B Explanatory memorandum, by Mr Hakki
Introduction: diversity of Muslim
presence in Europe
1 One of the most urgent challenges
facing European societies today is the issue of peace. On the one hand,
peace must be established externally with the Islamic countries
in our globalised world and, on the other, peace must be established
internally with Muslims who have migrated to Europe or were born
in European countries and practice various forms of Islam.
2 Islam’s association with Europe is very old. Muslims have
lived in the Balkan and Caucasus regions, in the Iberian Peninsula,
in Cyprus, Sicily and Malta for centuries. Several Council of Europe
member states – namely Albania, Azerbaijan and Turkey – have a predominantly
Muslim population. Islam is the second largest religion in the Russian
Federation, and is the religion of many ethnic minorities.
3 Britain, France and the Netherlands had a long history of
contact with the Muslim world as colonial states (for example, with
Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia).
4 Many Muslims have also arrived and settled in Europe as migrants.
During the economic boom of the 1960s, they first arrived as migrant
workers in response to a demand for low skill industrial labour
in western Europe. They were later joined by their families in the
course of the 1970s and 1980s. Family reunion and settlement began
to alter the demographics and the social and political dynamics
of Muslim communities in Europe. The concentration of migrant workers
and their families in industrial areas meant that while the overall Muslim
population in each country was relatively low, they had a very visible
presence in many cities and segregated neighbourhoods.
5 In the course of the 1980s, Muslims from Afghanistan, Iran,
Iraq and Lebanon, and latter in the 1990s from Yugoslavia and Somalia,
arrived to northern and western Europe as refugees seeking asylum.
Many of them were skilled professionals arriving from urban centres
and were able to play, together with Muslim students in Europe,
an important role in the process of interaction between Muslim communities
and host societies.
6 More recently, since the 1990s, there has been a new wave
of immigration to south European countries in response to those
countries’ economic development and labour needs, particularly in
agriculture and tourism sectors. For example, Greece has experienced
migration of predominantly Albanian Muslims, but also Muslims from
Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iraq. In Spain, large numbers of Muslim
migrants arrive irregularly from Morocco and Sub-Saharan Africa
and in Italy from North Africa and Albania.
Addressing the root causes of
7 Since 11 September 2001, the
relationship between Islam and European society has been under strain. On
the one hand, there has been significant growth in extremist movements
which seek to achieve their objectives by violent means. In justifying
their acts of terrorism these organisations draw on Islamic beliefs, exploiting
religion for misanthropic ends.
8 On the other hand, Islam and Muslim values have been at the
centre of a public debate concerning their compatibility with European
values. Muslims are often portrayed in media as a devoutly religious
and homogenous group sharing a fundamentalist vision of Islam. Regrettably,
this stereotype image of Muslims conceals diversity in religious
beliefs and practices amongst Muslim communities living in Europe
which in reality vary considerably due to different national, cultural,
social and religious backgrounds.
9 The notion that the presence of Islam in Europe, in the form
of its Muslim citizens and migrants, is a challenge for Europe and
European values and norms, has taken a strong hold in European political
debates. It has created a climate of fear and a deepening religious
and cultural divide.
10 Extremism is not just a phenomenon of followers of Islamic
belief. Any religion knows that extremists and political extremism
is one of the biggest threats in Europe.
11 The report of Mr Mota Amaral recognises the scale of the problem:
whether and how Islam can be integrated into European societies
became no longer a question of an integration process and overall
cohesion of society but an “urgent and impellent issue relating
to the peaceful coexistence of different religious groups in our
societies and the security of our countries”.
12 The report illustrates the various dimensions of the radicalisation
process. It rightly states that discrimination, stigma and alienation
of Muslim communities must be taken into account if radicalisation
is to be understood. Mr Mota Amaral therefore quite rightly points
out that it is the responsibility of states and society to address
the root causes of extremism, and in particular: discrimination,
racism, lack of equal opportunities and social exclusion.
13 The rapporteur considers that
an essential component of any farsighted integration policy must
be to grant equal rights in all areas of society to migrant communities
living permanently in European countries.
While the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
has in the past focused on issues of integration of migrants in
and integration of migrant womenNote
particular, more in-depth work is needed to explore the issues fundamental
to the integration of specific groups including migrants and European
citizens of migrant descent who belong to Muslim faith groups.
