Most non-Muslims in Western Europe favour restrictions on Muslim women’s clothing

Muslim women at a protest in Denmark

Most non-Muslim adults in Western Europe favour at least some restrictions on the religious clothing of Muslim women who live in their country, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey of 15 countries.

The prevailing view (and average of 50% across the countries) is that Muslim women should be allowed to wear religious clothing as long as it does not cover their face.

Fewer (23%) say Muslim women should not be allowed to wear any religious clothing.

And 25% says that Muslim women should be allowed to wear any religious clothing they choose.

In the United Kingdom, 53% of non-Muslim adults say Muslim women in the UK should be allowed to wear religious clothing as long as it does not cover their face, while 19% favour restricting all religious clothing. Roughly a quarter (27%) support allowing Muslim women to wear the religious clothing of their choosing.

Overall, most people in Western Europe say they accept religious minorities – Muslims included. For example, an average of 66% of non-Muslim adults in the region say they would accept a Muslim as a member of their family, according to a separate question in the recent survey.

Yet even among non-Muslims with positive feelings about Muslims, large shares in most countries still favour banning face coverings.

Among those who say they would be willing to accept a Muslim in their family, an average of 55% support banning facial coverings, and this includes majorities in Germany, the United Kingdom, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

This is not the case in every country, however. For example, about six-in-ten Portuguese adults with these positive feelings about Muslims favour no restrictions on religious clothing.

Among Western Europeans who say they would be unwilling to accept a Muslim in their family, there is relatively significant support for banning all religious clothing.

For example, in France, 43% of those who would not want Muslims as relatives support a total ban, compared with only 16% among those who are willing to accept Muslims in their families.

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