Religiosity, integration, participation: new survey on the attitudes and experiences of citizens of Turkish descent in Germany

A research unit dedicated to the study of the interaction of religion and politics at the University of Münster has published the results of a survey in which a sample Germany’s population of Turkish descent was asked to assess their own situation in the country. ((A brief overview of the study’s main findings (in English): https://www.uni-muenster.de/Religion-und-Politik/en/aktuelles/2016/jun/PM_Integration_und_Religion_aus_Sicht_Tuerkeistaemmiger.html. The full results of the study (in German): https://www.uni-muenster.de/imperia/md/content/religion_und_politik/aktuelles/2016/06_2016/studie_integration_und_religion_aus_sicht_t__rkeist__mmiger.pdf.)) 40 per cent of respondents were born in Germany; 36 per cent hold German citizenship. The survey reveals a general trend towards more participation and success in German society while also highlighting generational divergences, as well as tensions surrounding issues of social acceptance and religiosity.

Empirical findings: social participation and the perception of religiosity

While 90 per cent of the 1200 respondents assert that they feel at home in Germany, more than half do not feel socially accepted. However, this feeling cannot be traced back to material or socioeconomic factors: 44 per cent of respondents are of the opinion that they ‘receive their fair share’ compared to their fellow citizens – a percentage equal to that of West Germans and higher than the level of satisfaction in the former East, where more citizens feel disadvantaged. Indeed, numerous social and economic indicators point to higher participation levels of the second and third generation: only 13 per cent of the later generations have no secondary school qualifications (compared to 40 per cent of their parents), 94 per cent attest themselves a high level of fluency in the German language (compared to 47 per cent). A large majority of second- and third-generation (Muslim) Turks has contact with Christians and Germans on a regular basis, in contrast to their parental generation.

What is lacking even among the later generations, the head of the survey team, Detlef Pollack, notes, is “the feeling of being welcomed and accepted”. This is closely connected to the drastically diverging views on Islam held by persons of Turkish descent and by the rest of the German population. While two thirds of the former assert that Islam ‘fits’ into the Western world, close to three quarters of the overall German population think the opposite. Turkish respondents perceive Islam as peaceable (65 per cent), tolerant (56 per cent), respectful of human rights (57 per cent), and solidary (53 per cent). In the general population, only 5 to 8 per cent of respondents associate Islam with such positive qualities; yet 82 per cent of the German public sees Islam as connected to the oppression of women, 72 per cent as related to fanaticism, and 64 per cent as linked to a propensity to use violence. Among Turkish respondents, only 20, 18, and 12 per cent connect Islam with these negative characteristics. Interestingly, Turkish respondents had an equally high opinion of Christianity as they did of Islam. In this last respect, they mirror the positive picture the overall German population has of the Christian faith.

The research team at the University of Münster thus argues that “the problems of integration can mostly be found at the level of perception and acceptance. It is as important that the population treats immigrants with appreciation as it is [for immigrants] to find an apartment and job.” Since from the perspective of the Muslim minority Islam is a religion that is under assault and that needs to be safeguarded from injury and prejudice, a protective reflex appears to be especially strong among members of the second and third generations: only 52 per cent think that they ought to adapt to German culture (compared to 72 per cent of their parents). Conversely, 86 per cent of the successor generations believe that they ought to stand by their origins – a higher degree of self-assertion than among their parents (67 per cent). Among the second and third generation, Islam has become a prime marker of identity and belonging: their levels of religious observance are lower – they are less likely to go to the mosque or to engage in personal daily prayer than their parents. Yet nevertheless, the later generations see themselves as more religious than do their parents (72 compared to 62 per cent).

