An Investigation of Belgian-Descent University Students’
Perceived Barriers to Establishing Contact with Muslim Students
by F. Zehra Colak (KU Leuven), Lore Van Praag (University of Antwerp) and Ides Nicaise (KU Leuven)
This study investigates Belgian-descent university students’ perceptions of contact with Belgian–Muslim ethnic minorities and the ways they reflect on their own intergroup contact experiences. The results of the study demonstrate that many Belgian-descent students appear to perceive barriers when contacting Muslim students. Their accounts of contact with their Muslim peers suggest that those experiences were often constrained, even when participants framed them as enriching. Such constrained interactions with Muslim students were linked to the perceived barriers in contact. Firstly, students of Belgian descent experienced behavioural insecurities in approaching and interacting with Muslim peers. Secondly, participants seemed to perceive a lack of interest from Muslim students, which formed a barrier in approaching them. Finally, students of Belgian descent described Belgian culture as being reserved and introverted, thus hindering realization of contact with Muslims. While the university offers a context that provides all students with intergroup contact opportunities, these were rarely taken up, partly due to ethnic-majority students’ perceptions of barriers in establishing or deepening contact with Muslim students.