Discrimination against Muslims is increasing in U.S., Pew study finds

A wide-ranging survey by Pew, reveals that anti-Muslim discrimination is common and on the rise — and so, too, are expressions of support for Muslims, according to a new study on one of the United States’ fastest-growing religious minorities.

“Overall, Muslims in the United States perceive a lot of discrimination against their religious group, are leery of President Donald Trump and think their fellow Americans do not see Islam as part of mainstream U.S. society,” the study’s authors wrote.

The survey found that 48 percent of the 1,001 participants say that they were subjected to at least one discriminatory incident based on their religion over the past year.  This is an increase from a decade ago, when 40% felt discrimination based on their faith.

The poll also finds that Donald Trump is not the only source of mistrust. Six in 10 respondents said they think U.S. media coverage of Islam and Muslims is unfair.

 

“The everyday realities of young Muslim women in Britain”

“The everyday realities of young Muslim women in Britain “. This is how Tania Saeed’s book is presented on her publisher’s page.

Islamophobia and Securitization. Religion, Ethnicity and the Female Voice – published in the “Politics of identity and citizenship” series – addresses the connection between gender, islamophobia and security in the UK.

The book explores “the narratives of securitization and islamophobia as described by young Muslim women” and how these women try to challenge them. The author who has previously worked on radicalization and counter-radicalization in British universities, analyses here how the securitization of the “Muslim question” and the growing suspicion towards Muslims that it entails impact the daily life of young British Muslim women.

Contrary to the Muslim men who are perceived as “dangerous” and posing a “more direct physical threat”, young British Muslim women are considered as “vulnerable fanatics”, “susceptible to radicalize and therefore in need of being rescued”.

The author specifically looks at the British Muslim female student, perceived as problematic inside and outside educational institutions, since educated British Muslim women were indicted for charges of terrorism.

Though this interdisciplinary work focuses on “British-Muslim-Pakistani-female identity”, the connection between gender, islamophobia and securitization will be relevant for many other national contexts.

Source :

Saeed, Tania, Islamophobia and Securitization Religion, Ethnicity and the Female Voice, Palgrave Politics of Identity and Citizenship series, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016

https://www.palgrave.com/de/book/9783319326795#reviews

The new European Islamophobia Report denounces a phenomenon on the rise

The second annual edition of the European islamophobia report has been published this week by the Turkish foundation for political, economic and social research (SETA). Co-edited by Farid Hafez and Enes Bayrakli, this report monitors the rise of islamophobia in 2016. 27 European countries are analysed by different scholars or NGO-activists.

For the editors of the report : « Islamophobia has (…) become the main challenge to the social peace and coexistence of different cultures, religions and ethnicities in Europe ». Unsurprisingly, reports show that Islamophobia has increased in various forms: rhetorical (hate speech, cyber-violence), physical (assaults occurring in the public space, especially towards covered women). Not to forget the consequences of anti-Muslim discrimination in terms of access to employment and accommodation.

Migration crises, terrorist attacks, the rise of the far right in many European countries are among the factors that create a stronger climate of tension towards European Muslim citizens and an increasingly negative perception of them in most countries. The reports deplore the role of political figures and media actors in the generalization of anti-Muslim discourses. However, the authors also underline the initiatives taken by the civil society and NGOs.

The reports, which contain an analysis of the situation and the chronology of major events connected to anti-Muslim attitudes in each country – also present very concrete recommendations for policy makers and NGOs on a national and supranational level. Among these recommandations : the inclusion of “ Islamophobia or anti-Muslim hate crime”  as a category in European countries’ statistics.

Though one might disagree with the authors of some reports on what exactly constitutes an “anti-Muslim” or an “islamophobic” act, this report presents a rich collection of data and events, which makes it a good resource for researchers interested in Islam in Europe.

By Farida Belkacem

 

Source :

http://www.islamophobiaeurope.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/EIR_2016.pdf

 

EU’s highest Court rules on headscarf at work

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has been asked to make a decision on two cases related to the wearing of religious signs at work. In both cases, a French and a Belgian one, the headscarf was the bone of contention. The CJEU finally issued a joint judgment this tuesday.

