C Explanatory memorandum, by Mr Mehmet
The Committee on Culture, Science and Education has
been dealing with subjects closely related with the subject of this
report for many years. In this context we should like to recall
Assembly Recommendations 1162
on the contribution of the Islamic civilisation
to European culture (rapporteur: Lluís Maria de Puig); 1202 (1993)
tolerance in a democratic society (rapporteur: Leni Fischer); 1396 (1999)
on religion and
democracy (rapporteur: Lluís Maria de Puig); 1687 (2004)
on combating terrorism
through culture (rapporteur: Valeriy Sudarenkov); 1720 (2005)
and religion (rapporteur: André Schneider); 1804 (2007)
on state, religion,
secularity and human rights (rapporteur: Lluís Maria de Puig); and 1805 (2007)
religious insults and hate speech against persons on grounds of
their religion (rapporteur: Sinikka Hurskainen).
2. The rapporteur of the Political Affairs Committee, Mr Mota
Amaral, correctly points out the distinction between Islam and Islamic
fundamentalism. We wish to go further and point out the distinction
between Islam as a religion and some unacceptable practices such
as “honour killings”, female genital mutilation and lapidation,
which are associated with it.
3. The fact that torture, mutilation and the death penalty can
still be carried out by some countries with mostly Muslim populations
should also not be directly linked to the religion itself. Clarification
over these issues would certainly contribute to a better image of
Islam. Even today, we witness the death penalty and allegations of
torture in some of the most advanced democracies in the world. Therefore,
association of these inhuman practices with one specific religion
is not acceptable.
4. While agreeing with the Political Affairs Committee on the
need to combat Islamophobia and recognising that freedom of expression
is a fundamental right; your rapporteur points out that the abuse
of freedom of expression to legitimise discriminatory and hate speech
against Muslims should be avoided and the fine line between objective
criticism and incitement to hatred or discrimination should be carefully
monitored in order not to pressure Muslim communities in Europe
5. Stereotypes that present Islam as contradicting fundamental
European values must be avoided. In fact, as the report acknowledges,
several Council of Europe member states, including my own, have
an Islamic tradition. In this context, a debate within the media
and advertising professions should be encouraged to avoid prejudice
and a biased image of Muslim communities.
Emphasis should in our view be placed on the importance of
education. Education for democratic citizenship, human rights education
– see Recommendation
– education about religion – see Recommendation 1720 (2005)
and education to overcome perceived differences – see Recommendation 1682 (2004)
A report on history teaching of recent conflict is being prepared
by Ms Keaveney. Since Europe is the primary destination of many
migrants with different backgrounds, a culture of tolerance should
be promoted in Europe through education. Therefore, school textbooks
should not present distorted interpretation of religious and cultural
history and should not base their portrayal of Islam on perceptions
of hostility and menace.
7. It falls on society at all levels (from the school to the
media) to avoid promotion of stereotypes and antagonisms.
8. The initiative taken by the Turkish department of religious
affairs to commission a team of theologians at Ankara University
to carry out a fundamental revision of the Hadith in order to prevent
misinterpretations of Islam, should be welcomed and encouraged.
Some of the more extremist positions attributed to Islam seem to be
based on misinterpretation of texts, such as the view that suicide
bombers can be regarded as martyrs and win special rewards in heaven.
As underlined in Recommendation
, we do not feel it is for the Council of
Europe to interfere in religious dialogue. It should not therefore
lay down what is taught in Islamic faith schools or encourage young European
Muslims to become Imams.
10. We support the recommendation of the Political Affairs Committee
to encourage the development of an intelligentsia which shares the
values of the Council of Europe among European Muslim organisations,
leaders and opinion makers.
11. The usual reference in Council of Europe documents is to “intercultural
dialogue and its religious dimension”, not “intercultural and inter-religious
12. The Council of Europe should indeed increase cooperation in
the field of intercultural dialogue with the European Union and
other appropriate international organisations which share the same
13. Muslim communities living abroad should be encouraged to integrate
with the local societies. However, integration of Muslim communities
into society and prevention of these people from social exclusion
is a bilateral process that requires efforts from the host countries
14. Host countries should take the necessary measures to prevent
discrimination of the Muslim communities as to the circumstances
in which they organise and practice their religion since religion
constitutes an integral part of the cultural identity of these communities.
In this context, unnecessary legal or administrative obstacles to
the construction of sufficient numbers of appropriate places of
worship for the practice of Islam should be removed.
15. A code of conduct should be created to combat any religious
discrimination in access to employment and at the workplace.
Reporting committee: Political Affairs Committee.
Committee for opinion: Committee on Culture, Science and Education.
Reference to committee: Doc. 10705 and
Reference No. 3145, 7 October 2005.
Opinion: approved by the committee on 14 April 2008. See 13th
Sitting, 15 April 2008 (adoption of the draft resolution and draft
recommendation, as amended); and Resolution 1605 and Recommendation 1831.