MINELRES: HRWF News: Racism, Intolerance and Discrimination in the EU

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Tue Sep 28 15:19:41 2004


Original sender: HRWF Int. <International.secretariat.brussels@hrwf.net>


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"Religious Intolerance and Discrimination"

Table of contents 
OSCE Conference on Tolerance and the Fight against Racism, Xenophobia
and Discrimination (13-14 September)
Warning issued on rising racism in Europe 
New IHF Report on Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims in the
EU 

Widespread hostility towards Muslims: Rights Group

(See also Belgium: Breaking news)

16 September 2004

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Warning issued on rising racism in Europe
By Paul Ames

Associated Press (14.09.2004)/HRWF Int (16.09.2004) - Email:
info@grwf.net - Website: www.hrwf.net - Racism and religious intolerance
are rising in Europe, with Muslims and Jews targeted in a misguided
backlash against global terrorism and Middle East violence, delegates at
an international conference on racism said. 

Hostility toward Muslims has increased markedly over the past three
years, a report by a human rights group said. Another found resurgent
anti-Semitism has created a climate of intimidation. 

"The situation is getting worse, not better," warned Bashy Quraishy,
chairman of the European Network Against Racism. "There have been a lot
of beautiful words, but we want to know what the politicians are going
to do." 

The two-day conference of The Organization for Security and Cooperation
in Europe drew government officials from more than 50 nations, religious
leaders and more than 130 non-governmental organizations. 

They received a grim picture. Although campaign groups complained about
the lack of government statistics on hate crimes, they said there was
overwhelming evidence that violence and intolerance on the rise. 

"I'm here to launch a cry of alarm ... anti-Semitism is back, the
monster is among us again," said Cobi Benatoff, president of the
European Jewish Committee. 

A new report from the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
found widespread hostility toward Muslims in Europe, with verbal and
physical attacks as well as discrimination in employment and housing
increasing markedly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United
States and the Madrid train bombings on March 11. 

The report found the views on terrorism have led to increased antagonism
toward the 15 million-plus Muslims in the European Union sparking
attacks "ranging from slurs and insults in the street to vandalism and
serious physical violence." 

Turkey's representative, ambassador Omur Orrin, appealed for governments
and the media to avoid linking Muslims with extremism and terrorism. 

"I regretfully notice a repeated tendency to equate violence and
terrorism with a religion, namely Islam," Orrin said. 

Aside from prominent attacks on Jewish cemeteries, schools and
synagogues, resurgent anti-Semitism has led to "hundreds of attacks on
ordinary people that go largely unreported and a climate of intimidation
and fear in which the possibility of attack terrorizes whole
communities," said a report by the New York-based Human Rights First. 

The group's executive director, Michael Posner, said violence against
Jews was coming both from neo-Nazi groups and from Arab immigrant youths
responding to Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

While attacks on Jews and Muslims have grabbed headlines, campaign
groups said racism in Europe was much wider, from Gypsies facing
discrimination in housing and jobs in Eastern Europe to asylum seekers
beaten "for sport" in Scotland. 

Campaigners presented European governments with a wish list of measures
to fight racism including: 

- a common European definition of hate crimes and the adoption of
specific hate crime legislation by all countries. 

- increased monitoring and dissemination of data on racism and hate
crimes. 

- the appointment of a high official at European level to coordinate
anti-racism policies. 

- improved training of law enforcement officials to ensure better
implementation of anti-racism legislation. 

- more resources for education and public awareness campaigns.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


New IHF Report on Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims in the
EU

IHF (13.09.2004)/HRWF Int (16.09.2004) - Email: info@grwf.net - Website:
www.hrwf.net - The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
(IHF) today released a report entitled Intolerance and Discrimination
against Muslims in Selected EU Member States. The report is presented to
the OSCE Conference on "Tolerance and the Fight against  Racism,
Xenophobia and Discrimination," which takes place in Brussels on 13-14
September 2004.

The 37-page report draws attention to concerns about anti-Muslim
hostility, which have been voiced by Muslim and rights groups. The
report covers the following countries: Belgium, Denmark, France,
Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.

The report discusses concerns such as widespread negative attitudes
toward Muslims, unbalanced and stereotypical media reports,
discrimination against Muslims in e.g. employment and housing, verbal
and physical attacks on Muslims, aggressive political rhetoric and law
enforcement and other measures targeting Muslims.

"Since September 11, problems of intolerance and discrimination against
Muslims have become increasingly acute in several EU member states. As
the fight against terrorism has been stepped up, and public debate has
increasingly focused attention on Islamic extremism, Muslim minorities
have come under growing pressure in these countries and elsewhere,"
commented Aaron Rhodes, Executive Director of the IHF.

In most of the countries included in the report, distrustful attitudes
toward Muslims have been reinforced in the aftermath of September 11. A
rise in the number of attacks on Muslims has also been documented, with
the attacks ranging from slurs and insults in the street to vandalism
and serious physical violence.

