A Comparative Analysis of European Islamophobia: France, UK, Germany, Netherlands and Sweden
34 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2016
Date Written: August 2016
A 2015 French court decision flouting Muslim dietary restrictions in public schools serves as a sobering reminder that growing Islamophobia, or anti-Muslim prejudice and discrimination, threatens religious freedom in parts of contemporary Europe. Last year, a local French mayor announced that his district’s school cafeterias would no longer provide students non-pork alternatives despite rules against bringing packed lunches and a sizable Muslim population. The Islamic faith prohibits consumption of pork and its by-products or derivatives. Additionally, many Muslims follow religious standards of slaughter known as halal in the preparation of meat and poultry. Notably, non-pork lunch alternatives have been available to Muslim students throughout France since 1984. In response to the decree, a Muslim group brought a court action requesting injunctive relief to stop the discriminatory changes from taking effect. The court decided, however, that such relief was unwarranted citing procedural deficiencies.
While the French minister of education denounced the decision, unjust laws and policies are nothing new to Muslims in France or other parts of Europe. The minority faith group continues to grapple with increased bias, prejudice and discrimination perpetrated by individuals, groups and institutions in a variety of contexts including in schools, at work and on the street. Moreover, from banned burkinis, or modest swimwear, on French beaches to banning Muslim children from praying in German schools, anti-Muslim sentiment often victimizes the most vulnerable members of the minority faith community.
This article engages in a descriptive, normative and comparative analysis of contemporary religious freedom challenges, measured by official restrictions and social hostilities, confronting Muslim minority communities in five European countries including, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands and Sweden. Interdisciplinary in nature, this inquiry will initially contextualize the subject matter in Part II by surveying relevant public opinion research toward Islam and Muslims as well as prevailing social, economic and political conditions. Part III explores from a historical and legal vantage point the role of religion and protections extended to freedom of religion, at least in theory. Part IV then examines the intersection of religion, law and society with a particular focus on Islamophobia. Finally, Part V engages in a comparative analysis highlighting relevant observations, patterns and trends.
Keywords: Islamophobia, Human Rights, Religious Freedom, Europe, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Sweden, Netherlands, Hate Crimes, Employment Discrimination, Mosques, Religious Land Use, European Court of Human Rights, United Nations, International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights
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