Muslims in Europe feel growing climate of discrimination

Muslims in Europe feel growing climate of discrimination

Religious discrimination remains a critical barrier to the participation of Muslims in European society, as was underlined by the recent Swiss vote on the ban of minarets, a study published Tuesday said, DPA reported.

A Europe-wide report by the London-based Open Society Institute (OSI) said "effective and sustainable measures" were urgently needed to tackle religious discrimination - a problem that had worsened in recent years.

"Europe needs to live up to its promise of an inclusive, open society," said Nazia Hussain, director of OSI At Home in Europe project.

"Switzerland's recent ban on minarets is a clear sign that anti-Muslim sentiment is a real problem in Europe," she said.

Too many Europeans believed that religious identity was somehow a barrier to integration, while the majority of Muslims surveyed identified strongly with the city and country they lived in.

The majority of Muslims in European countries wanted to live in mixed communities, and not in segregated neighbourhoods, the report found.

"But at the same time they don't believe that their fellow countrymen or the wider society sees them as either German or French or English," Hussein told the BBC.

The survey, which said that Europe's Muslim population could double to 40 million by 2025, looked at the social integration of Muslims in 11 cities in western Europe.

It is based on more than 2,000 interviews with individuals, as well as discussions with focus groups, officials, Muslim leaders, academics and activists, OSI said.

The cities selected were Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Berlin, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Leicester, London, Marseille, Paris and Stockholm.

"Though the majority of Muslims are a long-standing and integral part of the fabric of their cities, many still experience discrimination and suspicion," the report said.

"This complex situation presents Europe with one of its greatest challenges: how to effectively ensure equal rights and social cohesion in a climate of political and social tension, global economic recession, and rapidly expanding diversity," it said.

Among the Muslims surveyed, 61 per cent said they had a "strong sense of belonging" to the country they lived in and 72 per cent said they felt the same attachment to the city in which they lived.

Half of the Muslim respondents reported experiencing religious discrimination over the past 12 months. The report recommended that the EU should "collect accurate data" on minorities with the aim of encouraging equal treatment in education, housing and other services.

It pointed out that many Muslims who were not EU citizens remained disenfranchised, particularly in Germany and France. It said that even in the British city of Leicester - where ethnic minorities were well represented politically - "racial discrimination is still very much alive."

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