Islam, Islamism and Islamophobia in Europe
Reply to Recommendation
| Doc. 12544
| 21 March 2011
- Committee of Ministers
at the 1109th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (16 March 2011) 2011 - Second part-session
- Reply to Recommendation
- : Recommendation 1927
Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1927 (2010)
on “Islam, Islamism and Islamophobia in Europe” brings
to our attention two problematic phenomena, Islamism and Islamophobia,
which pose a challenge to all Europeans – Muslims and non-Muslims
alike. The religion of Islam must be separated from Islamism which
is a political ideology and is not the prevailing expression of
Islam today and Islamophobia is not the predominant approach towards
Muslims by non-Muslim Europeans.
b Muslims in contemporary Europe contribute to their societies
in a multitude of ways, playing an increasingly visible role in
public life. European Muslims, especially the youth, infuse new
energy into existing models of social interaction, highlighting
the benefits of cultural and religious diversity.
In view of the rise of intolerance and discrimination,
including against Muslims in Europe, as pointed out by the Parliamentary
Assembly, further resolute action is required in various fora, including
by the Council of Europe, to make real the rights and freedoms for
all persons of all religions and convictions – Muslims, Jews, Christians
and all others. Further contributions by the Parliamentary Assembly
to the Council of Europe work in the area of religious freedom and
the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue would therefore
be very welcome, including in the framework of the 2011 Exchange
on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue.Note
on “Islam, Islamism and Islamophobia in Europe”, the
Parliamentary Assembly raises questions of particular relevance
to the challenges facing Europe’s multicultural societies.
3. In this context, the Council of Europe has a key role to play
in strengthening democratic stability to counter all forms of intolerance,
discrimination and extremism, including those linked to religion
or non-religious belief.
4. The Committee of Ministers therefore sets particular store
by activities intended to foster democracy and respect for human
rights, build supportive, diverse societies and denounce all forms
of intolerance. The Organisation’s Programme and Budget for 2011
were drawn up accordingly, while taking account of the priorities
and processes of the current reform. In this context, with regard
to the activities concerning migrants, the Committee of Ministers
invites the Assembly to refer to its joint reply to Assembly Recommendations
1910 and 1917 (2010).
5. The implementation of the recommendations made in the White
Paper on Intercultural Dialogue and the organisation of the Council
of Europe Exchanges on the religious dimension of intercultural
dialogue also help to achieve this goal.
6. However, the Committee of Ministers, like the European Commission
against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) and subject to available funding,
shares the view of the Parliamentary Assembly that increased action is
required by the Council of Europe, to ensure freedom of thought,
conscience and religion while combating religious intolerance and
7. As the Council of Europe body responsible for combating racism
and intolerance in Europe, ECRI analyses various aspects of Islamic
extremism and extremism against Muslim communities in Europe. ECRI’s declaration
of March 2005 condemns the use of racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic
arguments in political discourse.
8. The Committee of Ministers would also draw attention to the
conclusions of the Forum for the Future of Democracy, held from
19 to 21 October 2010 in Yerevan (Armenia), which in particular
noted that “democratic processes can be abused by movements and
ideologies which undermine and may ultimately destroy the democratic
system framed by human rights and the rule of law” and that “the
current rise in extremism and radicalism fuelled by racism and xenophobic
discourse bears witness to this”.
9. The Committee of Ministers also sees the Council of Europe’s
cultural, educational and youth activities as an important contribution
to European integration based on the common fundamental values of
respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
As to matters relating to education and the development of
knowledge about various beliefs through the education system, the
Committee of Ministers would draw attention to Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)12
on the dimension of religions and non-religious convictions within
intercultural education. It provides principles and guidelines to
be applied in education policies and institutions and in the professional
development of teaching staff. The Committee of Ministers refers
also, in this connection, to ECRI’s general policy recommendations,Note
which recommend in
particular that states ensure that religious instruction in schools
respects cultural pluralism and that “pupils are given an instruction
on religion which complies with the scientific neutrality essential
in any educational approach”. It encourages the member states to
draw on these recommendations and principles. The Committee of Ministers
would also inform the Assembly of an initiative run jointly by the
OSCE/ODIHR, the Council of Europe and UNESCO to develop “Guidelines
for educators and policy makers: combating intolerance against Muslims
through education”, which it is planned to launch in 2011.
11. Furthermore, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human
Rights keeps close track of the current issues and problems to which
the Assembly refers in its recommendation in respect of the developments
in member states and calls on the authorities and civil society
to work to promote respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms
of all Europeans.
12. With regard to the Assembly’s recommendations concerning Muslim
women, the Committee of Ministers recalls that the rights and freedoms
contained in the European Convention on Human Rights and as interpreted in
the Court’s case law apply to all individuals under the jurisdiction
of the high contracting parties to the Convention without discrimination.
This is also the case with respect to the European Social Charter
which provides the right to education, professional training and
13. The Assembly stresses the importance of promoting Council
of Europe values outside the Organisation’s geographical scope.
In this connection, the Committee of Ministers underlines the role
of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission)
as well as of the European Centre for Global Interdependence and
Solidarity (North-South Centre). It also considers that proposed
initiatives to further co-operation with non-European States, including
those recommended by the Assembly, should be examined in the light
of a more general policy framework governing relations between the
Council of Europe and neighbouring countries and take due consideration
of the budgetary resources available.
14. The Committee of Ministers would recall that the Council of
Europe continues to develop activities in this context – at both
global and inter-regional levels – including in the framework of
co‑operation between the Council of Europe and the European Union
(for example through the North-South Centre and the Intercultural Cities
programme) and with the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations.
The Committee of Ministers would also draw the Assembly’s attention
to the initiative of the Government of Azerbaijan to hold a World
Forum for Intercultural Dialogue in Baku from 7 to 9 April 2011,
where the Council of Europe will have the opportunity to promote
its values on the global level.
15. As to the participation of non-member states in the work of
ECRI, the Committee of Ministers points out that this body’s activities
are based on the provisions of the European Convention on Human
Rights, along with its additional protocols and the relevant case
law, and that this is one of the Council of Europe’s fundamental treaties,
which is not open for accession by non-member states. It is difficult
to imagine how a country which is not a party to this convention
and is not bound by the case law of the European Court of Human
Rights could be properly monitored by ECRI.
16. The Council of Europe’s priorities for 2011 include an analysis
of the relevance of Council of Europe conventions. The results of
this work should serve as a basis to decide, in particular, on measures
aimed at increasing the visibility of some of these conventions
and promoting their signature and ratification both by Council of
Europe member states and non-member states.
17. Lastly, the Committee of Ministers points to the task assigned
to the Group of Eminent Persons, who have been charged with opening
new lines of inquiry on how to “live together”. It will be extremely
interested in the outcome of this work, which may provide input
for the future activities of the Council of Europe.