Muslims in Europe face growing hostility

Hostility toward Muslims is growing throughout Europe and Islam is perceived as a major threat by many Europeans, according to a new report by a high-level body within the Council of Europe.

The report also suggested ways to prevent discrimination against Muslims, calling on European countries to accept that a person can be a “hyphenated European” – for instance a “Turkish-German” – just like one can be an “African-American.”

“Multiple identities are a source of enrichment for our societies if they are handled well. One could be Muslim, Turkish and European, all at the same time,” said Professor Ayşe Kadıoğlu from Sabancı University, one of the members of the Group of Eminent Persons, which prepared the report.

Hyphenated identities is an acknowledgement of peoples’ existence, Kadıoğlu said, adding that the report reclaimed fundamental human rights and equality before the law while at the same time acknowledging diversity in Europe.

“Cultural and religious differences are not the source of conflict in Europe. Conflict arises when policies are not good – when cultural diversity is mishandled,” said Kadıoğlu.

“The far right and racist political parties in Europe are using anti-Islamic rhetoric as a tool,” said Müjge Küçükkeleş from the Foundation For Political, Economic and Social Research Foundation, or SETA. “Their main rhetoric here is ‘Muslims cannot integrate into society.’ But in fact, they are trying to put the blame on Muslims because of their unsuccessful policies on immigrants.”

Chaired by former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, the Group of Eminent Persons’ report on intolerance and discrimination in Europe drew attention to the “rising intolerance toward immigrants and Muslims throughout Europe.”

“There is a growing hostility to Muslims throughout Europe,” said the report, titled “Living Together: Combining Diversity and Freedom in 21st Century Europe.”

“Islam is perceived as a major threat to Europe by many Europeans because they feel that the minority is growing and that Islam is incompatible with modern European life,” the report said. “Because increased immigration of Muslims to Europe in recent decades has resulted in more ‘visible’ Muslim communities and coincided with the growth of political Islam, many Europeans have acquired the conviction that Islam per se is radical, militant and incompatible with European values, and that Muslim immigrants and their descendants therefore cannot be integrated into European societies in the way that earlier waves of migrants have been.”

The report described the discrimination against Muslims in Europe as “a serious human-rights problem,” stressing that such prejudices are “combined with racist attitudes” directed against people originating from Turkey, Arab countries and South Asia.

“Muslims with this background are discriminated [against] in the labor market and the education system in a number of European countries. There are reports showing that they tend to be targeted by police in repeated identity controls and intrusive searches,” the report said.

These findings are not surprising, according to Küçükkeleş.

“The anti-Islam atmosphere that started especially after the ‘war on terror’ launched by the U.S. government after Sept. 11 has spread to all Western societies,” she said.

‘Role models’ for immigrants

The report by the Group of Eminent Persons held up Turkish film director Fatih Akın, Dutch lawyer Famile Arslan and German politician Cem Özdemir as “role models” for immigrants.

“These people can both act as role models for other members of those groups, showing that the effort of integration is worth making, and improve the image of their group in the eyes of the wider majority or ‘host’ society, by showing that people from that group can indeed make a valuable, even spectacular, contribution if given the chance to do so,” the report said.

It also called for immigrants to have the same rights and responsibilities as other people.

“Like all other citizens in a democracy they should have a say in making the law, but neither religion nor culture can be accepted as an excuse for breaking it,” the report said.

(www.balkanchronicle.com / 25.07.2011)

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