Following an interview with the Portugese journalist Alexandra Lucas Coelho last Friday, my comments have been published as part of an article in the national Portugese newspaper, Publico: “Discriminação contra muçulmanos está a aumentar na Europa”.

To read the article – in Portugese – click here.

A ‘Google’ translation is pasted below. Warning, it’s not the best:

Discrimination against Muslims is increasing in Europe

The vote on minarets in Switzerland is only a sign. The political stage to the Internet, across Europe emerging expressions of fear or distrust of Muslims. There are indications that discrimination is increasing, say experts consulted by PUBLICO.

And a new study to be submitted 15 days in London, Muslims in Europe – A Report in 11 cities of the European Union is along these lines, recommending local leaders, national and European level to counteract segregation in schools, housing, politics. The best way is to mix. “Citizens or immigrants, newcomers or natives, Muslims are a diverse population and growth that appears to Europe as one of its biggest challenges,” reads the findings.

For this report, conducted by the Open Society Institute, were interviewed in 2200 Muslims and non Muslims between January 2008 and February 2009 in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Berlin, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Leicester, Waltham Forest, London, Marseilles, Paris and Stockholm.

The result refutes three myths. First, that Muslims do not want to integrate. Second, that the needs of Muslims are different. Third, Muslims are not involved in political and civic life. The percentages give an opposite reality.

In summary, the answers point to “an increase in experience of discrimination,” says Nazia Hussain, the director of the project. It also seems clear that concern Muslims and ethnic minorities in general has increased over the past five years, the general public and the media, which leads to stereotypes.”

As Jews in the 30?

If the mechanisms of Swiss democracy if they could repeat in another European country, “we would have similar results,” said Martin Rose, director of the project our common Europe, for the coexistence of Muslims and non Muslims in Europe, recently launched by the British Council.

The referendum in Switzerland was “an alarming signal” about how “there is a feeling much stronger than we would hope, a fear of the other.” Rose says he “would rather not use the word Islamophobia, but it is difficult to find another.” A form of racism? “What we have before we called racism, but the race is now replaced by religion.”

In addition to the domestic front that for years fought for power in Europe, the British put in parliament, “the almost fascist” British National Party. And the flag anti-immigrant, now focused on Muslims, spread to the center of the political field. “The problem exists in every European country. When times are bad, the competition for social housing and unemployment assistance is greater, there is a “we” and ” them”, which has now become Muslims and non Muslims.”

In 30 years, there was the binomial Jews and non Jews. The ban on minarets may echo bans anti-Semitic and various associations of Jews made a point of protest against the Swiss referendum.

You can compare? “On the one hand, we can even think that the situation is worse than in 30 years, as it is across Europe,” says Martin Rose. “The picture of economic difficulty is the same, and appear scapegoats. If we combine the crisis with ignorance, and the fact that there are people who as a Muslim to make an explosion, the Muslims are an optimal target when we are looking someone to hate.”

There is one essential difference. “In a Europe of 30 years had a country to encourage racism, Germany. Now, European governments are desperately trying to prevent discrimination.”

But if part of Switzerland agreed to shock, was the other party that won. “A massive victory,” noted Rose. “We have to worry about.”

Tackling discrimination

It is possible to translate the existence of Islamophobia in numbers? Hardly, says Chris Allen, a British academic who has done for the European Union the report after 11 September. “Each country handles the matter differently. Few monitor the direct or indirect discrimination in a comprehensive way, and few do so on grounds of religion / faith, beyond ethnicity and race. Therefore, it is difficult to have a quantitative picture.”

But it is possible to detect trends.

The report post-September 11 pointed to evidence only casual growing Islamophobia. A decade later, Allen says, the situation is the same, but the fact that there are more reports of attacks or abuse against the visible signs of the Muslim faith seems to indicate that Islamophobia has increased. Similarly, the fact that they grow at the expense of political speeches may indicate that anti-Muslim, “incidentally, Islamophobia is growing in its most raw.”

In Switzerland, specifically, the minarets of the referendum seems to Allen “a smokescreen for a much more insidious campaign against the” Islamification “of Europe.” Within this general context of tension, which is the greatest danger? “Accepting that to be against Muslims and Islam is somehow normal. I think many people have a natural distrust of Islam and Muslims and this is what needs to be fought.”

In the meantime, the expert believes, nothing will change. “I would not persist in the strategy to inform people that” Islam is a religion of peace “, as many Muslims and politicians have in the past. Instead, he preferred to see Islamophobia be treated as other discriminatory practices, racism, xenophobia , sexism, homophobia, in the sense that they are unfair and unnecessary in European societies, and that our values of equality, justice and respect are a key in it. “

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