5th Dec 2023

French official to take on Islamophobia in EU

  • One in three of Europe's 19 million Muslims feel they have experienced discrimination (Photo: Ferdaus Chia)
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The EU has appointed a new anti-Islamophobia coordinator after an 18-month long gap which attracted criticism from Muslim rights groups.

Marion Lalisse, an EU official of French origin, said on Twitter she was "honoured" to take up the post dealing with an "important topic that requires our joint efforts and commitment".

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Lalisse's job would be to "ensure that measures are taken to combat hatred, as well as structural and individual discrimination against Muslims," said EU equality commissioner Helena Dalli.

"We must combat Islamophobia in all areas, including education, employment and social policy. We must also collect data on all cases of Islamophobia and discrimination against Muslims and monitor and combat any such manifestations," Dalli added.

Lalisse had previously worked as a diplomat in EU missions in Yemen, Ghana, Mauritania, and Morocco, as well as dealing with European aid to Turkish Cypriots, putting her in touch with "a wide range of civil society organisations in the EU and in the Muslim world," the EU Commission said.

She also speaks Arabic and graduated from the School of Oriental and African Studies University of London.

Lalisse is to work alongside two other EU officials, Michaela Moua and Katherina von Schnurbein, dealing with combatting racism and antisemitism.

Each one has an annual budget of €180,000 a year to spend on holding workshops, meetings, and studies.

Von Schnurbein also has three dedicated staff members to help her fight antisemitism, while Moua and the previous anti-Islamophobia coordinator worked alone.

The Commission declined to say if Lalisse would get her own staff.

Her appointment comes 18 months after the post was left vacant in July 2021.

The Commission never explained why the recruitment process took so long in replies to previous questions by EUobserver.

It said only that other EU officials in the justice and consumer rights departments had been doing the work informally during this time.

But the hiatus had attracted criticism, for instance by a network of 41 NGOs writing in EUobserver last summer.

The lack of progress had indicated EU institutions had a "hierarchy" of concern, in which antisemitism was placed above anti-Muslim hatred, they said.

The EU is home to about 19 million Muslims, which make up 6 percent of its population, according to estimates by the European Network Against Racism (Enar), a Brussels-based NGO.

Surveys by the European Union's Fundamental Rights Agency in Vienna indicate one in three Muslims had experienced discrimination in the past 12 months.

The most Islamophobic incidents in Europe were recorded in France, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, an intergovernmental body based in Saudi Arabia, said in a report last year.

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