Islamophobia summit addresses bigotry in Europe

TEHRAN, Jun. 29 (MNA) – First European-Islamophobia Summit convenes international leaders to tackle anti-Muslim hate crime and bigotry in Europe.

Just days after a UK referendum decision to exit the EU that has been followed by a surge in xenophobic and Islamophobic incidents and one-week before Slovakia, which has vowed to refuse entry to Muslim refugees, assumes the EU Presidency, the first European Islamophobia Summit convened international leaders to explore policy solutions to the rise in Anti-Muslim bigotry and hate crime in Europe.

Participants at the summit, held in Sarajevo, Bosnia on June 24-26, included Former Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Former British Foreign Minister, Jack Straw, Founder of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Bernard Kouchner, international media anchor, Mehdi Hassan and UK Member of Parliament, Naz Shah amongst others, as well as representatives from 18 anti-discrimination NGO’s, 17 European nations and different faith communities.

A Final Declaration, agreed on by the Summit’s 19 participating NGO’s stated on behalf of the European Islamophobia Summit “we are particularly concerned that the current period of political and economic uncertainty within Europe, especially given Britain’s Referendum decision to leave the EU and the rise of far-right extremism across Europe, will only further exacerbate a climate of divisiveness, fear and bigotry.”

The Final Declaration also included the following policy recommendations addressed to European policy-makers and politicians:

  • Improve and enhance the documentation of Islamophobia as a category of hate crime across Europe and in particular, the EU. In addition, anti-Muslim hate crime should be recorded as a separate hate crime category in those countries in which it is not already done so.
  • Stand against and actively oppose policies that discriminate on the basis of religious identity (such as proposals from Donald Trump and the Slovak Prime Minister to ban Muslim migrants from entering their countries).
  • Launch and support public awareness campaigns that help inform wider society about the extent of harm caused by Islamophobia to communities.
  • Increase public funding to projects and initiatives that challenge Islamophobia, particularly in response to the huge increase in Islamophobic hate crime across Europe.
  • Increase security measures for Muslim areas, religious buildings and buildings of visible Muslim character at times of increased security risk.

The EU to adopt the proposed Equal Treatment Directive in order to better protect against discrimination, especially on the basis of religious identity outside of employment. Civil rights violations experienced by women wearing headscarves should be addressed by lawmakers and politicians.

Discrimination on the job market towards Muslims and especially Muslims who wear veils should be recognized and seriously addressed by better legal regulations and the creation of a relevant consciousness. Governments must draft a policy that ensures the rights of religious minorities to manifest their faith are respected in education and the workplace; this must not be left to the preferences of individual boards of management or principals.

The statement also went onto say that the Islamophobia Summit stands “shoulder to shoulder with all victims of bigotry and discrimination. All forms of hatred and prejudice share the same pernicious structure and ideological toxicity. As such we advocate cross-community unity against all forms of discrimination and prejudice – something central to any comprehensive response to the problem of Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination.”

Other summit participants included:

  • Civil society organizations such as British counter-racism group, Hope Not Hate, the European Forum of Muslim Women and Turkish Think-Tank SETA.
  • Civil society figures including American female basketball player, Indira Kaljoand creator of Islamic super-heroes comic ‘The 99’, Naif Al Mutawa;
  • Academic figures including George Town University Research Director, Nathan Lean, and senior Berkley University lecturer, Hatem Bazian.

The Summit also included an inter-faith Ramadan Iftar dinner that convened hundreds of guests in Sarajevo’s Bašcarsija (old bazaar and cultural center).

Muddassar Ahmed, the official spokesperson for the Summit and Patron of the Faiths Forum for London said “the European Islamophobia Summit was a great success. It united former heads of state, former senior European government ministers, sitting members of Parliament and prominent members of European and American media, civil society and academia in a shared desire to combat the dangerous rise in Islamophobic hate crime and bigotry across Europe.”

“It is unfortunate that the Leave Campaign during Britain’s Referendum on EU membership used exaggerated claims about Turkey’s EU membership bid and images of Syrian refugees on campaign posters to evoke fears of the “other” and of an impending demographic take-over of Europe. The surge in xenophobic and Islamophobic incidents in the wake of Brexit is a sobering reminder for why more needs to be done to address bigotry,” he asserted.

“On the other hand, the upcoming EU presidency will go to a Slovak government whose party leader admires the 1939-1945 Nazi-sponsored Slovak state that sent 75,000 Jews to concentration camps, and a prime minister who said Muslim refugees are unwelcome in Slovakia.”

“It is within this increasingly politicized climate of divisiveness and bigotry that the first ever European Islamophobia Summit was made even more important and timely.”

Academic Advisor to the Summit, Dr. Farid Hafez of Salzburg University said “Islamophobia represents a major challenge to European democracy, freedoms and its values of tolerance and pluralism.”

He added that “we chose to organize this summit in Sarajevo for two main reasons: first, Sarajevo has a centuries-long tradition of tolerance between different religious communities. Second – Sarajevo should also be considered as a warning, considering the worst genocide since World War II in Europe took place in Bosnia, Srebrenica.”

Summit moderator and Director of Development at the Center for Global Policy, Haroon Moghul said “the summit’s Final Declaration offers a serious of powerful policy recommendations to be disseminated to European political and civil society leaders.”

The European Islamophobia Summit took place across various Sarajevo landmarks including the Sarajevo National Library (within Sarajevo’s City Hall), the Sarajevo National Theatre and Sarajevo’s old bazaar. The summit was held in partnership with the city Government of Sarajevo.

By Mehr News Agency