15 It is regrettable that since 11 September 2001, the immigration
debate has been dominated by questions of security and border controls,
to the detriment of integration policies.
16 Such attitudes and political choices overlook the fact that
millions of migrants enjoy legal residence in Council of Europe
member states and want to participate fully in the life of the host
country and respect its democratic rules and values.
17 If terrorism and extremism poses a threat to democracy, governments
and public should also be aware that the failure to devise and implement
effective integration policies for immigrants will pose an equal
threat to the values which are at the heart of European society,
namely equality, democratic representation and social cohesion.
Integration as a two-way process
18 The rapporteur considers that
integration should be a continuous, two-way process which is based
on mutual rights and corresponding obligations of both immigrants
and the host society.
According to the study of the European Monitoring Centre on
Racism and Xenophobia,Note
many Muslims in Europe acknowledge
that they themselves need to do more to engage with wider society,
to overcome the obstacles and difficulties that they face and to
take greater responsibility for integration.
20 Engagement and participation need also encouragement and support
from mainstream society that has to do more to accommodate diversity
and remove barriers to integration. In principle, integration policies
should lead to better relations between people of different backgrounds
and to a decrease in racial discrimination in European societies.
21 However, as documented in country monitoring reports of the
European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), this
does not always seem to be the case. Public debate on integration
seems to have shifted from a more technical debate, in which different
areas of disadvantage were examined and addressed, to a more general
debate on the cultures and values of different groups and, ultimately,
on the inherent worth and mutual compatibility of such cultures
At a recent seminarNote
“the relationship between integration and the fight against racism
and racial discrimination”, the ECRI advocated to include a strong
antidiscrimination focus in all integration strategies:
“In order to achieve a truly integrated
society it is crucial that integration policies simultaneously address discrimination,
racism and prejudice on the one hand and, on the other, any possible
gaps in members of minority groups’ skills (for instance relating
to language, education, professional competencies or knowledge of
society) which negatively affect their ability to participate fully
in society. At the same time it is necessary that the focus on combating
discrimination and racism be explicitly and consistently presented
to the public as forming an integral part of integration policies,
so as to benefit from the political priority generally given to
For this reason, the rapporteur recalls recommendations to
the member states which are outlined in the ECRI general policy
recommendation on combating intolerance and discrimination against
) and on combating racism while fighting terrorism (Recommendation No. 8
The rapporteur also insists on the importance of adopting
anti-discrimination legislation in all member states of the Council
of Europe and to devise effective mechanisms to implement it. In
Germany, for example, the transposition of the EU Anti-discrimination
reluctantly, and the law still lacks effective instruments to be
implemented. For example, the powers of the ombudsperson should
be clearly defined and the burden of proof should not be incumbent
to the individual who is discriminated against but instead shared with
the discriminating party which often involves employers or public
25 With regard to integration of young people, the rapporteur
highlights the work carried out by the European Youth Centre concerning
“Islamophobia and its consequences on young people” and the important and
numerous youth activities undertaken for the campaign, “All different
– All equal”.
Conclusion: towards an inclusive
26 Muslim presence in Europe is
very diverse, reflecting different national, cultural, social and
religious backgrounds. Some Council of Europe member states have
a predominantly Muslim population, some have important ethnic minorities
of Muslim faith, and others have settled or more recent immigrant
Muslim communities which today include the European citizens of
second and third generations.
27 Persons identified as “Muslims” either because of their nationality,
ethnic, cultural or family background and affiliation may not define
themselves as such. Research shows that most European Muslims, as
is the case with other religions, have a secular lifestyle and values.
28 It is regrettable that since 11 September 2001, the relationship
between Islam and European society has been under strain and that
the immigration debate has been dominated by questions of security
to the detriment of integration policies.
29 The rapporteur therefore urges that the member states use
the guidance of the Council of Europe to take a range of positive
measures to enable Muslim communities living permanently in Europe
to integrate into society through fair and non-discriminatory access
to employment, to education, to vocational training, to housing
in mixed areas and to public services. The integration process should
in time lead to democratic participation through citizenship and/or
the right to vote. Investment in integration, tolerance-building
and mutual understanding particularly among young people – will
bring Europe closer to a peaceful future.