FIOE General Assembly discussing state of Muslim affairs and rights in Europe

The Third General Assembly in the Ninth Executive Term of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE) was held in the period 17-20 May 2012 in Istanbul, with the participation of the Federation leadership, and representatives from member organisations in the majority of European States.

The General Assembly studied the developments in the work of the Federation for the 2010-2014 Executive Term, and discussed the performance of the Federation, and its bodies and institutions. The Assembly expressed its hope that the accomplishments achieved would provide momentum, driving further developments in positive efforts and initiatives. The Assembly also deliberated on the European situation, and the state of affairs of Muslims on this Continent, along with other related concerns and issues, including developments in European affairs, and the present state of fundamental rights, and religious and civil liberties.

The General Assembly also discussed the means to widen the area of cooperation and coordination in Europe, while reinforcing participation in societal dialogue. The Assembly emphasised the importance of developing the human resources and capacities of the Federation and its institutions, corresponding to its aspirations of supporting social peace and mutual understanding.

The Assembly called for the advancement of cooperation in noble undertakings and piety between Europe’s Muslims, as groupings, organisations, and individuals, in a way that aids improving their reality, and fulfilling the responsibilities they carry, by virtue of citizenship, and in serving the public good of European countries and societies. The Assembly stressed the importance of redoubling efforts in caring for the needs of younger Muslim generations, with the required projects, programmes, and initiatives

The Assembly warned against the phenomenon of incitement against Muslims in the heat of election competition, through campaigns, postures, and statements that fan hatred and lack responsibility. Moreover, the Assembly pointed to the obligations falling on the shoulders of officials and political leaders in European states, in confronting this phenomenon, respecting cultural and religious diversity, and encouraging the culture of harmony. The constituents of society must reinforce cohesion and mutual understanding, in protecting human values and constitutional principles, showing the required courage in confronting incitement, which is divisive of society’s ranks for cheap aims. The Assembly considered that the increasing interest shown by Europe’s Muslims in social and political participation, and in satisfying the duties and rights of citizenship, is the ideal response to those voices that incite against them, or seek to isolate them from their societies.

It also valued the publication of an extensive report by Amnesty International, exposing the discrimination suffered by Muslims in some European countries, in the areas of personal and religious freedom, and in fulfilling religious obligations. The report documents the many difficulties and harassment faced by Muslims in the spheres of daily life. The Assembly called for these tangible facts to be addressed, whereby human rights and fundamental freedoms are guaranteed for all, in a way that ensures equality and equal opportunities, and prevents any form of discrimination or exclusion.

The General Assembly followed with great concern the outcomes of the sovereign debt crisis, as well as the Eurozone crisis, and the challenges imposed by the current economic crisis, which calls for reinforcing solidarity and mutual support among constituents of society to both confront, and reduce the negative effects of poverty and unemployment. The Assembly invites cooperation and redoubled efforts to address the economic and social dilemmas and difficulties faced by European societies, and contribute to responding to the variety of common social challenges.

In addition to other several issues tackled in the closing statement of the General Assembly including solidarity with Syrain people and Palestinians,  the Assembly encouraged Europe’s Muslims to adhere to the principles and teachings of Islam, promote noble manners and positive communication, and offer the spirit of mutual compassion and tolerance, good citizenship and positive role models. The Assembly invites Muslims to engage in more acts of worship and good deeds given the proximity to the blessed month of Ramadan.

FIOE condemns the massacre at Houla, and the continued terrorising of the Syrian people

The Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE) received shocking reports of a horrific massacre committed in the Syrian town of Houla, to which more than one hundred civilians fell victim, among them dozens of women and children. Reports tell that the most violent means of killing and destruction were used by the Syrian regime’s forces to commit this massacre, including shelling by tanks; on the other hand, reports continue to be received regarding massacres being perpetrated in other areas.

