The Organization of Religious Diversity in the Military


Theoretical background and objectives

The increased and sustained presence of Muslim immigrants has led states and governments in Europe and elsewhere to re-negotiate the accommodation of religious minorities. Many of these processes of negotiation of cultural and religious rights have taken place in public institutions but only some of these institutions such as schools have received broad public and political as well as scientific attention. The current research project tries to broaden this perspective by directing attention to the military as a public institution that has not only a special relationship with the state and the nation, but also fulfils a very specific task and constitutes a "total institution" (Goffman 1961).

The central research question addressed by this project is how to explain differences but also commonalities in the ways military services across Europe and the United States accommodate religious minorities? The existing literature on Muslim accommodation mainly suggests two lines of argumentation: 1) country-specific opportunity structures shaped by national configurations of citizenship and immigrant integration or by national forms of religious governance are decisive for differences in minority accommodation, 2) minority-specific forms of accommodation that are determined by each minority's capacity to mobilise explain differences in accommodation. The current project seeks to add a third theoretical approach arguing that institution-specific opportunity structures are decisive factors for different forms of accommodation (cf. Michalowski 2015 in RSS).

The objective of this research is to first of all deliver a descriptive analysis of the accommodation of religious minorities in the military services of five European countries and the US. The descriptive analysis also includes typical conflicts that arise with the inclusion of Islam as well as the solutions proposed by the different armed forces. In a second step, the project formulates hypotheses about how to explain the different types of accommo­dation. Special emphasis will be placed on the discussion of the different levels of influence: national models and ideological precepts of state-religion relationship, organization-specific arguments and finally the collective action of individual actors on the ground.

Research design, data and methodology

Given the fact that access to military data is limited by nature, the project recurs to expert interviews carried out in all countries of comparison. The data collected through these expert interviews relates first of all to the organisation of the military chaplaincy, the position of the established (Christian) churches and the chances for newcomers to send chaplains to the military. Second, it focuses on individual religious rights that are granted to soldiers such as religious apparel, religious dietary restrictions, time to pray and religious holidays. Third, the interviews focus on conflicts that arise with regard to the accommodation of religion and religious minorities in the respective national military services as well as on ways to resolve these conflicts.

Main content

Selected Publications

Michalowski, Ines (2015): "What Is at Stake When Muslims Join the Ranks? An International Comparison". In: Religion, State & Society, Vol. 43, No. 1, Special Section "Muslim Military Chaplaincy", S. 41-58.
Michalowski, Ines (2014): What is at Stake in Military Chaplaincy When Muslims Join the Ranks? An International Comparison. EUI Working Paper RSCAS 2014/126. San Domenico di Fiesole: Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS) at the European University Institute (EUI).
Eulriet, Irène/Michalowski, Ines (2012): "Postface. Egalité, diversité et citoyenneté dans les armées". In: Anaïs Reding/Matt Bassford/Claire Celia/Kristin Weed/Emmanuel Hassan (Eds.): La gestion de la diversité ethnique dans les armées. Le cas du Royaume-Uni, des États-Unis, de la Belgique et des Pays-Bas. Cahiers de l'IRSEM, No. 17. Paris: Institut de Recherche Stratégique de l'Ecole Militaire (IRSEM), S. 49-55.
Eulriet, Irène/Michalowski, Ines (2012): "Préface. Armées, minorités ethniques et régimes de citoyenneté". In: Anaïs Reding/Matt Bassford/Claire Celia/Kristin Weed/Emmanuel Hassan (Eds.): La gestion de la diversité ethnique dans les armées. Le cas du Royaume-Uni, des États-Unis, de la Belgique et des Pays-Bas. Cahiers de l'IRSEM, No. 17. Paris: Institut de Recherche Stratégique de l'Ecole Militaire (IRSEM), S. 9-13.
Michalowski, Ines (2015): "Auf dem Weg der Integration. Muslimische Militärseelsorge – ein internationaler Vergleich". In: WZB-Mitteilungen, H. 147, S. 17-21.
Michalowski, Ines (2012): "Der Umgang mit religiöser Diversität im Militär. Deutschland und die USA im Vergleich". In: Gerhard Kümmel (Hg.): Die Truppe wird bunter. Streitkräfte und Minderheiten. Militär und Sozialwissenschaften, Bd. 47. Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, S. 111-124.
Michalowski, Ines (2009): "Religiöse Diversität im Militär. Ein deutsch-amerikanischer Vergleich". In: Peter Massing (Hg.): Gender und Diversity. Politische Bildung, Jg. 42, H. 4. Schwalbach i.T.: Wochenschau-Verlag, S. 62-75.
Other Output / Presentations

