“Muslims in Europe want to interact with other Europeans and participate as full and equal members of society, but regularly face various forms of prejudice, discrimination and violence that reinforce their social exclusion. This is the conclusion of recent research by various international organisations and NGOs. Unfortunately, commentators on the Arab Spring missed the historic opportunity to deconstruct harmful stereotypes about the alleged incompatibility of Islam and democracy, instead exaggerating the risk of migration to Europe.
Muiznieks argues that “Muslims have become the primary “other” in right-wing populist discourse in Europe.”
He notes the rise in anti-Muslim populist discourse, which has also been adopted by established mainstream parties who have suggested that multiculturalism has failed in their respective countries. He also noted how “Since the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and thereafter, Muslims have become inextricably linked in the public mind with terrorism.”
This discourse has arguably become so naturalised that societies often fail to comprehend terrorism in other guises
, jumping to the gun that any act of terrorism is carried out by a ‘jihadist’, as was the case at the time of Ander’s Breivik’s attac
k in Norway.
Muiznieks also comments on the way in which Muslims have been targeted by restrictive legislation impinging on their freedom of religion; notably veil bans which have swept Europe
, as well as a ban on minarets in Switzerland and calls for banning Muslims from praying on streets
in France. On discrimination against Muslims
, he notes that “A recent study by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) found that 1 in 3 Muslims in the EU had experienced discrimination in the past 12 months”
, as well as citing a report by Amnesty International on Discrimination against Muslims in Europe
, which found amongst other things that “many Muslim women feel discouraged from seeking employment because of policies restricting the wearing of religious and cultural symbols and dress.”
One of the most significant points of contention, he argues is racial profiling by police and at border controls, “The aforementioned FRA study found that 1 in 4 Muslim respondents were stopped by the police in the previous year, while more than a third had been stopped by customs or border control. Ethnic or religious profiling is not only discriminatory, it is counterproductive, as it misdirects attention from suspicious behaviour to appearance and alienates the communities with whom law enforcement agencies need to cooperate.”
The reviewer of terrorism legislation in the UK, David Anderson echoed these points in a recent report
in which he decried the “excessive enthusiasm” with which terrorism legislation, including legislation on stop and search at borders, had been applied.
Muiznieks concludes that “Governments should stop targetting Muslims through legislation or policy, and instead enshrine the ground of religion or belief as a prohibited ground of discrimination in all realms.” He concurs with the recommendations of a report by Amnesty International that “Monitoring discrimination against Muslims should involve collecting data disaggregated by ethnicity, religion and gender.”
“It is time to accept Muslims as an integral part of European societies, entitled to equality and dignity. Prejudice, discrimination and violence only hinder integration. We need our own “European Spring” to overcome old and emerging forms of racism and intolerance.”
The article serves as a welcome reminder that Islamophobia has been mainstreamed into European public discourse and policy. The increase in far-right populism and its exploitation of anti-Muslim discourse is also ever-evident, with the far-right attempting to ‘go global’ with their ‘anti-Islamisation’ message
. All the while, politicians have stoked such aggressive anti-Muslim sentiment, exemplified in for example by Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech on the ‘failure’ of multiculturalism
, or in France by the way in which religious slaughter- and specifically halal slaughter in Muslim communities, was made an election issue
Moreover, Muizneks’ claims that since 9/11, European governments have had a blind-spot with regards to terrorism carried that is not carried out by those claiming to be Muslim, was iterated in a recent article by Robert Lambert on Open Democracy
. Lambert argues that the threat of terrorism from the far-right and other forms of political violence must be taken as seriously as ‘radical Islamic’ terrorism. The extent to which this is an issue is clear when one learns that 50% of Europe’s counter-terrorism resources have been dedicated to the 0.5% of terrorism we call ‘Islamic’
. In light of the many worrying developments which are noted here, Muizneks’ call for a “European Spring” is a welcome invitation to Europe and particularly to its political leaders, to rethink dominant attitudes which have had a negative effect on European Muslims, and demonstrate the solidarity against anti-Muslim bigotry that should have been shown long ago.