C Explanatory memorandum by Mr Türkeş,
rapporteur for opinion
1 The report presented by our colleague, Luca Volontè,
on behalf of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy is
topical. Violence against religious communities continues to find
its roots, both in and outside of Europe.
2 I would like to complement this report by drawing the Assembly’s
attention to three relevant issues which are not fully covered in
Mr Volontè’s report: the relevance of religious persecution as a
ground for asylum, the fact that religious violence within Europe
is often targeted at migrant communities and that violence can be verbal.
1 Religious persecution as a ground for asylum
3 As stipulated in Article 1.A(2) of the 1951 United
Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees the term refugee
applies also to any person “… owing to well-founded fear of being
persecuted for reasons of … religion …, is outside the country of
his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling
to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not
having a nationality and being outside the country of his former
habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing
to such fear, is unwilling to return to it”.
In its Recommendation
on violence against Christians in the Middle East, the
Assembly called on member States to refrain from encouraging the
members of Christian communities in the Middle East to seek refuge
in Europe, except in cases where the survival of such communities
becomes impossible. It is true that seeking refuge is a matter of
last recourse. Nevertheless, I think it is appropriate to stress
in a report specifically dealing with the issue of violence against
religious communities that religious persecution is a ground for
asylum and that member States should provide international protection
to asylum seekers in such cases.
5 This is why I propose, in Amendment A, to add a reference
to refugees and asylum seekers in the draft resolution and the need
to provide international protection.
2 Religious violence is often targeted at migrants’
6 While the report of the Committee on Political Affairs
and Democracy covers in some detail the situation of Christians
in the Middle East, it could also have focused more on the situation
of Muslim communities in Council of Europe member States in view
of the number of cases of violence against members of this community.
7 Indeed this was dealt with recently by the Assembly in a report
on European Muslim communities confronted with extremism and in
a report on Islam, Islamism and Islamophobia and it would have deserved
to have been dealt with on an equal footing with the fate of Christians
in a report on violence against religious minorities. I also think
it is important that the Assembly first and foremost focuses on
the situation in the Council of Europe member States.
Last January, the Assembly debated under the urgent procedure
a report on “Migration and asylum: mounting tensions in the eastern
Mediterranean”. This report underlined that migrants, asylum seekers
and refugees have become scapegoats and the target of violent attacks.
I am aware that these attacks are not necessarily linked with religion
issues but I fear it might often be the case. The frontier between
xenophobia and what is now called Islamophobia is not always clear.
As is rightly stated in Assembly Resolution 1743 (2010)
on Islam, Islamism and Islamophobia, “[s]tereotypes,
misunderstandings and fears with regard to Islam are typical symptoms
of a widespread lack of adequate knowledge among non-Muslims in
Europe”. In this respect, fear can lead to violence.
9 The majority of Muslims in western European countries are
migrants or have a migratory background and this is where violence
against religious communities can overlap with violence against
10 Furthermore, one should add that violence is not always, and
not only, physical. Words can also be violent. In this respect,
there is a worrying trend in Europe, of political leaders, mostly
from far right-wing parties, being verbally violent towards Muslim
communities. In this they are often targeting migrant communities.
11 This is why I have proposed Amendment B, in order to highlight
the overlap between religious violence and violence against migrant
communities. Amendment C refers to the fact that violence can also