The question of ‘fundamentalism’ and the reception of the study in the media

However, the study also warns that attitudes and views indebted to a ‘fundamentalist’ understanding of Islam are widespread, with half of respondents asserting that ‘there is only one true religion’, and with 47 per cent among them deeming it more important to abide by the commands of Islam than by the laws of the state. 36 per cent are convinced that only Islam can solve the demanding problems of our era, and a third believes that Muslims ought to return to the social order of the time of the Prophet. However, the survey again reveals a generational divergence, with 18 per cent of first-generation respondents espousing a firm fundamentalist worldview according to the study’s criteria, compared to only 9 per cent of their children and grand-children. It also appears that the study might not be fully immune from criticism with respect to its classification of ‘fundamentalism’ – many ‘moderate’ Christian believers would surely think it more important to abide by the (moral) commands of their faith than by the laws of the state, to take just one example. In any case, it would remain to be seen what Muslim/ Turkish respondents deem to be the relevant ‘commands of Islam’ that it is worth forsaking the state’s legal framework for.

Almost as interesting as the actual results of the survey were the ways in which different voices in the media chose to present the survey responses. The university’s own press release opened with the header ‘Half of people of Turkish descent do not feel accepted’; and the liberal left-leaning Die Zeit followed this interpretation by titling ‘German Turks feel integrated but on the sidelines’ ((http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/2016-06/integration-tuerkische-muslime-deutschland)). In contrast to that, the headline of the conservative daily Die Welt stressed the finding that ‘Nearly Half [of Turkish immigrants] think that the commands of Islam are above the law’ ((http://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article156269271/Islam-Gebote-stehen-ueber-dem-Gesetz-findet-fast-die-Haelfte.html)). Focus magazine titled ‘Those of Turkish descent closely connected to FRG, Islam more important than laws of the state’ ((http://www.focus.de/politik/deutschland/studie-der-universitaet-muenster-tuerkeistaemmige-eng-mit-brd-verbunden-fuer-47-prozent-islam-wichtiger-als-staatsgesetze_id_5642087.html)), and Der Spiegel opened with the title ‘Study: Young Turkish-Germans behave more and more religiously’ ((http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/junge-deutsch-tuerken-halten-sich-fuer-religioeser-als-die-alten-a-1097936.html)). The Bavarian public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk opted for an even more brisk yet sensationalist tone by titling: ‘Qur’an instead of Basic Law’ ((http://www.br.de/nachrichten/emnid-studie-tuerken-koran-grundgesetz-100.html)). Most media outlets did then go on to present the more nuanced findings in the body of their articles; yet their initial framing of the topic was predominantly threatening and negative.

This does not bode well for the university researchers’ appeal that state and civil society institutions ought to foster more contacts between Muslims and non-Muslims. Whilst Muslims need to address the hard-line tendencies within their own communities, they ought to receive support for their quest and understanding for their often difficult position, or so Detlef Pollack argued. The fact that his survey has given “a more positive picture of the personal circumstances of persons of Turkish descent living in Germany than one would expect given the prevailing state of the discussion on questions of integration” does perhaps offer some rays of hope.

Why Zac Goldsmith’s “extremism” attacks on Sadiq Khan were wrong

As the dust settles on Sadiq Khan’s victory in London’s mayoral election, attentions are turning to Zac Goldsmith’s campaign and his aggressive focus on his rival’s past encounters with Muslim hardliners. A Guardian op-ed under the headline “Forgive and forget Zac Goldsmith’s racist campaign? No chance” has been shared some 25,000 times. In the Spectator, Toby Young argued: “Zac Goldsmith has nothing to be ashamed of”. Both pieces make some good and some bad points. But I sympathise more with the first. Here is why.

To begin, some concessions. Elections are a rough-and-tumble business. Candidates should expect their characters and suitability for office to be challenged; their weaknesses to be daubed in primary colours on 10-meter high billboards. And within reason, that is good. It flushes out bad ideas and unsuitable candidates for the benefit of an electorate that has better things to do than worry about the nuances of their every policy.

The themes on which Mr Goldsmith so contentiously challenged Mr Khan are hardly irrelevant. In the past year Islamist terror attacks have hit the two European capitals closest to London. Labour clearly has ingrained problems of anti-Semitism and has form when it comes to tolerating conservative practices (like gender-segregated civic events) among its British Muslim supporters. And it is true that Mr Khan has links to certain reactionary Muslims, some of whom have expressed extremist views. His new role gives him influence over London’s schools, the front-line of the government’s anti-radicalisation “Prevent” strategy. It also gives him oversight of the Met police, as well as powers of patronage and discretionary spending which Ken Livingstone, his Labour predecessor, deployed in part to the benefit of conservative Muslims.

