Islamophobia Threatens Democracy in Europe, Report Says

In a report on the health of democracy in the post-Soviet world, Freedom House painted a bleak picture of the state of liberal values in parts of Europe. The Washington-based human rights advocacy organization, which publishes a global freedom index every year, highlighted a number of worrying trends in 29 countries in Eastern and Central Europe, the Balkans and Central Asia.

Chief among them was the strengthening of authoritarian politics in a number of countries, as well as the rise of “illiberal nationalism” in others, particular European Union democracies like Poland and Hungary. The European struggle to come to grips with the migrant crisis on its borders, as well as ongoing economic turmoil, are the leading causes of this democratic malaise, according to Freedom House.

The new assessments were published this week in Freedom House’s annual Nations In Transit report, focused on the countries that started transitioning toward democracy after the fall of the Soviet Union. It usesthe organization’s specific ratings that evaluate nations across a range of criteria, from corruption to the strength of electoral institutions to the independence of the media. Weighted for population, the average Democracy Score in the 29 countries profiled by Freedom House has declined for 12 years in a row.

“The biggest challenge to democracy in Europe is the spread of deeply illiberal politics,” details Freedom House’s press release. This, as WorldViews has charted over the past year, has been very much on display in the response to an influx of refugees and migrants from Syria and other countries. Right-wing politicians, including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, fanned populist flames by grandstanding over the threat of Muslim migration.

Their rhetoric, garbed in ominous declarations of a clash of civilizations, played to domestic audiences and, in a few cases, boosted the political prospects of some ruling parties. Governments from Poland to Slovakia to Hungary rejected E.U. proposals to accommodate tiny numbers of refugees.

Leaders in these countries, the report states, “exploited the crisis to strengthen their populist appeal, disregarding fundamental humanitarian principles and the ideals of democratic pluralism for short-term partisan gain.”

The mood exacerbated wider strains within the European Union, whichfaces an existential moment in June as Britain votes in a referendum on its membership in Europe.

“Claiming that Europe faces a Muslim invasion has become standard fare for a range of politicians and political parties in Europe,” Nate Schenkkan, project director of Nations in Transit, said in a statement. “This kind of speech undermines democracy by rejecting one of its fundamental principles—equality before the law. There is a danger that this kind of hateful, paranoid speech will lead to violence against minorities and refugees.”

The report also digs into various social and political crises in Eurasia sparked by the drop in global oil prices, the scourge of corruption in Ukraine and the deepening dictatorships of Central Asia. You can read it in full here.

New Book: Muslims in Poland and Eastern Europe. Widening the European Discourse on Islam

While Islam has been firmly placed on the global agenda since 9/11, and
continues to occupy a prominent place in media discourse, attention has
recently begun to shift towards European Muslims, or “as some would
prefer to say” Muslims in Europe. Apart from the usual concerns, mostly
articulated in the media, on the radicalization of Muslim youth, their
failure to integrate into mainstream society and so forth, a vast body
of academic literature on Islam and Muslims in Europe has sprung up
since the late 1990s. This discourse and body of literature on Muslims
in Europe, however, are confined to the west of the continent, viz. the
old EU. This gives the impression that Europe stops at the banks of the
Oder. Central and Eastern Europe – both new EU members and other
countries – has been placed outside the realm of discourse, i.e. outside
Europe. This book aims to fill this gap by describing Muslim communities
and their experiences in Central and Eastern Europe, both in countries
with marginal Muslim populations, often not exceeding 1% (e.g. Hungary
and Lithuania), and in countries with significant Muslim minorities,
sometimes proportionally even larger than in France (e.g. Bulgaria).
Some of these countries have a long history of Muslim presence, dating
back to the 14th century in the case of the Tatars (e.g. Poland and
Ukraine) and the 16th century in the case of the first Muslim arrivals
in the Balkans (e.g. Romania, Slovenia) during the Ottoman era. In other
countries (e.g. Slovakia), Muslims have arrived only recently. What all
these countries have in common is a Communist past inside the former
Eastern bloc.

Toronto imam charged with assault traveled under aliases

News Agencies – August 24, 2011

A Toronto imam charged with sexual assault travelled under three aliases, the Toronto Police Service has announced. Police allege that Mohammad Masroor, 48, used the name Junaid Salman in Hungary, Austria, Italy and elsewhere in Europe in the early 1990s, may have travelled under the name Abdur Rahim in India, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia in the 1980s, and was also known as Abdul Karim Abdul Aziz.

Mr. Masroor was arrested on Aug. 10 and police announced on Aug. 17 that he faced 13 charges, including sexual assault and threatening death, in connection with alleged offences between Nov. 1, 2008, and July 28, 2011. Mr. Masroor taught at the Baitul Mukarram Islamic Society on Danforth Avenue in Scarborough. Mr. Masroor has worked at mosques in Bangladesh, Singapore, Sri Lanka and several countries in Western Europe. He was most recently in Michigan and Florida.

