Integrating Immigrant Religions in Comparative Perspective
Augustana College and University of Trento
As the debates over multiculturalism in recent years have made clear, religion has loomed large as a factor in the challenge of achieving national unity while simultaneously preserving diversity. Compared to language, for example, it is far more likely to be a source of contestation at present, aside from unique cases such as Belgium. However, as Rogers Brubaker has recently argued, religious pluralism in liberal democracies is robust. At the same time, religion—especially Islam—is often seen as an impediment to integration. Raising this issue in comparative terms, Richard Alba and Nancy Foner have argued that in North America, religion tends to be a bridge to inclusion, whereas in Western Europe it is a barrier, whereas Christian Joppke and John Torpey have argued that when focusing on legal and institutional factors, trans-Atlantic differences are not particularly pronounced. This paper critically examines the work of these scholars and others who have offered to date the most sustained attempts to address the topic of religion and immigrant integration, attempting in the process to build on this work in order to distil a revised comparative framework that offers enhanced analytic precision.