1. The Political Affairs Committee
takes note of the report by Mr Mogens Jensen on “Islam, Islamism
and Islamophobia in Europe”, in which the Committee on Culture,
Science and Education deals with a serious political problem. The
Political Affairs Committee is in general in agreement with the
thrust of the draft resolution and draft recommendation. It feels,
however, that these texts could be improved.
2. If some Islamism is indeed extremist and violent, there is
also mainstream and peaceful Islamism. As the explanatory memorandum
correctly states Islamism is a “political ideology aiming to apply
Islamic principles in the world”. An Islamist therefore does not
accept the separation between religion and state, which is fundamental
in Europe, and considers Islam not only as a religion but also as
a social, legal and political code of conduct. The Assembly already
dealt with extremism for instance in its Resolution 1605 (2008) and Recommendation
1831 (2008) on European Muslim communities confronted with extremism.
The Political Affairs Committee has dealt further with it in Mr
Agramunt’s report on “Fight against extremism: achievements, deficiencies
and failures”. Most Islamists refuse violence and act in perfect
3. The texts under consideration do not refer to the difference
between the fear of Islam and discrimination against Muslims on
the grounds of their religion. Whereas fear stems mainly from lack
of awareness and from negative perceptions associating Islam with
violence and cannot be suppressed in the short term, discrimination
is unacceptable and should be combated. The Assembly should take
this opportunity to express its concern about how many European
governments seem to be failing to address the problem of Islamism, and
are therefore paving the way for Islamophobia and for extremist
xenophobic parties. The results of the recent general election in
the Netherlands is a good example of this.
4. I would also like to add references to the liberal Muslim
reformers and Islamic peace movements who wish to reconcile Islam
with democracy, human rights, rule of law and the separation between
the state and religion and are actually accused of Islamophobia
by the Islamists. European democratic structures should support
them much more than they do. The draft resolution presented by the
Committee on Culture, Science and Education states, rightly, that
“stereotypes, misunderstandings and fears with regard to Islam are
typical symptoms of a widespread lack of adequate knowledge among
non-Muslims in Europe”. It could go on to point out the important,
but often negative, role played by the mass media in this respect.
Without prejudice to freedom of expression, the media could be encouraged
to take a more positive approach.
5. Throughout the draft resolution and draft recommendation,
Muslims are often identified with migrants, which is not always
the case. On the contrary, those who once decided to leave their
countries and settle in Europe are in general very respectful of
the values upheld by the Council of Europe. It is often – although
not exclusively – the second generation, together with those who
convert to Islam, who are more vocal against such values, which
are seen as part of “western decadence”. In addition, some member
states of the Council of Europe are Muslim. The Council of Europe
accepted them as members because they were ready to espouse the
principles of democracy and respect for human rights and the rule
6. Referring to the burqa or the niqab, the committee rightly
states that the veiling of women is not a religious obligation but
a social and cultural tradition. It refers, however, to these as
“religious clothing” and states that a ban would go against freedom
of religion. In many European countries the veiling of women, in particular
the full veiling by the burqa or the niqab, is perceived as a symbol
of subjugation of women, as the report states. Therefore, legislation
to forbid the burqa and the niqab would address a symbol but not
the real problem. As The Economist rightly
puts it “the three arguments for a ban – security, sexual equality
and secularism – do not stand up. On security, women can be required
to lift their veils if necessary. On sexual equality, women would
be better protected by the enforcement of existing laws against
domestic violence than by the enactment of new laws forcing them
to dress in a way that may be against their will. On secularism,
even if Europeans would prefer not to have others’ religiosity paraded
on the streets, the tolerance that Westerners claim to value requires
them to put up with it”.
7. The call on Switzerland to enact a moratorium on and repeal
its general prohibition on the building of minarets seems premature.
The result of the Swiss public initiative should indeed be regretted.
However, there is no consensus on whether or not it discriminates
Muslim communities in their exercise of freedom of religion. There
are applications pending before the European Court of Human Rights,
which should take position on the issue. It seems therefore too
early to make recommendations on it.
8. In order to make the texts clearer, the Political Affairs
Committee proposes the following amendments to the draft texts presented.
Your rapporteur thanks Mr Jensen, rapporteur for report, for his
availability to discuss the proposed amendments. It has thus been
possible to reduce substantially the number of initially envisaged
amendments and to reformulate most of those retained in a way that
makes them acceptable to Mr Jensen.