muslim-protest-1A somewhat overlooked report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) published towards the end of May this year has shown up some interesting findings.

The report – the second ‘Data in Focus’ report from the ‘European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey’ (EU-MIDIS) – formed part of an EU-wide survey that asked immigrant and ethnic minority groups about their experiences of discrimination and criminal victimisation in everyday life. Surveying a total of “23,500 immigrant and ethnic minority people across all 27 Member States of the EU during 2008”, the FRA claim that EU-MIDIS provides the most comprehensive evidence to date of the extent of discrimination and victimisation against minorities in the EU.

Of the key findings, a handful are particularly interesting. Whilst:

1 in 3 Muslim respondents (34% of men and 26% of women) stated that they had experienced discrimination in the past 12 months

It was believed by the majority:

…that this was mainly due to their ethnic background.

It goes on:

Only 10% stated that they thought that the discrimination they experienced was based solely on their religion.

So are we talking about plain old racism rather than Islamophobia? Could we have got it wrong?

What is particularly interesting is that despite the recognition that only 10% may be religiously motivated, the perception of Muslims is significantly different:

However, 51% of Muslims compared to 20% of non-Muslim ethnic minorities surveyed believe that discrimination on grounds of religion or belief is “very” or “fairly” widespread.

A clear disparity between perception and reality may therefore be in evidence.

Similarly, much of the research into Islamophobia has so far suggested that the more visual aspects of Islam and Muslims – hijab, niqab, mosques and so on – act as a catalyst for Islamophobia. This new research though suggests different:

Wearing traditional or religious clothing (such as a headscarf) does not appear to increase the likelihood of being discriminated against. This finding contradicts common assumptions about the negative impact of wearing traditional/religious clothing, such as headscarves.

As has been the case for some time now, the evidence base for Islamophobia is remarkably weak and so offering any comparison between this and other forms of data remains extremely difficult. Nonetheless, if the findings are correct, then it may be time to re-consider the way that Islamophobia is perceived particularly when the reality and the perception appear to be so different.

A challenge for us all?

Findings from the EU-MIDIS Report

To download the report, click here.
To visit the FRA website, click here.

Those Muslim respondents who had been discriminated against stated that they had experienced, on average, 8 incidents of discrimination over a 12 month period.

Muslims aged 16-24 experience more discrimination in comparison with other age groups, with overall discrimination rates declining with age.

Being a citizen of an EU Member State and a longer period of residence in an EU country considerably reduces the likelihood of being discriminated against.

Wearing traditional or religious clothing (such as a headscarf) did not have an impact on Muslim respondents’ experiences of discrimination.

On average 79% of respondents did not report their most recent experience of discrimination in the last 12 months to any competent organisation or at the place where the discrimination occurred.

The main reason given for not reporting discrimination was that ‘nothing would happen or change’ by reporting their experience of discrimination (59%), while many (38%) did not see the point of reporting discrimination, as it was just ‘part of their normal everyday existence’.

On average 80% of respondents could not name any organisation that can offer support or advice to people who have been discriminated against.

1 in 10 of all Muslims surveyed (11%) was a victim of racially motivated ‘in-person crime’ (assault, threat or serious harassment) at least once in the previous 12 months.

72% identified members of the majority population as being the perpetrators in connection with the last incident of assault, threat or serious harassment they experienced.

Of those who were victims of in-person crimes, between 53% and 98%, depending on their country of residence, did not report it to the police.

Of those victims of in-person crimes who did not report to the police, 43% stated the main reason for this was that they were not confident the police would be able to do anything.

Creative Commons License

This work by Chris Allen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. Based on a work at


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