Muslims or those perceived to be Muslim suffer from discrimination, stigmatisation and exclusion in all areas of life such as employment, education, vocational training, services and political participation, but also from racist violence and speech, especially on the internet. Islamophobia is a specific form of racism that must be tackled.
Most EU countries do not collect data disaggregated by religion in censuses, so it is impossible to know exactly how many Muslims live in Europe. However, research based on proxies has estimated that around 19 million Muslims live in Europe, which represents 6% of the total European population.
Islamophobia is a specific form of racism that refers to acts of violence and discrimination, as well as racist speech, fuelled by historical abuses and negative stereotyping and leading to exclusion and dehumanisation of Muslims, and all those perceived as such. Islamophobia is a form of racism in the sense that it is the result of the social construction of a group as a race and to which specificities and stereotypes are attributed, in this case real or perceived religious belonging being used as a proxy for race. Consequently, even those who choose not to practice Islam but who are perceived as Muslim – because of their ethnicity, migration background or the wearing of other religious symbols – are subjected to discrimination. Islamophobia has nothing to do with criticism of Islam. Islam, as a religion, as an ideology, is subject to criticism as any other religion or ideology.
ENAR’s yearly shadow reports on racism in Europe have provided evidence of discrimination and stigmatisation of Muslims and in particular as the result of hate crime, racial profiling, counter-terrorism policies, discriminatory laws preventing access in some areas of life like education and employment, and populist discourses by politicians and in the media.
A European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights’ survey indicates that on average 1 in 3 Muslim respondents stated that they had experienced discrimination in the past 12 months. Those Muslim respondents who had been discriminated against stated that they had experienced, on average, 8 incidents of discrimination over a 12-month period.
Muslim minorities in Europe are increasingly being portrayed as not belonging to European societies and as threats to the European way of life. The myth of the “Islamisation” of Europe is being fuelled by xenophobic and populist parties across Europe.
Islamophobia is a gendered form of racism. Muslim women are disproportionately affected by Islamophobia as a result of multiple grounds of discrimination, especially if they wear religious clothing or symbols. They experience multiple discrimination on the basis of gender, religious, ethnicity, social class, migration background… In some countries, laws impose a general prohibition on religious and cultural symbols and dress, disproportionately impacting women wearing the headscarf. These policies are discriminatory and such a prohibition negates the right to freedom of expression of those women who choose to wear religious and cultural symbols and dress.
Counter-terrorism policies have had a disproportionate impact on minority communities, especially Muslims and migrants. Ethnic profiling and arbitrary deprivation of liberty of innocent Muslims are fuelling a sense of insecurity, injustice and defiance toward authorities, making these security measures counterproductive in the long term. Adding to the security policies, stigmatising and discriminatory language has increased, representing Muslims as the enemy from within that needs to be controlled and policed.
EU laws against racism and discrimination already exist – including the Racial Equality Directive and the Framework Decision on Combating Racism and Xenophobia. However, the specific direct and structural discrimination faced by Muslims in fields such as of justice, policing, employment and education and increasing numbers of racist attacks imply that existing legal instruments and policy measures are not enough to ensure equality of outcome. These must be reinforced by a comprehensive effort by policy makers to tackle Islamophobia and promote full equality and inclusion.
What are we doing about it?
We call for national strategies to combat Islamophobia and promote the inclusion of Muslims. The framework will serve as a means to ensure that Member States take policy measures to combat Islamophobia and protect the rights of Muslims in Europe.
The following elements should be put in place by EU Member States:
– Recognition: Politically recognise Islamophobia and the consequences of past abuses and stereotypes on Muslims today.
– Equality data collection: Collect comparable sets of data on racism, discrimination and racist crime, disaggregated by ethnicity and religion, in respect to EU data protection safeguards, and in order to support equality, social inclusion and non-discrimination policies.
– Participation and empowerment: Involve Muslim communities in the design, implementation and evaluation of policy initiatives. Support for the full participation of Muslims in public life, stimulation of their active citizenship and development of their human resources are therefore essential.
We engage in policy discussions on counter-terrorism and security to ensure that counter-terrorism measures do not have a disproportionate impact on Muslim communities and do not restrict their fundamental rights.
We work to debunk myths and counter stereotypes on Muslim communities and are calling on States to challenge stereotypes through public awareness raising campaigns and support to community-led initiatives.