The European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance released a new report on February 12th, 2008 saying that Islamophobia is gaining ground in the Netherlands, with Muslims and minorities facing increasing discrimination and violence. The report also decries the tone of debate about ethnic minorities in Dutch politics and media. Positive findings concede that progress has been made in a number of the fields highlighted in its previous report from 2000, citing that the Netherlands has become party to several international instruments working to combat racism and racial discrimination. The establishment of a network of local anti-discrimination bureaus is underway in the country, and efforts have been made to record and counter discrimination in the criminal justice system. Criticisms, however, include that recommendations in previous reports have only been partially implemented. Recommendations in the current report suggest that authorities take further action in a number of areas, particularly concerning public debate on integration and polarization in the country, taking steps to counter xenophobic discourse in politics, consistent opposition to all manifestations of Islamophobia, and the reviewing of policies in light of the prohibition of direct and indirect racial discrimination.
A European human rights watchdog says that Islamophobia is gaining ground in the Netherlands, with Muslims and minorities facing increasing discrimination and violence. The report, which was released by the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance, also decries the tone of debate about ethnic minorities in Dutch politics and media. Positive findings concede that progress has been made in a number of the fields highlighted in its previous report from 2000, citing that the Netherlands has become party to several international instruments working to combat racism and racial discrimination. The establishment of a network of local anti-discrimination bureaus is underway in the country, and efforts have been made to record and counter discrimination in the criminal justice system. Criticisms, however, include that recommendations in previous reports have only been partially implemented. Recommendations in the current report suggest that authorities take further action in a number of areas, particularly concerning public debate on integration and polarization in the country, taking steps to counter xenophobic discourse in politics, consistent opposition to all manifestations of Islamophobia, and the reviewing of policies in light of the prohibition of direct and indirect racial discrimination.
The European Commission is soon to publish an updated version of the “2004 European Guide to Integration,” listing improved practices and lessons garnered over the past few years. The Guide will be presented to European ministers during a conference in Potsdam, Germany about pathways for immigrant integration, how to deal with newly arrived refugees, and how to encourage civic participation, employment, and entrepreneurial initiative among immigrants. The first edition was published in 2004 at the Dutch suggestion that Islamophobia had seized the EU. It was also a response to American criticism of European approaches to integration that the U.S. government considers to be a security threat.
The European Commission on Monday said it was giving new funds to support cross-border projects aimed at improving the integration of immigrants in the 27-member European Union. Some four million euros (5.4 million dollars) would be made available for 12 initiatives that “encourage dialogue with civil society, develop integration models, seek out and evaluate good practice in the integration field and set up networks at European levels,” the commission said. The EU executive also said it was about to publish the new version of a handbook on integration, designed to help member states draw up integration policies. The guidelines would include best practices in improving immigrants’ access to housing and employment in the EU. EU integration ministers meeting in Potsdam, Germany, later this week are expected to discuss ways to improve member states’ cooperation in integration policies and to strengthen the dialogue with other cultures. German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, whose country currently runs the rotating EU presidency, said last week that “achieving full integration and ensuring equal opportunities (of immigrants living in Europe) is one of the most important challenges of EU home affairs policy.” He also said that “intercultural dialogue is particularly important for ensuring stability and internal security, given the growing Muslim population in many (EU) member states.” Schaeuble suggested earlier this year that EU states should train Islamic preachers so they could help integrate Muslims into European society rather than promote separation.
European Union officials on Thursday launched the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights – the 27-nation bloc’s latest effort to stamp out intolerance as it struggles to absorb an unprecedented crush of immigrants. Officials said the new agency would expand the work of the Vienna-based European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia to forge an EU-wide human rights culture that respects people of different genders, cultures and faiths. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the new agency reflected the EU’s “deep belief in the central worth and dignity of each individual.” Underscoring how racism, anti-Semitism and crimes against foreigners remain entrenched in Europe, the monitoring center warned in December that Europe’s Muslims routinely suffered acts ranging from physical attacks to discrimination in the job and housing markets. “We must continue to attack these diseases,” said Franco Frattini, the EU’s justice and home affairs commissioner. “There are those who would exploit our differences. Therefore, respecting different cultures is vital, but respect for fundamental individual rights must prevail,” said Frattini, adding that the new agency would complement the work of the Council of Europe, the bloc’s top human rights body. “Europe has changed and is changing – the promotion of fundamental rights could be our identity for the future,” he said. Amnesty International called the new agency a good start, but criticized its “minimalist mandate that contrasts sharply with the serious scale and nature of human rights problems in the EU.” In a statement, Amnesty expressed disappointment that the agency was steering clear of some thorny issues, including police abuse, violence against women and the interplay between counterterrorism laws and basic rights and freedoms. “The Fundamental Rights Agency, despite its name, is a missed opportunity,” Amnesty said. The Agency for Fundamental Rights is expected to become fully operational later this