Must the rainbow turn monochrome in parliament?; Minorities and legislatures

{Racial and religious minorities tend to be under-represented in legislatures} The political representation of racial minorities troubles in almost every country, rich or poor. At one end of the income scale, Switzerland held an election on October 21st that turned on the treatment of foreigners-perhaps understandably in a country where a fifth of the population is foreign-born but which has hardly any minority members of parliament. At the other end of the scale, Sudan took a jolt recently when a party representing the black, mostly Christian south pulled out of the predominantly Arab and Muslim coalition that runs the government…

UN Slams “Insidious” Racism in France

PARIS – France’s ethnic minorities are trapped in social and economic “ghettos” because of an “insidious racism” tolerated by French politicians, a senior UN envoy warned Friday, September 28. “Racism is alive, insidious and clearly targeted at those ‘visible’ minorities of immigrant heritage, the majority of whom are French citizens,” UN independent expert on minority issues Gay J. McDougall said in a report drawn up following a 10-day fact-finding mission to France, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP). “People who have worked hard, played by all the rules and truly believe in the principles of the French republic are trapped in socially and geographically isolated urban ghettos, with unemployment in some areas over 40 per cent.” McDougall, who travelled to poor, high-immigration suburbs of Paris, Marseille in the south and Strasbourg in the east that were hit by riots in 2005, is to report back to the UN Human Rights Council in March.

Greece: Minority Report: rights for Turks in Greece

{Greek nationals, whose mother-tongue is Turkish, are not allowed to identify themselves as Turks. Despite Greek reforms, Turkish-speakers still look to Turkey for relief.} By John Brady Kiesling Greek courts have refused since the 1980s to allow Greek citizens whose mother tongue is Turkish to identify themselves as Turks in official contexts. Legally and morally this is an untenable position. The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne specified minimum human rights for Greece’s Muslim community, not maximum rights. A grand, half-forgotten bargain was sealed in Helsinki in 1975. The Soviet Union, the United States and their partners and satellites renounced armed conflict and acknowledged the existing borders of Europe. Nationalists unreconciled to those borders were appeased by guarantees for the rights of their “national minorities” stranded on the wrong side of them. The Helsinki Final Act was crafted to weaken the glue holding the Soviet system together. Even so, the US legal team at Helsinki had serious reservations about enshrining “national minorities” in international law. The American nation is every US citizen. The founding fathers insisted that civic and human rights belonged equally to each individual by virtue of membership in the human race. Each person is a minority of one. Minority rights are acceptable as the extension of the exercise of individual rights, but preferential treatment handed out by the state to some groups but not to others on the basis of language, religion or “blood” is incompatible with the fundamental principle of equality before the law.

Record Number of Muslim Candidates Run for French Parliament

At least 250 minority candidates, many of North African origins, are running for the National Assembly this year in continental France, compared with little more than a dozen five years ago, according to figures compiled from party records and associations that represent minorities. Precise figures are difficult to obtain because election authorities are not allowed to designate a candidate’s race. While those figures remain only a small percentage of the 7,639 candidates seeking legislative office, political analysts say they represent a seismic shift in French politics. The increasing number of minority candidates shows that a political revolution is underway, said Nordine Nabili, 39, a sociologist and chief of Bondy Blog, one of the most popular political blogs among young minorities in the heavily immigrant Paris suburbs. People who live in the suburbs are questioning the system. Unlike traditional politicians, they speak their minds – they are like republican kamikazes. For Jean-Claude Beaujour, the UMP candidate in Paris’ multi-ethnic eastern district, this year’s crop of diversity candidates is just the beginning.

Muslim Minorities and the Law in Europe: Chances and Challenges

In Europe today, millions of Muslims are living in secular democratic states by their own choice, contributing to the societies they are living in and forming now a new part of European identity. European secular legal orders grant them religious freedom and equal rights. Nevertheless, certain challenges for both Muslims and European legal orders should not be neglected. Certainly, freedom of religion and equality before the law prevent legislation and administration from any religious bias. But current legal institutions were developed in a concrete historical and social framework, with Christianity playing a major if not crucial role in this regard. The legal integration of Islam, being much less institutionalised than Christianity or Judaism, has become a challenge for European legal orders. European countries have to find ways to grant the full range of rights to Muslim individuals and groups by re-reading the existing rules without altering their validity as such. This book discusses the above issues and tries to find answers to questions such as: Does Shari`a contain intrinsic instruments to develop rules consistent with this binding legal framework? Are Muslims defining themselves as a minority living in diaspora? Are there opportunities for them to actively participate in societal institutions, based on a self-understanding as an integral part of the societies they are living in?

Muslims in Western Europe After 9/11

The principal aim of this report is to highlight the multi-layered levels of discrimination encountered by Muslims. This phenomenon cannot simply be subsumed into the term Islamophobia. Indeed, the term can be misleading, as it presupposes the pre-eminence of religious discrimination when other forms of discrimination (such as racial or class) may be more relevant. We therefore intend to use the term Islamophobia as a starting point for analyzing the different dimensions that define the political situation of Muslim minorities in Europe. We will not to take the term for granted by assigning it only one meaning, such as anti-Islamic discourse.