Two stories, one common issue

The Belgian Samira Achbita did not wear a headscarf in 2003 when she started to work as a receptionist for the security company G4S. In 2006, she declared to her employer that she intended to start wearing it… She was then dismissed.

As for the French Asma Bougnaoui, she started working as a design engineer for the IT consultancy firm Micropole in 2008. At this time, she already had a headscarf on. One day, a customer of the company complained about that. This complaint was transmitted by the company to Mrs Bougnaoui, who chose to reject it and refused to remove her headscarf… She was also dismissed.

National Courts from Belgium and France have asked the ECJ to give a ruling on these cases. Though the stories slightly differ, the main issue was to know if a company was justified to dismiss an employee for wearing a headscarf or if this constituted a case of discrimination.

The Court’s decision

For EU’s highest Court, forbidding headscarf on the workplace does not constitute a direct discriminatory act as long as the internal rule of the company proscribes any visible political, philosophical or religious sign and if this policy is justified by an essential occupational requirement:

“An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination. However, in the absence of such a rule, the willingness of an employer to take account of the wishes of a customer no longer to have the employer’s services provided by a worker wearing an Islamic headscarf cannot be considered an occupational requirement that could rule out discrimination”.

Hence, the Court stated in favor of the company in the Belgian case, arguing that the company was following its genuine policy of “image neutrality”. As for the French case however, the Court stated that the complainant had indeed been discriminated against, since the demand to remove the headscarf only followed the complaint from a customer and not a consistent policy of neutrality at work.

What are the implications of this ruling?

Right wing and far right personalities welcome this ruling as a victory, since this now allows companies to ban the headscarf in the workplace, as we can see for instance from Gilbert Collard’s tweet , a French MP working for Marine le Pen : “Even the CJEU votes for Marine”. However, one must remember that this long awaited judgment also demands the prohibiting of religious signs to be stated and justified by a consistent internal rule of the company. The prohibition of religious signs is thus limited and must happen only under certain specific conditions :

“Such indirect discrimination may be objectively justified by a legitimate aim, such as the pursuit by the employer, in its relations with its customers, of a policy of political, philosophical and religious neutrality, provided that the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary”.

The diverging views on the ruling of the CJEU 

For the supporters of the ruling, the issue of religious signs at work needed to be clarified and employers and human resources now have a clearer frame to deal with religious signs at work. In its ruling, the Court judged in favor of the company when a neutral image was part of its objective “identity”, but in favor of the complainant when the demand to remove the headscarf was the result of a subjective process, not connected to an essential occupational requirement.

However, for the critics of this ruling, the CJEU now opens the way to the implementation of more restrictive internal rules in private companies. It gives the latter more power to decide on their employees’ outfit, on the subjective basis of the “image” of the company. Also, and even though the ruling does not specifically concern Muslims, it seems to endorse a general European tendency to target Muslim believers’ visibility in the public space and may de facto contribute to exclude them from the job market.

By Farida Belkacem

Sources :

http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2017-03/cp170030en.pdf

France Must Bring Secularism and Islam Together

The killing of a priest during morning mass at a Catholic church near Rouen on July 26 has sent new shockwaves through France—a country that prides itself on its secularism, but in which religion still plays a large part in many communities.

The rapid succession of attacks on French soil claimed by Islamic State (IS), from the truck rampage in Nice on Bastille Day to the killing of 84-year-old Jacques Hamel 15 days later, is a worrying sign that IS has intensified its strategy known as the “management of savagery” and that France is a primary target in its fight against the “evil forces”.

Named after the 2004 pamphlet that influenced actions of the Iraq branch of Al Qaeda in 2005-7, “management of savagery” advocates restless violence and continuous massacres in order to scare and exhaust the enemy. It means that IS wages a psychological war as much as a military one. It entails attacking everywhere and at any time in order to destabilize populations across countries. It entails “waves operations”—that never end and maintain high levels of fear among the masses.

This view is based on a binary vision of the world where the merciless and relentless “fighters of god” aim to destroy the “forces of evil”. In this binary vision, the West is not simply a military enemy. It is the incarnation of evil because of its moral, political corruption and its promiscuous and decadent lifestyle that threatens the souls of Muslims everywhere: both those in Western democracies and in Muslim-majority countries ruled by westernized and corrupted leaders.

