Friday

19th Apr 2019

Opinion

Anti-Muslim violence: A wakeup call for European governments

A police check of a Muslim woman wearing the full-face veil recently sparked riots in a Paris suburb, and has reignited a debate about the controversial ban of full-face veils in public spaces from 2011.

However, there is more at stake in such community uprisings than mere opposition to the ban; the riots should also be seen against the background of the rising violence against Muslims in Europe.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • 'Muslim women are increasingly the victims of violence' (Photo: PBS)

Several violent attacks against Muslim women preceded the riots in France. One of the most severe incidents occurred on 13 June, when two men physically abused a 21 year-old pregnant woman.

Muslim women are increasingly the victims of violence.

In France in 2012, 85 percent of anti-Muslim reported incidents targeted women, and other countries demonstrate similar figures. The UK experienced a significant increase in anti-Muslim violence after the Woolwich killing, and the NGO Tell Mama recorded 12 incidents per week on average between March 2012 and March 2013. Most of these incidents concerned Muslim women.

The sharp rise in anti-Muslim attacks raises the question of responsibility. Who is to blame for the rise in anti-Muslim violence? Ultimately, individuals are to blame for their actions, but there is also a need to look critically at social and political influences.

There is a tendency to view hostility and violence towards Muslims as normal and acceptable. Prejudice against Muslims does not always carry the same social stigma as prejudice against other ethnic and religious groups.

In France and elsewhere in Europe, anti-Muslim attacks are too often met with political leaders’ and representatives’ silence rather than strong political will to protect basic human rights.

When political leaders turn a blind eye to attacks or refrain from publicly condemning violence, individual perpetrators are more likely to feel that they are ‘right’ and can act with a sense of impunity.

In France, the ban on the full-face veil makes the situation especially vulnerable for Muslims, since the ban is easily exploited as a justification for violence and abusive behavior. There needs to be stronger and clearer messages from leaders denouncing arbitrary use of the law.

Having a law against the full-face veil is one thing; misusing it, or seeing it misused repeatedly without taking action is another matter. Beyond the issue of the veil, politicians have a responsibility to speak out against violence, and they must also ensure that all individuals are adequately protected.

A first step to effectively tackle violence against Muslims would be to officially recognise Islamophobia as a specific form of racism. Islamophobia refers to the discrimination faced by individuals because of their real or perceived Muslim affiliation, and it results from a process of social construction of a group which is assigned specific racial features and stereotypes.

Greater recognition of Islamophobia in Europe would allow for the development of more focused and comprehensive strategies on EU, national, and local levels to improve the situation for Muslim communities.

There is also a need to address discrimination and violence against Muslim women in particular. Coalitions between different stakeholders need to be further encouraged in order to combat this extreme form of gender-biased violence.

A cohesive and resilient Europe that benefits all cannot be achieved so long as violence against Muslims is not seriously addressed. The riots in Paris have ended, but their underlying causes are likely to produce more conflict sooner or later.

In order to prevent such conflict in the future, governments urgently need to take action against Islamophobic violence.

Marwan Muhammad is spokesman for Collectif contre l'Islamophobie en France (CCIF); Elsa Ray is Project manager at CCIF for a pan-European programme to counter Islamophobia in Europe; Michael Privot is Director of European Network Against Racism (ENAR).

EU leaders dodge Islamic veil ban issue

EU leaders have declined to comment on moves to ban Islamic veils in some member states saying that the controversial issue is one for national governments alone to handle.

How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament

British plans to - maybe - take part in EU elections risk legal chaos in the next European Parliament, which could be resolved only by treaty change - an unlikely prospect.

Press freedom and the EU elections

We are campaigning for the next European Commission to appoint a commissioner with a clear mandate to take on the challenge of the protection of freedom, independence and diversity of journalism.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us