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Friday, February 11, 2011

Council of Europe's HR Commissioner on Islamophobia

A new online magazine focused on news relating to Muslims and Islam, Globalia, has an interview with Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, in which he discusses the phenomenon of Islamophobia in Europe (full disclosure: Thomas Hammarberg and I are related).

His assessment of Islamophobia in contemporary Europe:
Thomas Hammarberg 
The problem as such is in fact very serious. Unfortunately we see signs that it is spreading. We see that it begins to affect the main course political debate in several countries. Some political parties that take on an islamophobic agenda have won support in elections in a manner which is very unfortunate. Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden were the last examples. So I think we have to be extremely careful now and see this as a major threat against human rights and the basic european values.
In the interview, the HR Commissioner makes a general reference to "some recent ... opinion poll,... which indicated that anti-muslim feelings are widespread in Germany." He is most likely referring to the study "Die mitte in der krise" published last fall by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. 

Among other things, the report showed that 58.4% of Germans agree with the statement that the religious practices of Muslims in Germany ought to be severely restricted in the future. In the areas of the former DDR (East Germany), the same figure was 75,7%. You can access the report here, but it is German. The relevant figures can be found in table 4.3.8 on page 134.

In the UK, a heated debate about how bad Islamophobia really is, or if it is an appropriate label at all, has flared up over the last few weeks. This round of debate was prompted by Baroness Warsi's recent assertion that hostility towards Muslims and Islam has now passed what she called the "dinner party test." By this, the conservative party co-chairman and herself a Muslim meant that it had become socially acceptable to openly express "anti-Muslim bigotry and hatred."

The controversy notwithstanding, Lady Warsi's statement is, unfortunately, capturing a real-world phenomena that is hard to deny. And as the HR Commissioner points out, it is not just present in Germany or the UK, but across much of Europe (and also the United States). 

About the U.S. by the way. This blog - which partly focuses on and is critical of the phenomenon of Islamophobia - is soon set to reach a thousand hits. A cause for celebration for sure. But it is depressing to compare these numbers to a rabid Islamophobic blog like Pamela Geller's Atlas Shrugs, which according to Wikipedia has posted videos suggesting that Muslims have sex with goats and describes Islam as "the most antisemitic, genocidal ideology in the world." Atlas Shrugs allegedly receives about one million hits per month...
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