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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Muslim Immigration in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany

After the Second World War, the nations of Europe were reeling from the devastation. Cities were destroyed and entire work forces had been lost in battle. Out of necessity, countries like the United Kingdom, France, and Germany had to open their doors to immigration in order to rebuild their nations and economies.  Each of these three nations had a history of colonialism and international ties to call on for help.  Ambitious men and women from all over the world were able to find new opportunities in these countries. Among them, Muslims from around the world. Islamic culture does not always mesh well with Western Culture, but for the most part Muslim immigrants are able to find a stable but sometimes tense existence in their new homes. In the 21st century, this stability is tested even further as millions of refugees flee the Middle East, especially Syria, looking for refuge in Europe.

This paper will compare and contrast Muslim immigration experiences in The United Kingdom, France, and Germany. All three European countries share similar and interconnected histories, economic development, and forms of government. It is because of there similarities that I will use a Most Similar Systems Design (MSSD) to analyze find differences in their approaches to immigration.

In the 18th Century, As the British empire filled the world, it began to recruit labor from these countries to meet the demand of expansion. The East India Trading Company began recruiting Muslim’s from India in the 1700s (MEND 2017).  Soon, ambitious persons from all over the empire began to follow the trade routes back to the home island. Many new communities began to form, Muslim included. Britain drew on the multi-national resources to fight in both World Wars.

After the Second World War, Britain threw open the gates to its Commonwealth Nations. Anyone from the Commonwealth could come back the England. This measure was so successful that it had to be dialed back by the Commonwealth Immigration Act of 1968 which limited Commonwealth Immigration to those who had a parent or Grandparent born in England.

Assimilation of immigrants has always been difficult in the United Kingdom. As before mentioned, as immigrants came in the formed their own communities. This was out of a preference to preserve their traditions and because they were forced to. Native-born English accepted that their expanding nation needed immigrants but tolerated them as long as stayed out of the way. This division persists today. In a 2022 survey by the university of Birmingham, 25.9% of Britons feel negatively toward Muslim Immigrants and 18.1% support banning Muslim immigration all together (Arab News 2022).

France, like Britain, brought in Muslim immigrants through its colonization. Most notably through Napoleons campaigns in Northern Africa. Napoleon, under the thin veil of spreading French Republicanism to Continental Europe and brought him to Egypt and neighboring countries in 1798. With France demolished after the second world. France turned to these North African countries to rebuild their labor force. Principally Algeria, a state that is in almost uniformly Muslim.

In France’s evolution to become the republic it is today, it learned to value rational, secular thought over religious traditions and paradigms of the past. This can often be at odds with a Muslim community that is known around the world for its outward religious practices. While France does have a Freedom of Religion in its constitution (Constitute Project 2022) a culture of irreligiosity still exists in France.  In 2004, the French government passed “The Veil Law” which prohibits wearing religious symbols in public schools. While the laws vague wording that “ostentatious religious symbols” were meant to include all religions, it was plain to many that this law was directed at the Muslim community. Practicing Muslim women will wear hijabs (head scarves) and burkas (full body coverings) as part of their worship.  To the supporters of the law, they only see that they are continuing in the French tradition of keep church and state separate and placing a priority of secular learning over the non-secular. To people against the law, it as seen as a tool of the government to repress a minority. Muslims in France do not see that their religion needs to be at odds with French traditions. They believe that a practicing Muslim can be a good citizen of the French republic.  (Washington University 2018)

German’s history is unique, but still shared Britain’s and France’s need for labor after the Second World War. Its strong national identity was established under the Kingdom of Prussia and solidified under the actions of Otto Von Bismarck in the late 19th century. Its actions in early 20th century will not be covered here, but it was not welcoming to foreigners. Nevertheless, it after the desolation of so much war, it was in need the same need to rebuild as the United Kingdom and France. Germany was eager to prove that it had changed and invited workers from neighboring countries to work in Germany on temporary visas. In the 1950s the German economy was flourishing, and the guest workers stayed.  In the 1980s, Germany has a very liberal asylum policy, and many people came to the prosperous country. All who did were allowed the stay in Germany, on government welfare, as their cases were processed. This caused tension in the German public because asylum seekers were seen as drains on state resources. (Roskin 2016 pg. 177)

This writer as the great benefit of knowing a native-born German who lived in outside Frankfurt in the 1980s and shared his perspective with me.

We had a lot of Turks migrating to German in the 80s. The cultural differences were big at the beginning, but from all the Muslims… German national pride was almost extinguished after WW2, so not being German was not an issue as much as it is in France… Most today are already 2nd or 3rd generation, so very well integrated. Then came the next phase of Syrians and now the Turks complained!

From my friend’s perspective, I learned that German’s are eager to welcome immigrants as long as they are perceive as contributing instead of taking from the system.

All three countries have had similar histories with immigration. In the almost 80 years since the Second World War, their willingness to accept immigrants have ebbed and flowed based on economic and security needs. The all have similar population sizes and representative governments. The success of incorporating Muslim immigrants into their respective societies is based more on The United Kingdoms, France’s, and Germany’s respective cultural history than anything else. The United Kingdom is welcoming, but as long as immigrants keep to themselves.  This comes from their history of importing labor forces from around the world. France is welcoming, but as long as you accept their republican principles. This comes form their history of pride in their ideals and their eagerness to share them. Germany culture is unique in that it had to rebuilt after the Second World War but is welcoming to immigrants as long they contribute instead of consume.

In conclusion, each nation has its tradeoffs. The British Government need to do more to tear down barriers between groups of peoples. The French need to be better about respecting religious beliefs in public spaces. Ultimately, I would pick the German model, with its strict public pressure to assimilate to German standards of productivity. The only thing the German government would need to change is allowing more immigrants in.


-Muslim Engagement and Development. MEND (2017) When did Muslims come to the UK, where from and why?

-The Arab News (January 2022) Muslims second ‘least-liked’ group in UK: Survey

-The Constitute Project (2022) The French Constitution of 1958

– Washington University (2018) Islam, Immigration, and What It Means to Be French

-Countries and Concepts 13 Edition(2016) Michael Roskin

-A text conversation with my friend, Adrijan Ribaric (2022)









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