In this sense, the West is no longer a geopolitical concept but a word used to describe cultures, promiscuous lifestyles and atheism but also Christianity and Judaism that threaten to destroy “pure” Islam everywhere.

Defending secularism

France holds a specific status in this worldview because of its stringent version of secularism or laïcité characterized by a very limited tolerance for religious signs in public spaces. As a result, the trend is to push most Islamic practices, and especially dress code, into the private sphere. At the same time, leniency is maintained for the visibility of some catholic signs and nun’s dresses, often associated with French national culture. This is ironic, given that laïcitéwas first and foremost designed at the time of the separation of church and state in 1905 to crush the infamous power of the Catholic Church.

Discrimination against Islamic religious practices occurs everywhere in Europe, but it is somewhat different in France where there is a more systematic use of the law against Islamic practices. Since the 2004 law banning all religious signs in public schools that was intended to exclude the hijab from the classroom, this has extended to the total prohibition of the niqab(face veil) in public spaces in 2010.

In this context, laïcité is presented by politicians from right to left as the major pillar of French national identity, in need of defence against Islam. Their rhetoric suggests that the problem is not just a particular conservative or political Islamic trend, but Islam itself.

This existential war has been present since the late 1980s with the ongoing controversies on the headscarf and the rise of respected intellectuals and celebrities who have urged their followers to defend France’s universal secularist values against Islam. Most of these figures are on the left side of the political spectrum, such as the acclaimed novelist Michel Houellebecq, or feminists, like journalist and writer Caroline Fourest. Interestingly, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in France has not been part of this anti-Islamic battle, siding instead for respect of Islamic practices.

Reconciliation needed

This existential war between the core values of the West and Islam does, of course, happen elsewhere in Europe, but it is at its peak in France. French Muslims have become internal enemies of the state because they seem to endanger the core value of laïcité. French Muslims are also perceived as external enemies because of the war on terror and the rise of radical Islam. Under these conditions, any expression of Islamic identity or practice, from head covering to dietary rules, is seen as “uncivic” and therefore deemed illegitimate. No doubt that the succession of recent attacks from Nice to Rouen will exacerbate this sentiment.

All Muslims are affected, even when they are not particularly religious. As my research has shown, this has exacerbated a sense of estrangement caused by other ongoing factors including a lack of socio-economic integration or of political representation.

So it is not surprising that for some, including converts, IS provides a powerful narrative that reverts the stigma by making Islam good and the West evil. IS’s fight for the so-called caliphate is also about capturing the hearts and minds of youth in the “lands of savagery” by turning their energy and enthusiasm into lethal weapons against the “armies of evil”.

It is particularly attractive to the most fragile segments of the Muslim youth, especially young men from North African backgrounds who struggle with employment, education and gender relations. In this sense, France has become the major battlefield of inverted perceptions of Islam and the West that reinforce each other: the jihadi perception of the West as the quintessential enemy of Islam and the extreme French secular vision of Islam as the enemy of the West.

The reconciliation of Islam with French laïcité will certainly not defeat IS on the ground, but it may diminish the group’s attraction as a global ideology of resistance for young Muslims. French leaders, both political and religious, need to make sure they focus on this need for reconciliation.

Jocelyne Cesari is professor of religion and politics and director of research at the Edward Cadbury Centre at University of Birmingham.

Europe Needs to Embrace Islam by Jocelyne Cesari

August 29, 2014

Counter to the common interpretation, the appeal of radical anti-Western groups like ISIS among European Muslims is not driven primarily by socioeconomic deprivation. In fact, three interrelated factors play a more significant role.

The first is the powerful presence of the Salafi version of Islam in the religious market of ideas. This is problematic because even as most Muslims in the West are not Salafis and the majority of Salafis are not jihadists, it happens that groups like Al Qaiada and ISIS have a Salafi background. It means that their theological view comes from a particular interpretation of Islam rooted in Wahhabism, an eighteenth century doctrine adopted by the Saudi kingdom. In the West, Salafis incite people to withdraw from mainstream society, depicted as impure, in order to live by strict rules. These reactionary interpretations do contain similarities with jihadist discourse.