Moreover, in the United Kingdom and Germany, Muslims have been targeted
by police searches and arrests in ways that have infringed on the rights
of Muslims who have nothing to do with terrorism. In Italy and Denmark,
high-profile politicians have openly portrayed Muslims as a security 
threat, and in France and Belgium, concerns about religious
fundamentalism have been used to justify efforts to prohibit Muslim
students from wearing the headscarf. In all these cases, moderate and
peaceful Muslims have been victimized because of the views and acts of a
minority of extremist Muslims who advocate violence and intolerance.

The IHF report, Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims in
Selected EU Member States, can be found at the IHF website:
http://www.ihf-hr.org. For further information: Aaron Rhodes, IHF
Executive Director, + 43 - (0) 676 - 635 66 12.
------------------------------------------------------

Widespread hostility towards Muslims across EU: Rights Group

NNN(14.09.2004)/HRWF Int (16.09.2004) - Email: info@grwf.net - Website:
www.hrwf.net - A new report by a human rights group has found that
hostility towards Muslims is "widespread" across much of the European
Union (EU), where followers of Islam are subject to verbal and physical
attacks as well as discrimination in employment and housing. 

Distrustful attitudes towards Muslims have grown since the September 11,
2001, attacks in the United States and the Madrid train bombings this
past March 11, said the International Helsinki Federation for Human
Rights (IHF). 

"As the fight against terrorism has been stepped up, and public debate
has increasingly focused attention on Islamic extremism, Muslim
minorities have come under growing pressure in these countries and
elsewhere,’’ said Aaron Rhodes, the IHF’s executive director. 

According to the 37-page report, the hostility goes beyond anti-Muslim
sentiment. The report noted a rise in attacks on Muslims "ranging from
slurs and insults in the street to vandalism and serious physical
violence.’’ 

The report focused on complaints in Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France,
Germany and Italy. 

In Britain and Germany, Muslims have been targeted by police searches
and arrests "in ways that have infringed on the rights of Muslims who
have nothing to do with terrorism,’’ it said. 

In Italy and Denmark, politicians have publicly branded Muslims as a
security threat, and Muslims in Belgium and France have been caught up
in government efforts to prohibit girls from wearing traditional head
scarves. 

"In all these cases, moderate and peaceful Muslims have been victimised
because of the views and acts of a minority of extremist Muslims who
advocate violence and intolerance,’’ Rhodes said. 

Among the recent instances of hostility toward Muslims detailed in the
report was an incident in June in Strasbourg, France, where vandals
painted black swastikas and other neo-Nazi symbols on more than 50
graves at a Muslim cemetery and sprayed a wall with threats against a
regional Muslim council. 

Across much of France, "Muslims have reportedly experienced that they
are stopped, questioned and searched by police solely because of their
Muslim appearance,’’ the report said. 

In the six months preceding July, the French Association against
Islamophobia received 101 complaints of discrimination, it said. Even in
countries such as Denmark, known worldwide for its strong human rights
stance, authorities are rejecting more Muslim applications for asylum,
cutting social benefits for Islamic refugees and foreigners and
tightening restrictions on permanent residence, it added. 

Estimates of the number of Muslims in the 25-nation EU range from 15
million to 25 million, said the group, which confined its study to
countries in western Europe. 

In May, the EU widened to take in 10 mostly ex-communist newcomer
nations from Eastern Europe in a historic enlargement that boosted its
total population to 450 million. Although Muslim communities in most
western EU nations are mainly composed of post-World War II labor
migrants and their descendants as well as refugees and their families,
they have a "shared experience of intolerance and discrimination," said
the report. 

"While many Muslims are born and raised in the countries where they
reside and are citizens of these countries, they are typically still
perceived as 'foreigners,'" it said
------------------------------------------------------------

Breaking News
 
Belgium: Two days after the OSCE Conference in Brussels, police searched
the premises of the Executive of Muslims and took away hard disks
 
HRWF Int (16.09.2004) - Email: info@grwf.net - Website: www.hrwf.net -
This Thursday morning, Human Rights Without Frontiers received an
alarming phone call from the Executive of the Muslims of Belgium (EMB).
The police searched their premises for several hours and took away the
hard disks of their computers. The official ground for their action was
a complaint for financial mismanagement (*) lodged against the former
president. Interviewed by Human Rights Without Frontiers, Mr Mohamed
Boulif declared "I am not personally concerned by this search but what
we can see beyond this official reason and this disproportionate action
is the continuation of the state's campaign of harassment against us."
 
"In the last few years and especially since spring, the state has
constantly interfered in the internal affairs of the EMB," he said. In
July, a law was passed which imposed general elections on the Muslim
community to renew their leadership. "The leading bodies of the EMB
decided in 1998 in agreement with the state that there would not be
general election until 2008. They have not changed their stand. The
Belgian state is violating the fundamental principle of neutrality in
religious matters."
 
(*) The amount at stake is about 600 EUR, according to Mr Mohamed
Boulif, chairman of the Executive of the Muslims of Belgium, the
representative body of the Muslim community recognized and financed by
the state.