Thursday

25th Feb 2021

Anti-Muslim discrimination in EU on the increase

Discrimination and intolerance against Muslims in the EU have increased since the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, a new report released yesterday (7 March) by the International Helsinki Federation for human rights (IHF) has shown.

The report identified concerns about "growing distrust and hostility" against Muslim minorities within the EU.

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"As the fight against terrorism has been stepped up and the perceived threat of religious extremism has become a major focus of public debate, Muslims have increasingly felt that they are stigmatized because of their beliefs", Aaron Rhodes, Executive Director of the IHF, said in a statement.

According to the IHF report, resentment, as well as harassment and attacks on Muslims in the EU, have increased significantly after terrorists hit the US on 11 September 2001.

In some countries, the number of incidents has decreased, but in the UK for instance, it has increased significantly since the attacks.

In a 2004 survey, 80% of Muslims interviewed in the UK said that they had experienced discrimination because of their faith, while their number was 45% in 2000 and 35% in 1999.

In Spain and Germany the level of hostility against Muslims has increased again after the terrorist attack in Madrid, in March 2004, the report shows. In the Netherlands, hostility rose after the murder of film-maker Theo van Gogh.

\"Aliens\"

The report outlines problems including, amongst others, "unbalanced and stereotypical media reports portraying Muslims as 'alien' to EU societies and as 'an enemy within'", "verbal and physical attacks on Muslims and Muslim institutions and property", "discrimination against Muslims in employment and other areas", and debates related to the use of the headscarf in schools and other public places.

Various examples, same problem

And the report shows that for more than 80 percent of Germans the word "Islam" is associated to "terrorism" and "oppression of women".

Furthermore, in some countries, like Sweden, up to every fifth job is closed for applicants with Arabic-sounding names, it says.

French debates in 2004 on whether to adopt a law prohibiting religious attire in public schools, are said to have "encouraged" the discrimination against women wearing headscarves.

Rightist parties' political rhetoric in several countries, like Austria, Italy and Belgium, are said to have contributed to the stigma of Muslim minorities being a threat to national security and values.

The report is based on researches in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

Currently around 20 million people are estimated to be living in the EU. The highest number of Muslims can be found in France (4-5 million), Germany (over 3 million), the United Kingdom (more than 1.5 million), Spain (about 1 million) and Italy and the Netherlands (close to 1 million).

Some estimate that the number of Muslims in Europe will double by 2015, the report says.

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