The report is part of WP: Securitization and Religious Divides in Europe

Muslims Must Abide By Uk Code, Says Cre Chief

MUSLIMS living in the UK must accept that British values include a commitment to freedom of speech, even if that means offending people, says the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality. Speaking in the wake of worldwide demonstrations against cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, Sir Trevor Phillips said that the right to offend was an “absolutely precious” part of British identity, which could not be bargained away. And he suggested that any Muslims who want to live under a system of Shariah law should leave the country. However, Sir Trevor – who has recently sparked controversy with his attacks on multiculturalism and calls on ethnic minorities to integrate – said that the other side of the coin of freedom of speech was that non-Muslims must accept the right of imams to denounce homosexuality in a way that many people find offensive. Sir Trevor told ITV1’s Jonathan Dimbleby programme that he wanted to promote a sense of “Britishness” among all those living in the UK. “What some minorities have to accept is that there are certain central things we all agree about, which are about the way we treat each other – that we have an attachment to democracy, that we sort things out by voting, not by violence and intimidation, that we tolerate things that we don’t like,” he said. “Short of people menacing and threatening each other, we have freedom of expression. We allow people to offend each other.” And that commitment to freedom of expression should also allow Muslim preachers to make comments about homosexuality that are offensive to broad segments of the British population, he said. “One point of Britishness is that people can say what they like about the way we should live, however absurd, however unpopular it is,” said Sir Trevor. “That’s why I believe that freedom of expression – including Muslim leaders’ right to say they think homosexuality is harmful – is absolutely precious. In the end, once we start to limit freedom of expression, the people who suffer most are minorities.” Sir Trevor rejected the idea that British Muslims should be allowed to live under Shariah law in their own communities. “I don’t think that’s conceivable,” he said. “We have one set of laws. They are decided on by one group of people, members of parliament, and that’s the end of the story. Anybody who lives here has to accept that’s the way we do it. If you want to have laws decided in another way, you have to live somewhere else.”

Muslims in the European Union: Discrimination and Islamophobia

The report has four principal parts: first, it presents a broad overview of the situation of Islam in Europe, including some of the recent debates that have sparked many manifestations of discrimiation and Islamophobia, including the debate over the cartoons of the Prophet in Denmark and the headscarf controversies in multiple European countries.

This section offers some basic demographic information and touches on the education, employment, and housing situations for Muslims in many European nations.

Secondly, the report catalogues manifestations of Islamophobia in the EU nations, with a focus on violent or criminal acts towards Muslims.

Thirdly, there is an examination of official government initiatives in the EU member states that are intended to address racism, discrimination and Islamophobia, and finally there is an examination of faith-based or community-based efforts to combat discrimination and Islamophobia.

The report concludes by offering a series of opinions on the most urgent and most helpful steps that the member countries and the EU as a whole could take to ameliorate the manifestations and effects of discrimination and Islamophobia.

Key findings of the report:

While there is a paucity of data on discriminatory or Islamophobic incidents, and such incidents are undoubtedly vastly under-reported, the EUMC report combined official and unofficial sources to come up with the following information, all for the year 2004 unles noted:

In Denmark there were 14 recorded Islamophobic incidents.

In Germany there were 21 recorded Islamophobic incidents.

In Greece there were 4 recorded Islamophobic incidents.

In Spain there were 27 recorded Islamophobic incidents, many of which were connected explicitly or implicitly to the March 2004 Madrid bombings.

In France there were 131 recorded Islamophobic incidents. France is one of the few EU countries that has an official process for recording such incidents, which certainly impacts their tally in comparison to the other counries’.

In Ireland there were 14 recorded Islamophobic incidents.

In Italy there were 7 recorded Islamophobic incidents, one involving the detention of 161 Muslim individuals by the Italian police.

In Denmark, in the month of November 2004 alone, 106 Islamophobic incidents were recorded, this directly following the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh.

In Austria, Poland, the Slovak Republic, Finland, and Sweden, there is very little data on Islamophobic attacks or incidents. The report does cite some examples, and makes use of data organized by country of origin. Such data, however, does not tell us whether the victims were Muslim or, even if they were, whether the incidents were Islamophobic in nature.

In the United Kingdom, the Crown Police collect data on “faith hate” incidents. Such incidents averaged 10-12 per week throughout 2004, and were at markedly higher numbers in the summer of 2005, immediately following the July 7 bombings.

Such data is clearly incomplete, but it serves to present a sample of the wide variety of violent and/or threatening treatment that is dealt out to Muslims or individuals perceived to be Muslim in the EU member countries.

Conclusions of the report:

“Muslims in the Member States of the European Union experience various levels of discrimination and marginalisation in employment, education and housing, and are also the victims of negative stereotyping by majority populations and the media. In addition, they are vulnerable to manifestations of prejudice and hatred in the form of anything from verbal threats through to physical attacks on people and property.

