Stopp, Ja: Addressing Islamophobia in the European Union

Woodrow Wilson School Task Force at the University of Oxford: Minorities in the EU


This paper studies the rise of Islamophobia in Europe, manifested as increasingly hostile public sentiment & rhetoric, discriminatory governmental policy and violence. It does not help that despite being Europe's largest minority religious community, Muslims find themselves socio-economically disadvantaged, and hence segregated. Muslims are also less likely to be aware of the protection offered to them by the EU and less likely to report hate crimes. Current EU policies are failing to speed up Muslim integration or to address Islamophobic propaganda. An analysis is presented of various approaches to address issues of visibility, approachability, dialogue and integration. These include stronger forums, strengthened policy tools and normative correction. This paper concludes that the EU should adopt short-term approaches to lead dialogue on Muslim issues and strengthen non-discrimination policies for Muslims. It also recommends targeted normative correction in severe scenarios.

Briefing Memo

Events such as the Norway bombings of 2011 and the majority approval of a minaret ban in Switzerland have shown that Islamophobia is taking forms that it has never taken before, namely the immediate threat of racist anger turning into violence and of governments specifically targeting Muslim identity by law. While Switzerland and Norway are outside the EU, the problem is quickly spreading beyond national borders and is being supported by political and other mainstream rhetoric inside the EU. The fear-mongering and discrimination is swiftly taking a cyclical shape that is driven by a lack of knowledge about Islam and stereotyping that leads to societal segregation. This process threatens to undermine the core EU values of respecting cultural diversity, tolerance, religious freedom and equal treatment.

Muslims are a significant minority in Europe, and form the largest minority religion. However they are often segregated as a result of the lack of socio-economic opportunities, and continue to be stigmatized by religious and cultural differences. Discrimination and ethnic profiling is rampant, and is becoming increasingly systematic. This is worsened by the fact that Muslims are often unaware of their rights and fail to report much of this crime. Like popular sentiment, current policy fails to deal with Muslims as an inherently diverse group whose needs cannot be addressed just by general policy against racism. Current EU policy is based around informal recommendations, and there are non uniform policies to protect from religious discrimination.

New policy approaches are hence presented to address the issues of visibility, difficulty in reporting crime, mainstreaming the debate around Islamophobia, and creating a environment more suitable for Muslim integration. Four policy approaches are then analyzed. These are the status quo, the leading of dialogue to involve stakeholders in the Islamophobia debate, an approach to strengthen and refine Commission tools to target Muslims specifically, and finally an approach to actively challenge offenders of the EU’s equal treatment policy.

The EU has relied on Member States to devise integration policy regarding immigrants and minorities, and national governments have largely struggled to address Muslim discrimination and are at times in on the act themselves. These failures spillover to all of the EU and it is hence the EU that must take action.

Accepting the needs of keeping all stakeholders involved in achieving a sustainable environment where Muslims feel protected and welcome, as well as keeping the EU’s reputation and position in the debate favorable, this analysis recommends that the Commission lead dialogue and strengthen its tools to deal with Islamophobia by launching a policy framework aimed at Muslim integration, supplemented by the occasional use of an active challenge to discriminators in the Union.


This paper was presented to a Task Force of the Woodrow Wilson School assembled at the University of Oxford. The slides of this presentation are laid out below.

Complete Paper

The full document can be accessed here.