Yet to be valid and responsible, Tory “questions” about Mr Khan’s connections needed to do three things. Given the tensions surrounding the subject, each had to kill any suggestion that Labour’s candidate sympathised with extremism. Each needed to specify in clear and concrete terms how his past encounters affected his suitability to be mayor. And each needed an appropriate degree of prominence in a Conservative campaign that had, itself, big questions to answer about its man’s plans for transport, housing and policing.

Mr Goldsmith failed each one of these tests. First, he played up ambiguities as to what, precisely, his rival had done wrong. When pushed, he insisted that he was not trying to portray Britain’s most prominent Muslim politician as an extremist. Yet his campaign seemed to imply as much. By routinely calling Mr Khan a “radical” it blurred the Labour candidate’s support for Jeremy Corbyn, his party’s far-left leader, with his links in British Islam. A spoof Tory leaflet published in the Private Eye, a satirical magazine, captured the “I’m not racist, but…” character of these insinuations: “Think about it. Funny name, Khan, isn’t it?” The Conservative candidate was surely too worldly not to have realised how reckless this was, at a time when political outfits from the Trump campaign to the AfD in Germany were questioning Muslims’ basic compatibility with Western democracies and societies.

Second, the Goldsmith campaign failed to pin down what this had to do with Mr Khan’s suitability to be mayor. The claims it raised publicly (and the more lurid ones it quietly briefed to journalists) fall into three categories. Some had to do with his background as a civil liberties lawyer; like his links to Suliman Gani, a radical imam, his “association” with whom included angry clashes over gay marriage and Mr Khan’s involvement in a bid to boot Mr Gani out of his mosque. Other crimes like having a sibling-in-law who had flirted with conservative Islam—a transgression of which Tony Blair is also guilty—pointed to Mr Khan’s Muslim family background. The third category involved his characteristic blend, hardly unique among politicians, of naiveté and electoral opportunism. Into this final basket can be counted his role on the not-impeccable Muslim Council of Britain, his defence of Recep Ergodan’s Turkey and even those unproven suggestions that he played up his Liberal Democrat opponent’s Ahmadi (a persecuted minority within Sunni Islam) identity when fighting to keep his south-London parliamentary seat in 2010. Instead of differentiating between examples, or offering their own additional categories, Mr Goldsmith’s campaigners ground them together into a rough paste of “unanswered questions” and “extremist associations” that that they smeared all over Mr Khan.

Third, Mr Goldsmith gave such observations an undue prominence in his campaign, especially towards the end. London house-prices are on track to hit £1m by 2030 and are wrecking the capital’s social mix. On this, the Tory candidate had nothing substantive to say. On transport and policing his offer was almost as inadequate. But he seemed obsessed with Mr Khan’s relationship with his co-religionists; devoting his giant op-ed in the last Mail on Sunday before the election not to any of the bread-and-butter problems affecting Londoners but to a garbled mess of an argument that smudged together Mr Corbyn’s economic leftism, Labour’s anti-Semitism problem (of which the party’s candidate for the London mayoralty had been perhaps the foremost critic) and Mr Khan’s background, faith and personal traits.

There is a broader point here. Politicians are human and thus possess hinterlands, blind spots and inconsistencies. By definition they have an overdeveloped appetite for approval that prompts them to feign sympathy, delve into parts of society where they would not otherwise venture and humour certain audiences when they ought to avoid or upbraid them. How many Conservative or Labour candidates, confronted on the doorstep by an elderly voter ranting about “the coloureds”, would call him what he is—a racist—to his face? Moreover, no politician can exist in a hermetically sealed vacuum. Britons broadly accept that in their rulers. Some politicians have wealthy backgrounds that might inhibit their understanding of material insecurity, or religious backgrounds that make them intolerant of alternative lifestyles. Many are closer than is politic—or at least reflective of the median voter’s experiences—to bankers, strikers, bible-bashers, imams, die-hard environmentalists or other representatives of esoteric social segments.