The second factor in the radicalization of Muslim youth is the increase of discriminatory policies vis-à-vis Islamic practices in Europe, including the use of the hijab and regulation of mosque minarets, circumcision and halal food. All contribute to a growing sense among Muslims that they are not accepted as full members of European society. Anti-immigration and anti-Islamic discourse translates into discriminatory practices in employment, housing and political activities. It can be a factor in strengthening a defensive identification within Islam and therefore gives more leverage to any ideology that pits the West against Muslims.

Third, the collapse of all major ideologies in Europe — nationalism, Communism, and liberalism — has left room for new radical options. For some young Europeans, adherence to radical Islam provides a viable alternative ideology, comparable to that of radical leftist groups in the 1970s.

These factors reveal a lack of true integration of Muslims as European policies have prioritized socioeconomic measures. In other words, political efforts are needed to put an end to the ‘ghettoization’ of Islam, which is often depicted as alien and incompatible with Western core liberal values. It means that geopolitical issues like the “war on terror” should be disconnected as much as possible from Islam and its adherents and their practices. Europe, and to a certain extent the U.S., face a major political challenge, which is the inclusion of Islam within their respective national narratives. It is a huge symbolic task, equivalent to the undertaking that led to the integration of the African-American past and legacy into the dominant American narrative.

**Jocelyne Cesari is senior research fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University, and director of the Islam in the West Program at Harvard University. She is the author of “Why the West Fears Islam: An Exploration of Muslims in Liberal Democracies” and “The Awakening of Muslim Democracy: Religion, Modernity, and the State.”

Nadine Morano “hurt” by image of a veiled woman at the beach

The former minister of the UMP Nadine Morano has created controversy after posting a picture of a veiled Muslim woman at the beach on her Facebook page. Morano wrote, “There is nothing that threatens public order because the woman’s face was visible in accordance with the law, but it’s an attack on our culture that hurts.” Next to the photograph of the veiled woman, seen from behind, Morano showed the headline of the Figaro Magazine featuring a picture of Brigitte Bardot in a bikini.

Addressing the picture of Bardot, Morano writes: “This image of a Frenchwoman who is proud of her freedom as a woman struck me as a contrast to that of the veiled woman…When choosing to come to France, a state of rights, secular, one must respect our culture and women’s freedom.”

Her comments prompted a statement from the National Observatory Against Islamophobia, which called the post “stigmatizing.” “Is the act of wearing a veil on the beach not respecting the laws of the Republic?” asked Abdallah Zekri, the association’s president. Zekri contended that only the full veil is banned in France.

“It’s always the same one who stands out in the UMP…It would be better for her to deal with what’s happening in her party rather than to stigmatize women who wear the veil,” he added. Zekri is a former UMP member who left the party “after having felt the frequency of hate speech and racism rise.”

Muslim engineer’s access to nuclear sites suspended

August 18, 2014

In March 2014 the head of an engineering project, employed by a subcontractor of the EDF, was refused access to nuclear sites at the nuclear center in Nogent-sur-Seine “without any apparent reason” by the city’s prefecture. The 29 year-old engineer had previously received access in 2012 and 2013.

However, in March the prefecture decided otherwise and suspended his access. The action required no justification as a matter of national “defense.” With no explanation given, the lawyers of the Collective Against Islamophobia are attempting to get an answer. “My client was authorized for three years to enter nuclear sites. The big question is: what changed? From one day to the next, he was suspected of I don’t know what,” argued the client’s lawyer Sefen Guez Guez. He does not exclude an act of Islamophobia from the potential list of reasons. “Given the surrounding context, his religious practices were perhaps disturbing,” he added.

In June, Guez Guez brought the complaint to the administrative court of Chalons-en-Champagne which honored the complaint, saying that there was “serious doubt about the decision’s legality.” The judge reinstated the engineer’s access and allowed the man to return to the nuclear sites.

Less than a month later the EDF again denied the plaintiff access and his case returned to court. The decision concerning future access to nuclear sites will be released at the end of August. “My client is confident. He has never made any errors, he’s a future father, he has no criminal record, he has no problems with the company,” affirmed his lawyer.

While waiting for the decision, the engineer can only complete administrative tasks. “He’s in a closet and he wants to return to work as it was before,” said Guez Guez. “It’s like Guantanamo! How can someone lose his job without being able to defend himself, without knowing what’s happening?”

