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Muslims in the EU: High levels of trust despite pervasive discrimination

September 21st 2017

The vast majority of Muslims in the EU have a high sense of trust in democratic institutions despite experiencing widespread discrimination and harassment, a major survey by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) shows. The survey captures the experiences of Muslim immigrants and their EU-born children, revealing that public attitudes have changed all too little over the last decade.

Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey (EU-MIDIS II) Muslims – Selected findings

Muslims living in the EU face discrimination in a broad range of settings – and particularly when looking for work, on the job, and when trying to access public or private services. The report examines how characteristics – such as an individual’s first and last name, skin colour and the wearing of visible religious symbols like a headscarf, for example – may trigger discriminatory treatment and harassment.

These are just some of the findings outlined in this report, which examines the experiences of more than 10,500 Muslim immigrants and descendants of Muslim immigrants in 15 EU Member States. In addition to discrimination – including police stops based on ethnic background – it explores issues ranging from citizenship, trust and tolerance, through harassment, violence and hate crime, to rights awareness.

The report is based on data collected in FRA’s second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey, which surveyed around 26,000 people with immigrant or ethnic minority backgrounds living in the EU. It provides a unique insight into the experiences and perceptions of the EU’s second largest religious group, representing about 4 % of the EU’s total population. Taken together, the survey findings and the recommendations can provide a good basis to support the effectiveness of a wide range of measures in the areas of integration and non-discrimination, as well as internal security policy.

“Our survey results make a mockery of the claim that Muslims aren’t integrated into our societies. On the contrary, we see a trust in democratic institutions that is higher than much of the general population,” says FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty. “However, every incident of discrimination and hate crime hampers their inclusion and reduces their chances of finding employment. We risk alienating individuals and their communities, with potentially perilous consequences.”

Key findings include:

  • 76% of Muslim respondents feel strongly attached to the country they live in;
  • 31% of those seeking work have been discriminated against over the last five years;
  • 42% of respondents who had been stopped by the police over the last year said this happened because of the migrant or ethnic minority background.

Discrimination and Rights Awareness

Key Findings on Discrimination & Rights Awareness
Key Findings on Discrimination & Rights Awareness

EU-MIDIS I found that 79 % of Muslim respondents did not report their experiences with discrimination. Similarly, most Muslim respondents surveyed in EU-MIDIS II did not report such incidents to any organisation or office where complaints can be made, or at the place where the discrimination occurred. On average, only 12 % of Muslim respondents who felt discriminated against reported the incident. Muslim women report such incidents more often (15 %) than Muslim men (10 %).

Respondents who did report discrimination incidents mostly addressed their employer (39 %), followed by the police (17 %) and trade unions (16 %), since many of these incidents were related to work. Only 4 % of all Muslim respondents who reported a discrimination incident filed a complaint or reported the incident to an equality body, which could be explained by the very low awareness level about these bodies’ existence. Similar to the findings of EUMIDIS I, according to which 80 % of Muslim respondents were not aware of any organisation that offers support or advice to discrimination victims, the majority of Muslim respondents (72 %) covered in this report were also not aware of any such organisation, while most (65 %) did not recognise any of the equality bodies in their country.

These findings suggest that clear gaps persist in the practical implementation of the EU’s equal treatment legislation, namely in terms of public awareness of organisations providing independent assistance and support to victims of discrimination. Although Article 10 of the Racial Equality Directive (2000/43/EC) obliges Member States to ensure that provisions adopted pursuant to the directive, together with those already in force, “are brought to the attention of persons concerned by all appropriate means throughout their territory”, rights awareness among the public, especially of persons who are at particular risk of discrimination, remains low.

FRA Opinion 7

EU Member States should strengthen equality bodies and raise awareness of anti-discrimination laws and redress possibilities, targeting particularly groups more likely to be victims of discrimination, such as Muslims, as FRA has repeatedly recommended. EU Member States should also empower equality bodies and allocate sufficient resources to allow them to help discrimination victims. EU Member States should enhance the effectiveness and powers of equality bodies by providing them with binding decision-making powers and the ability to monitor the enforcement of sanctions issued by courts, such as employment tribunals, where they exist.

(See more on this topic through Equinet’s work on standards for equality bodies)

Awareness of support organisations, equality bodies and laws addressing discrimination

The survey examined respondents’ level of awareness of organisations that offer support and advice in the case of discrimination by asking whether they recognise one or more of up to three preselected equality bodies (in Germany, of up to four bodies). In addition, the survey asked respondents about their awareness of any organisations in their country of residence that offer support or advice to people who have been discriminated against for whatever reason.

Overall, the majority (65 %) of Muslim respondents are not aware of any equality body in their country, although results vary by country (Figure 19). The best known equality bodies are in Denmark (64 %), Cyprus (61 %) and the United Kingdom (52 %), where more than half of the respondents are aware of at least one equality body. In Belgium (49%) and Finland (47%), almost half of Muslim respondents are aware of at least one such body. In other countries, the proportion of respondents who know the equality bodies is low – for example, in Austria (21 %), Malta (8 %), Slovenia (6 %) and Spain (5 %).

On average, more men (38 %) than women (32 %) are aware of at least one equality body, but differences between males and females vary on the individual country level. The difference between awareness levels among Muslim men (60 %) and women (45 %) is particularly prominent In the United Kingdom. By contrast, in Belgium, the Netherlands and Austria, notably more Muslim women than men know at least one equality body.

Knowledge among Muslim respondents of at least one equality body
Knowledge among Muslim respondents of at least one equality body

Further information

Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey (EU-MIDIS II) Muslims – Selected findings
European Union Fundamental Rights Agency Press Release