Yet as a rule we tolerate, indeed often welcome, such florae in Britain’s civic life because their tendrils extend deep into its society. Mr Goldsmith, who has links to plenty of people unsuited to setting the agenda in City Hall, exemplifies this. His father was a hardline Eurosceptic accused of being corporate raider. His former brother-in-law, Imran Khan, has all sorts of links to Islamism through his political career in Pakistan. The magazine Mr Goldsmith edited, the Ecologist, carries articles opposing economic growth, cheering on activists who break the law and looking approvingly on third-world insurrectionists. Such connections are among the factors cited when journalists describe him, approvingly, as an “independent minded” MP.

None of this compares directly to Mr Khan’s links to Muslim radicals. But while that subject is more troubling than, say, ecological extremism, should it be treated so differently? I venture (as I did in a column in January) that the very problems of British Islam make it all the more pressing to draw its representatives into the country’s politics. Can Britain combat the self-exclusion of some of its Muslims, the anti-Semitism that infects their politics and the radicalisation of the most naive among them without prominent Muslims in public life who have first-hand experience of these problems and their causes? Can the establishment support a new generation of moderates—including the liberal, telegenic imams to whose rise Jonathan Arkush, the president of the Jewish Board of Deputies, drew my attention only last week—while dismissing Mr Khan?

It is hard to imagine a successful, liberal Muslim politician who, as she advanced from her neighbourhood to the national stage, never crossed paths with the sort of reactionary that so dominated Mr Goldsmith’s criticisms of Mr Khan. And who, given British politicians’ inclination to indulge their audiences, publicly challenged every last Islamic conservative that she encountered. Which poses the question: if London’s new mayor is the “wrong” sort of Muslim to hold a major public office, what does the “right” one look like?

Sadiq Khan: British dream now a reality for London’s first Muslim mayor

In Pakistan, the chances that the son of a bus or rickshaw driver could secure a high-ranking political position in the country’s capital city are minuscule. But now, the people of London have elected Sadiq Khan – the son of an immigrant Pakistani bus driver – to be their first Muslim mayor.

While unable to influence the nation’s foreign or economic policy, Khan will have responsibility for key areas in London, such as transport, housing, policing and the environment. And being directly elected gives the London mayor a personal mandate which no other parliamentarian in Westminster – including those in the cabinet – enjoy.

Now, at the age of 45, he is mayor of London: the economic and cultural heart of the UK, the largest city in western Europe and one of the most important cities in the world. He is the immigrant success story – for him, the British dream has become a reality.

Khan’s Islamic faith catapulted the city’s mayoral contest into the international limelight, at a time when Muslims are facing growing hostility in the West. In the US, presidential hopeful Donald Trump has said that he will ban Muslims from entering the country; while in Europe, the far right is gaining traction by campaigning on explicitly anti-Muslim platforms.

During the mayoral campaign, Khan’s “Muslimness” was viewed as a liability by some – including members of his own party. His Conservative rival, Zac Goldsmith, accused Khan of sharing platforms with Islamic extremists – the implication was clear: that the public should be wary of his “radical” views. Goldsmith’s highly controversial campaign has been heavily criticised – notably by senior Conservative Andrew Boff – for its divisive “dog-whistle” politics.

Khan’s victory supports what a number of Muslim commentators have argued all along: that having a Muslim mayor could help defeat Islamist ideology, by showing that the West is not anti-Islam – and that Muslims can “make it” there. Khan himself has spoken about the symbolic value of becoming the first Muslim mayor of a city which experienced terrorist attacks in 2005, perpetrated in the name of Islam.

But Khan’s victory says as much about social mobility as it does about race and religion. Had Khan’s father stayed in Pakistan, it is inconceivable that his son would have succeeded in that country’s political system, where privilege and connections win elections. By contrast, many Pakistanis who migrated to the UK in the post-war era were subsistence farmers and manual labourers. In many cases, they were illiterate in their own mother tongue. They took up positions in the service industries of the south, the factories and foundries of the Midlands and the mills of northern England. And while some succeeded in pulling themselves out of poverty, the UK’s Pakistani community still has some of the highest levels of unemployment and underachievement in the UK. Many British Pakistanis live in some of the UK’s most deprived neighbourhoods.

