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EU indifferent Islamophobia, say civil rights coalition

8th Jul 2022

Harun Nasrullah

The EU does not maintain a position on Islamophobia much less fight it, argued 41 civil rights groups in a joint statement issued on June 14.

As an example of official indifference to the tide of Islamophobia sweeping Europe, activists point to France’s opposition to the International Day to Combat Islamophobia.

France, the EU, and India have objected to the decision to declare the International Day to Combat Islamophobia, adopted by UN General Assembly. Members of the General Assembly adopted the resolution proposed by Pakistan to mark March 15, the anniversary of the 2019 attack on two mosques in New Zealand that left 51 Muslims dead as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia.

Fifty-five Muslim-majority countries supported the resolution in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Syria, Algeria, Morocco and many other countries in the Gulf and North Africa.

However, Nicolas de Rivière, Permanent Representative of France to the UN, described the resolution as “unsatisfactory” and “problematic,” telling the UN General Assembly that his country supports the protection of all religions and beliefs.

The French official added, “The term Islamophobia has no agreed-upon definition in international law, unlike the freedom of religion or conviction. But it is this liberty that France defends, as well as all the other public freedoms, such as freedom of expression or conviction.”

The EU, a bloc of 27 European countries with permanent observer status at the UN, echoed de Riviere’s concerns but did not have the right to vote. In its EU policies over the past six months, the French presidency has failed to “address the widespread structural and institutional discrimination against Muslim minorities in Europe,” the report said.

A recent EU communique on the issue gave “the impression that Islamophobia, be it structural or not, doesn’t even exist”, they said. And the EU Commission has failed to appoint a new coordinator on anti-Muslim hatred since July last year, in a pattern of behaviour, they added.

But at the same time, “anti-Muslim violence, hate speech, discrimination and marginalisation” were “swiftly proliferating in Europe, where Muslims (or those perceived as such) are identified as a primary target by political parties and violent far-right movements alike,” they warned. The diverse signatories from 13 EU countries, the UK, and Turkey included the European Network against Racism in Belgium, SOS Racisme from Denmark, and the Northern Ireland Council for Racial Equality.

The French presidency has previously denied downgrading Muslim concerns in its EU policies, e.g. on the protection of minorities and counter-radicalisation. However, according to diplomatic sources, in March EU countries dropped references to the importance of the coordinator on anti-Muslim hatred after Poland said if that was to be in the text, then it wanted a special coordinator on “Christian-o-phobia” in Europe as well. At the same time, French policies paid more attention to combating anti-Semitism and the EU Commission has had a coordinator in that role since 2015, giving the impression of a hierarchy of

EU concerns, the forty-one civil groups pointed out.
Asked about the anti-Islamophobia coordinator vacancy in February, the EU Commission said, “As the previous anti-Muslim hatred coordinator ended his assignment, the Commission is currently examining the modalities for assigning this function”.
“Awaiting the outcome of this examination, the tasks of the coordinator continue to be carried out within DG [department of] Justice and Consumers,” it added.

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