The Federation condemns in the strongest terms these renewed atrocities, which represent a new episode in the serialisation of mass killing by the Syrian regime, its armed forces, and gangs of security thugs. The regime has continued to terrorise the Syrian people for around fifteen months, with thousands of innocent victims.

This serious development exposes how the crimes against the Syrian people have intensified in full sight and hearing of the world. Indeed, the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE) is surprised that this massacre, and other incidents of mass killing are perpetrated daily against civilians, even though the international monitoring mission continues its work in Syria.

As the Federation expresses its condolences to the families of the victims and injured, it renews its fraternal solidarity with the Syrian people, facing a series of massacres and atrocities perpetrated by the ruling regime, and its repressive machine, merely for demanding freedom, democratic change, and an end to dictatorship.

The Federation calls for redoubled efforts in solidarity with the Syrian people, and in relief campaigns for those affected by destruction and displacement. It also calls upon international bodies, European states, and civil society organisations to fulfil their obligations towards the Syrian people and their just cause; the world cannot ignore all these massacres and atrocities, or stand by with hands tied.

Brussels, 28 May 2012

The Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe

Closing Statement of the Third General Assembly

The Third General Assembly in the Ninth Executive Term of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE) was held—by the grace and blessing of Allah—in the period 17-20 May 2012 (26-29 Jumada al-Thani 1433AH) in Istanbul, with the participation of the Federation leadership, and representatives from member organisations in the majority of European States.

The General Assembly studied the developments in the work of the Federation for the 2010-2014 Executive Term, and discussed the performance of the Federation, and its bodies and institutions. The Assembly expressed its hope that the accomplishments achieved would provide momentum, driving further developments in positive efforts and initiatives. The Assembly also deliberated on the European situation, and the state of affairs of Muslims on this Continent, along with other related concerns and issues, including developments in European affairs, and the present state of fundamental rights, and religious and civil liberties.

The General Assembly also discussed the means to widen the area of cooperation and coordination in Europe, while reinforcing participation in societal dialogue. The Assembly emphasised the importance of developing the human resources and capacities of the Federation and its institutions, corresponding to its aspirations of supporting social peace and mutual understanding.

At the close of proceedings, the General Assembly concluded with the following resolutions and recommendations:

The Assembly calls for the advancement of cooperation in noble undertakings and piety between Europe’s Muslims, as groupings, organisations, and individuals, in a way that aids improving their reality, and fulfilling the responsibilities they carry, by virtue of citizenship, and in serving the public good of European countries and societies. The Assembly stresses the importance of redoubling efforts in caring for the needs of younger Muslim generations, with the required projects, programmes, and initiatives.

The Assembly warns against the phenomenon of incitement against Muslims in the heat of election competition, through campaigns, postures, and statements that fan hatred and lack responsibility. The Assembly points to the obligations falling on the shoulders of officials and political leaders in European states, in confronting this phenomenon, respecting cultural and religious diversity, and encouraging the culture of harmony. The constituents of society must reinforce cohesion and mutual understanding, in protecting human values and constitutional principles, showing the required courage in confronting incitement, which is divisive of society’s ranks for cheap aims. The Assembly considers that the increasing interest shown by Europe’s Muslims in social and political participation, and in satisfying the duties and rights of citizenship, is the ideal response to those voices that incite against them, or seek to isolate them from their societies.

The Assembly values the publication of an extensive report by Amnesty International, exposing the discrimination suffered by Muslims in some European countries, in the areas of personal and religious freedom, and in fulfilling religious obligations. The report documents the many difficulties and harassment faced by Muslims in the spheres of daily life. The Assembly calls for these tangible facts to be addressed, whereby human rights and fundamental freedoms are guaranteed for all, in a way that ensures equality and equal opportunities, and prevents any form of discrimination or exclusion.

The Federation follows with great concern the outcomes of the sovereign debt crisis, as well as the Eurozone crisis, and the challenges imposed by the current economic crisis, which calls for reinforcing solidarity and mutual support among constituents of society to both confront, and reduce the negative effects of poverty and unemployment. The Assembly invites cooperation and redoubled efforts to address the economic and social dilemmas and difficulties faced by European societies, and contribute to responding to the variety of common social challenges.