And of course, British politics is also now dominated by an “old boys’ network”: the cliques of Etonions and Bullingdon club members, personified by the prime minister, David Cameron, the chancellor, George Osborne – and indeed London’s outgoing mayor, Boris Johnson. Yet the working-class Khan managed to win out against a Conservative rival with family pedigree, wealth and friends in powerful political, media and business circles.

For many, this is a triumph of meritocracy over privilege – a sign that the political establishment is becoming more inclusive and representative of the ethnic, religious and socioeconomic diversity of the wider population.

And Khan is not the only second-generation Pakistani to have entered high political office in the UK. Sajid Javid, the current secretary of state for Business, Innovation and Skills, is the son of a Pakistani immigrant who worked in the mills of the north before becoming a bus driver. So too did the father of Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, who rose to become a member of David Cameron’s cabinet, and was the first Muslim woman to sit at the highest table in the land. In the 2015 general election alone, ten individuals of Pakistani heritage were elected to the British parliament.

And now, in London, the son of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver is in charge. He has become Europe’s most powerful Muslim politician. Khan’s victory has shown us that the British dream can become a reality.

Global press reaction to Sadiq Khan a mix of curiosity and ignorance

In London, the religion of the Labour candidate for the city’s mayor became an issue only when his Conservative opponent made it one, by attempting to link his rival to Islamist extremism in a campaign criticised as divisive and racist.

Abroad, however, it seems the faith and family background of Sadiq Khan is seen through a somewhat different prism: in much foreign media coverage of the elections, it was more important than his politics.

“Sadiq Khan likely to become the first Muslim mayor of London,” was the headline in France’s leading left leaning news weekly L’Obs. The country’s largest commercial broadcaster, TF1, went for: “Sadiq Khan: Muslim, immigrant’s son, self-made man – and future mayor”? The Metronews freesheet went further, saying a Khan victory would make the Tooting MP “the first Muslim mayor of a European capital”.

Le Monde went out of its way to note that Khan, “the son of an immigrant bus driver from Pakistan”, described his moderate Islamic faith as “part of my identity” – adding that his opponent Zac Goldsmith was “the son of a Franco-British billionaire of Jewish origin”.

Khan’s religion was prominent in media coverage of the election in the Netherlands, where Ahmed Aboutaleb has been the Muslim mayor of the country’s second largest city, Rotterdam, since 2009. The headline of the authoritative NRC Handsblad was: “The green millionaire v the leftwing Muslim”, while the right leaning De Telegraaf chose simply: “London could get its first Muslim mayor”.

In Germany, Süddeutsche Zeitung remarked – although not in its headline – that London seemed on course for its first Muslim mayor, while Switzerland’s Le Temps noted that the duel between the sons of “a billionaire, and a bus driver” could see the city becoming “the first European capital to be run by a Muslim”.

Different perceptions of Islam and integration were compounded in some countries by a wildly different continental view of Pakistan. “Is Khan’s Pakistani origin not an obstacle?” asked a journalist on the Swiss radio station RTS. “Is Pakistan not associated with fundamentalism and terror?”

The station’s interviewee replied that in a city in which almost 40% of residents were born outside the UK, and whose Muslim population makes up 12% of the total (and more than 30% in some boroughs), the popular image of Pakistan was more usually to do with corner shops and academic excellence.

But perhaps the most striking example of how differently much of the world sees London – and the importance of religion – from the way the city plainly sees itself came from the US, where Donald Trump caused uproar with a call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country.

“DEVELOPING: FIRST MUSLIM MAYOR OF LONDONISTAN” was the top headline on the popular news aggregator site The Drudge Report, followed closely by: “Jewish leaders express concern over voting problems” and “FLASHBACK: Parts of city 50% Islamic”.

Unease with Islam on rise in France, new poll finds (Report)

April 30, 2016

The study found that 47 percent of French people and 43 percent of Germans felt that the Muslim community poses a “threat” to national identity.

Almost two-thirds of the poll’s respondents in France also said that Islam had become too “influential and visible”, whereas just under half of participants said the same in Germany.

