This is a very thoroughly researched book that, the author states, emerged out of two contradictory observations she made about contemporary Western European politics: not only was ethnic politics still prevalent in Europe, but modern, progressive parties often pursued voters with such premodern ties. Since this political contradiction became most prevalent in contemporary Europe within the context of Islam, the author decided to empirically approach the contradiction through the dilemmas of Muslim inclusion, concentrating specifically on the analytical models for four specific European countries with significant Muslim populations: Austria (7 percent), Germany (5 percent), Great Britain (4.6 percent), and Belgium (6 percent). It is important to note at this juncture that even though the author discusses France and the Netherlands, which have Muslim populations of 9.6 and 5.5 percent, respectively, in the text, she does not include them in the statistical analysis that comprises the core of the book. The author justifies her country selection by pointing out that she did so “based on the potential importance of the Muslim vote…[with either] permissive or restrictive citizenship regimes and local electoral institutions” (11). This case selection may adversely impact the generalizability of her conclusions to Europe at large. The main argument of the book is that the incorporation of Muslim candidates into European parties is driven primarily by votes, not ideology. Hence, parties do not practice the loftier ideologies of equality and nondiscrimination that they preach. Their decision-making is strictly based on vote calculations, leading to one of three decisions: exclusion, symbolic inclusion, or voter-based inclusion. If the vote gains from including Muslim voters are below possible losses, then parties “exclude.” If the vote gains from including Muslim voters are neutral, that is, they do not impact possible losses significantly, then parties engage in “symbolic inclusion” by selecting a small number of high-profile minority candidates that appeal to the entire party’s voter base and party platform. If the vote gains from including Muslim voters grow rapidly, turning the Muslim minority into a pivotal electoral player, then parties practice “voter-based inclusion,” selecting minority candidates that appeal primarily to the minority electorate rather than to the voter base at large. This main finding of the book challenges earlier connections made between ideological fit and electoral incentives on the one hand, and the alienation of Muslims from mainstream political institutions on the other. It shows that in deciding where Muslims ought to be in the European body politic, they capitalize on where the Muslims actually are, thus acting on political pragmatism alone, in line with their own political interests rather than the interests of the minority or society at large. The book also develops a much more nuanced understanding of the dynamics of minority electoral inclusion, discussing how proportion of possible voter gain leads to decisions of exclusion, symbolic inclusion, or voter-based inclusion. The chapters of the book reflect the structure of the main argument: the introduction is followed by two chapters, a conceptual one on the definition and explanation of inclusion, and a historical one on the social geography of Muslim migration to Europe and ensuing political preferences. The latter was the most interesting chapter in the book for this reviewer because it was the only one that provided information about the Muslim voters in Europe rather than the majority parties’ decisions regarding Muslim voters. This is significant because there is a lot of literature focused on European parties, but much less on Muslims in Europe as voters. The ensuing three empirical chapters based on sophisticated statistical analysis articulate the main components of the author’s argument. The first empirical chapter on ideology, electoral incentives, and inclusion outcomes across countries is followed by the second empirical chapter, which concentrates on the most progressive political decision of vote-based inclusion and the ensuing transformation in party politics. The third empirical chapter discusses the much-debated topic of gender parity versus religious parity to demonstrate that both “sharpen multicultural dilemmas of recognition on the ground” (169). The book concludes with a sobering discussion of how the electoral incorporation of the Muslim minority into the European body politic may end up not fostering, but rather inhibiting, the acceptance and assimilation of Muslims into Europe. This book is a most welcome addition to the social science literature on contemporary European politics specifically, and minority political representation in electoral politics generally. In terms of political responsibility, it aptly shifts the blame away from European Muslims. Until now, European Muslims have been blamed for their non-inclusion in the European body politic; they have been accused of not participating in European politics, or of doing so irrationally. It appears, according to this book, that the responsibility instead lies mainly on the shoulders of the European political parties. They decide what range of agency Muslim voters can have, based on their parties’ own self-interested assessment of what particular action would bring in the most votes. This reviewer recommends the author to next tackle the larger societal context beyond the political confines of electoral politics within which European Muslims live. At the moment, European media fiercely underscores how European Muslims in general and Syrian refugees in particular have been continuously and systematically flooding, undermining, and destroying the European political system. In doing so, the media attributes an agency to European Muslims that does not correspond to reality. After all, the proportion of Muslims in all European countries put together is still at most in the single digits; that is, Muslims do not demographically comprise a significant proportion of the European body politic at all. The Muslim presence is grossly overexaggerated. Indeed, the 2016 Ipsos MORI survey measuring the gap between public perception and reality found that members of the European public greatly overestimate their country’s Muslim population. Especially French, German, Italian, and Belgian respondents guessed that more than 20 percent of their population was Muslim, when the true percentage was only in the single digits (Duncan 2016). What lies behind this gross misperception and exaggeration may enable the author to take the next step: identifying why European parties put, time and time again, their own political interests before the collective vision of Europe or the peaceful humanitarian future of the world at large. Reference Duncan , Pamela . 2016 . “Europeans Greatly Overestimate Muslim Population, Poll Shows.” The Guardian, December 13. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Social Forces – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 2, 2018
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