’s to take those citizens who believe in what we call inclusive tolerance, those who favor inclusion broadly speaking, to take them seriously and to say, ‘Okay, you say that that’s a value of yours. What does that mean to you? How far are you willing to go?’ So, we’re saying the people who are plainly intolerant, who favor exclusion, people that typically vote for the far right in Europe, they’re not actually so interesting. They can cause a lot of havoc, so don’t get me wrong. I mean, it’s a big issue still. But politically in terms of the issues that we’re discussing, they’re not so interesting because we know what they will want. They will want Muslims out and et cetera.
So, all the, let’s say, play politically in a democracy are with those who take seriously their obligation to be inclusive. So, then we’re asking, okay, but if you really care about it then probably it matters to you what inclusion asks of you. If you are just saying yes, yes, yes or you’d be like my uncle at a dinner party who doesn’t really listen to me. He just says yes to whatever I say so that I’ll stop talking. Right? So, they’re not like that and that’s fascinating. So, we’re finding that people who favor inclusion will draw these lines. And every one of these lines that we discover are new, hadn’t been found before, because really very few people had stopped to think, ‘What do those who favor inclusion care about?’
It’s mainly been a question of what drives intolerance and the sort of concerns of the intolerant. And it was kind of midway into the project until we realized how kind of new and original all this stuff that we were doing were. Because the indicators that we were used to looking at didn’t predict the differences that we were seeing. And so, we’re trying to figure out what’s really going on here. And so with that we discover, you know, that a lot of people are willing to go further than is usually recognized, but maybe not as far as many would like. And we don’t make any pronouncements on what’s the right way to think. Our concern is with what do people think. What are the people that without anybody changing their minds what’s possible.
And a lot of what we find maybe then describe as a kind of good news or positive or, you know, a path towards inclusion that we identify in. And that’s an important point, but we find one major cause of concern. And that’s what we see in this public rally experiment and several other places as well. But this is what happens when situations are such that those who really believe in the whole family of liberal democratic values are put in a squeeze. And a particularly very tough one, so that they’re forced to choose between upholding the fundamental rights of Muslim minorities to assembly, to speech, to religion, et cetera, and their commitment to other things like gender equality, gay rights, or let’s say religious pluralism.
And the public rally experiment shows what happens if you really force those values into conflict. So, in that case it’s whether you uphold Muslims’ right to hold a rally even if they’re going to preach traditional Islamic views about women’s roles in Islam. And then we see in this kind of a situation, but not in all the other situations, but in this particular kind of situation where the conflict is between these liberal values of gender equality and religious freedom, minority rights is really forced. We see that those who care about tolerance and minorities behave exactly like the intolerant. So, there’s a massive failure of upholding the rights of Muslim minorities. And that should be really sort of a big cause for concern for all of us.
So, there’s obviously a challenge to just overcome prejudices and discrimination of Muslims for simply being Muslim. But the real challenge comes in when there are people who fundamentally do disagree with you and that extends beyond just Muslims. I mean, in the United States it could just be fundamentalist Christians who maybe disagree with people who have much more leftist, liberal values. It could be just people who fundamentally disagree with you for a whole host of different reasons in a liberal democracy. Then is it necessary for citizens to show tolerance for those who are intolerant?
I think what we contribute to this debate, we write about a special distinction between two forms of respect and it’s really something that philosophers were concerned about in the seventies, but that’s sort of escaped our attention both as researchers, but maybe also as politicians and people who think about the principles underpinning said policies. And that’s the distinction between recognition respect and appraisal respect is what it’s called in philosophy. What it really means is a difference between taking something and an idea seriously, because it matters to somebody else and therefore respecting it which is recognition respect as opposed to appraisal respect which is to admire or be persuaded by or say that you hold in great esteem a certain idea even when you don’t. And I think maybe that distinction is very fundamental to trying to think about these issues.
And I think when it’s put in a context of a minority like Muslims who in addition in Europe these days a lot have immigrant backgrounds, so in a very difficult position in society, not a powerful position at all, helps us see this. How you have to have recognition respect. You can’t just say I hate everything about Islam, Islam is horrible, when there’s a person in front of you for whom this is their religion. That’s not right. And the good news is that a lot of people just don’t think that’s right, but at the same time, you have to allow for people, I don’t know, to be Christians or Jewish or whatever it is. And to really sincerely believe that their way is right.
And how do you square that circle? How do you live together peacefully, resolve conflicts, et cetera, when that’s the case? Well, there are things. This distinction between recognition respect and appraisal respect really speaks to that issue. And I really hope people will read and think about and think about what it means for this precise debate and these wider sort of notions that are going on in society these days.
Well, Paul and Elisabeth, thank you so much for joining me today. I really did enjoy your book. I thought it was so well written. So, many ideas and I’ll be honest, so much research and work went into this. It’s just so evident when you read through the book how much time and care that you put into the studies. So, thank you so much for doing all of that work and thank you so much for writing the book.
Thank you, Justin. Thank you for having us.
The Struggle for Inclusion: Muslim Minorities and the Democratic Ethos by Elisabeth Ivarsflaten and Paul Sniderman
Learn more about Paul Sniderman
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