Amnesty says Muslims in Europe face discrimination, calls for measures

Amnesty says Muslims in Europe face discrimination, calls for measures

Belgium's Hejare Boujtat (R) testifies, as John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Programme Director at Amnesty International, looks at her, during a media conference, at the presentation of a report by Amnesty International called 'Choice and Prejudice: Discrimination against Muslims in Europe' in Brussels on April 24, 2012. (Photo: AP)

April 24, 2012, Tuesday/ 12:25:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Amnesty International has said in a new report that Muslims in several European countries face discrimination in hiring and daily life because of rules targeting their customs, urging European governments to do more to challenge the negative stereotypes and prejudices against Muslims which fuel discrimination especially in education and employment.

Human rights group Amnesty International said in its most recent report, titled ‘Choice and Prejudice: Discrimination against Muslims in Europe,’ that Muslims in Europe are discriminated against due to their faith, especially in the fields of education and employment

The report, titled “Choice and Prejudice: Discrimination against Muslims in Europe,” exposes the impact of discrimination based on religion or belief against Muslims in several aspects of their lives. The report, which focuses on Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland, where Amnesty International has earlier raised issues such as restrictions on the establishment of places of worship and prohibitions on full-face veils, documents numerous individual cases of discrimination across the countries covered.

The human rights group spoke to Muslims who have had trouble getting jobs or had to change schools because of discrimination. It also notes the rise in political movements that target Muslims or Muslim practices.

“This report highlighted some examples of discrimination experienced by Muslims in Europe in the areas of employment and education. It also referred to situations where the rights of Muslims to freedom of religion or belief and to freedom of expression are restricted in a way that cannot be justified under international human rights law,” the report said.

Noting that Amnesty International is concerned that anti-discrimination legislation is not effectively implemented in several European states and that European institutions are failing to tackle this problem, the report said Muslims are discriminated against on the ground of religion or belief in employment even in countries where such discrimination is prohibited under domestic legislation.

“Restrictions on the wearing of religious and cultural symbols and dress have sometimes been introduced in education and lead to violations of the rights of Muslim pupils to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression. On some occasions states have introduced general bans in public education without proving that they were necessary and proportionate for the achievement of a legitimate aim,” the report said.

The document highlights that legislation prohibiting discrimination in employment has not been appropriately implemented in Belgium, France and the Netherlands and that employers have been allowed to discriminate on the grounds that religious or cultural symbols will jar with clients or colleagues or that a clash exists with a company's corporate image or its “neutrality.”

“Muslim women are being denied jobs and girls prevented from attending regular classes just because they wear traditional forms of dress, such as the headscarf. Men can be dismissed for wearing beards associated with Islam,” Marco Perolini, Amnesty International's expert on discrimination, was quoted as saying on the website of Amnesty International. “Rather than countering these prejudices, political parties and public officials are all too often pandering to them in their quest for votes.”

“Wearing religious and cultural symbols and dress is part of the right of freedom of expression. It is part of the right to freedom of religion or belief -- and these rights must be enjoyed by all faiths equally,” Perolini said. “While everyone has the right to express their cultural, traditional or religious background by wearing a specific form of dress no one should be pressured or coerced to do so. General bans on particular forms of dress that violate the rights of those freely choosing to dress in a particular way are not the way to do this.”

In a series of recommendations for European governments, Amnesty International urged them to establish a national equality body to monitor the implementation of anti-discrimination legislation, to collect individual complaints and provide support to victims, including advice on informal settlement mechanisms and legal support in cases brought to court. On combating discrimination in education, the human rights group recommends European governments avoid introducing general bans on the wearing of religious and cultural symbols and dress in education.

It also urged the European Union to ensure that European anti-discrimination legislation is implemented, interpreted and developed in a manner consistent with international human rights law.

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