New drive to fight Islamophobia at the EU level – NGO coalition against Islamophobia now asking concrete action
12 February 2016 - On 27 January a coalition of organisations working to fight Islamophobia met the new European Commission coordinator on combating anti-Muslim hatred, David Friggieri.
His appointment by European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová is a strong political signal that the European Commission is willing to prioritise the fight against Islamophobia at the EU level. In the current context of increasing violence and discrimination targeting Europe’s Muslim population, this is a welcome move.
Another important impetus in tackling Islamophobia was the appointment of Member of European Parliament Afzal Khan as special representative for Muslim communities for the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament. A first meeting with civil society organisations also took place to allow them to express their concerns regarding the situation of Muslim communities in EU Member states.
These appointments are important first steps, but there is now an urgent need for concrete measures and their implementation to efficiently combat Islamophobia in Europe and promote full equality and inclusion for all in Europe. A number of issues need to be tackled. These meetings aimed at presenting main priorities and concrete actions to be undertaken.
Recent security and counter-terrorism measures are having a disproportionate impact on Muslim communities or those perceived as such, including racial profiling by law enforcement authorities, state of emergency measures in some countries such as France, and deprivation of nationality for dual nationals. Human rights safeguards need to be put in place to ensure that there is no discriminatory targeting of Muslim communities.
It is also crucial to officially recognise the existence of Islamophobia as a specific form of racism resulting from the social construction of a group as a race, attributing to Muslims and those perceived as such unchangeable specificities and stereotypes, and leading to acts of violence and discrimination.
Moreover, EU hate crime legislation falls short of providing detailed indications on how law enforcement and judicial authorities should investigate and prosecute hate crimes. According to the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, only five Member States collect comprehensive data on hate crime. Member States should therefore make sure that bias is properly investigated and prosecuted in cases of hate crime against Muslims and should collect data on Islamophobic crime. Hate speech, including online, also needs to be addressed, especially when it comes from politicians and public figures.
In addition, studies show that Muslim women are disproportionally affected by Islamophobia, especially in employment, education and access to goods and services. Muslim women suffer from the same inequalities as all women experience – the gender pay gap, difficulty accessing employment, the glass ceiling, violence – but these are compounded by additional factors such as wearing a headscarf. Existing laws need to address this specific dimension, especially equality laws, and governments must adopt specific measures to better protect Muslim women. Restrictions imposed by employers are for instance not always in line with international human rights standards.
The European Commission, the European Parliament and Member States can and should play a leading role in shaping policies to fight Islamophobia. Civil society organisations stressed key demands, including the need to adopt national strategies against Islamophobia and the official recognition of the 21st September as the European Day against Islamophobia. We hope the dialogue initiated and the concrete actions suggested during these meetings will be taken into account so that we can work together to ensure that all Muslims in Europe can live in dignity and participate fully in European society.
Signed by: European Network Against Racism (ENAR - EU), Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organisations (FEMYSO - EU), Karamah EU, European Forum of Muslim Women (EFOMW - EU), European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion (EMISCO - EU), Faith Matters/Tell Mama (UK), Collective against Islamophobia in Belgium (CCIB - Belgium), Collective against Islamophobia in France (CCIF - France), Euro-Mediterranean Center for Migration and Development (EMCEMO - The Netherlands), Stichting Platform Islamitische Organisaties Rijnmond (SPIOR - The Netherlands).