Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Violence against Muslims

* The 2008 Hate Crime Survey—available online—examines incidents of bias-motivated violence against Muslims, including attacks on persons and property, analyzes official and nongovernmental data, and assesses government performance in response to such violence in the 56 European and North American countries that comprise the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
o Acts of violence against Muslims and their places of worship continued in 2008 and 2009.
o Assaults against Muslim religious leaders, ordinary Muslims, and those perceived to be Muslim occurred with alarming frequency across the region.
o Mosques and other places of worship were particular targets of vandalism and arson. In some incidents, religious texts were also desecrated and destroyed.
o Certain international and domestic events—such as the terrorist attack in Scotland in June 2007—continue to provoke backlash attacks on innocent Muslims and those perceived to be Muslims.
* Governments are not doing enough to address the problem, and in some cases use anti-Muslim rhetoric to capitalize on the overall climate of fear and misunderstanding of Muslims and Islam.
* There is a longstanding strain of political discourse in Europe that has projected Muslim immigrants as a threat to European security, homogeneity, and culture. The situation has worsened in recent years in the background of terrorist attacks and official government responses to them.
* The problem of anti-Muslim violence is complicated by the multiple dimensions of discrimination that may occur in a single incident, as there can be an overlay of intolerance based on the victim’s religion, ethnicity, or gender. Intolerance is increasingly directed at Muslims and other minorities expressly because of their religion.
o Women who wear the hijab—a highly visible sign of a woman’s religious and cultural background—are particularly vulnerable to harassment and violence by those who wish to send a message of hatred.
* There is a lack of official statistics on the incidence of violent hate crimes against Muslims.
o Underreporting remains one of the most serious problems, as most victims refrain from reporting attacks to the police.
o The data deficit proves a challenge to comprehensive and well thought-out policy decisions to combat the problem. Lack of reporting makes it impossible to have a good picture of official responses to anti-Muslim incidents by the police and courts.
o Comprehensive nongovernmental data is missing as well: very few NGOs across the region monitor and publicly report specifically on anti-Muslim hate crimes.
* Only a few governments engage in official monitoring of hate crimes with an anti-Muslim bias:
o The United States has long been systematically monitoring anti-Muslim crimes.
o In the United Kingdom monitoring and reporting on "Islamophobic" hate crimes is most developed in London.
o Canada has recently started to produce official data on hate crimes perpetrated against Muslims.
o Austria has begun to monitor "Islamophobic crimes" within the framework of its reporting on right-wing extremism, releasing data for the first time on two such cases in the 2007 reporting.
o Authorities in France do not report explicitly on violence against Muslims, but their reporting of racist and xenophobic hate crimes offers a window into the problem of anti-Muslim violence, with over 60 percent of reported incidents perpetrated against people of North African origin, who are predominantly Muslim.
o No other government in the OSCE region reports crimes motivated by hatred toward Muslims
* There is a need for immediate initiatives to fight anti-Muslim violence. Human Rights First has recommended the implementation of our Ten-Point Plan to combat hate crime, which calls for:
o Vigorous law enforcement response to individual incidents;
o Cooperation between the police and affected communities;
o Systematic official monitoring, data analysis and public reporting.

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