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How the number of Muslims in Germany is way lower than people think

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How the number of Muslims in Germany is way lower than people think
Inside the Sehitlik mosque in Berlin. Photo: DPA.
17:06 CET+01:00
New figures show that the number of people who identify as Muslim in Germany has grown - though not nearly by as much as Germans think.

A report by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) released by the Interior Ministry on Wednesday shows that as of the end of 2015, between 4.4 million and 4.7 million Muslims live in Germany.

Within a total German population of about 81.4 million people, that means between 5.4 and 5.7 percent of the people living in Germany practice Islam. And it’s an increase of about 1.2 million people since the last census in 2011.

The report attributes the growth to the large number of immigrants who came to the country last year, including the record number of nearly 900,000 refugees, many coming from predominantly Muslim countries.

“The task of integration is more urgent, as is a debate about it and shaping culture in Germany,” said Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière in a statement about the report.

And while the number of Muslim residents has risen, it has not done so at quite the dramatic rate that Germans believe, according to a separate report. A survey by market research firm Ipsos on Wednesday revealed that respondents generally thought that Muslims made up as much as 21 percent of the population - roughly 16 percentage points higher than the reality.

So according to Germans’ calculations, that would mean Germany would have more than 17 million Muslim residents - nearly four times the actual number.

The survey respondents also believed that in the next four years, the Muslim population would grow to be as high as nearly one-third of the total population, or more than 25 million. The actual prediction of experts is less than 7 percent.

And compared to other countries surveyed, Germans’ perceptions of their country’s Muslim population were some of the worst. Only France, South Africa, the Philippines and Italy were more off base than the Germans in estimating how many of their fellow countrymen were Muslim.

Record year for immigration - and emigration

The BAMF report also showed that between 2014 and 2015, about 2.14 million people moved to Germany, including many asylum seekers, as well as EU citizens and Germans who had been living in another country. This was an increase of about 46 percent over 2014 and a record since the country started keeping statistics in 1950.

During the same time, the number of people who left the country also increased, reaching about 1 million - also a new record - or an increase of about 9 percent over 2014.

The overwhelming majority of those who both left or moved into the country were not German citizens.

About 57 percent of those who immigrated into Germany were from another European country, and about 6 percent were German.

Syrians made up the largest group of immigrants at 15.3 percent of the total, followed by Romanians (10 percent) and Polish immigrants (9.2 percent).

More than 32,000 US citizens immigrated to Germany last year.

The reasons that people from non-EU countries had for immigrating were diverse as well, from humanitarian reasons, to family reasons, to studying. Of those who moved to Germany for work, the largest group was from the United States, followed by India, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.

“It is worth it to look at it closely: migration is not only about asylum,” said de Maizière.

“In order to have a serious discussion, it’s necessary to differentiate between immigrant groups, their diverse motivations and their backgrounds.”

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