The same study in 2010 found that 43 percent of French people viewed Islam as a threat, while 55 percent said that it was too visible.

A sample of around 1,000 people were surveyed in each country as part of the latest study.

The findings in France, which suggest growing unease with the Muslim religion, come after a year of tragedy during which a total of 147 people were killed in a series of attacks in the Paris area by Islamist gunmen in January and November 2015.

“This poll reinforces the sense that the image of Islam represents a major challenge for French Muslims,” Anouar Kbibech, president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (Conseil français du culte musulman, or CFCM), told Le Figaro in response to the survey. “Considering the tragic events we’ve lived through, the risk of conflating [Islam and terrorism] is real. Unfortunately, this survey confirms that.”

But according to the director of Ifop’s opinion department, Jérôme Fourquet, the recent bloodshed in the French capital isn’t the only factor at play. “The deterioration of Islam’s image in France wasn’t triggered by the attacks, even if those events contributed to it. What we’re seeing is more of a growing resistance within French society to Islam. It was already the case among voters for the [far-right] National Front and part of the right, but it has now expanded to the Socialist Party,” he told Le Figaro.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared his support for banning headscarves in universities as part of the country’s strict secular rules, which separate state and religious institutions. Muslim veils are already banned in state-run schools, along with all other “visible religious signs”.

Although Valls’s comments sparked an immediate backlash from some within his party, they also reflected changing attitudes towards Islam within segments of the left.

“There are some on the left who feel that the Republic has been too lax with Islam and want it to stop,” Fourquet said. “Manuel Valls’s strong rhetoric is a sign of this. The left is divided on the issue. In the end, it’s a combative form of secularism that’s awakening. It’s looking to repel the influence of a religion it considers too dominant.”

The analyst also pointed to the study’s findings in Germany as evidence that the problem is not only a French one. As in France, the number of Germans who said they viewed Islam as a threat to national identity has also risen since the 2010 survey, although by only three percentage points.

The Ifop poll found that over two-thirds of respondents in both countries thought that Muslims had failed to integrate into society, a situation that 67 percent of French people and 60 percent of Germans blamed on a refusal to adapt to local values and customs.

“Although these two countries have a very different history of immigration, this alignment [between French and German opinion] shows that these important questions are posing challenges in a similar way throughout Western society,” Fourquet said. While France has the largest percentage of Muslims in the European Union (estimated at 7.5% of the total population), Germany has the largest number of Muslims with 4.8 million people in 2010, according to the Pew Research Center’s most recent estimates.

Full Report: IFOP Figaro

New French Report Shows Rise in Attacks on Muslims, Sustained Targeting of Jews amid rising tolerance (report)

May 6, 2016

France’s National Human Rights Commission (CNCDH) recently released a report on the fight against racism in France. The CNCDH reported 429 anti-Muslim threats and attacks in 2015 – a striking 223 percent increase from the previous year, and 808 antisemitic threats and attacks in 2015 – a five percent decrease from the previous year.

The reported surge in anti-Muslim threats and attacks is attributable in large part to backlash from the terror attacks carried out by Islamic extremists in France last year—most notably, the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in January, and the Paris attacks in November. The attacks and consequent backlash fall within a bigger picture in which extremism is often fostered by exclusion and discrimination against French Muslims.

The CNCDH’s troubling figures are consistent with a Human Rights First report released in January, Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Countering Antisemitism and Extremism in France, which explores how antisemitic violence, left unchecked, leads to the persecution of other minorities and an overall increase in repression and intolerance. The findings suggest that the cycle of violence where hate is met with hate has widespread negative consequences.

All people are equally endowed with fundamental rights and freedoms, and the French government is responsible for respecting and protecting these rights for Jews, Muslims, and other groups alike. This is one of the reasons Human Rights First monitors the increasing power of far-right political parties and warns against their intolerant rhetoric as a significant immediate threat to minority groups.

