Muslim NGOs condemn European state-sponsored Islamophobia

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A coalition of leading Muslim human rights and advocacy groups have condemned state-sponsored Islamophobia across Europe at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Human Dimension Conference in Warsaw. 

The coalition highlighted the systematic suppression of Muslim civil society which is giving rise to authoritarian policies across the continent – especially in the UK, France, Austria and Denmark.

The coalition comprises Perspectives Musulmanes (France), CAGE (UK), Assisting Communities Traumatised by Police (Austria), Lighthouse Advocacy (UK), The Centre for Muslims’ Rights (Denmark), INSAN (Sweden) and Muslim Rights Watch (Netherlands).

It highlighted how European states have enabled the targeting of Muslim minorities through an array of discriminatory laws and policies with far reaching implications for the rule of law and the liberties we all enjoy.

Lamies Nassri, Project Manager at Denmark based NGO, CEDA, highlighted the Danish government’s anti-Ghetto policies which target Muslim and migrant communities.

She said: “The ‘ghetto-policies’ main objective is to change the demographic make-up of the housing areas by forcibly evicting 60% of the residents from their homes. The policy also paints a picture of the residents as enemies within the State, who live in ‘parallel societies’ that must be fought.”

CAGE’s Muhammad Rabbani at the conference

Elias d’Imzalène of France based NGO, Perspectives Musulmanes, focussed on how France’s state-led Islamophobia is dismantling all free spaces for Muslims.

He said: “This Orwellian policy affects the very corpus of the Islamic religion. Indeed, the Imams’ Charter prohibits imams from denouncing any form of Islamophobia, discrimination and injustice and imposes a new reading of Islam ordered by the State, an ‘Islam of the police prefectures. The police threaten to close any mosque denouncing this new inquisition while a political hunt is also carried out, targeting the dissenting voices of the community, thus making Muslim expression essentially criminal.”

Muhammad Rabbani, Managing Director of CAGE, drew attention to France’s systematic obstruction policy and noted how it amounts to a persecution of Muslims in France.

He said: “As defined by the Rome Statute, ‘Persecution’ means the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to International Law by reason of the identity of the group or its collectivity. The deliberate deprivation of the freedom of religion, opinion and association of Muslim citizens of France that results from government policy and law, provides evidence of a State-led persecution of Muslims underway in France.”

Lighthouse advocacy from the UK brought to attention evidence it uncovered of unethical financial ties between UK higher education institutions and companies complicit in Uyghur forced labour.

Ikram Hussain of Lighthouse advocacy said: “Lighthouse Advocacy urges the UK government to comply with the Modern Slavery Act of 2015 and ban any import of goods from the Xinjiang region which has been produced as a result of forced Uyghur labour, and exhort British businesses and academic institutions to follow suit in ending their ties with such companies profiting from forced Uyghur labour.”

And Nehal Abdalla, advocacy lead of Austria based ACT-P, highlighted the human rights and children rights violations of the November 2020 Operation Luxor raids, the single largest police operation in Austrian peacetime history.

She said: “Operation Luxor is fraught with controversy, with the recent high court rulings deeming the raid unlawful and politically motivated. Operation Luxor has succeeded in spreading terror across the muslim community despite failing to even prosecute one individual successfully. The manner in which the Operation was designed and executed revealed a state sanctioned programme of Islamophobia.”

UPDATE:

Here is the joint statement by the coalition of European Muslim NGOs at the OSCE’s Human Dimension Conference condemning endemic of state led Islamophobia across Europe:

We the undersigned, are a group of leading European Muslim NGOs working to highlight and campaign against Islamophobia. In recent years, we have documented the alarming rise of state sanctioned powers and legislation targeting Muslims living in Europe. These policies usually co-opt the language of ‘combatting terrorism and extremism’ but also often weaponise anti-migrant rhetoric and racist tropes.

This has materialised in laws that:

forcibly evict families who live in social housing areas with a majority of Muslim families, because they are perceived as a threat to national security, as is the case of Denmark,

a state wide persecution of Muslims and dictation of a state sanctioned Islam as seen in France through the ‘systematic obstruction policy’ and ‘Imam’s charter’,

a manipulation of the legal system to silence and criminalise Muslim communities through fear and intimidation as in the violent Operation Luxor raids in Austria,

the targeting of Muslim children in schools through the Islamophobic PREVENT policy and passing laws that relegate Muslims to second class citizens, as in the UK,

the systematic shut down of Muslim schools in Sweden,

and the mass profiling and discrimination of Muslims based on their religious practices in the Netherlands.

Globally also, European states are increasingly complicit in the persecution of Muslims by profiteering from despotic regimes or unethical trading practice such as purchasing goods procured through the forced labour of Uyghurs in East Turkestan.

These developments can no longer be viewed as isolated from one another. We believe that there is an endemic of state led Islamophobia across Europe. This is allowing anti-Muslim hate to pervade across society and provides the ‘green light’ for racism and islamophobia to fester.

For state led Islamophobia to continue unimpeded, European governments have censored and criminalised dissenting views and deliberately curtailed freedom of association of Muslim civil society. Various measures have been used including attempts to deny us access to state officials, block us from organising functions, closing our bank accounts, pursuing our organisations and their leaders with politically motivated and malicious investigations, or in some cases closing and banning our organisations.

European governments are exploiting fears and prejudices about Islam and Muslims to build an arsenal of extraordinary authoritarian powers that start off by targeting their Muslim minorities but will eventually come to threaten the freedoms and liberties of all its citizens.

We warn European leaders of pursuing this course of action which will risk repeating the horrors Europe’s leaders created only 70 years ago and of the more recent genocide in Bosnia.
We call on the citizens of Europe to take action now before it is too late. Democratically elected European government’s have been complicit in mainstreaming far-right talking points and have set in motion a return to an authoritarian and fascist Europe. Europe’s citizens must organise to oppose this.

Signed by:
Perspectives Musulmanes (France)
CAGE (UK),
Assisting Communities Traumatised by Police (Austria)
Lighthouse Advocacy (UK)
The Centre for Muslims’ Rights in Denmark (CEDA) (Denmark)
INSAN (Sweden)
Muslim Rights Watch (Netherlands)

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