Regulating foreign funding of Islam in Europe in order to prevent radicalisation and Islamophobia
- Parliamentary Assembly
debate on 10 October 2018 (32nd Sitting) (see Doc. 14617, report of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy,
rapporteur: Ms Doris Fiala). Text adopted
by the Assembly on 10 October 2018 (32nd Sitting).
1. The question of foreign funding
of Islam in Europe has occupied a prominent place in public debate
in many Council of Europe member States for a number of years now,
and may raise concern. The Parliamentary Assembly considers that
whatever these concerns may be, member States must ensure that they
do not result in widespread suspicion of foreign funding in general.
2. Reiterating that, according to the Council of Europe’s European
Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), the right
to request and receive voluntary donations, regardless of their
origin, is inherent to religious activities, the Assembly calls
on member States to clearly reaffirm that not all foreign funding
of religion is a problem in itself and that, on the contrary, it
can help to foster interfaith dialogue and more openness in religious
3. The Assembly notes that, beyond the differences in situations,
in relations between States and religions, in the organisation of
the Muslim faith itself and in how it is funded, in certain cases
the questions that surround foreign funding of Islam reveal a reality
which cannot be denied, despite the absence of global and aggregate statistics.
4. First of all, this reality concerns the use of religion by
some States as a means of exerting influence in a foreign country,
which becomes a problem when it goes beyond simply providing support
to a religious community to enable it to practise its faith freely
and is designed either to export a radical form of Islam or to foster
a sort of Islamic nationalism in the target communities.
In this connection, the Assembly refers to its Resolution 1743 (2010)
Islam, Islamism and Islamophobia in Europe in which, already eight
years ago, it noted with concern that “some Islamic organisations
active in member States have been initiated by governments abroad
and receive financial support and political guidance from those
governments. … National political expansion into other States under the
disguise of Islam should be brought to light. … member States should
require transparency and accountability of Islamic as well as other
religious associations, for instance by requiring transparency of
their statutory objectives, leadership, membership and financial
With regard to the different types of measures taken by some
member States to regulate foreign funding of Islam, the Assembly
urges member States to:
the funding of Islam in their territory which is proved by objective
criteria to be used by other States for the purpose of national
political expansion under the guise of Islam;
6.2 reject all attempts at interference in their territory
by foreign organisations which aim to put in place a parallel society,
and not allow foreign funding to reach any organisations which undermine human
rights and dignity, and which oppose living together as guaranteed
by the principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
In particular, any foreign attempt to indoctrinate young people must
6.3 ensure full compliance with the framework established
by the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5), the case
law of the European Court of Human Rights, the Venice Commission
and the Assembly; this implies, in particular, that a general ban
on all foreign funding is arguably unreasonable and not necessary
in a democratic society, that regulations introducing discrimination between
different religious groups on religious grounds must be banned and
that any regulations governing funding should be proportionate;
6.4 focus on increasing transparency, for example through
annual financial reports clearly identifying the origin of any foreign
funding and how it is used, including funding received through informal
transfer systems, such as money brokers or hawala networks.
It also recommends involving Muslim organisations in this increase
of transparency, through preventive actions vis-à-vis donors and
the entities which receive the donations.
When more drastic measures are considered, such as a sweeping
ban on foreign funding, the Assembly recommends:
7.1 first organising a broad consultation,
with clearly defined aims;
7.2 treating all religions on an equal footing;
7.3 refraining from placing the Muslim community under any
general suspicion that may lead to Islamophobia and, on a broader
level, from instrumentalising the question of foreign funding.
8. The Assembly notes that regulating the funding of the Muslim
faith can have positive consequences for the integration of Muslim
communities into European society, by encouraging the emergence
of representatives to liaise with the public authorities. It is
also convinced that the appropriate response to the rudimentary
and literalistic Salafist theology that cultivates the breeding
ground from which terrorist acts can grow is an enlightened Islam.
In this respect, it notes a fairly widely shared tendency in several
member States to improve the level of training for imams, including
theological training, and to limit the intake of imams trained abroad,
while consulting with the representatives of Muslim communities.
9. The Assembly therefore encourages member States to introduce
courses that promote an enlightened Islam, calls on them to devote
substantial means to this, which also meet the needs of the religious communities,
and supports initiatives to set up European faculties of theology
open to Islam.
10. The Assembly also takes note of recent studies showing that
the integration of Muslims in several European countries, as shown
by their strong attachment to their countries of residence for example,
seems to have progressed over the last fifteen years; that features
specific to them, in terms of their religious beliefs and their
ties with their countries of origin or those of their ancestors
remain; and that they continue to be the victims of Islamophobia
on a significant scale.
Referring to paragraphs 3, 13 and 20 of its Resolution 1743 (2010)
to Resolution 2076 (2015)
of religion and living together in a democratic society, the Assembly
calls on member States to take these specific features into account
and to increase their efforts to combat Islamophobia, for while
foreign funding can facilitate radicalisation, Islamophobia is also
one of its breeding grounds.
12. Lastly, the Assembly invites member States to implement the
Committee of Ministers Action Plan on the Fight against Violent
Extremism and Radicalisation Leading to Terrorism, while at the
same time noting the importance the action plan accords, in its
preventive proposals, to measures which encourage living together on
an equal footing in culturally diverse democratic societies.