Discrimination against Muslims can be attributed toIslamophobic attitudes, as much as to racist and xenophobic resentment, as these elements are in many cases inextricably intertwined. Racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia become mutually reinforcing phenomena and hostility against Muslims should also be seen in the context of a more general climate of hostility towards migrants and minorities.

Yet, given this situation, the true extent and nature of discrimination and Islamophobic incidents against Muslim communities remains severely under-reported and under- documented in the EU. There is a serious lack of data or official information on, first, the social situation of Muslims in Member States and, second, on the extent and nature of Islamophobic incidents.

As a reflection of this, policy makers are not well informed at both national and EU level about the specific situation of Muslims in the areas of employment, education and housing, as well as about the extent and nature of discrimination, incidents and threats targeted at Muslims.

The EUMC finds that Member States need to develop, reinforce and evaluate policies aimed at delivering equality and non-discrimination for Muslim communities, particularly in the fields of employment, education and access to goods and services. In this regard, monitoring and data collection are an indispensable tool to inform effective policy development.

The EUMC believes that measures and practices which tackle discrimination, address social marginalisation and promote inclusiveness should be integrated policy priorities. In particular, the EUMC finds that accessibility to education as well as equal opportunities in employment need consideration. Access to housing and participation in civic processes are further key issues to be tackled, particularly at the local and regional level. The EUMC encourages positive action initiatives to create an enabling environment for Europe’s diverse Muslim communities to participate fully in mainstream society.

The EUMC welcomes Community initiatives to enhance co-ordination and exchange of good practices with regards to integration policies at national and local level, as outlined in the European Commission’s Communication “Common Agenda for Integration Framework for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals in the European Union”. The Common Basic Principles on Integration (CBPs), adopted by the European Council in November 2004, recognise that participation and equality are fundamental for better integration and a more cohesive society.

The EUMC welcomes the growing awareness of discrimination against Muslims and manifestations of Islamophobia in Member States, as well as the development of positive initiatives, some of which are highlighted in this report. The analysis of the available data and information, however, pointed to a number of areas where further initiatives could be taken including legislation, employment, education, the role of the media and the support of civil society. In addition, the EUMC is of the opinion that Member States should introduce or make use of existing legislative and/or administrative provisions for positive action.

On this basis and according to its role under Article 2 (e) of its founding Regulation to “formulate conclusions and opinions for the Community and its Member States”, the EUMC proposes a number of opinions within a general framework of measures against racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, Islamophobia and related intolerances. The opinions are listed at the end of this report.”

Plan To Rename Minorities In Bid To Strengthen Ties To UK

By ANDREW WOODCOCK BRITAIN’S ethnic minority communities might be given new names in an effort to strengthen their ties to this country. Home Office minister Hazel Blears is to ask representatives of Muslim and other minorities whether they would prefer to be known by US-style hyphenated terms such as Asian-British, Pakistani-British or Indian-British, rather than simply ‘Asians’. The idea is one of a set of proposals to be floated at meetings that Ms Blears is holding around the country to discuss how to steer young Muslims away from radicalism. Ms Blears – appointed head of a new Government commission on integrating minorities by Prime Minister Tony Blair – said today: “In America, they do seem to have the idea that you’re an Italian-American or you’re an Irish-American, and that’s quite interesting. “I am going to talk to people and ask ‘how does that feel?’ It is about your identity and I think it’s really important.” She added: “If you want a society that is really welded together, there are certain things that unite us because you are British, but you can be a bit different too.” The proposal is seen as an indication that the Government is considering claims that some second-generation Asians find it difficult to identify with Britain or the country of their roots. Mrs Blears was backed by the Commission for Racial Equality but it also warned of problems ahead. A spokesman said: “She’s hit the nail on the head when she says it’s about how people feel and refer to themselves. “But one person might be happy being classified as one thing and someone of the same race or religion might not.” Muslim groups also responded with caution to the idea, while Conservatives branded it “fatuous”. Sir Iqbal Sacranie, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “What of the second generations? Why should they be defined as other than British? “These forms of identity based on ethnic background have been tried in the past and have failed.” And Ghayasuddin Siddiqui of the Muslim Parliament said: “Nobody cares for labels. We have to create a stakeholding society and an inclusive society.” Shadow home affairs spokesman Edward Garnier said: “This is a fatuous idea. “I’ve got a growing number of Asian British people in my constituency. They think of themselves as British. They don’t need a Government minister to tell them how to describe themselves.” And Greg Mulholland, the Lib Dem MP for Leeds North West, where the July 7 bombs were created, said a rebranding exercise would “not be remotely helpful”. “I think it’s another gimmick. I’m afraid we need some rather more intelligent and far-reaching solutions.” Councillor Shami Khan, a leading member of Edinburgh’s Pakistan community, said the proposals might go some way towards helping to integrate migrants into the community. He added: “We have to keep our culture but, at the end of the day, by coming here, people are accepting the British way of life and must adopt a British value and must have a respect for that citizenship. “I think this is a good idea and if you call people from South East Asia “British-Asian” that’s okay. I feel Scottish-Asian and I have a loyalty to Britain. “But what we really need to do is to teach people about citizenship and loyalty to this country.”