Muslims are not extremists: Stop Islamophobia

Alessia Rollo

After an overview of the first two articles on discrimination in general in Europe and the strategies put in place to tackle it, the previous article analysed specifically the ethnic and racial discrimination with which the Asian community in Europe live. On the same subject, this article will discuss the discrimination suffered by another community widely present in the European Union: The Muslim community.

Muslims represent the second largest religious group in the European Union. The Pew Research Center has estimated that around 20 million Muslims live in the EU and they represent about 6% of the European total population. The majority of Muslims living in Europe are mostly from North Africa, Turkey, Middle East, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the former Yugoslavia. These people are therefore a mix of different ethnicities, languages, and cultural traditions.[1]

via Unsplash / Rumman Amin

The largest numbers of Muslim people live in France and Germany, with around 4.7 million in each of the two countries making up for 46% of all Muslims in EU. They face discrimination in different contexts, particularly when looking for work, and when trying to access public or private services. Also, characteristics such as the first and last name, skin colour, and the wearing of visible religious symbols may trigger discrimination and harassment. [2]

Within the second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey (EU-MIDIS II) conducted in 2015-2016 by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), the views and experiences of first and second-generation Muslim immigrants living in 15 EU Member States are analysed, focusing on discrimination and racist victimization. This report presents the responses of 10.527 respondents who identified themselves as ‘Muslim’ in 15 EU Member States: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Together these countries host around 94 % of Muslims living in the EU. The results show that nearly 1 in 3 Muslim respondents stated that they had experienced discrimination in the past 12 months. Those Muslim respondents who had been discriminated against indicate that they had suffered, on average, 8 incidents of discrimination over a 12-month period.[3]

These acts of hatred and discrimination against Muslims have certainly increased as a result of the 9/11 attacks by Islamic extremist groups. Since then, there has been a growing sense of fear towards Muslims and those perceived as such. 

via Unsplash / Martina Mainetti

This fear is easily summarized with the expression “Islamophobia”. “Islamophobia is a specific form of racism that refers to acts of violence and discrimination, as well as racist speech, fuelled by historical abuses and negative stereotyping and leading to exclusion and dehumanisation of Muslims, and all those perceived as such.”[4]

via Unsplah / Frank Brennan

Muslim minorities in Europe are unfortunately seen as threats to the European way of life and many xenophobic parties and groups spread terror among people by talking about “Islamisation” of Europe. Islam and Muslims are therefore sometimes portrayed on the basis of hostile stereotyping the effect of which is to make this religion and its followers or those perceived as such seem a threat, and often become victims of false accusations that affect Muslim communities as a whole, without distinguishing between Muslims and religiously disguised extremists.[5] Counter-terrorism policies have also had a big impact on the Muslim community, which is often portrayed as the internal enemy to be controlled and policed.

The European Union has already enacted laws against racism and discrimination, such as the Council Racial Directive of 2000, which was discussed in the second article. However, the discrimination Muslims daily face in areas such as employment and education, or physical and verbal racist harassment, demonstrate that existing policy measures are not sufficient to ensure results. To address Islamophobia and promote full equality and inclusion, these measures need to be strengthened by a comprehensive effort of policymakers through national strategies. In this way, member states can protect the rights of Muslims in Europe.

[1] “Muslims in the European Union: Discrimination and Islamophobia”, a report by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). 

[2] Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey – Muslim – Selected findings (FRA).

[3] Ibidem.


[5] ECRI General Policy Recommendation No. 5 (revised) on preventing and combating anti-Muslim racism and discrimination.