Last updated at 4:04 PM on 6th January 2011
Islam is considered a 'threat' by millions of French and Germans, with the vast majority believing Muslims have 'not integrated properly', a devastating new poll revealed today.
Le Monde newspaper ran the results under a headline which brands efforts to get different religious and cultural communities to live side-by-side as a 'failure'.
It will be viewed with particular dismay in France and Germany, as the two countries have the biggest Muslim communities in Europe.
German Chancellor Merkel said her country's cultural integration had failed, while in France Sarkozy's government has displayed an increasing hard line towards religious extremism, recently banning Islamic veils
Last year German Chancellor Angela Merkel conceded that her country's multicultural society had 'completely failed', while French President Nicolas Sarkozy has also frequently complained about the growing influence of radical Islam.
Britain also has a sizeable Muslim presence, with members often complaining of discrimination and prejudice.
'Islam and integration: French and Germans admit failure,' writes Le Monde, the most famous newspaper in Paris.
According to its poll carried out with marketing firm IFOP 68 per cent of French and 75 per cent of Germans believe Muslims are 'not well integrated into society'.
Others â€“ 55 per cent in France and 49 per cent in Germany â€“ believe that the 'influence and visibility of Islam' is 'too large', while 60 per cent in both countries say the reason for the problem was Muslims' own 'refusal' to integrate.
42 per cent of French and 40 per cent of Germans consider the presence of Islamic communities 'a threat' to their national identities. Here a student in a headscarf studies in a university library in Germany
Just as crucially, 42 per cent of French and 40 per cent of Germans consider the presence of Islamic communities 'a threat' to their national identities.
An editorial in Le Monde adds: 'As Islam becomes a permanent and increasingly conspicuous fixture of European societies, public opinion is clearly tensing up, though disparities do appear between young and old and between left- and right-wing.'
Jerome Fourquet, of IFOP, said the results 'go beyond linking immigration with security or immigration with unemployment, to linking Islam with a threat to identity'.
Mr Fourquet said he would like to extend the research to countries like the UK, where he believed the results would be pretty much the same.
The threat of terrorism has increasingly been linked with Muslim communities in all European countries, including Britain, since the 9/11 attacks on the USA in 2001 and the 7/7 atrocities in central London in 2005.
In France, Mr Sarkozy's government has displayed an increasing hard line towards religious extremism, recently banning Islamic veils.
Meanwhile, Mr Sarkozy has courted the voters of hard-right parties like the National Front as he tries to reassert traditional values.
Two Muslim women wearing niqab in northern France. Sarkozy's government recently banned Islamic veils and Sarkozy has courted the voters of hard-right parties as he tries to reassert traditional values
Following the publication of the new poll, French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said it was important not to confuse moderate Muslims with radical or fundamentalist parties.
She said: 'I believe that we are not afraid of the person we know, the concern is about Muslims in general. We are not afraid of our neighbour across the hall.
'The trap set by Al-Qaeda was to push us towards a general confrontation, towards a war between the Muslim and Western worlds. We must watch out for anything that goes in that direction. We must not confuse Islam and terrorism.'
France is a secular society, but the vast majority of its inhabitants are Roman Catholics. No official figures are available, but the country is estimated to be home to around six million Muslims, many from its former North African colonies.
German federal authorities estimate their own Muslim population to be around 4.5 million, many of them Turks who emigrated in the 1960s.
The Le Monde/IFOP poll saw 1600 adults â€“ 800 in France and 800 in Germany â€“ interviewed about Muslim integration during one day last month.
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