The Assembly renews its solidarity with the Syrian people, who face a series of massacres and atrocities perpetrated by the ruling regime and its machine of repression, for merely demanding freedom, democratic change, and the end of tyranny. The Assembly expresses its strong condemnation of the ongoing terror perpetrated on the Syrian people, and consoles the families of the victims and those injured. The Assembly greatly values the efforts by Europe’s Muslims in expressing fraternal solidarity with the Syrian people, and urges further development of the efforts to support this just cause. The Assembly calls upon European states to fulfil their obligations towards the Syrian people and their just cause.

The Assembly expresses its deep concern regarding the state of affairs in the city of al-Quds (Jerusalem), and the violation by the Israeli occupation, and its extremist groups, of the sanctity of the Blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, and Muslim and Christian places of worship, and its constant striving to impose facts on the ground in Jerusalem, altering its civilisational identity, and entrenching racial discrimination in the city. The Assembly expresses its solidarity with the Palestinian people, and the men and women prisoners languishing in the jails of the Israeli occupation, and condemns the unjust policies against them. It calls upon European governments to adopt positions to pressure the Israeli government and authorities, to halt the continuing violations against prisoners.

The Assembly expresses its hope that the Arab peoples succeed in their march to freedom, democracy, and reform, ending decades of despotism, corruption, and civilisational stagnation. While the Assembly is encouraged by the determined will of the peoples in achieving sovereignty and submitting to the results of the ballot boxes, it notes the huge challenges they face in establishing pluralism and participation, shouldering the economic and social burdens, and achieving prosperity in the different fields.

The Assembly calls attention to the importance of respecting the religious rights of Europe’s Muslims in the specifications of food. The Assembly expresses its surprise regarding attempts at discrimination against Muslims in the area of Halal food and meat; it is not acceptable to impose any restrictions or procedures that violate the rights of Muslims to obtain food that complies with the specifications in the teachings of the Muslim religion.

The Assembly invites Europe’s Muslims and their bodies to adopt the recommendations of the symposium, “The Hijri calendar in light of scientific astronomical factors”, held in Paris at the invitation of the Union of Islamic Organisations in France (UOIF), the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE), and the European Council of Fatwa and Research (ECFR), which officially adopted the resolution by the European Council of Fatwa and Research, issued in its 19th term, to adopt astronomical calculation in determining the start of lunar months, to help in unifying Muslims, especially in the matter of fasting and Eid.

The Assembly encourages Europe’s Muslims to adhere to the principles and teachings of Islam, promote noble manners and positive communication, and offer the spirit of mutual compassion and tolerance, good citizenship and positive role models. The Assembly invites Muslims to engage in more acts of worship and good deeds given the proximity to the blessed month of Ramadan.

Finally, all praise and blessings are to Allah, Lord of all creation.

Istanbul, 20 May 2012 (29 Jumada al-Thani 1433AH)

The Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe

General Assembly

AMNESTY: Muslims discriminated against for demonstrating their faith

“Muslim women are being denied jobs and girls prevented from attending regular classes just because they wear traditional forms of dress, such as the headscarf. Men can be dismissed for wearing beards associated with Islam,” said Marco Perolini, Amnesty International’s expert on discrimination.

“Rather than countering these prejudices, political parties and public officials are all too often pandering to them in their quest for votes.”

The report Choice and prejudice: discrimination against Muslims in Europe, exposes the impact of discrimination on the ground of religion or belief on Muslims in several aspects of their lives, including employment and education.

It focuses on Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland where Amnesty International has already raised issues such as restrictions on the establishment of places of worship and prohibitions on full-face veils. The report documents numerous individual cases of discrimination across the countries covered.

“Wearing religious and cultural symbols and dress is part of the right of freedom of expression. It is part of the right to freedom of religion or belief – and these rights must be enjoyed by all faiths equally.” said Marco Perolini.

