In line with the introduction of burqa bans in many European countries over recent years, a survey from the Pew Research Center of fifteen European countries has shown that “Most non-Muslim adults in Western Europe favor at least some restrictions on the religious clothing of Muslim women who live in their country”.
To break down this statement, the prevailing view, with a regional median of 50%, is that Muslim women should be allowed to wear religious clothing providing it does not cover their face. A regional median of 23% say that Muslim women should not be allowed to wear any religious clothing at all. Meanwhile, a regional medium of 25% think that Muslim women should be allowed to wear any religious clothing they choose.
In the United Kingdom, for example, this translates into 53% of non-Muslim adults who think that Muslim women in the UK should be allowed to wear religious clothing as long as it does not cover their face, 19% who do not think they should be allowed to wear any religious clothing at all, and 27% who think Muslim women should be allowed to wear whatever they want.
Most people in Western Europe say they accept religious minorities, including Muslims. 66% of non-Muslim adults in the region say they would accept a Muslim as a member of their family according to the survey.
However, even among those non-Muslims who have positive feelings about Muslims, large shares still favor banning them from wearing face coverings. Among the 66% who would accept a Muslim as a member of their family, a medium of 55% support banning facial coverings. This includes majorities in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Austria. However, around six-out-of-ten Portuguese adults with positive feelings about Muslims favor no restrictions on religious clothing, so the above is not true for every country.
Among Western Europeans who say they would not be willing to accept a Muslim as a member of their family, there is relatively significant support for banning all religious clothing; 43% of those who would not want Muslims as relatives in France support a total ban, whereas only 16% of those who would welcome a Muslim as a member of their family do.
Salazar, A.M. and Gardner, S. (2018) ‘Most Western Europeans favor at least some restrictions on Muslim women’s religious clothing’. [online] 17 September. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/17/most-western-europeans-favor-at-least-some-restrictions-on-muslim-womens-religious-clothing/. [Accessed 3 October 2018].