Muslims in the European Union: Discrimination and Islamophobia

Posted on March 28, 2007


What happened on 11 September was like a catalyst, you know. Things which they never thought of saying publicly, from one day to another, they say it publicly now. Before, there was a lot of ‘political correctness’ but after 11 September all political correctness went within seconds.” (Male, Germany)

“I have heard it many times – ‘Are you going back?’ ‘When are you going back?’ It implies many things this question. And I ask ‘Where would I go?’ and they don’t really have an answer to that and so they ask ‘Where did you come from?’ and I say I was born in Rotterdam so where would I go? … It is really a painful question, I think, and it makes you feel like you are a foreigner, and I think you accept that you are a foreigner at some point.” (Young female, Netherlands)

Before 11 September, we were always insulted for being Arab. Our religion was never mentioned. Since 11 September, that’s all we hear – ‘Muslim’ has become an insult.” (Young male, France)

The court gave the Muslims the rights of the slaughter. But they said we needed additional permission… For example, North Rhine-Westphalia, which is the biggest state of Muslim presence, around 30 per cent of its population is Muslim, yet they don’t have one single permission, not a single permission. […]” (Male, Germany)

The mayor told them ‘yes, you are allowed to build a mosque, but please don’t say openly that you are building a mosque. Say you are building a cultural centre, and bring me the plans, but I don’t want to see a minaret drawn on it’. So, that means he himself doesn’t have a problem but he is really thinking that if it comes public, the people will be against it, he will not be re-elected.” (Male, Austria)

Banning the hijab is a way to ‘clean’ your school; you get rid of them [Muslims]. Of course, the Muslims will still go but it cleans the image of your school. …if you are a school with a good reputation, if there were too many hijab it would be too visible that there are young Muslims or young immigrants … And so you have some public schools which accept the hijab and then you have the majority of Muslims going there. For most of the schools that ban the hijab, I would say this is this reason.” (Young male, Belgium)

The problems we find with our case work is that although now discrimination is made illegal because of the European law in the workplace, there is no infrastructure of support for victims. There is no legal aid for them. Very few lawyers are willing to do ‘no win, no fee’ on discrimination, so really although they have protection, in reality they have nowhere to turn.” (Male, United Kingdom)

He was totally disabled and blind after he came out of the coma. While he was in a coma, the police, in investigating the attack on him, were investigating him as a terrorist. This is outrageous! The guy has been beaten up on the street, he is in a coma, and yet, the police in carrying out the investigation into his attack are going around asking his friends how religious he was, how many mosques he went to, what his religious beliefs were. This is absurd!” (Female, United Kingdom)

The above are quotations from the EUMC report “Muslims in the European Union: Discrimination and Islamophobia”, recently published in December 2006. It presents available data on discrimination affecting Muslims in employment, education and housing.

Manifestations of Islamophobia range from verbal threats through to physical attacks on people and property. The report stresses that the extent and nature of discrimination and Islamophobic incidents against European Muslims remain under-documented and under-reported.

The EUMC report recommends therefore that Member States improve the reporting of incidents and implement measures to counter discrimination and racism more effectively. The report also includes initiatives and proposals for policy action by EU Member State governments and the European institutions to combat Islamophobia and to foster integration.

According to the report, firm political leadership is needed to ensure equal treatment of all Europeans, whatever their background. This includes:

  • Implementing EU legislation and adequately resourced equality bodies;
  • Recording and policing Islamophobic incidents;
  • Implementing social integration and inclusion policies for migrants and minorities,
    Granting equal treatment in employment;
  • Improving educational achievement;
  • Ensuring equal access to housing;
  • Encourage European Muslims to engage more actively in public life (e.g. in political, economic, social and cultural institutions and processes).

To download an English version of the report in pdf format, please click here.

To download a French version of the report in pdf format, please click here.

1. Woman beaten up in Islamophobe Attack

2. The Islamophobia Test (U.K.)