Although Human Rights First is heartened by any decrease in antisemitic attacks, the five percent decrease that CNCDH reports should not yet be assessed as a positive trend in combating antisemitism. The overall level is still high. The 808 antisemitic attacks in 2015 account for 40 percent of all racist actions in that year. Yet the Jewish population accounts for only one percent of the total population. The French government should remain vigilant in its mission to combat antisemitism, in addition to the growing Islamophobia. Elected representatives and civil society should be better equipped to speak out against all hate crimes and bias-motivated incidents.

Addressing the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combatting Antisemitism in March, U.S. Special Envoy Ira Forman encouraged European governments to adopt a working definition of antisemitism as a tool with which to equip policy makers and civil society in order to more effectively identify and punish antisemitic acts. As anti-Muslim hate crimes are on the rise, Human Rights First urges European governments to address the severity of the situation for both Jews and Muslims, and to equip civil society with the skills and resources to better identify, respond, and speak out against hate-motivated attacks on all religious minorities.

Human Rights First encourages continued reporting on hate crimes and appreciates the work of CNCDH and other efforts by the French government to shed light on the gravity of the issue in France today. It is important to have accurate and up-to-date data to inform policy decisions. The reporting of racist, hate-motivated crimes is the first step to combating their prevalence.

Link to Report:Racisme 2015 Report

European Islamophobia Report for 2015 now published

The Annual European Islamophobia Report for 2015, sponsored and published by the leading think-thank in Turkey, SETA, has been released online. The report comprises of lengthy country reports with qualitative data from 25 European countries and aims to address the vast problem Islamophobia that poses a threat to the foundations of European constitutions. 37 scholars and Islamophobia experts from all over Europe worked together with SETA staff and the editors Farid Hafez and Enes Bayrakli for the project. As also countries from Eastern Europe are included, the report contributes significantly to the distribution of knowledge on Islamophobia in different European societies and thus presents a valuable reference for policy makers.

The country report on Finland covers several sectors of society in which generally Islamophobic discourse and behavior can be observed; education, politics, employment, media, Internet, the justice system and networks. The report findings show that Islamophobia has become evident in the public discourse, meaning diverse discussion forums of online newspapers and several social media channels. It also notes the role of the politics in spreading misunderstood information on Islam and Muslims and how especially in the right-wing-populistic discourse the threat of an Islamization of Finland is used to push forward agendas.

The report can be found in full length and in English language under

http://www.islamophobiaeurope.com/reports/2015/en/EIR_2015_FINLAND.pdf

For the project website and other country reports, see

www.islamophobiaeurope.com

Two Projects Share a Goal: Challenge Stereotypes of Islam and Arabs

Those who visit “Wondrous Worlds: Art and Islam Through Time and Place” at the Newark Museum may also be interested in a screening of “A Thousand and One Journeys: The Arab Americans,” an award-winning documentary currently on the festival and screenings circuit.

Then again, they may not be.

Grouping together Islam and the Arab-American experience is precisely what the curators of the exhibition and the executive producer of “A Thousand and One Journeys” hope people will not do.

Myth-busting is a goal of both undertakings, whose paths converge only in that they hope to engage New Jersey audiences.

In addition to the misguided notion that all Arabs are Muslim, Mr. Kasbo addresses other pet-peeve fallacies in the film, including the idea that Arab-Americans come from unsophisticated cities.

“Aleppo is as cosmopolitan as New York, but people think it’s backwoods. It’s ridiculous,” he said of Syria’s largest — and currently war-torn — city.

A fencing mask hid her hijab. Now, this U.S. Olympian wants to be heard, and seen

One of the most prominent faces and impassioned voices of this summer’s U.S. Olympic team will be hidden behind a mask. There’s irony there, for sure. The mask, after all, is what attracted Ibtihaj Muhammad to fencing in the first place.

Muhammad tried other sports: volleyball, softball, tennis. The other kids teased her for looking different, for wearing a headscarf called a hijab on her head while competing. “I wanted to find a sport where I could be fully covered and I didn’t have to look different,” she said. She gravitated toward fencing because the mask was the great equalizer: Slip it on and all competitors look the same.  Accustomed to anti-Muslim attitudes, she tries to avoid hateful social media messages as best she can and is particularly cautious when traveling. But when she encounters bluster about where Muslims should or shouldn’t live, it’s tougher to tune out — or make sense of.