“While everyone has the right to express their cultural, traditional or religious background by wearing a specific form of dress no one should be pressurized or coerced to do so.  General bans on particular forms of dress that violate the rights of those freely choosing to dress in a particular way are not the way to do this.”

The report highlights that legislation prohibiting discrimination in employment has not been appropriately implemented in Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Employers have been allowed to discriminate on the grounds that religious or cultural symbols will jar with clients or colleagues or that a clash exists with a company’s corporate image or its ‘neutrality’.

This is in direct conflict with European Union (EU) anti-discrimination legislation which allows variations of treatment in employment only if specifically required by the nature of the occupation.

“EU legislation prohibiting discrimination on the ground of religion or belief in the area of employment seems to be toothless across Europe, as we observe a higher rate of unemployment among Muslims, and especially Muslim women of foreign origin,” said Marco Perolini.

In the last decade, pupils have been forbidden to wear the headscarf or other religious and traditional dress at school in many countries including Spain, France, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

“Any restriction on the wearing of religious and cultural symbols and dress in schools must be based on assessment of the needs in each individual case. General bans risk adversely Muslims girls’ access to education and violating their rights to freedom of expression and to manifest their beliefs.” Marco Perolini said.

The right to establish places of worship is a key component of the right to freedom of religion or belief which is being restricted in some European countries, despite state obligations to protect, respect and fulfil this right.

Since 2010, the Swiss Constitution has specifically targeted Muslims with the prohibition of the construction of minarets, embedding anti-Islam stereotypes and violating international obligations that Switzerland is bound to respect.

In Catalonia (Spain), Muslims have to pray in outdoor spaces because existing prayer rooms are too small to accommodate all the worshippers and requests to build mosques are being disputed as incompatible with the respect of Catalan traditions and culture. This goes against freedom of religion which includes the right to worship collectively in adequate places.

“There is a groundswell of opinion in many European countries that Islam is alright and Muslims are ok so long as they are not too visible. This attitude is generating human rights violations and needs to be challenged,” said Marco Perolini.

Letter from the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE) to French President, Nicolas Sarkozy

His Excellency, President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy

Dear President Sarkozy,

We, in the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE) continue to monitor, along with Muslims on this continent, and segments of European civil society, and the public, the disturbing trend in positions taken by some political actors and the media in France in recent weeks, with regard to dealing with Muslims and their organisations in France.

The positions and statements expressed by state and political bodies paint a worrying picture in terms of some declared intentions towards Muslims. In addition, the content of some media channels comes close to casting French Muslims, their prominent organisations, and mosque imams unjustly in the zone of suspicion.

The Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE) was quite surprised at some of these measures and views; for example, the announcement by French authorities to refuse a number of prominent Muslim scholars and personalities permission to enter France and attend the 29th Annual Meeting of France’s Muslims, in a step coinciding with a reprehensible smear campaign in the media against these widely respected scholars.

Indeed, we would wish to remind that these steps are incompatible with the requirements of common decency, and that the recurring ill treatment of Muslims in France cannot be in harmony with the values of the French Republic, and also send the wrong signals. In this context, the impression given is that further moral burdens are unfairly being put onto the shoulders of France’s Muslims in the wake of the terrible crimes witnessed recently in Toulouse, whose victims were French citizens from different religious communities, including Muslims. Perhaps, you may have noted the voices in political and media circles that engage in practically dividing French society, instilling fear of Muslims and Islamic organisations in the public, cheaply exploiting the blood of innocent victims, and ignoring the standards of fairness and obligations of human rights.

It is quite disheartening to see general election seasons converted into a cheap contest between candidates vying to out-do each other, where contrary to the spirit of democracy, they employ misrepresentation and agitation, pit citizens against each other, and create division in society, just to win votes or publicity. Political campaigning, especially during election times, must distance itself from stoking resentment, provoking panic, offending communities, and disparaging the cultural specificities of partners in society and citizens of the Republic.