Fifty Percent of Europeans Think of Islam As a Religion of Intolerance, Study Finds

11 March 2011

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a social democratic foundation, has published a report on right-wing extremism, intolerance and discrimination in Europe. Supremacy against particular groups is a widespread phenomenon in the eight European countries that the study focussed on (Germany, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, Poland and Hungary). Several racists statements found strong agreement among the participants, e.g. around fifty percent claim their country hosts too many immigrants, between 17% (Netherlands) and 70% (Poland) supported anti-Semitic statements, a third believes in a natural hierarchy between ethnicities. Islam also plays a large role, with 50% of participants claiming that it is a religion of intolerance.

European Conditions: Findings of a Study On Group-Focused Enmity in Europe

The Bielefeld Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence has conducted a Europe-wide study on prejudices and enmity against various social groups. The representative study saw 8000 participants (1000 people respectively in the UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Italy, Poland and Hungary). They were interviewed about their view on Islam, homosexuality, immigration, an alleged “hierarchy between white and black people” or the allegedly “strong influence of Jews”. About fifty percent agreed to the statement that Islam was a religion of intolerance.

Many of the prejudices are shared in the different European countries, although the degree to which people agree, varies. Generally, stronger prejudices are held in Poland and Hungary, while the Netherlands and Britain showed the lowest. The longitudinal study of Wilhelm Heitmeyer, Andreas Zick and their research team is a first in its European-wide approach.

European Conditions: Findings of a Study on Group-Focused Enmity in Europe

The Bielefeld Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence has conducted a Europe-wide study on prejudices and enmity against various social groups. The representative study saw 8000 participants (1000 people respectively in the UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Italy, Poland and Hungary). They were interviewed about their view on Islam, homosexuality, immigration, an alleged “hierarchy between white and black people” or the allegedly “strong influence of Jews”. About fifty percent agreed to the statement that Islam was a religion of intolerance.

Many of the prejudices are shared in the different European countries, although the degree to which people agree, varies. Generally, stronger prejudices are held in Poland and Hungary, while the Netherlands and Britain showed the lowest. The longitudinal study of Wilhelm Heitmeyer, Andreas Zick and their research team is a first in its European-wide approach.

Study reveals prejudices against Islam all over Europe

The Bielefeld Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence has conducted a Europe-wide study on prejudices and enmity against various social groups. The representative study saw 8000 participants (1000 people respectively in the UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Italy, Poland and Hungary). They were interviewed about their view on Islam, homosexuality, immigration, an alleged “hierarchy between white and black people” or the allegedly “strong influence of Jews”. About fifty percent agreed to the statement that Islam was a religion of intolerance.

Many of the prejudices are shared in the different European countries, although the degree to which people agree, varies. Generally, stronger prejudices are held in Poland and Hungary, while the Netherlands and Britain showed the lowest. The longitudinal study of Wilhelm Heitmeyer, Andreas Zick and their research team is a first in its European-wide approach.

Socialists lose in European Parliament

With the lowest turnout figures in European Parliament elections since 1979, the fear that racist and far-right parties would sweep the European elections did not materialise, although in the Netherlands, Austria, Britain and Hungary, they were quite successful. In Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Poland and Bulgaria, racist and far-right parties did worse than expected. In the UK for the first time two members of the right wing British National Party (BNP) were elected.

Bishops’ Conference On Islam In Europe

EUROPE/IRELAND – Presence of Islam in Europe, freedom of press and respect for religions, ecumenical matters, focus of annual meeting for media officers and spokespersons of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe Maynooth (Agenzia Fides) – The Media Officers and Spokespersons of Europe’s Bishops’ Conferences are set to meet in Maynooth (Ireland) from 20-23 July 2006. The 35 participants will come from 23 countries: Austria, Belgium, Belarus, Czech Republic, England and Wales, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Sweden, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain, and Switzerland. The meeting is organised by CCEE and is taking place at the invitation of the Irish Bishops’ Conference and the Director of their Communications Office, Martin Long. The Bishops’ Conferences’ media officers will discuss the following themes :the presence of Islam in Europe: the current trends in Islam and the pastoral challenges facing the Churches in the sphere of communications, too; the Catholic perspective on the freedom of the press and respect for religions; ecumenical matters, and in particular the development of the process of the Third European Ecumenical Assembly (Sibiu, Romania, 4-9 September 2007) and reconciliation among the Churches of Northern Ireland; the agenda of the European Union, and in particular the work of the EU Information Society and Media Commission. In addition, part of the meeting will also be dedicated to the exchange of information about current issues within the work of the Bishops’ Conferences. The schedule in Maynooth will include opportunities for prayer and the celebration of Mass. On Saturday 22 July, the participants will visit the ancient monastic site of Glendalough and in the evening will be received by the Archbishop of Dublin and ComECE Vice-president, Diarmuid Martin. (S.L.) (Agenzia Fides 18/7/2006, righe 17, parole 212)