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Shocking report reveals growing intolerance in Europe against Muslims

Brussels, March 8, IRNA -- The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) published Monday a shocking report on rising discrimination and distrust against Muslims living in the European Union.

In the aftermath of September 11, Muslim minorities in the European Union are experiencing growing distrust and hostility, it says.

"As the fight against terrorism has been stepped up and the perceived threat of religious extremism has become a major focus of public debate, pre-existing patterns of prejudice and discrimination have been reinforced and Muslims have increasingly felt that they are stigmatized because of their beliefs,'' said Aaron Rhodes, Executive Director of the IHF, in a press release received by IRNA in Brussels.

"We are concerned that these developments threaten to undermine positive efforts at integration and further increase the vulnerability of Muslims to human rights violations and marginalization."

The report covers developments in eleven EU member states: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom

The report describes problems such as widespread negative attitudes toward Muslims; unbalanced and stereotypical media reports portraying Muslims as "alien" to EU societies and as "an enemy within."

It also describes verbal and physical attacks on Muslims and Muslim institutions and property; discrimination against Muslims in employment and other areas; aggressive political rhetoric used by right-populist parties to target Muslims; and security and immigration measures contributing to public perceptions of Muslims as a "fifth column."

The report documents that that right-populist parties such as the Italian Northern League, the Belgian Vlaams Blok and the Austrian Freedom Party have used strikingly similar rhetoric depicting Muslim immigration as a threat to the security and values of the EU countries.

It reveals that the debate surrounding the adoption in 2004 of the French law prohibiting religious attire in public schools helped encourage intolerance and discrimination against Muslim women who wear the headscarf, with subsequent reports of Muslim women being prevented from marrying, voting and taking university exams dressed in the headscarf.

It also describes how British media have created the impression that the country's criminal justice system is successfully prosecuting "Muslim terrorists," while in reality only three out of hundreds of Muslims arrested under terrorist legislation are known to have been convicted of terrorist crimes and a vast majority of those arrested have been released without charge.

The report further illustrates that more than 80% of Germans surveyed in 2004 associated the word "Islam" with "terrorism" and "oppression of women," and it discusses studies undertaken in Sweden and other countries which have shown that up to every fifth job is closed for people with Arabic-sounding names because of discriminatory hiring practices.

It provides examples of opposition to mosques in different countries, including Greece , where the Greek Orthodox Church has campaigned against the construction of a mosque in downtown Athens as well as in the vicinity of the capital's international airport.

It documents that Muslim schools are widely believed to undermine integration efforts in the Netherlands and elsewhere although such claims are poorly supported by facts, and it shows how animal welfare concerns have been used to advocate restrictions on religious freedoms in discussions surrounding the practice of Islamic and Jewish ritual slaughter in countries such as Denmark.

The Vienna-based IHF is a self-governing group of non-governmental, not-for-profit organizations that act to protect human rights throughout Europe, North America and Central Asia.

Read the full feport

... Payvand News - 3/8/05 ... --

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