year. Like the monitoring center, the new organization will track and collect data on violence and discrimination, advise EU headquarters and member states, and raise public awareness of the problem. Its interim director will be Beate Winkler, who has been in charge of the monitoring center since 1998. In an interview earlier this week with The Associated Press, Winkler expressed hopes that the new agency would produce “a culture where people have the feeling they are respected – where they don’t have the fear of being attacked because they are Muslim or a Jew.” “The two most important challenges for the 21st century are how are we dealing with the Earth, and how are we dealing with the humans living on the Earth,” she said. The human rights arm of the region’s largest security group, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said Thursday it welcomed the new agency. “The creation of the Fundamental Rights Agency will further strengthen the EU’s role in effectively protecting human rights,” said Christian Strohal of the 56-nation OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
The vice-president of the European Commission Franco Frattini has said Europe can only respect Muslim traditions if they do not contradict the bloc’s own basic values, such as freedom of speech or equality between men and women. “We are not governed by sharia, after all,” he said in an interview with the Italian daily La Repubblica published on Monday
The European Union has backed Denmark in the row over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, but leaders of its legislature differed over the limits of free speech. The cartoons, first published in Denmark, caused outrage in the Muslim world, and Danish and other European diplomatic missions have been attacked in Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia. Political leaders from all groups rallied behind Copenhagen in a special debate in the European Parliament, declaring that an attack on Denmark was an attack on all member states and condemning the resort to violence by some protesters. However, libertarians warned against any attempt to make the media adopt self-censorship. “I want here today to send my solidarity to the people of Denmark,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said, calling Danes “a people who rightly enjoy the reputation as being amongst the most open and tolerant not just in Europe but in the world”. Danish goods have been subject to boycotts in some Muslim countries, and Barroso was applauded when he said such action was by definition a boycott of European goods. Companies slammed Greens leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit condemned companies such as French hypermarket chain Carrefour and Swiss food giant Nestle for issuing notices in Muslim countries saying they were not Danish or did not stock Danish goods. He and liberal spokeswoman Karen Riis-Joergensen urged the European Commission to drop the idea of encouraging the media to adopt a voluntary code of conduct that would avoid offending religious sensibilities. “If we start undermining freedom of expression, our right to analyse any religion critically, our fundamental right to speak freely and express ourselves will be violated,” Riis-Joergensen said. However, Austrian President Heinz Fischer, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, appeared in an address to the EU legislature to call for media self-restriction. “If a ban on pictorial representation constitutes an essential element of a religion, one ought not and must not offend against this principle twice – not only by disrespecting this ban, but also by reinforcing this hurtful violation of a taboo in the form of a caricature,” he said. Islamic tradition forbids depicting the prophet. Reverse condemnation The leader of the centre-right European People’s Party, Hans-Gert Poettering, called for a commission of experts chosen by the EU and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference to review schoolbooks for ethnic and religious prejudice. Brandishing magazines published in Muslim countries, he said: “We have documents of hundreds of cartoons and caricatures which make a mockery of our values and our religion. So these cartoons exist in the Islamic world too.” The socialist and liberal groups each symbolically chose a Danish EU member as its speaker in the debate. Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, the Socialist former prime minister of Denmark, said he was shocked to see people attacked, flags burned and embassies damaged. He criticised his centre-right successor, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the prime minister, for refusing to meet ambassadors from Muslim countries when they asked to see him last year after the cartoons were first published. Dialogue Fogh Rasmussen was quoted in Algeria’s al-Watan newspaper on Wednesday as saying he, too, was horrified to see Danish diplomatic missions attacked. “All countries have an obligation to ensure the security of diplomatic missions on their territory,” he said, adding that Iran and Syria had failed in that obligation. Parliament leaders, the European Commission and the Austrian EU presidency vowed to strengthen dialogue with moderate Muslims and not to let extremists disrupt their relations. “Extremists cannot be allowed to triumph,” said Hans Winkler, the Austrian State Secretary for Foreign Affairs. EU foreign ministers would take new steps to strengthen dialogue at their next meeting on 27 February, he added.
École de Médecine 15, rue de l’École de Méde cine, 75006 Paris
A Roundtable By The Network On Comparative Research On Islam and Muslims In Europe (NOCRIME)
Organized with the Sponsorship of the European Commission (DG Research)
Keynote address by Jocelyne Cesari
Key question addressed: do Muslims Create and Organize their Communities in Ways that Affect Citizenship Formation and Political Mobilization?
European Citizenship and Muslim Leadership
A Roundtable By The Network On Comparative Research On Islam and Muslims In Europe (NOCRIME) Organized with the Censorship of the European Commission (DG Research)
Session 1: Legal, Social and Cultural Aspects of Integration of Islam in Different European Countries and in the European Union
Opening Remarks and Introduction
Key Notes Speakers
Chair Jean-Paul Willaime EPHE, Director of GSRL (CNRS-EPHE)
Session 2: The Political Dimension of Inclusion of Islam The Question of Islam in European Governance
Key Note Speakers
Debate with NOCRIME members And Muslim Representatives Key Point: Racism and Xenophobia against Muslims and the Role of the European Institutions
And Muslim Representatives
Debate with NOCRIME members And Muslim Representatives Key Point: The Muslim Voice in the Political and Legal Debate After 9/11
Jocelyne Cesari GSRL-CNRS, Harvard University, NOCRIME coordinator
Sorbonne: Salle des Commissions du Rectorat 46, rue St-Jacques – 75005 Paris