Con Ed Sells Building Near Ground Zero Where Plans for Mosque Caused Uproar

August 21, 2014

Consolidated Edison, which once owned the nuclear reactors at Indian Point, has finally unloaded a property that may have been the source of even more controversy.

The utility company notified state regulators this week that it had sold the site of a proposed Islamic cultural center in Lower Manhattan that came to be known as the “ground zero mosque.” Con Edison has not used the building since 1969, but the company got caught in the uproar over the proposal when it surfaced nearly five years ago.

By then, Con Edison had been nothing more than the landlord for the building at 49-51 Park Place, about two blocks north of the World Trade Center. It was close enough to the twin towers destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001, that a wing flap from one of the crashed jets was found there last year.

That proximity to a place where more than 2,700 people were killed by terrorists set off a national debate about the plan for a mosque and Islamic cultural center on the property. The developer, Soho Properties, eventually abandoned that idea and now plans to build a three-story museum dedicated to Islam on the Con Ed site and a condominium tower on an adjacent lot, 45 Park Place, Roxanne Donovan, a spokeswoman for the developer, said on Wednesday. (The museum would contain a sanctuary for prayer services.)

That plan has been years in the making and it is still not clear if Sharif El-Gamal, the chief executive of Soho Properties, has the financing necessary to move forward. But he cleared one of the hurdles at the end of July, when he bought the Con Edison property for $10.7 million, Ms. Donovan said.

Even that transaction was fraught, though. Soho Properties had been leasing the property until it decided in 2010 to buy it from Con Ed. The utility set the price at $10.7 million, but the developer challenged that valuation in court. After a judge in State Supreme Court in Manhattan confirmed the valuation, the developer appealed.

In a statement issued by Ms. Donovan, Mr. El-Gamal said: “We are pleased to have concluded a complex acquisition from Con Edison allowing us to complete the assemblage for our upcoming developments at Park Place. This further exemplifies our strength as a buyer of real estate from institutional sellers.”

The latest proposal for the Con Ed site, disclosed in late April, called for a “museum and sanctuary space” designed by the architect Jean Nouvel and “dedicated to exploring the faith of Islam and its arts and culture.”

At the time, Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesman for Mr. El-Gamal, said the developer was not anticipating an outcry similar to the one that erupted over his plan for a much larger Islamic community center and prayer space.

Muslim associations demand better protection for mosques after repeating assaults

August 24, 2014

A new episode of assaults against mosques has shocked Muslim communities last week in Germany. Furthermore, a Jewish synagogue was attacked in Wuppertal. A prayer room and samples of Koran books were burning in a mosque in Bielefeld. The next day, firefighters turned off fire in a new constructed mosque in Berlin. Perpetrators attacked again the mosque in Bielefeld burning Koran books. The police expects a political motivation for the recent assaults. Eight days ago, after the first assault, police authorities excluded every hint or suspicion regarding a xenophobic, political or religious motivation.

The chairman of the association ´League of Islamic communities in Bielefeld´ (BIG) Cemil   Şahinöz, showed had understanding for the hasty conclusions of the police. The goal of the perpetrators would be “maximal destruction”. The signs of the assaults would be evident. The mosque communities would be “deeply disappointed” by the lack of solidarity within German society. According to Şahinöz, racism would flourish when the majority of society would keep silent. The chairman of BIG called politicians and the public to break their silence.

The speaker of the coordination council of Muslims (KRM) Ali Kizilkaya called the society to stand united. Kizilkaya condemned the assaults against mosques asking security authorities to do everything possible to arrest the perpetrators and to protect the mosques. He regretted the low amount of solidarity with Muslims. Statement defining “Islam as part of Germany” would be meaningless without solidarity in such critical moments. Nevertheless Kizilkaya welcomed the visits Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) to the attacked and burned Mevlana mosque in Berlin.

During his visit at the Mevlana mosque, SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel condemned the assaults underlining that criticism against the terror organization ´Islamic State´ would not target Muslims and Islam. “Islam is a part of Germany” Gabriel repeated. The chairman of the the central council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman Mazyek asked for more protection of mosques and called for a united society across Muslims and non-Muslims. Fazli Atin, president of the Islamic federation in Berlin, welcomed the visit of Gabriel as a clear sign for Muslims, showing that they would not be left alone with these assaults.