Islam: Muslims in Europe face discrimination, Amnesty

France and Spain accused, impact on employment rate

25 April, 18:04

    Muslims pray in the streets of Paris for the end of Ramadan (Archive). Muslims pray in the streets of Paris for the end of Ramadan (Archive).

    (ANSAmed) - ROME - European states must do more to combat negative stereotypes and prejudices against Muslims, especially in education and employment. This is what Amnesty International urges European states to do in its latest report on discrimination against Muslims in Europe. The report mainly focuses on Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Spain, here with specific reference to the "war of Mosques" in Catalonia.

    "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", Amnesty expert Marco Perolini pointed out, "while men lose their job because they wear a beard, which is associated to Islam". Moreover, "instead of combating these prejudices, way too often political parties and public officials indulge them, in order to gain the general public's approval." The report illustrates the negative impact of discrimination on several aspects of Muslims' life, including employment and education. "While everyone has the right to express one's culture, tradition or faith by wearing a specific dress", Perolini continues, "no one should be pressured or forced to do so. General bans on specific clothing items infringe the rights of those who freely choose to dress in a certain way and do not help those who are forced to do so in any way".

    Amnesty's report highlights the fact that laws banning discrimination in employment have not been appropriately implemented in Belgium, France and the Netherlands. 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 "neutrality".

    As Amnesty points out, this directly conflicts with EU anti-discrimination laws which allow people to be treated differently at work only if the nature of the job specifically requires it. This contributes to higher unemployment rates among the Muslim, especially Muslim women of foreign descent.

    As for the ban on wearing headscarves in schools enforced by several countries such as Spain, France, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands is concerned, according to Amnesty's expert any restriction must be based on assessment of the needs in each individual case. "General bans risk compromising Muslim girls' access to education and violating their rights to freedom of expression and manifesting their beliefs'', Perolini points out.

    The report also focuses on the right to establish places of worship, which is challenged in various countries. "In several European countries, it is widely maintained that Islam and Muslims are okay as long as they are not too visible. This attitude is prompting infringements of human rights and needs to be contrasted", Perolini concludes. (ANSAmed).

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