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    EU REPORT: MUSLIMS FACE ISLAMOPHOBIA Brian Murphy http://www.belleville.com/mld/belleville/news/breaking_news/16266523.htm ATHENS, Greece - Muslims across
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 6, 2007
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      Brian Murphy

      ATHENS, Greece - Muslims across Europe are confronting a rise in
      "Islamophobia" ranging from violent attacks to discrimination in job
      and housing markets, a wide-ranging European Union report indicated

      The study, compiled by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and
      Xenophobia, urged European authorities to strengthen policies on
      integration. But it also noted that Muslims need to do more to counter
      negative perceptions driven by terrorism and upheavals such as the
      backlash to cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

      The 117-page survey details the many divides between the EU mainstream
      and the estimated 13 million Muslims - now at least 3.5 percent of the
      25-nation bloc's population - and seeks to offer a street-level view
      of the complexities blocking efforts to bridge the differences.

      "The disadvantaged position of Muslim minorities, evidence of a rise
      in Islamophobia and concern over processes of alienation and
      radicalization have triggered an intense debate in the European
      Union," said Beate Winkler, director of the Vienna-based group.

      The report reinforces the growing urgency of tackling religious
      tensions and suspicions in Europe.

      During a trip to Turkey earlier this month, Pope Benedict XVI appealed
      for greater understanding between Christianity and Islam and sought to
      ease Muslim outrage over his remarks in September that cited a
      medieval emperor speaking about violence and Muhammad's teachings.

      Last week, British Prime Minister Tony Blair called tolerance one of
      the "essential values" of his nation and denounced "hatemongers,
      whatever their race, religion or creed."

      The report cited hundreds of reported cases of violence or threats
      against Muslims in the EU since 2004, including vandalism against
      mosques and Islamic centers, abuse against women wearing Islamic
      headscarves and attacks, such as a Somali family in Denmark assaulted
      by a gang carrying baseball bats emblazoned with swastikas and racist

      The report, however, noted that "data on religiously aggravated
      incidents is collected on a limited scale." It noted that only Britain
      publishes a hate-crime list that specifically identifies acts against

      "Muslims feel that acceptance by society is increasingly premised on
      'assimilation' and the assumption that they should lose their Muslim
      identity," Winkler said. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, many
      Muslims feel "they have been put under a general suspicion of terrorism."

      Islamophobic incidents shot up 500 percent in Britain in the weeks
      after the July 2005 bombings of London's transit system, but decreased
      dramatically after authorities and religious leaders worked together
      to ease tensions, Winkler said.

      "The key word is 'respect,'" she said. "People need to feel respected
      and included."

      The report urged EU nations to develop more clear legal frameworks for
      Muslim cultural and religious institutions, including ways to make
      more public funds available to Islamic community groups and help train
      local imams.

      The report also said Europe's Muslims are "often disproportionately
      represented" in poor housing conditions, unemployment statistics and
      in lower education levels.

      ON THE NET

      European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia: http://eumc.eu.int



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