“Levels of Analysis in Research on Religion in Public Institutions”, Panel Studying Religions in Public Institutions, International Association for the History of Religions, Erfurt, August 24, 2015.

“What is at Stake in Military Chaplaincy When Muslims Join the Ranks? An International Comparison”, Council for European Studies Conference, Paris, July 8, 2015.

“Organization-specific opportunity structures for religious accommodation. A focus on Islam in the Military in Europe”, Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard, Cambridge/Boston, February 25, 2015.

With Claire de Galembert, “Negotiating Laïcité. A Cross-Organizational Comparison of the Penitentiary and the Military”, WZB, Berlin, January 21, 2015.

“Accommodating Islam in the Military. Opening up to Religious Diversity?” RECODE Final Conference Responding to Complex Diversity in Europe and Canada, University of Augsburg, October 24, 2014.

“Religion, citizenship and the military: Integrating Islam into European armed forces” organized by the Research Group Religion and Transformation in Contemporary European Society, October 27, 2014, University of Vienna.

„What is at Stake in Military Chaplaincy when Muslims Join the Ranks? An International Comparison“, 11th Annual IMISCOE Conference, Madrid, August 29, 2014.

Discussant for Barbara Thériault (Montréal), “Vielfalt ermitteln in der Polizei. Ein Dialog mit Max Weber”, in cooperation with Centre Marc Bloch, WZB, July 10, 2014.

With Luis Pais Bernardo „Institution-Specific Opportunity Structures. The Accommodation of Immigrant Religious Minorities in Hospitals and the Military“, Workshop Religion in Public Institutions, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, July 1, 2014.

Panel Discussion “A role for the military in strengthening social cohesion?”, Mission Critical: Transatlantic Security and Diversity. Diversity and Inclusion Best Practices for Militaries, German Marshall Fund of the United States & United States Department of Defense, Washington D.C., October 30, 2013.

“The accommodation of religious diversity in the military. Germany compared”, Workshop The Formatting of Religions: Religious Accommodation in Prisons and the Military, European University Institute, February 11-12, 2013.

“Die Organisation der Militärseelsorge. Zugewanderte religiöse Minderheiten in Frankreich, Österreich und den Niederlanden”, Journée d’études Les immigrés et leurs descendants au sein des institutions françaises et allemandes, Centre Marc Bloch, Berlin, 3. Mai 2012.

“Cross-national commonalities and differences in immigrant religious minorities’ access to military chaplaincy (Austria, Netherlands, France)”, Conference How public institutions deal with ethnic and religious diversity organized by Ines Michalowski, WZB, May 24-26, 2012.

“Military Chaplain Posts. Cross-national differences in the accommodation of religious minorities in France, the Netherlands and Austria.” Panel The organization of religious, cultural and ethnic diversity in public institutions organized by Ines Michalowski, Council for European Studies Conference, Boston, March 22, 2012.

“Verschiedene Religionsgemeinschaften in der Militärseelsorge. Ein französisch-niederländischer Vergleich”, Workshop „Militärseelsorge in Österreich, Landesverteidigungsakademie Wien, January 20, 2012.

“Explaining the accommodation of religious diversity in the military: the US and Germany compared”, 12th Berlin Roundtables Cultural Pluralism Revisited: Religious and Linguistic Freedoms, Irmgard Conninx Stiftung, Berlin, April 7-11, 2010.

“Religiöse Minderheiten im Militär: Die USA und Deutschland im Vergleich”, AMS-Tagung Minderheiten im Militär, Erkner, November 27-29, 2009.