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Twenty-First Century Crusades?

Prediction 1: Continued tension and backlash against Muslims in Europe

Racism, Islamophobia in Europe on rise Brussels

Many Members of the European Parliament during a debate on racism pointed to the increase of racist violence in some EU Member States.

Meanwhile, speakers at a conference in Brussels last week said that Islamophobia is on the increase in Europe, and the right of Muslims to live quietly and practice their religion is under threat.

On Thursday, the EP adopted a resolution on the increase in racist attacks by 301 in favor to 161 against with 102 abstentions.

Socialist group leader in the EP, Martin Schulz, said that when he joined the European Parliament twelve years ago, he would not have thought it possible that such a debate would be needed again.

"Racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and hatred of minorities is horrifying. It should set alarm bells ringing," he said.

The EP resolution deplored the fact that the EU Council has been unable to adopt the 2001 EU Council Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia.

MEPs urgently call on the future EU Finnish Presidency which begins on July 1 to restart the work on it and on the Council to reach an agreement on explicitly extending it to anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and other types of offenses motivated by phobia or hatred based on ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, religion or other irrational grounds.

British MEP Sarah Ludford said citizens must be puzzled that the EU had good laws protecting people from discrimination as consumers and employees, but not as people.

"Why is there a lack of EU action on hate crimes, when we can agree on pollution crimes?" she asked.

Ludford hoped to avoid high blown rhetoric about a union of values, where no action was taken.

Another British MEP Claude Moraes, who is of Indian origin, said "When my parents arrived in Europe in the 1960s we suffered from it (discrimination) and we have never forgotten.

"The scar of discrimination is greater today than it was in the 1960s" he added.

The EP resolution strongly condemned all racist attacks, and expressed its solidarity with all victims of such attacks and their families.

The EP stressed the need to support anti-racist and anti-xenophobic initiatives in relation to the current World Cup in Germany, and asks authorities to closely monitor, prosecute and condemn those responsible for racist acts.

Hans Winkler, state secretary in Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs said the entire security of the EU was threatened and undermined by such violence and discrimination and it needed be addressed urgently.

Dutch MEP, Sophia Veld, said that it was 'unfortunate' that it was still necessary to debate this issue.

People were still being killed just because of the color of their skin or their sexual orientation which she described as 'barbaric'.

Meanwhile, speakers at a conference in Brussels last week said that Islamophobia is on the increase in Europe, and the right of Muslims to live quietly and practice their religion is under threat.

The conference on 'Islamophobia in Europe? A Critical Approach' organized by the European Policy Center said it was important to implement EU anti-discrimination and racism laws, and bring Muslim and non-Muslims together to discuss the issues.

Professor Jocelyne Cesari, research fellow, National Scientific Research Center, Paris and Harvard University, said the legitimacy of Muslim culture and religious practice in Europe is being questioned.

She noted that in the 'public discourse' about Islam, it is no longer just right-wing political parties which advocate anti-Muslim policies but also mainstream political parties.

Well-known European Islamic thinker, Tariq Ramadan, president of the European Muslin Network, stressed the importance of understanding the difference between Islamophobia and 'vicious racist attitudes'.

He said the criticisms leveled at Muslims today were similar to those made against Jews in the 1930s. Both groups were falsely accused of double loyalty and 'double-talk' and of pitting their commitment to their country against their religion. Muslims were also falsely accused of attempting 'silent colonization from within', to take over Europe.

Professor Ramadan said that while this talk was racist and Islamophobic, there were legitimate issues to be tackled by both Muslims and non-Muslims alike on the views held by Muslims in Europe.

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