Comparative European Politics

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 885–909 | Cite as

Examining the causes of government-based discrimination against religious minorities in western democracies: societal-level discrimination and securitization

  • Jonathan FoxEmail author
  • Roger Finke
  • Marie Ann Eisenstein
Original Article


This study examines the causes of government-based religious discrimination (GRD) against religious minorities in Western democracies. We focus on two causes. First securitization theory posits minorities which are perceived as security threats are more likely to attract GRD. Second, many posit that GRD has its origin in societal discrimination (SRD) and prejudices. We test these theories using new data from the Religion and State-Minorities round 3 dataset (RASM3) which includes 116 religious minorities in 26 Western democracies. Our findings support securitization theory’s predictions, but this result pertains mostly to Muslims because they constitute most minorities in Western Democracies which engage in violence against the majority religion, thereby posing a security threat. Similarly, the theorized relationship between SRD and GRD holds only for Muslim minorities which we posit is due to their securitization.


Religious discrimination Western democracies Securitization Religious minorities Islam 



This research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (Grant 23/14), The German-Israel Foundation (Grant 1291-119.4/2015) and the John Templeton Foundation. Any opinions expressed in this study are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the supporters of this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan Fox
    • 1
    Email author
  • Roger Finke
    • 2
  • Marie Ann Eisenstein
    • 3
  1. 1.Bar Ilan UniversityRamat GanIsrael
  2. 2.Penn State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  3. 3.Indiana University NorthwestGaryUSA

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