On 14 May, BME activists, educationalists and professionals working within Muslim communities and on integration issues from five European countries will meet to publicly discuss the findings of the Institute of Race Relations’ pan-European research project into Integration, Islamophobia and civil rights in Europe.
Liz Fekete, the report’s author said: ‘The clash in Europe is not between civilisations but between those (of whatever ethnic or religious persuasion) who accept or do not accept a civil rights framework for discussing integration.’
The report shows that across Europe:
- The debate on integration is shot through with Islamophobia;
- An assimilatory agenda is being advanced under the guise of integration;
- The positive contribution of young Muslims’ greater engagement in civil society is not being regarded as part of the integration process;
- Muslims working to change institutions and traditions within their communities are hampered by the climate of Islamophobia;
- The framework for the reporting news is often based on ‘scare scenarios’, promoting fear of Muslims;
- Biased reporting teaches majority populations to think in terms of stereotypes and alienates young Muslims, some of whom are losing faith in society as a positive sense of identity is eroded.
The report from the IRR reveals that, contrary to public perception, the challenge to multiculturalism in Europe comes not from Muslim communities’ unwillingness to integrate but from Islamophobia. A one-year study of six European countries (including the UK) carried out by IRR’s researchers looks at the debate about integrating Muslims in Europe from the point of view of Europe’s minority ethnic communities. It pinpoints the way that first economic restructuring over the past twenty years and then popular and institutionalised anti-Muslim racism over the past seven years have served to discriminate against and marginalise Muslims from many different communities within Europe.
After consultations with representatives of over fifty organisations in Norway, Netherlands, Austria, Germany, France and the UK, involved with Muslim social, economic and political affairs, the IRR concludes that it is impossible to advance the integration of Muslims in Europe when the whole debate about integration and many of EU members states’ new policy initiatives are shot through with Islamophobia. Young Muslims, in particular, are influenced locally by economies, which exclude them, nationally by debates, which demonise them, and internationally by foreign policies, which alienate them.
Despite this, the research reveals that there are a multitude of new initiatives – from educational self-help schemes and anti-racist campaigns to voter registration and civil rights schemes – which involve more Muslims than ever before. But because they do not conform to government preconceptions, they are not regarded as evidence of a community’s commitment to social integration.
Download the introduction to Integration, Islamophobia and civil rights in Europe (pdf file, 44kb)