The term 'anti-Muslim hatred' accurately describes the phenomenon which the European Commission intends to address. It consists of preventing and combating hate speech, hate crime as well as discrimination directed against groups or individual members of such groups based on their religion or ethnic origin.
Why the need for action?
Over the past years reports from international and civil society organisations have pointed to an increase in insecurity among Muslims in Europe, as well as forms of discrimination directed against individuals and communities.
Surveys such as the Special Eurobarometer on Discrimination in the EU in 2015 and the Pew Research Centre report on views about minorities, diversity and national identity in the EU (published in July 2016) clearly point to the fact that unfavourable views of Muslims appear to have surged in the past few years.
Coordinator on combating anti-Muslim hatred
On 1 December 2015, the European Commission appointed David Friggieri as the first Coordinator on combating anti-Muslim hatred. As the Coordinator's main mandate is to address anti-Muslim hate speech, hate crime and discrimination, the key stakeholders are Muslim and other organisations that deal with anti-racism and non-discrimination policy at European and national level.
Monitoring anti-Muslim hatred and discrimination
A specific focus of the Fundamental Rights Agency's European Union minorities and discrimination survey (EU-MIDIS II), published in September 2017, provides important EU-wide data on the discrimination experienced by persons with a Muslim background in different areas of life (labour market, education, housing, health and other services), criminal victimisation (including hate crime), social inclusion and societal participation. Work is expected to commence on a separate perceptions study on discrimination and hate crime against Muslims in EU countries, tentatively scheduled for publication in 2019.
Education and training
Under the Europe for Citizens programme, the European Commission supports initiatives that raise awareness on remembrance, common history and common European values while commemorating the victims of past crimes against humanity.
Erasmus+ supports transnational projects promoting social inclusion, shared values, intercultural understanding and grassroots initiatives, including education programmes targeting specific groups and possible biases.
In June 2016, the European Commission adopted an action plan to improve the integration of newcomers in European societies. Integration is a two-way process that includes an expectation that newcomers should embrace EU fundamental values.
European legislation on combating racism and xenophobia
The EU has specific legislation (framework decision 2008/913/JHA) on combating racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law which obliges all EU countries to put in place legislation to penalise the most serious manifestations of racism and xenophobia, such as the public incitement to racist violence or hatred (hate speech) as well as any other crimes perpetrated with a racist motivation (hate crime).
The EU does not possess legislation regulating either blasphemy or defamation of religion. The European Court of Human Rights has made it clear that freedom of expression extends to information and ideas that may "offend shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population". The European Commission believes that freedom of expression extends to criticism of religion, ideology, beliefs, states and institutions. The European Union's position both inside and outside the EU is in line with these principles.