By student contributor Andrew Elliott
Rafaela Dancygier, an assistant professor of politics at Princeton University, has been exploring domestic consequences of international immigration, the political incorporation and electoral representation of immigrant-origin minorities, and the determinants of ethnic conflict. On April 11, she spoke on Religious Parity in regards to Muslim Political Representation in Europe for the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES) at the Elliott School of International Affairs, describing her research on the inclusion of ethno-religious minorities in European political parties, particularly Muslims.
She began by describing the typical consequences of including ethno-religious minorities in the European political sphere, concluding that parties usually include Muslims when the immigrant population has sufficiently assimilated and has adopted liberal values or when Muslim groups can deliver pivotal votes. She noted that recently, parties are focusing on attaining the votes of Muslims residing in dense, urban areas to boost the likelihood of a successful election. “The Muslim vote”, according to Dancygier, is a reference that is used similar to the way that “an African-American vote” or “a female vote” exists in the United States today.
The Muslim bloc, now a sizable minority in many European countries, has become a prized possession for both leftist and rightist parties. The easiest way for these parties to garner this generalized vote, is by placing Muslim figures on municipal election ballots. Interestingly enough, recently, an increasing number of Muslim females have made their way onto ballots.
While there has been a rise of Muslim females in domestic politics in Europe, men have long been and still are the preferred choice as political parties consider Muslim men better able to win over the rest of the community based on a “who knows who” platform. And although the rising number of Muslim females involved appears optimistic for gender equality, many female Muslims have been seen on rightist ballots, a method used by parties to preserve traditional, conservative values, and thus does not necessarily signal greater gender equality. According to Dancygier, this situation is comparable to that of Sarah Palin and the GOP in the U.S.
Dancygier examined religious and gender parity in four European nations: the U.K., Austria, Belgium, and Germany. She found that most attacks against immigrant communities have been increasingly under the pretext of how these ethno-religious minorities are perceived to treat women in their communities.
Dancygier’s research is innovative and relevant to the present political scene in Europe, especially surrounding the rise of right-wing anti-immigration policies in many liberal nations throughout Europe. She hopes that women will run for political office on their free will, and that ethno-religious minorities can vote based on candidate of choice and will not be pressured to vote for candidates within their community, religious bloc, or gender.
Andrew Elliott is an Elliott School undergraduate student majoring in international affairs with concentrations in international development and a regional concentration in Asia. With interests in Southeast Asia and urban planning, he aspires to someday work and conduct research in these regions.