No doubt that acts of violence, aggression, and terror, are condemned in all forms, and cannot be justified. Indeed, these must be prevented and confronted; this is what we have emphasised in repeated statements of position. However, guilt cannot be generalised, nor can the followers of a specific religion, or members of a community or culture be blamed wholesale for acts of violence or terrorism, tarred with same brush of suspicion, or restricted in their public or personal freedoms. Indeed, the ideal response to acts of violence, hate speech, and voices of extremism, lies in isolating these within their actual context, and dealing with them using the tools of justice and systems of the state of law. At the same time, strengthening solidarity and openness, protecting human values and constitutional principles, supporting accord, reinforcing mutual respect, and promoting solidarity and cohesion in society. The confluence of efforts and collaboration in political and societal spheres is, ideally, sufficient to address problems, challenges, and threats.

Feverish misrepresentation and incitement is the wrong response to the shock of Toulouse, as this threatens to practically undermine the values of religious and personal freedom, equality and equal opportunities, openness and tolerance, and mutual respect and solidarity. Moreover, such an approach is irresponsible, as it distracts from the common challenges that require societies with diverse constituents to combat and address their causes, roots, and consequences. It is our expectation that all responsible bodies in France will choose wisdom, broad-mindedness, and concern for national unity, even in the context of political and electoral competition. Everyone is required to work hard at winning hearts, building bridges, reinforcing mutual trust, and closing the door on those voices inciting discord and hostility, creating splits within our European societies, and harming intercultural relations.

With the utmost respect

Brussels, 5 April 2012

Chakib Benmakhlouf

President, the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE)

FIOE requires an immediate cease of Israeli abuses against Palestinian prisoners

Brussels – FIOE expressed its solidarity with Palestinian prisoners languishing in Israeli jails and condemned the Israeli unjust policies and continuous violations against them.

Thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have gone on hunger strike in protest over the abuses perpetrated against them by the Israeli occupation authorities that insist on breaching and rejecting international conventions, and withholding the prisoners’ basic rights.

In its statement issued in this regard the FIOE invited European bodies and governments, on the basis of their commitments to upholding human rights and securing justice for the oppressed, to adopt positions that put pressure on the Israeli government and its authorities, to cease these persistent abuses. The Federation calls for intensified acts of solidarity with these prisoners, who are on hunger strike to gain basic rights and fair demands.

The Federation warned that international inaction, regarding justice for Palestinian prisoners and detainees, has encouraged the Israeli authorities to continue these abuses with impunity. Men and women prisoners continue to suffer unjust measures, including denial of visits by family, detention without trial in so-called “administrative detention”, and solitary confinement—denying the male or female prisoner contact with any other person both inside and outside the prison over many months or years. Men and women prisoners also suffer from cruel acts and mistreatment perpetrated against their person, and various forms of psychological torture, as well as medical neglect of sick prisoners, despite some of them suffering from incurable diseases.

FIOE demanded that this issue is raised at all levels, and that the Israeli authorities be compelled to grant prisoners their freedom in the shortest timeframe. Moreover, the Israeli authorities must halt the kidnapping, that continues daily, of Palestinian citizens by the Israeli army and security services, followed by torture, mistreatment, and jail, in the absence of rights and due process, and given the immunity of the Israeli authorities from accountability internationally.

The FIOE stated that thousands of Palestinian men and women have been thrown into Israeli jails through arbitrary processes, on the basis of their opposition to the occupation, and their striving for freedom of their people; indeed, the Israeli authorities have inflicted a variety of abuses upon them. These prisoners deserve justice, finally, from the international community, including United Nations and European Union bodies. It is high time for a European fact-finding mission to be formed to inspect the conditions under which Palestinian prisoners and detainees are held in occupation jails, and that the International Committee of the Red Cross is allowed firsthand sight of the conditions of these jails, and the situation of prisoners and detainees held within them, alongside effective action by international bodies on this humanitarian issue.