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22nd Feb 2024

Hate against Muslims and Jews still rising, says EU commission

  • Anti-Islam protestors in Prague
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An explosion of hatred against Muslims and Jews continues to spread throughout the EU, says the European Commission.

"We are witnessing with horror the rise in anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim incidents," said Margaritis Schinas, vice-president of the European Commission, on Wednesday (7 February).

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The comments echo earlier calls for action following the 7 October attack by Hamas against Israel and the ensuing total devastation of the Gaza Strip in retaliation.

Schinas, speaking to MEPs in the Strasbourg plenary, had also announced a new initiative to educate young people about the Holocaust.

"We want to ensure that every child in Europe learns about the darkest chapter of our history," he had said. Extra funding to the tune of some €5m will also be set aside to protect Jewish places of worship, schools and community gatherings, he said.

And he also condemned the hatred against Muslims, noting that EU states need to adopt and implement national strategies to protect Jewish and Muslim communities from hate.

The European Commission is also banking on the Digital Service Act, a regulation to help curb abuse online.

Among their targets is tech billionaire Elon Musk, who was last year nominated for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the far-right.

His platform X, formerly known as Twitter, is being faulted by the European Commission over disinformation. It has also seen a resurgence of hate speech.

But internal divisions amid the EU leadership on support of Israel have also sparked criticism.

The EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrel, had described Israel's siege of Gaza as illegal within days of the attacks. In contrast, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, had expressed her unconditional support for Israel.

Such mixed messaging is potentially dangerous, says European Network Against Racism, a Brussels-based pan-European anti-racism network.

"It is crucial to convey a unified message that all forms of racism deserve equal attention, action and resources," they said, in a statement.

They say that the double standard in condemning the war crimes of Hamas and not those committed by the state of Israel is contributing to an environment of mistrust and discrimination.

In turn, this then leads to a rise of anti-Muslim/Arab and anti-Jewish hate, they say. Such attacks appear daily.

On Tuesday, a mosque in the Netherlands was defaced with swastikas and white power slogans. Two people were arrested.

And in February last year, the European Commission appointed Marion Lalisse as the EU's coordinator on combating anti-Muslim hatred.

It was a post that had, up until then, stood empty since empty June 2021.

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